Louisville Thrills
Louisville Ghost Tours, Pink Palace

On a cool Kentucky evening Angelique led a tour of visitors through a tree-lined neighborhood known as Old Louisville. She explained that 48 city blocks south of downtown emerged in the Victorian period to house the city’s most prosperous residents. It’s not the oldest section of Louisville, but the most preserved with one of the highest numbers of Victorian homes in America.

The elegant and some quite enormous mansions also rest upon limestone, the same rock formation said to give Kentucky bourbon its distinctive flavor.

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“Limestone is the key to hauntings in this area,” our tour guide informed us.

Angelique routinely hosts the Old Louisville Ghost Tours and spends two hours pausing at homes, churches and businesses to discuss the haints who live within. According to the tour owner, David Dominé, who has written several books on the area and its haunts, Old Louisville may be the most haunted neighborhood in the country. 

One thing’s for sure, the ghost tour is one of the best and makes Louisville a great fall destination particularly when shadows lengthen and Halloween nears.

 Get Spooked

Ghost stories run the gamut on the Old Louisville Ghost Tours. There’s Lucy who scares pets and two young girls who died of yellow fever who refuse to leave home. A thwarted elopement resulted in the ghost at First Church of Christ Scientist and a few grisly murders add to the mix.

The Old Louisville Ghost Tours are offered three times nightly from March through November and at selected times the rest of the year. The 14th Victorian Ghost Walk, Dominé’s part walking tour, part porch play, will be Oct. 14-16 throughout the Old Louisville historic preservation district. 

The Witch Tree

One of the most interesting stories told by Angelique lies at the corner of Sixth and Park streets where a gnarled Osage orange tree stands covered in trinkets and Carnival beads. Called “The Witch Tree,” the story has it that a tree that once stood on the spot was a favorite among witches and a voodoo practitioner from New Orleans. When city officials cut it down, the coven put a curse on Louisville, which was later hit by a devastating tornado. The current tree grew in its place and is now a spot where people make wishes and leave talismans. The tree even has its own Facebook page.

Stay

A lady in blue is suspected of haunting the historic Seelbach Hotel in downtown Louisville, and visitors can watch a video by hotel historian Larry Johnson who explains the sightings of the dark-haired woman. Ghosts aside, the hotel oozes charm and elegance, built in 1905 in the Beaux-Arts Baroque architectural style by owners who spared no expense. The lobby alone contains a beveled glass skylight, five chandeliers and murals depicting Kentucky history. Grab an Old Fashioned in the Old Seelbach Bar, where F. Scott Fitzgerald was rumored to frequent. He set part of “The Great Gatsby” at the Seelbach, and perhaps he remains as well.

Imbibe

If a different kind of spirit appeals, Louisville is home to the Urban Bourbon Trail, a curated collection of establishments that serve the state’s most celebrated drink, and sometimes incorporate bourbon into their cuisine. 

First, visit the Frazier History Museum which offers an extensive exhibit on the history of bourbon production with rows of antique bourbon bottles and a room that showcases every bourbon made today. A few blocks down Main Street and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience brings visitors inside for a glimpse into how their bourbon came about, told with interactive exhibits that are entertaining as educational. The tour finishes with a tasting, too.

For more information on the trail, visit gotolouisville.com/restaurants/ubt.