When my niece was a lit­tle child, my sis­ter was star­tled to hear her laugh­ing and talk­ing to some­one when only the two of them were at home.

“Who are you talk­ing to?” Kim asked as she burst into her daughter’s bedroom.

“That lady there in the win­dow,” Kamille answered. “She’s wav­ing to me.”

There was no one at the window.

Kim and her hus­band, Stan, who were new­ly­weds, had moved into Stan’s grandmother’s house in Winchester after she died. Kamille nev­er knew the woman that her old­er cousin Kelsey called Great Ma.

Sometime after the inci­dent at the win­dow, Stan’s moth­er, Ruth, was show­ing the fam­i­ly some old pho­tographs and asked Kamille if she rec­og­nized any­one in a group picture.

Yes, the lit­tle girl said, point­ing to her great-grand­moth­er and telling Grammy it was the lady who had vis­it­ed her that day at the win­dow and made her laugh.

“That’s Great Ma,” she said.

I don’t believe in ghosts. But there are things I can’t explain.

When I lived in Nicholasville many years ago and was edi­tor of the town’s news­pa­per, there was an elder­ly woman who lived next to my apart­ment who would some­times ask me to take dic­ta­tion for her when­ev­er she want­ed to write a let­ter to the edi­tor because her hands shook.

Like many chil­dren, I had grown up with ghost sto­ries. My mother’s fam­i­ly, who were ten­ant farm­ers, lived in a huge ante­bel­lum farm­house with out­build­ings that had once been slave quar­ters. Sitting around the old coal stove or the kitchen table, they would tell “true” stories.

One day after work, as the sun was going down, I was sit­ting with her in her liv­ing room sur­round­ed by her mem­o­ries as she showed me pic­tures and talked about the peo­ple in her past.

I patient­ly hoped she would get on with dic­tat­ing the let­ter when I hap­pened to see a young woman in a long dress walk past the door­way in the dark­ened room behind us and vanish.

I was star­tled, and my elder­ly neigh­bor noticed. Her ancient eyes shone know­ing­ly as she asked, “Did you see some­one in there?”

“I thought I saw a woman,” I said.

She just smiled and offered no expla­na­tion, and I nev­er saw nor heard the mys­tery woman the rest of the time we were there.

Like many chil­dren, I had grown up with ghost sto­ries. My mother’s fam­i­ly, who were ten­ant farm­ers, lived in a huge ante­bel­lum farm­house with out­build­ings that had once been slave quar­ters. Sitting around the old coal stove or the kitchen table, they would tell “true” sto­ries. Once, for exam­ple, my cousin had come into the house and heard foot­steps above the kitchen. But no one used that upstairs room because the only access to it was by an out­side stair­case that had been torn down many years before.

That old house ter­ri­fied me. I’d have dreams that I was float­ing from my bed toward emp­ty rooms where I didn’t want to go.

My par­ents, how­ev­er, assured me there was no such thing as ghosts, and I believed them. I was taught in the holi­ness church I grew up in that the spir­its of loved ones are no longer with us, but demon­ic spir­its some­times dis­guise them­selves as spir­its of the dead.

A few years ago, I inter­viewed a Catholic demo­nolo­gist who had par­tic­i­pat­ed in exor­cisms, and he told me some­thing sim­i­lar. Sometimes ghosts are allowed to return briefly from pur­ga­to­ry to deliv­er mes­sages or ask for prayers, he said, but usu­al­ly what peo­ple think are ghosts are evil spirits.

And I recall that the Bible warns against con­jur­ing the dead and that King Saul had a medi­um con­jure the spir­it of the prophet Samuel. But anoth­er bib­li­cal verse says that “the dead know noth­ing … for the mem­o­ry of them is for­got­ten.”
That seems ambigu­ous to me.

Just before Halloween in 2014, I par­tic­i­pat­ed in a spir­its tour of Wickland, the old Bardstown man­sion that was home to the Wickliffe fam­i­ly that pro­duced two Kentucky gov­er­nors and a gov­er­nor of Louisiana. The group gath­ered in the base­ment as the medi­um passed around cop­per dows­ing rods so that the guests could ask ques­tions of the ghost of a slave boy, Antoine.

I didn’t par­tic­i­pate because, as a reporter, I was there as an impar­tial observer.

Besides, I don’t believe in ghosts.

Later, how­ev­er, when I was tran­scrib­ing the dig­i­tal audio record­ing of the guests laugh­ing and ask­ing Antoine ques­tions about whether some­one was going to have a baby or get a job pro­mo­tion, I heard a ghost­ly whis­per that sound­ed like some­one had spo­ken direct­ly into the micro­phone, though no one had been seat­ed that close.
I played it again and again to make sure I had heard it.

The words sound­ed like “an quoi” (which isn’t a phrase in any known lan­guage) or “ask why.” Or maybe “Antoine.”
It was the kind of spec­tral voice you only hear in a hor­ror film, and it made chills run up my spine when I heard it on the record­ing, because I didn’t hear it when I was actu­al­ly there in the cellar.

Later, when I shared the record­ing with Dixie Hibbs, the for­mer Bardstown may­or who was the cura­tor of the muse­um at the time and led the spir­it tours with Katie, the young medi­um, she wasn’t sur­prised. There had been oth­er record­ings of strange phe­nom­e­na in the old man­sion, she said.

As I’ve said, I don’t believe in ghosts. But I wouldn’t stay overnight alone in the base­ment of Wickland.

This sto­ry is adapt­ed from a col­umn Randy wrote for The Kentucky Standard of Bardstown and was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on Halloween of 2014.

  • Randy Patrick

    Randy Patrick is a deputy coun­ty clerk for elec­tions and vot­er reg­is­tra­tion and a for­mer reporter and edi­tor of The Winchester Sun.