Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Haunted History of Frankfort's Liberty Hall

Although he was a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of politician, John Brown is often referred to as The Founding Father of Kentucky.  Born in 1757, he was the youngest member of the Continental Congress and when Kentucky gained statehood, was one of its first senators.  When the seat of government moved to Frankfort, Brown picked up and moved to the frontier area and built a beautiful home on a four acre plot near the Kentucky River.

The home was completed in 1796 and was named Liberty Hall.  Three years later, Brown married a woman named Margaret and brought her to the fine home, where the guest list included many famous names of celebrities and politicians of the period.  Liberty Hall stayed in the family until 1937, and was then later willed to the Colonial Dames of America in 1956.  Today, it operates as a historical site and museum, where tours are offered daily sharing the history of this marvelous home and the people who lived there...and of course, the history of those who died there as well.

Over the years, Liberty Hall has picked up several ghost stories, and it is believed that at least three main spirits still walk the grounds.  In 1805, a visiting Spanish opera singer was said to have attended a party at Liberty Hall, yet was never seen or heard from again.  She was last spotted walking the gardens in the direction of the river and her disappearance was blamed on an abduction by Indians.  Whatever the young woman's fate, her spirit seems to remain.  A dark-haired woman has been seen running through the gardens, her mouth frozen in a silent shriek.  Another ghost is said to be that of a British soldier from the War of 1812.  Legend states that the man had fallen in love with a cousin of the Brown family who was visiting, yet the affection was not reciprocated.  The soldier has been seen standing outside, peering into the windows.  When he doesn't see what he's come to see, his countenance takes on a mournful expression, and he walks sadly away.

Photo of the Gray Lady?

While these sightings are quite interesting in their own right, the star spirit of Liberty Hall is undoubtedly the Gray Lady.  The Gray Lady is believed to be the spirit of Mrs. Margaret Varick, the elderly aunt of Margaret Brown, who came to visit and console the family in 1817 after the death of one of the Brown children.  Mrs. Varick traveled all the way from New York and unfortunately the long trip proved too much for her and she passed away from a heart attack three days after her arrival.  She was buried in the gardens, but her body was later moved to a larger cemetery and today, its exact whereabouts are unknown.

But just because her body cannot be found doesn't mean that Mrs. Varick will allow herself to be forgotten.  She was first sighted as early as the 1820s by a grandson of John Brown.  Later, she was spotted by a great-granddaughter, Mary Mason Scott, her witnessed the small woman in gray in her second floor bedroom---the same bedroom where Mrs. Varick allegedly passed.  In 1965 a firefighter responding to a small fire at the home snapped a photo that appears to show a woman in a cloak descending the stairs.  Many believe this is evidence of the Gray Lady.

It is believed that the spirit of the Gray Lady is a gentle, helpful one.  She seems to watch over the house and take care of its inhabitants...something she tried to do while alive, but unfortunately was never able to accomplish.  To celebrate her life and her afterlife, each October Liberty Hall holds a special tour in her honor.  These Gray Lady tours cover the life of Mrs. Varick and the ladies who have witnessed her presence, discuss the hauntings, and share the mourning practices popular at the time.  As an added bonus, Gray Lady costume contests are held at Halloween!

Liberty Hall Website
Haunted Kentucky, by Alan Brown
Article by Troy Taylor
Article from Lex18

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