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Perhaps one of the most haunted towns in Kentucky is Bardstown, most famous for the My Old Kentucky Home plantation, which is featured on Kentucky's state quarter. A very colorful history has left a deep imprint on this beautiful old town, and some believe that many spirits of the past have chosen not to leave.
Pictured above is the world-famous home that inspired Stephen Foster to write "My Old Kentucky Home" while visiting his cousins at the estate in 1852. This Georgian-style home was built by Judge John Rowan in 1818 and has since accumulated a long history of tragedy. One of the most notable tragedys happened in 1833 when an epidemic of cholera killed eight family members and eight slaves within a 24hr period. Another tragedy occurred when John Rowan Jr., son of Judge Rowan, was killed. After having spent the previous night sitting up with his sick child, John Jr. was sitting in the window seal of his second-story bedroom with one leg out the window. According to his wife, Rebecca Rowan, he had dozed off when he lost his balance and fell out the window, hitting a tree on the way down, killing him. After this his wife never slept in that bedroom again, moving to the bedroom next door. Since that time many have claimed to see his mourning widow walking the halls.
Before Judge Rowan died in July of 1843, he had specified that no marker was to be placed over his grave. This was to honor his parents who had been buried without gravestones. After Rowan's death, however, his family had an impressive obelisk-shaped stone placed over his grave. Shortly after the stone was put in place, it toppled over. The family immediately had the marker repaired but soon it toppled over again. The stone was again put back in place by nervous workers but has since fallen, for no apparent reason, many times over the years and continues to fall over to this day.
A visit to My Old Kentucky Home is like stepping back into another time to a place both beautiful and tragic, both romantic and unjust. whether or not you see a ghost, the strong emotions that still linger within the walls of the home will haunt you long after you leave.
Pictured above are two of the most haunted places in Bardstown. To the left is the Talbott Inn. Built in 1779, it has lodged many famous visitors, including Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, and even Abraham Lincoln as a very young child. People have for many years claimed to see ghosts here. One ghost in particular has been seen by many guests: the ghost of Mrs. Talbott, wife of the original owner. She is said to float about in a white dress with long, brown wavy hair. A recent guest wrote the Inn and stated that while staying there she had dreamed of a woman with that exact description coming to her bedside. This guest stated she had no idea who the woman was until she got home and looked up the history of the Inn on the internet. When she read the description of the woman, she claims a chill ran up her spine.
On another occasion three women were sharing a room at the inn. They were all awaken at the same time in the middle of the night and saw a thick mist hovering over their beds. These women could not move from their beds until the mist gathered together and went under the door of the room. The terrified women spent the rest of the night in the lobby.
Just down the road from the Talbott Inn and pictured to the right is the McLean House which was built in 1812. The downstairs once housed the Bardstown Postoffice and some other merchants and the upstairs rooms were rented to travelers. During the Civil War, it was used as a hospital, and many soldiers died there. It is this event that has left a huge imprint on the place and much unfinished business. Visitors have claimed to hear crying and moans in the night. One visitor claims to have been woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of women talking. He looked up from his bed and saw three women. One woman was crying and the other two were comforting her. Listening to the women, he found out the woman was crying because her home had been taken away. This is something that happened to a lot of people during the Civil War, when soldiers would come in a home and take what they wanted, running the family out, and often burning the home when they were finished.
Pictured above is the old county jail located beside the Talbott Tavern. The jail is said to be haunted by a man named Martin Hill. Hill was sentenced to hang from the gallow in the courtyard behind the jail for shooting his wife at a neighbor's house. Before Hill could be executed, however, he died from a terrible and painful illness. Witnesses said he cried in agonizing pain and was delirious. Since his death many have claimed to hear his desperate pleas at night. The story of Hill's ghost is described in a 1909 newspaper article at the jail. It is ironic that although Jesse James spent much time at Bardstown, it was not as an inmate of the jail. Jesse James was a cousin and friend of the jailer and was often hidden in comfort at the neighboring Talbott Tavern. Jesse James had many friends in Bardstown who protected his whereabouts from authorities. Many have claimed to see Jesse James ghost in a long black coat, laughing in good spirits at the old tavern.
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