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Mystery walks and history jaunts

  • Shaker Village Spirit Stroll
    Guests carry lanterns to the cemetery on one of Shaker Village’s Spirit Strolls, which usually end at dusk or dawn. Photo: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
  • Voices of Elmwood
    The stories of 10 historical Daviess County figures are told at the Elmwood Cemetery in Owensboro. Photo: Ben Atherton
  • Voices of Elmwood wagon
    A fresh wagonload of the historically curious departs every 30 minutes during the Voices of Elmwood presentations. Photo: Ben Atherton
  • Horse Cave Stories Walking Tour interpretive sign
    The Horse Cave Stories Walking Tour follows the pathway of Hidden River Cave, which snakes below the streets and sidewalks of the town's National Register of Historic Places Commercial District. There are 10 interpretive signs like this one along the cellphone-guided tour. Photo: Horse Cave/Hart County Tourism
  • Russ Hatter’s Murder and Mayhem tours
    Russ Hatter’s Murder and Mayhem tours are popular in Frankfort on October Thursdays. Photo: Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist & Convention Commission
  • The Spirit Stroll walking tour at Shaker Village
    The Spirit Stroll walking tour at Shaker Village starts near the Trustees’ Office in the heart of the Historic Centre and goes about ¼ mile each way, to and from the cemetery. The tour is rooted in history; the guide tells stories about real people, drawn from Shaker journals and letters. Photo: Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

Combine a little learning with a seasonal shiver on these tours

Love history mixed with a good mystery? Like a tingle or two chasing up your spine? Kentucky has no shortage of strolling (and rolling) storytelling events—many with a ghoulish twist.

Spirit Strolls take place Friday and Saturday nights in October at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, a Blue Grass Energy Cooperative member. Guests move along the grounds, lanterns lit and held aloft, as they make their way with a guide who shares stories about Shaker beliefs, accidents and deaths, and other very human and unnerving occurrences that happened here.

“We share real stories from the historic Shaker journals, including thrilling visions of spirits from their worship, some dramatic untimely deaths, and the lonely days of the last Shakers, among others,” says Jill Malusky, director of visitor engagement.

“One night a mob from a nearby town came to forcibly take back a young girl who had joined. The mob actually came twice and took the girl on one visit. No one was killed, but Village property was damaged and violence was threatened against the Shakers.”

In spite of the frights, Shaker Village prefers to share stories based on facts and history—stories that are infrequently told, but come directly from the Shakers’ own words.

“Being in the Village at night, hiking to and from the cemetery with a lantern, is definitely atmospheric,” says Malusky. “One’s imagination is free to consider all the possibilities.”

David Wolfe brings a background in history, theater, and character portrayals (Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Ben Franklin) to his storytelling. Wolfe is the owner of Haunts of Owensboro, which offers both walking and horse-drawn carriage tours that he describes as “hands-on ghost huntings.”

Guests have access to EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors and temperature gauges that Wolfe demonstrates before the group heads out. In October, he likes to add a surprise ghost hunting device to the mix, such as an Ovilus, an electronic speech-synthesis device or “spirit box.”

“They actually hunt for ghosts—with really good results sometimes,” he says.

The walking tour focuses on downtown and the stops include the Daviess County Courthouse. The carriage tour rolls uptown to an old Victorian part of the city, including Seventh Street, known as Haunted Row—and for good reason. One of its homes, the Gilliam Hopkins House, could be straight out of the 1978 slasher classic Halloween.

“It looks just like Michael Myers’ house,” Wolfe says.

He admits he and his entourages have seen some creepy things over the years.

“Last year at the Theatre Workshop of Owensboro, a lady snapped a picture and there was a blue figure standing by me while I was doing my spiel,” he says. “Several years ago, an apparition came out of the wall and a guest caught it on camera.”

At the courthouse during one of Wolfe’s walking tours, a figure peeked out from behind the pillar and ducked back in. Wolfe approached, but found no one, and the courthouse doors were locked. Whatever it was had simply vanished.

“Ghosts are not like pets,” he cautions. “You can’t whistle for them. If they’re going to come out, they’re going to come out.”

My Old Kentucky funeral

Catch “Weep No More, My Lady,” a new exhibit of Victorian funeral customs October 1–31 at Federal Hill in My Old Kentucky Home State Park. The mansion is draped in black swag and feather plumes, its darkened halls suitable for stories of death and demise. (502) 348-3502, My Old Kentucky Home.

State park scares

Kentucky state parks get into the spirit with lots of events and activities planned for Halloween, including camping weekends and celebrations such as A Halloween Lights Drive Thru at Fort Boonesborough State Park in Richmond, September 30–October 22, (859) 527-3131; and the Haunted Frontier at Old Fort Harrod State Park in Harrodsburg, October 27–30, (859) 734-3314. Go to Parks.Ky.gov, click October, and search keywords such as Halloween, haunted, or ghosts for other events.

Otherworldly walks & strolls

Bardstown Ghost Trek with Patti Starr; (859) 537-8507,June through October (rain or shine), 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets: $15.

Hardin County Playhouse Ghost Walk, Elizabethtown; member of Nolin RECC;
(270) 351-0577, 6–10 p.m. October 8 during Hardin County’s family-friendly Roktoberfest. Admission: $5.

Haunts of Owensboro; (270) 313-5596, Walking tour: 8 p.m. Carriage tour: 9:30 p.m. 90-minute tours on Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets: walking $15/$7 under 12; carriage $30/$20 under 12.

Horse Cave Stories; (270) 854-3054, Award-winning, self-guided Cellphone Walking Tours featuring stories—aboveground and below in the cave beneath town—about the Harlem Globetrotters, cave wars, feuds, tobacco, and more. Free.

Munfordville Stories—Memories and Myths; (270) 392-3198, Self-guided Cellphone Walking Tour concentrates primarily on the Civil War roots of a tiny town that was occupied by 40,000 troops during the war.

Russ Hatter’s popular Murder and Mayhem Tour in Frankfort returns every Thursday night in October, starting at 7:30 p.m. from the Capital City Museum. Must be age 18 or over; tickets: $10/person. Advance reservations required at (502) 696-0607 or russh1214@gmail.com.


Spirit Strolls
at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg; (859) 734-5411, 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in October. Halloween festivities are October 21–22.

Spirits of La Grange Ghost Tours; (502) 291-1766, for reservations. Private, two-hour candlelit walking tours depart from 100 Poplar Alley (behind Main Street North). Bring camera and flashlight. Not recommended for children under 12. Tickets: $18 per person.

Unseen Bowling Green Downtown Haunted History Walking Tour; (270) 977-3717 or UnseenBG@gmail.com. Downtown Haunted History Walking Tour is offered 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights in October. Tickets: $12 adults, $5 children, $10 WKU students; military and senior discounts.

Voices of Elmwood, Owensboro; (270) 687-2732. Eight shows, one every 30 minutes, beginning at 6 p.m. October 1. Shows feature 10 historical figures who lived in Daviess County, with their stories told at the Elmwood Cemetery. Tickets: $18 per person.

Kathy Witt from the October 2016 issue.

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