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Ghosts of the Bluegrass

Ghosts of the Bluegrass

James McCormick
Macy Wyatt
Foreword by William Lynwood Montell
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Ghosts of the Bluegrass
    Book Description:

    In Ghosts of the Bluegrass, James McCormick and Macy Wyatt present stories of Kentucky ghosts past and present. Some of the tales are set in rural areas, but many take place in urban areas such as the haunted house on Broadway in downtown Lexington and in buildings on the University of Kentucky campus, where Adolph Rupp is said to have conversed with the deceased biology professor Dr. Funkhouser. This volume contains chapters on haunted places, poltergeists, communication with the dead, and ghosts who linger to resolve unfinished business from their past lives, as well as a chapter about ghosts who reveal themselves through lights, changes in temperature, or sound. The book even features a chilling account by a nineteenth-century family haunted in their Breckinridge County home. Whether witnesses believe that a spirit has come to protect those it left behind or to complete an unfinished task, ghostly appearances remain a mystery. As McCormick and Wyatt point out, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to the supernatural. One thing is certain: these tales will bring pleasure and perhaps a goose bump or two to the reader interested in ghost stories and folklore in the Kentucky tradition.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7356-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    William Lynwood Montell

    Children have always looked to parents and grandparents for insights into the mysteries surrounding them, especially to explain the unexplainable, since adults have told stories that contain beliefs and family traditions they gathered or experienced across the years. These rich stories and beliefs, some of which were brought into Kentucky during pioneer times, tell a lot about who we are, where our ancestors came from, and how we deal with the unknown in our lives.

    It is no surprise that numerous persons in the Bluegrass and adjacent subregional areas of Kentucky enjoy a rich supply of ghost tales and premonition...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Ghost stories have always been told. You may remember sitting on the front porch on a dark summer night, listening to someone tell ghost stories until you became overwhelmed with fear. Giving way to your fright, you ran home to the safety of a well-lit living room and comforting parents, but in the ensuing years, you have remembered the stories and perhaps even retold them.

    Growing up in storytelling homes, we both have always collected stories for retelling but had never before collected them as a written record until beginning this project. During a January term at Georgetown College, we...

  7. Chapter 1 Unfinished Business
    (pp. 9-28)

    We begin with stories depicting ghosts who seem to return to complete unfinished business. Some are quiet, and some are disruptive. They may or may not materialize. They may make themselves known by their actions, such as moving or rearranging objects, making the sound of footsteps, or turning lights on and off. They usually appear at the place where the unfinished business occurred (or didn’t occur!).

    Why do some people become ghosts when they die, while others do not? Unfinished business is one possible answer to this question. Perhaps the circumstances of an individual’s life or death affect his or...

  8. Chapter 2 Disappearing Ghosts
    (pp. 29-38)

    Disappearing ghosts make themselves known by manifesting in human form rather than by moving objects, creating disturbances, or making eerie sounds. Some of these ghosts are seen only in particular conditions or settings, probably associated with their earthly life, while others may be encountered at various places. The latter is true of the ghost in the first story in this chapter, “Walking Companion.”

    Sometimes ghosts seem to seek human contact. They may even walk along beside a person or sit in a car, and the mortal receives quite a shock when the ghost suddenly disappears. In a few cases ghosts...

  9. Chapter 3 Mysterious Events and Haunted Places
    (pp. 39-50)

    According to one so-called expert, “Ghosts live in vacant houses, eat ‘ghost toasties,’ and drink evaporated milk!” Some places, vacant or not, are associated with mysterious events or hauntings. The mysterious or haunted place may be an abandoned house or a specific part of an occupied house, or it may be a natural area like a woods or a cave.

    The story “Mysterious Circle” in this chapter was told by a Central Kentucky resident who knew of a haunted area in North Carolina. People in the area call it the “Devil’s Stamping Ground,” and it is a clear circle in...

  10. Chapter 4 Presences Sensed by Light, Cold, or Sound
    (pp. 51-84)

    Popular themes of ghost stories are the feeling of cold spots and the hearing of strange noises that cannot be explained. Many stories, like death lore, involve the seeing of shadows and light. By nature, we want to explain all occurrences. The unexplainable causes great discomfort, which may be interpreted as fright. An inexplicable noise or sound conjures up images of ghosts for some people. Similarly, when a chill or a cold breeze is felt in the midst of warmth, some may think a dead person has returned.

    Why do we assume a ghost is cold or creates a cold...

  11. Chapter 5 Poltergeists
    (pp. 85-100)

    A category of ghosts not yet fully discussed is the poltergeist—mischievous and sometimes malicious ghosts who throw things, move objects around, and generally create havoc. They are the most perplexing and violent of ghosts.

    The wordpoltergeistcomes from the German words “polten” (to knock) and “geist” (spirit). However, the presence of poltergeists in the Western world has been noted from Roman times.

    One of the most famous poltergeists is the one that came to two teenage girls, the Fox sisters, who lived near Rochester, New York, in 1847. The family heard knocking sounds, and one daughter decided to...

  12. Chapter 6 Communication with the Dead
    (pp. 101-116)

    Meetings for the purpose of bringing a paranormal communication to a group or to an individual, usually through a medium of some sort, have been recorded since as early as the third century b.c. by Porphery. Séances became very popular in the mid-1800s. Two or more persons (but usually less than eight) would gather around a table and try to make contact with a deceased loved one through the medium. The participants were to sit in a circle with their hands placed flat on the table. Strangers were looked on with suspicion; their disbelief, it was feared, would hinder the...

  13. Chapter 7 Ghosts That Weren’t Ghosts
    (pp. 117-130)

    One fact became quite evident to all those who collected stories for this anthology: people like to discuss the subjects of death and ghosts. Telling stories around the campfire (or in similar gatherings) has always been a great pastime, particularly when the atmosphere is just right. Consequently, some stories were collected that did not directly involve ghosts but were related. Some might be considered “scary stories,” others are about “sham” ghosts, and some are experiences with death.

    The fear of being buried alive is quite common and is the basis for many scary stories, including “Buried Alive?” in this chapter....

  14. Chapter 8 Ghosts at Educational Institutions
    (pp. 131-150)

    At most older colleges and universities ghost stories have been passed down through generations of students. Stories are spreading at newer schools as well, as life—and death—go on. A well-known ritual involves upperclassmen acquainting new students, especially the most gullible ones, with tales of strange noises, unexplained movements of objects, sightings of shadowy figures, and other evidence of ghosts that have been seen on campus. This is also true in boarding schools, where the students, being younger, are even more impressionable.

    As ghost stories are repeated, slight alterations are made. Often it is interesting to compare versions of...

  15. Chapter 9 Death Omens and Superstitions
    (pp. 151-164)

    “See a pin; pick it up; all the day you’ll have good luck.” “Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back.” “If you find a penny with its head up, you will have good luck.”

    Superstitions? Probably. Real predictions of things to come? Surely not! Yet even those who scoff at such sayings may find themselves picking up pins and avoiding cracks in the sidewalk. Most of us feel uncomfortable walking under ladders. People still regard Friday the thirteenth as—potentially—a bad luck day. Some athletes will wear the same socks or other item of clothing...

  16. Chapter 10 A Collection of Ghost Stories
    (pp. 165-172)

    The following stories were contributed to this anthology by Abigail McCormick Harris, now of Disputanta, Kentucky. She collected and wrote these accounts while in junior high school in Georgetown, demonstrating her sincere interest in the ghost lore of the Bluegrass region. There are many good ghost stories in Kentucky waiting to be collected, and even young people, equipped with a recording device and a computer, can be part of preserving this form of local history.

    When most people think of Federal Hill at Bardstown, Kentucky, more widely known as “My Old Kentucky Home,” they usually think of Stephen Foster. But...

  17. Chapter 11 A Ghost Story from the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 173-180)

    The following is an account of the strange occurrences that beset the Horrell family, as recorded in a small book with a long title,A Short Statement Concerning the Strange Visitation Which During Twenty Nine Years, Afflicted THE FAMILY OF JOHN HORRELL, Living near St. Anthony’s Church, Long Lick, Breckinridge Co., Ky., by J. J. Abell. This book was loaned to us by Mrs. Tillie Moore of Lexington, Kentucky, who found the book in an antique shop in the Old Frankfort Avenue area of Louisville, Kentucky. After we searched online and in the OCLC WorldCat,¹ it became apparent that this...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 181-184)

    We are grateful to the many people who have contributed to this anthology, especially the students whose work formed the nucleus of this collection. It is apparent that the oral tradition of ghost and death lore is still alive in our culture today. While we have made no attempt to prove or disprove the truthfulness of the stories herein, we acknowledge that ghost stories are an integral part of our heritage and should not be ignored. The stories presented here for the most part are from Kentucky. After reading and researching stories from other regions of the United States, however,...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 185-188)