Bourbon & Boos: Inside Kentucky’s Most Haunted Distilleries
A lot of states are known for their local ghost lore. In New York, the Headless Horseman roamed Hudson Valley in search of his lost head. Massachusetts has been haunted by the Salem witch trials since colonial times. And in Louisiana, the bayou is riddled with hoodoo, voodoo and ghastly graves.
Well here in Kentucky, it’s our distilleries that are occupied by spirits–and we’re not talking about the distilled kind. With history that dates back over 200 years, it’s no wonder some of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®’s most legendary distilleries are also among the world’s most spookiest destinations.
This Halloween, we’re uncovering the scariest stories behind Kentucky’s most haunted distilleries. So sit back, take a sip and read on…if you dare.
1. James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont
James B. Beam is not only one of the world’s largest makers of Kentucky Bourbon–it’s one of the oldest. The Beam family has been making whiskey since 1795, and with that much history, hauntings and mystery are almost sure to follow.
For years, visitors have reported seeing ghosts at the James B. Beam American Outpost. Rumor has it the distillery is haunted by a former guard who would walk the site at night, yelling at the moon. People have reported that his screams can still be heard from distillery grounds on nights with a full moon.
Other reports include claims of seeing a woman standing near the windows inside the T. Jeremiah Beam home, as well as a slew of paranormal activity in the warehouses.
In warehouse D, employees claim to have seen a figure walking up the stairs, and a man wearing overalls hiding between barrels. Sounds of footsteps and whistling on the floors above have been heard. And in warehouse K, sightings of a woman wearing formal clothing have been reported. In 2018, ghost hunters spent 72 hours confined to the distillery to investigate these claims on the TV show Paranormal Lockdown.
The result? Let’s just say that Bourbon isn’t the only spirit locked away at James B. Beam.
2. Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg
Could the spirits at Wild Turkey Distillery actually be Ripy family ghosts? According to those who have interacted with them, yes.
The Ripy family founded what’s now known as Wild Turkey back in 1869. For years, Olivia Ripy, granddaughter of the distillery’s founder T.B. Ripy and former visitor center manager, has made no secret about her paranormal experiences.
From hearing the sound of her uncle Roger Ripy’s voice to seeing cabinet doors move and dishes fall from shelves, it’s clear that someone–or something–at Wild Turkey is trying to communicate with the living from beyond the grave.
Employees have reported hearing footsteps, voices, the sounds of typewriters typing, and doors opening and closing.
In 2015, a photo surfaced that appears to be a man leaning up against a pole. It’s believed that the ghost is a Ripy, or that of Bob, a deceased distiller employee who continues to haunt the grounds.
That same year, the SyFy Channel’s TV show Ghost Hunters showed up at Wild Turkey to investigate.
Do you believe that Wild Turkey is as haunted as they say?
3. Old Forester, Louisville
Old Forester Distilling Co. is located on Whiskey Row, which is where Louisville’s historic Galt House Hotel originally stood during the Civil War. The hotel was the site of several deaths that are believed to haunt the area today.
According to an article from Roadtrippers magazine, sightings of people walking through walls and visions of a woman in white have been reported at Old Forester. One person claims to have even seen a ghost sipping Bourbon from a sealed bottle in the executive’s office.
Right next to Old Forester is Doc Crow’s Smokehouse and Raw Bar. The site is believed to be where Union General William “Bull” Nelson was shot and killed by Army General Jefferson C. Davis in 1862. Many believe that this deadly confrontation made the area a hotbed for paranormal activity.
At Doc’s, reports of a table barging through a locked door unassisted, flying glassware and menus placing themselves on tables have been made. And next door to Doc’s, at O’Sheas Irish Pub, a ghost named Willy has been said to haunt the area. Believed to have been killed by a load of Bourbon barrels, Willy has been spotted by numerous employees over the years, along with the ghost of a nun who died in the Galt House fire of 1865.
If that wasn’t enough of Whiskey Row’s haunted history, there is also the ghost of Alfred Victor DuPont, who was shot by his mistress when he refused to take responsibility for her pregnancy. Rumor has it that DuPont can still be seen roaming the streets of Louisville at night in a black tux and top hat, carrying a gold-tipped cane.
Bonus: The Seelbach Hotel, Louisville
Downtown Louisville’s haunted past doesn’t end at Whiskey Row. Just ask anyone who has had an encounter with the Seelbach Hotel’s most infamous ghost, “The Lady in Blue.”
Since 1987, guests and employees of the Seelbach have reported seeing a woman in a blue gown with long, dark hair roam the hotel, and even walk through closed elevator doors. “The Lady in Blue” is believed to be the ghost of Patricia Wilson, who was found dead in an elevator shaft at the Seelbach Hotel in 1936.
Some say her death was an accident or suicide, while others believe she was murdered. While the cause of her death remains a mystery, her presence at the Seelbach can still be felt today–so much so that the hotel’s historian, Larry Johnson, offers ghost tours to share her story. Visitors can call 502-585-3200 to schedule a ghost tour offered Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. ET.
Got a haunted Bourbon story of your own? Fill us in by sending an email to [email protected].