Top 5 Haunted Places in Kentucky: From Barrooms to Battlefields

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Top 5 Haunted Places in Kentucky: From Barrooms to Battlefields
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As the sun sets over the Bluegrass State, casting shadows on its rolling hills and historic landmarks, a different side of Kentucky comes to life, a side that's whispered about in hushed tones, where the past refuses to rest and spectral figures roam under the cover of night.

As we gear up for the exciting launch of sports betting in Kentucky, we're taking a detour from the adrenaline-fueled world of sports to explore the state's eerie, haunted history and shadowy figures.

Known for horse racing, bourbon and bluegrass music, Kentucky also has a rich tapestry of ghostly tales and paranormal hotspots, some based on urban legends and others on a tragic accident or two.

From the echoing halls of abandoned sanatoriums to the spectral figures that haunt historic battlefields, Kentucky's spooky locations offer a thrilling journey into the commonwealth's past, where haunted houses and haunted hotels are not uncommon.

So, gather around, brave souls, as we embark on a chilling journey through Kentucky's most haunted places, full of unexplained sounds, disembodied footsteps and doors slamming.

It's a different kind of thrill from the upcoming sports betting scene, but one that's quintessentially Kentucky.

After all, who doesn't love a good ghost tour?

The Haunting of Waverly Hills Sanatorium

We begin with the Waverly Hills Sanatorium southwest of downtown Louisville, once called "the most terrifying building in America."

Opened in 1910, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium was a secluded tuberculosis hospital, but now its empty rooms are populated with ghost hunters seeking eerie insight into the site's history.

A tuberculosis antibiotic was developed in the 1960s, but before then, more than 6,000 people died on the Waverly Hills Sanatorium grounds long ago.

One well-visited site on ghost tours at the sanatorium is the 600-foot body chute where deceased patients, sometimes more than one a day, were discretely removed from the grounds so that other residents wouldn't be traumatized.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium - Soldiers with the 41st Civil Support Team investigate a simulated biological lab.

Since then, "orbs and balls of light are believed to have been seen in the chute, along with spirits," according to what one woman told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The newspaper noted that Room 502 is notorious as the rooftop setting "believed to have housed tuberculosis patients with mental illnesses." It also is allegedly where a nurse died by suicide.

These days, tours are available, starting $25. A private overnight excursion can be had for $1,000.

The Ghosts of Bobby Mackey's Music World

Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder from outside.
Photo: Nicolas Henderson from Coppell, Texas, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


Another frightening location that can jumpstart any spooky season is Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, a nightclub that's said to be haunted by several spirits.

Bobby Mackey's Music World has the reputation of being one of the most haunted places in Kentucky, certainly the most haunted nightclub, full of paranormal activity.

Joanna and the Haunted Nightclub

The site of an 1800s meat-packing facility, Bobby Mackey's Music World, just south of Cincinnati, supposedly contains the portal to hell in the basement. This area in the building is haunted by the ghostly presence of a pregnant singer named Joanna, according to legend. She is supposed to have committed suicide after her father killed her lover, leaving him hanging in the dressing room.

This slaughterhouse turned haunted nightclub, home to strange orbs and other heart attack-inducing experiences, later was a casino run by mobsters and was the site of shootings and other violence.

Bobby Mackey's Music World now is a popular tourist destination for those who enjoy ghost tours.

The Phantoms of the Kentucky State Penitentiary

Kentucky State Penitentiary as seen from outside.
Photo: Acdixon (talk • contribs • count), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


First opened in 1889, the Kentucky State Penitentiary has been the site of years of paranormal activity and ghostly sightings.

One of the most historic places in the state, the maximum security prison in southwestern Kentucky near Eddyville, now has an inmate population​ of 856.

But its legendary spookiness was cemented decades earlier.

Known as the Castle on the Cumberland, the Kentucky State Penitentiary has been the location of dozens of executions that some believe have resulted in the haunted stories that exist to this day.

According to former guard Steve Asher, author of "Hauntings of the Kentucky State Penitentiary," it is not uncommon to encounter unexplained lights and disembodied screams, among other horrors. Some people have reported hearing voices.

“Sometimes you would hear stuff banging around, people talking, someone scream occasionally," Asher told WPSD-TV. "You think someone is yelling at the gate, (but) there’s no one there."

Some believe a mass execution on July 13, 1928, is responsible for at least some of the hauntings. On that Friday the 13th, seven inmates were executed in an electric chair known as “Old Sparky.”

Old Sparky -  Electric Chair in the historic Kentucky State Penitentiary
Photo: Old Sparky - Electric Chair in the historic Kentucky State Penitentiary


"After such a dreadful day in KSP history," the Southern Spirit Guide notes, "it is possible that one or more of these prisoners have remained behind in spirit form."

The Spirits of Perryville Battlefield

Thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers clashed on Oct. 8, 1862, at Perryville, Kentucky, southwest of Lexington. Fierce fighting resulted in a combined 7,621 Civil War troops being killed, wounded or reported missing.

Harper's Weekly image of Battle of Perryville (Civil War, Kentucky, USA) from November 1, 1862
Photo: Harper's Weekly image of Battle of Perryville (Civil War, Kentucky, USA) from November 1, 1862


These days, some of those soldiers might still be around, at least in spirit form, making the battlefield another of the state's most haunted places, according to ghost hunters. Even now, the battlefield supposedly is the sight of ghostly soldiers. Sometimes strange footsteps are heard.

First Hand Experience

“We’re really haunted,” said Bryan Bush, park manager at Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site. “So much stuff happens around here, we don’t even pay attention anymore.”

Among other "unexplained phenomena" are bugle calls and regimental bands playing in the field, according to the Danville, Kentucky, website. Bullet holes remain in some nearby buildings.

Bush said he was on the battlefield with a paranormal investigative group when a drum roll occurred. Could this have been at a one-time military camp?

“Congratulations,” Bush said to the group. “You just met your first ghost.”

Visitors are encouraged to check the Kentucky State Parks battlefield website for tour information. Dress comfortably. You might find yourself, especially around Halloween season, spending countless hours at the battlefield and in the surrounding area.

Ghostly Cemeteries Haunt Visitors

Some cemeteries in Kentucky are frightening enough to cause shivers among even the bravest of nighttime visitors.

One of these is Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. This well-visited cemetery is the final resting place of many famous Kentuckians, including Col. Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (now called KFC), and legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, a heavyweight champion regarded by many as the greatest fighter of all time.

Colonel Sanders' grave in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo: Colonel Sanders' grave in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky.


Set aside in 1846 for a "garden-style cemetery," Cave Hill welcomes visitors to the grounds but, according to a warning from the Travel Channel, some people "have reported unexplained lights and orbs showing up on film, and have reported hearing inexplicable noises for those who enter the grounds at night."

Cave Hill is one of the channel's "11 Spooky Cemeteries You Can Visit" worldwide.

Just south of Louisville near near Elizabethtown is Grandview Cemetery, known as the Gates of Hell and the Killing Field. With graves dating to the 1700s, Grandview is said to be the site of satanic rituals and frightening sights and sounds.

Among other unexplained occurrences, visitors have reported hearing disembodied screams and seeing strange orbs of light. Others have had car trouble.

It gets worse.

A ghost research group about 10 years ago discovered the remains of three dogs, a puppy, two cats, a calf and a deer scattered around the cemetery, according to the Hardin County News Enterprise.

The group also discovered "a bloodied 20-pound dog food bag," the newspaper reported. In previous years, a calf was found in a burn barrel used for animal sacrifices.

Then there are the black candles.

Pamela Brooks of the Kentucky Society for Ghost Research said she often found black candles at the cemetery.

"We feel like there's enough evidence of satanic groups," she told the newspaper. "Every time we go out there, we find black candles. There have also been satanic spray paintings on the road leading into the cemetery and on the trees."


Other haunted places in Kentucky:

  • White Hall near Richmond in Madison County: Owned by Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810 -1903), it is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Clay, his former wife and his son. 

White Hall near Richmond in Madison County owned by Cassius Clay

  • Ashland House, Lexington: The former home of Kentucky politician Henry Clay is said to be haunted by Henry Clay himself.

The former residence of Henry Clay - Ashland House

  • The Grave of John Rowan at Federal Hill, Bardstown: John Rowan's grave is said to be haunted by his spirit, unhappy with his extravagant grave marker.
  • Narrows Road, Erlanger: An urban legend tells of a ghostly police officer who pulls over drivers around midnight.
  • Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort: The distillery is said to be haunted by Col. Albert B. Blanton, a former distillery president.
  • Phillips' Folly, Maysville: The house is said to be haunted by its second owner, John Armstrong and his Newfoundland dog.
  • Paramount Arts Center, Ashland: The theatre is said to be haunted by a construction worker, known as Paramount Joe, who died there.
  • Mammoth Cave, near Park City: At more than 4,000 years old, the massive underground tourist attraction is supposed to be haunted by ghosts in its dark interior and, on the outside, is allegedly visited by a 300-pound Green River creature that one witness said had “great big fish eyes that scare a fellow just to look at."

Old illustration of Mammoth Cave Kentucky

  • Liberty Hall, Frankfort: Named by the National Enquirer in 1995 as one of the top five most haunted places in the U.S., Liberty Hall is said to be haunted by a woman, now known as “The Gray Lady Ghost," who died in the house in 1817. A 1965 photograph shows what appears to be an apparition on the stairs.
  • Pope Lick Train Trestle, Louisville: The trestle is said to be haunted by a half-man, half-goat creature called the Goat Man, who lures people to their deaths.
  • Talbott Tavern, Bardstown: The Old Talbott Tavern, a former stagecoach stop built in 1779, is said to be haunted by famous ghosts, including that of outlaw Jesse James.
  • Sleepy Hollow Road, Oldham County: Kentuckians say this two-mile, curvy road is rumored to be the site of satanic rituals and a place where a black hearse appears out of nowhere. Screams also have been reported coming from beneath Cry Baby Bridge.
  • Camp Taylor, Louisville: Named after former President Zachary Taylor, the camp, said to be the largest in the world during World War I, was devastated by a tuberculosis epidemic, killing many men each day. Now, some have reported seeing ghostly soldiers marching and hearing cannons being fired.


Conclusion: The Thrills of Kentucky

Just as these haunted places in Kentucky offer a thrilling journey into the past, the upcoming launch of sports betting and Kentucky betting apps promises to add a new level of excitement to the state's future.

Whether you're a fan of ghost stories or sports (or both), there's always something to keep you on the edge of your seat in the Bluegrass State.



Interested in Kentucky's Sports Betting Launch? Here are a few resources to get you started:


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Larry Henry

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