This is the time of year when we share tales of ghosts and goblins and Halloween haunts. Louisville, as it happens, is a particularly haunted city, according to two local experts in ghost lore, author David Domine and architect/historian Steve Wiser. Here are eight of the most eerie local tales.
Disclaimer: we’re not saying that any of these stories indicate that ghosts are real –– even Domine and Wiser are both admitted skeptics –– but the stories are spooky. Ghost hunt at your own risk.
The Lady In White, Carrie Lindenberger
Location: Peterson-Dumesnil House, 301 S. Peterson Ave.
Wiser and Domine both told me that they’ve never heard of an unfriendly local ghost; in fact, Wiser told me, this maternal haunt is one of the nicest. Carrie Peterson Lindenberger died about a month after giving birth to triplet boys, all of whom died at birth. She now apparently haunts –– in a good way –– the Crescent Hill neighborhood near the Peterson-Dumesnil House. When a child is lost, she will guide them to the steps of the house and tell them that their mother will be there shortly to bring them home.
The Ghosts Of Waverly Hills Sanatorium
Location: 4301 E. Pages Lane
This famously haunted institution, once a hospital for tuberculosis patients, is known as one of the most paranormal buildings in America. (It’s even been on “Ghost Hunters” twice!)
Ghosts-in-residence include a nurse who committed suicide, a little boy who likes to play with a rubber ball and many victims of disease.
(Interestingly, Domine said he has been on several visits here, both during the day and overnight, but he’s never encountered a spirit. As he puts it, “People think I’m a ghost hunter. I’m not –– I’m a ghost story hunter.”
He has, however, seen his tourmates’ photos of the Sanatorium that showed dozens of white orbs floating around. Spooky!)
Avery At The Pink Palace
Location: 1473 St. James Court
Another friendly ghost: no, not Casper, but “Avery,” who allegedly lives at The Pink Palace, a mansion in Old Louisville that used to be a gentlemen’s club and casino.
This tall, strapping Southern gentleman allegedly appears to warn residents of imminent dangers: a kitchen fire, an attempted burglary, an unseen trip hazard. Picture a helpful Colonel Sanders.
Domine’s book “Phantoms of Old Louisville” talks about Jenny Dickerson, a grad student at UofL several decades ago, who claims to have been the first to see Avery. When he first appeared to her as she was cooking soup, she “sort of sensed” intuitively that his name was Avery. Decades later, though, she discovered a news article that named the previous owner of the property –– who was indeed named Mr. Avery, according to Domine’s book.
The Lady of the Stairs
Location: the steps of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1305 S. Third St.
This sad love story –– set in a pandemic, incidentally –– goes like this: a young woman who was betrothed to an elderly distilling magnate was in love with a young soldier, according to Domine. She’d sneak out of her aunt and uncle’s house to “rendezvous” with him on the church steps every night (…uh…) until the fateful night when he didn’t show up. She paced back and forth until dawn and went home heartbroken, thinking he’d abandoned her. Little did she know, though, that he’d caught a fatal case of Spanish flu. She died not long after –– also of Spanish flu, though likely heartbreak as well. The legend says that on some nights, you can see the ghost of a woman on the steps, waiting for her true love to return there.
The Witches’ Castle
Location: Upper River Road in Utica, Indiana
This small graffiti-covered stone structure near the Lewis and Clark Bridge is real, but the mystery comes from its supposedly spooky origins.
LEO digital editor Danielle Grady reported on the history of this building for The News and Tribune in 2017. Local paranormal investigator Jenny Stewart, who is also a medium, told Grady that she had used paranormal investigation equipment to decode messages from spirits at the “castle,” where local legend says a group of witches used to live. She once saw the figure of a woman who reached her hand out to Stewart; her now-husband saw a “six-foot-tall shadow person.”
Still, Melissa Roach, who used to own the property, says the building was never haunted –– it was simply a sacred private chapel that has since been desecrated.
The Witches’ Castle was involved in a modern day tragedy, however. A group of teenagers took 12-year-old Shanda Sharer there as a stop on the night they murdered her in 1992.
The Witches’ Tree
Location: The northwest corner of Park Avenue and Sixth Street, across from Central Park
Speaking of witches: more than 100 years ago, there was a coven of witches who used to conduct rituals and other witchy business around a tall, straight maple tree where the gnarled Witches’ Tree now stands today, according to Domine. But in 1889, the city cut it down to turn it into a decidedly non-witchy maypole for a May Day celebration.
“As the tree came crashing to the ground, the witches went shrieking out of town to the West End, where there was still forest back then,” said Domine. “Before they left, though, the head witch turned around and she cursed the city. And her final words were: ‘Beware, Louisville, beware –– 11th month.’”
11 months later, on March 27, 1890, a big tornado struck the town and over 100 people died.
A bolt of lightning allegedly shot out from the tornado onto the spot where the old tree had been, and the gnarled tree that currently stands in Central Park grew from its stump. Today, people decorate the tree with necklaces and charms as offerings for the witches.
The Goat Man, Or The Pope Lick Monster
Location: Pope Lick Park, 4002 S. Pope Lick Road
This malicious half-man, half-goat allegedly lives underneath a railroad trestle at Pope Lick Park.
His legacy lives on at Legend at Pope Lick Haunted Woods, part of Ultimate Halloween Fest, where an actor portraying him scares thrill-seeking visitors. (The Fest moves to Paristown next weekend, but at its Floyds Fork location earlier this month, the gift shop was full of postcards, T-shirts, DVDs, and other memorabilia promoting the Goat Man. They even sold boxes of peanut fudge called “Goat Man Poop.”)
Still, some people take their thrill-seeking to extremes. There’s a sign up around the trestle that warns visitors that it is part of an active railroad and that they absolutely should not climb or trespass on it. Several people have died doing so.
The Ghost Of Sister Francesca
Location: St. Frances of Rome Church, 2119 Payne St.
When Steve Wiser was doing research for a book on St. Frances of Rome Church, his old church, he spoke to parishioners who reported seeing the ghost of a woman that they assumed at first was St. Frances herself. Wiser believes, though, that the woman was actually Sister Francesca, a nun who taught at the school before dying in a plane crash in West Virginia in 1968.
“Ever since that day, numerous parishioners of St. Frances of Rome have seen her pushing a broom around inside the school,” said Wiser.” “I’ve not seen her, but I’ve talked to her parishioners who are normal people like you and I who swear on the Bible they’ve seen her there.”
Even though Wiser’s never seen the ghost himself, he did take photos of the church during one Midnight Mass at Christmas. He couldn’t use the photos, though –– they were full of white orbs.