The Kentucky Chronicles: Shadows of Federal Hill

Tom Gill

Alexis Smith, Writer

WARNING: This content may not be suitable for some readers.

Every year around Halloween, the famous home of Stephen Foster in Bardstown recalls its dark past and snags it back up to the surface. I, myself, went to visit a few years ago, reliving the horrors that took place in the house. 

Carefully stepping on the stone path that lead up to the home, the grim reaper walked by my side. Literally. The grim reaper led me and the rest of the tourists to the house. 

While walking, a figure caught my eye. It was that of a teenage boy, roaming the woods. He eerily smiled at me, and I continued walking at a slightly faster pace. When we finally reached the house, a black carriage, pulled by a skeletal, black horse stood silently by the steps. A man, pale as my new, white sneakers, stood in front of the entrance. He was wearing a green and black suit, a dirty, black top hat, and his face was adorned with a thick, black handlebar mustache. 

If this wasn’t creepy enough, the man did not say a word. That is, until everyone got there. He suddenly burst into song, singing for a few minutes, then suddenly stopped and explained that his song was the music that residence of the house used to sing long ago. He told us that what we were about to witness were actual events that had taken place in the home from the early 1800’s to the 1900’s. 

When we finally stepped in the house, we were greeted by a woman questioning us frantically about her baby. She ran off soon after and we were lead into the dining room. A tall man was walking around with a scowl on his face, along with a deep bullet wound on the side of his head. He spun us a tail filled with murder, tragedy, and money. He and a good friend of his were playing poker when he discovered his friend was cheating the entire game. In a fit of blind rage, he pulled out his gun, took his friend’s money, and then shot him. Filled with grief, he then shot himself. He handed a member of the audience a bullet to prove he wasn’t lying. 

Similar accounts to these took place in every room of the house. 

In the kitchen, a woman was lying on the floor sobbing and saying, “I didn’t mean to kill them.” Our group learned that she was the cook and every morning she went to go get water from the well. It turns out that the water had been contaminated, spreading a disease called cholera, an infectious, bacterial virus of the small intestine, typically contracted from infected water supplies and causing severe vomiting and diarrhea. Around ten people died in the house from just cholera alone. 

Along with diseases, there were also tragic accidents. In an upstairs bedroom, a woman had given birth to a healthy baby boy and hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in a few months. When she finally fell asleep, she was awoken by a terrible nightmare that her husband had jumped from the window and committed suicide. She screamed in panic when she woke and found that her husband was actually dead, but not the way she had dreamed of. 

He was tending to the baby and had the window open, due to it being a hot summer night. He decided he would sit down for a moment and passed out from exhaustion in a seat near the window. When his wife screamed from her nightmare, it startled the man. He desperately tried to get to his wife while being only half awake, fell backwards in his chair, and slipped out the window onto the pavement. 

Another accident that had occurred was out in the front yard. After Stephen Foster’s death, the city donated enough money to make a statue in his honor and it was placed in front of his home. A man was staying at the place when it was once used as a hotel and he ran out the door on a rainy night to greet someone. As he was running, he slipped and fell on the pavement, breaking open his skull on Stephen Foster’s statue. He died instantly. 

No one would ever dream that the home of Stephen Foster had such tragic events take place in its walls, but looks can be deceiving. There are so many other stories not mentioned that took place in the home. 

Tours such as these take place on Oct. 18, 19, 24, 25, and 26. Shadows of Federal Hill starts at 7 p.m. and a new tour begins every 15 minutes. Tours are 45 minutes each. Prices range from $14-$25. The address is 501 E. Stephen Foster Avenue Bardstown,  KY 40004.

For more information, visit the following links.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/03/books/stephen-foster-s-world-truly-was-sad-and-dreary.html

https://www.kentuckytourism.com/shadows-of-federal-hill-ghost-tours-of-my-old-kentucky-home/

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/kentucky/ghost-tour-my-old-kentucky-home-ky/