Kentucky has a rich history full of fascinating haunted locales, and our podcast, Hillbilly Horror Stories, has taken great pleasure in researching several of them. Some of these locations are well known throughout the world as paranormal icons, while others are less known, but just as interesting—and haunted—as their more prominent counterparts.
Every paranormal enthusiast is familiar with Waverly Hills Sanatorium and Bobby Mackey’s Music World. They make all of the major lists and are featured on the big name ghost hunting shows. These haunted places in Kentucky may not be as well known, but they’re just as spooky.
5. Octagon Hall
Less than an hour from Nashville in Franklin, KY, you’ll find the Octagon Hall Civil War Museum, aptly named for its geometric shape. Built during the Civil War by Andrew Jackson Caldwell, Octagon Hall has seen its share of tragedies. Several soldiers were killed on the property, and at least two are buried here. The home was known as a safe spot for Confederate soldiers to retreat to if they were being pursued by Union forces. As such, grievously wounded soldiers would often arrived at the hall–some of whom later died. Many of their spirits are reported around the property, laying on beds, opening and closing doors, and appearing as shadowy figures.
The Jackson family suffered several heartbreaking deaths here as well. The most tragic was the death of seven-year-old Elizabeth. The young girl burned to death after her dress caught fire while playing too close to the fireplace. Children touring Octagon Hall will often see the spirit of Elizabeth. It has also been reported that the scent of flowers and decaying flesh arises on the anniversary of Andrew’s death.
4. Old Talbott Tavern
This hotel/restaurant is in Bardstown, KY, just south of Louisville. Bardstown is the second oldest city in the state and where most bourbon is distilled. The Talbott, as it is known to locals, was built in 1779 and has hosted its fair share of celebrities such as General George Patton, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson. Louis Philippe from France stopped in on his way to Nashville and fell in love with the community. He painted a mural of a French garden complete with butterflies.
The first paranormal sighting occurred in front of this very mural. One night, the notorious outlaw Jesse James was staying at the Talbott. In the middle of the night, over a dozen gunshots rang out suddenly. Shocked guests converged upon the pub to find James alone in the room. He claimed to have seen strange, inexplicable movement in front of the mural, and shot at the spirit to make it stop.
The mural and bullet holes are still there today—and many will tell you that Jesse James is as well. A man in a long duster coat has been spotted on several occasions. Two employees claimed this specter once followed them through the hallways, into a room and out the door of the fire escape. They opened the door only to have the man stare into their face, then vanish before their very eyes.
3. Kentucky State Penitentiary
Located in Eddyville, KY, this correctional facility opened in 1889. It looks very menacing and for good reason. According to Steve Asher, author of Hauntings of the Kentucky State Penitentiary, when the prison opened on Christmas Eve, there was a plaque inscribed with: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”. The KSP was designed to break you, not repair you.
Related: America’s 7 Most Haunted Prisons
Asher, who was a prison guard at KSP, tells the story of a man sentenced to death in the 1960s for killing his father-in-law with a mallet. Kelly Moss was the penultimate person to be executed in Kentucky with the electric chair. Moss admitted that he had lived a life of crime, but staunchly maintained that he did not commit the crime that sent him to his death. On the day of his execution, he warned that he would haunt the prison as long as the walls were standing. Several inmates and guards have reported paranormal occurrences, which they attribute to Kelly Moss.
As a currently functional prison, Kentucky State Penitentiary is not open to visitors–but the sense of impending doom can be felt just from gazing upon its walls.
2. The Pope Lick Monster
Located in the Fisherville area of Louisville, you’ll find the Pope Lick Trestle, a small railroad bridge that spans Pope Lick Creek. Technically, this is more of a cryptic story than a haunting, but hey, scary is scary! The most popular version of the story is that a local farmer sacrificed goats to Satan in exchange for unearthly powers. Satan eventually turned him into a half-goat/half-man incarnation.
Whatever its provenance, the creature lures unsuspecting people onto the train tracks by mimicking voices and hypnosis. Unfortunately, when they step onto the tracks, it’s in the path of an oncoming train.
WARNING: Legend trippers are under the impression the tracks are no longer active, but this is false. A visitor was killed here in April 2016. Her boyfriend narrowly escaped death by hanging onto the side of the tracks.
1. Buffalo Trace Distillery
Kentucky’s capital city has its fair share of haunts! Although the name has changed many a time over the years, there has been a distillery on this property since 1775. Buffalo Trace Distillery is one of the longest continuously running distilleries in America. Thanks to some creative effort from one Colonial Albert Blanton, Buffalo Trace (then called George T. Stagg Distillery) was allowed to produce whiskey during prohibition for “medicinal” purposes.
Blanton began working at the distillery as an office boy when he was only 16. During 55 years of employment he worked his way up to plant manager and then president of the distillery. He even lived in a home on the property called Stony Point Mansion, which is where he also died. Some say he still watches over the distillery today.
Freddie Johnson, a third generation employee, said his grandfather, James Johnson, had a ghostly experience at warehouse C. At the time, he was a supervisor; his crew was outside, leaning against a wall during a break. He heard a voice telling him to move the men. Johnson ignored the warning, thinking he was hearing things. He was warned again. This time, he frantically got all of the men to move as the warehouse wall collapsed. Thank you, Colonial Blanton!
We talk about hauntings from all over the world on Hillbilly Horror Stories, but the ones from Kentucky will always have a special place in our heart. Have you experienced a haunting in Kentucky?