Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bardstown Ghosts

We recently made our second visit to Bardstown, KY, this time with four friends in tow. If you've never been there, it's a great little town known for bourbon, Civil War history and Stephen Foster. It's one of those places, like Gettysburg, that offers up both incredibly significant history and borderline cheese.

After a long day of sightseeing (Perryville Battlefield, Maker's Mark, Bernheim Forest) we decided to eat dinner at the Old Talbott Tavern. Not only is it known for its delicious food, it was also part of the ghost tour we planned to take after dinner.

We met across the street for the Bardstown Ghost Trek, led by a slight, but spunky woman who has been doing these tours for over 20 years. Like most ghost tour directors, she combined history with reported ghost sightings and local lore. When we arrived at the Old Talbott Tavern (our last stop on the tour) we were told about the Jesse James Room. We had seen it from the outside earlier in the evening and told that he once stayed there, that his ghost had been seen in the window, and that it was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1998. Now, one of the legends is that bullet holes in the room were from a drunken Jesse James, who thought the room's famous murals had come to life. He apparantly shot at the birds and the holes were left as a tourist attraction. The fire of '98 destroyed these murals and the room is no longer open for viewing.

You might notice that sometimes what I find most fascinating is the unsaid or hidden away. In this case, the mere fact that Jesse James had stayed in this room once was enough to put a plaque on the door and parade tourists past.

Interestingly, even though it may seem far-fetched, James actually had quite the connection to the tavern. His mother's family was from the area and local politicians and law enforcement tolerated and even welcomed his presence in town, even when he was on the run. He often dined and met people here.

If you're ever up for a weekend trip to Bardstown, definitely dine at the tavern and take the $15 ghost tour which begins at 8:00 across the street at the Old Stable. While it's not the best ghost tour I've been on, it's a pretty good way to get your local lore bearings and perhaps do some more exploring on your own.

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