“I still consider myself a skeptic,” he said, “but I kind of believe in paranormal stuff, stuff you don’t always have an explanation for. When a ghost walks up and shakes my hand, that’s when I’ll start believing in ghosts.”
Dominé’s three biggest sellers – “Ghosts of Old Louisville,” “True Stories of Hauntings in America’s Largest Victorian Neighborhood” and “Ghostly Tales From America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood” – are all back in print as of this month from University Press of Kentucky.
They’re filled with dozens of stories about Old Louisville, which is known for its hauntings. Newspaper accounts dating back to the 1800s detailed the neighborhood’s afterlife, and stories have been handed down for decades.
It was the stories that drew the interest of Dominé, who has published 11 books and teaches foreign languages and translation at Bellarmine University.
“A lot of people assume I’m a ghost hunter or paranormal investigator but I’m not. I hunt ghost stories. I see there’s folkloristic value, there’s oral tradition, history. There’s community flavor.
“I always tell people that you don’t need to believe in ghosts to enjoy a good ghost story because there’s so much more there.”
As we creep closer to Halloween, Dominé shared with us some of his favorite Old Louisville ghost stories.
- The Widmer House, 1228 S. Third St., was Dominé’s firsthand introduction to Old Louisville ghosts. He bought the house in 1999 and was warned to be nice to Lucy but promptly forgot, resulting in dozens of incidents: pictures knocked off walls, nighttime visitations, doors slamming. After reading the story in “Ghosts of Old Louisville” it’s hard to see why he remains a skeptic.
- The ghost of a young lady is said to haunt the stairs at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1305 S. Third St., and it’s quite a story. It’s said that the Lady on the Stairs was in love with a young soldier stationed at Camp Taylor, but her parents had betrothed her to another. This was in 1918. Her predicament was well-known to those in the neighborhood, who knew that she secretly met the soldier on the site of the church, which was then under construction. On the night they were supposed to elope, he didn’t show up. She waited for several nights thereafter, pacing. The story that neighborhood residents passed on insist that the soldier had missed the rendezvous because he had contracted the flu – a deadly epidemic swept through Louisville that year – and died a few days later. The girl also came down with the flu and died, but she still walks the steps at night.
- The Campion House, 1234 S. Third St., is a ghost hunter’s paradise. The spirit of a stable boy is said to roam the alley, as well as the ghost of a suicide victim. But the main house has the star attractions: two young sisters who may have died of disease. Luckily, they aren’t sister like in “The Shining” but instead are playful and giggle a lot. Still.
- A very friendly ghost named Avery frequents 1473 St. James Court, also known as The Pink Palace. Avery is thought to be the spirit of a former owner and is a tall older man who specializes in helping living residents. One of his most famous exploits involves him creeping on a woman who was bathing, causing her to jump out of the tub. Seconds later thieves tossed a concrete block through the window and it landed roughly where her head had been. The woman, Jenny Dickerson, told Dominé that she’s convinced Avery saved her life.
Dominé will speak today at noon at the Filson Historical Society, 1310 S. Third St., and at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave. The Filson event costs $10.
Dominé’s Victorian ghost walk tours of Old Louisville will run several times nightly Oct. 19-22, with actors portraying some of Old Louisville’s best-known spirits.