Haunted Meade County
Gerald W. Fischer
Few people know that Meade County has a number of ghost towns. These towns were thriving, and some had populations of 1000 or more. The towns were known as Meadeville, Good Springs, Hill Grove, Garnettsville, Grayhampton, New Philadelphia, Little York, Swansville, Claysville, and Plain Dealing. Although there may be a smattering of farms and houses in the vicinity of these old towns, more often they are populated only by cemeteries and the spirits of those people who never completely died and went away. On moonlit nights or in broad daylight some of the apparitions of the old towns can be seen and heard.
Grayhampton is one such ghost town, originally a mill town with a population in 1895 of 275 people. There was a two room white frame schoolhouse in Grayhampton, and in 2010, Ms. Diana Burnett, the former Grayhampton/Camp Carlson historian, relayed a ghost story to me that she personally experienced. Fort Knox bought the town of Grayhampton in various transactions culminating finally in 1940. The people moved out or were relocated by the army. When the decision was made to turn part of the area into a recreational campground for soldiers, Nancy O’Malley of the University of Kentucky did an archaeological survey of the area, and Diana helped when time was available. One day Diana was expected to trowel the foundations of the old school building. The frame building had long since been demolished, and a road ran in front of the school, dividing the school building from the school yard directly across the road. Plans had been made to use this field, the former school yard for a new children’s recreation area.
Diana’s work was to carefully trowel the outside of the foundation and collect whatever artifacts that were encountered. She proceeded from the front of the building to the rear corner where she planned to make a left turn and trowel the rear foundation. Her back was to the road and the field. As she troweled, encountering marbles and bottle caps and such she heard a group of children go into the field, choose up sides and begin a baseball game. She could hear the balls being caught and the whack of the bat when it connected. The boys and girls cheered loudly and seemed to Diana to have a wonderful time. She was enjoying the sounds of the children as she did her work.
Soon she reached the rear corner, and decided to stand up, stretch and watch the game for a bit. As she rose the game was in full swing, with much laughter, talking, and shouted cheers. She stood up and turned to watch the game, but when she did the sounds stopped, and the field was completely empty. She looked around and realized this was a ghostly event. She ran as fast as she could to the office, where the manager told her he had just found something that she needed to see. He would not let her tell him about her experience until she looked at the photo he held in his hands. Frustrated and afraid, she quickly took the photo and saw that it was a picture of the school, taken from the building, near where she had turned to watch, and it showed the children in the field playing a game of baseball. A coincidence, maybe?
The Ghosts about Sue Mundy’s Capture
The most famous guerrilla warrior in Kentucky was Marcellous Jerome Clarke better known as “Sue Mundy.” Sue was captured on a farm in Meade County, with two other men, Henry Clay Magruder and Henry Medkiff. These men were in a skirmish on the Hancock, Breckenridge, County line, and Magruder was shot in the lung. Being a distant kin to John Cox, the men sought refuge and medical attention in the Cox tobacco barn. The doctor treating Magruder told on the men and they were captured on March 12th, 1865. Mundy was hanged for his crimes March 15th 1865, and Magruder met his fate the following October 20th. Medkiff was sentenced to death but it was commuted to a prison term, and then he was suddenly released becoming, after the war, a farm implement salesman near Irvington. Since none of the men died on the site you might ask, where did the ghosts come from?
During the 1930’s the old two story Cox farm house became a Negro orphanage. A number of boys were housed and cared for on the property. It is conceivable that some may have died there. In the family cemetery we discovered five grave stones that were not shown on the listing of graves in the Cox family papers. This could mean that the simple rough stones marked graves of people buried later, and maybe were some of the orphans. In about 1954 the Cox farm house was demolished. For years the property remained vacant until a new house was built nearby. The lady that owned that house died in a nursing facility in Elizabeth Town.
While doing some research on Sue Mundy I was told to ask a foreman of a work crew that lived in the house for permission to clean up the old cemetery and walk the historic site. The man was named Raul. He gave me permission, and then asked me if I was afraid of ghosts. I told him I wasn’t, and he proceeded to tell me the house was haunted. He said on a number of occasions late at night the men would awake to the sound of dishes falling out of the cabinets and crashing broken on the kitchen floor. They would run to the kitchen and find everything in order. On other occasions a radio would be heard playing in an empty upstairs bedroom but when the door was opened the music stopped and no radio was in the room. Doors could be heard opening and shutting. Raul told me that the men who lived and visited there believed the ghost was a woman. He also said that they liked her. He said we all get along together, she doesn’t bother us and we don’t bother her. We’re O.K. with each other. On another occasion when I visited Raul he was absent, working someplace else, and I spoke to one of the lady housekeepers that took care of the cleaning and washing. I asked her if she ever experienced a ghostly event, and she said, “Oh you mean the little boy.”
I told her that actually I was referring to the ghost of a lady, and she said she did not know much about her, but regularly when she and her associate would look out the upstairs window often a little boy would be standing in the field near the cemetery staring up at them. Sometimes they would call out to him to wait, and they would run down the stairs but by the time they got down the stairs, he would be gone, disappeared. They would wave to him from the window and ask his name, but he would not wave back or speak to them. He just continued his silent stare. It was always the same boy wearing clothing that was old, worn, and out of style. Could it have been the ghost of an orphan that died on the site? Could the ghost of the woman, be a former owner of the nearby house, or someone else? You decide.
There is a story told by Alice Bounderant Scott in her book “The Doe Run Settlements,” about two men who were killed by Union guerrilla soldiers just outside of Garnettsville. This occurred in 1863. Mrs. Scott tells that two of Morgan’s men were captured by Union guerrilla soldiers. A guard was taking the two youthful prisoners up the hill toward the top, when they stopped at the home of Dr. Henry Pusey to get a drink of water from his well. Two ladies were present the Doctor’s wife and a patient Mrs. Hannah Williams. The two women spoke with the prisoners, and found they were from Louisville. After resting and getting water to drink, the guard took them up the hill and once out of sight shot the prisoners. Mrs. Pusey claimed the bodies, and prepared them to be sent to their families.
In April of 1863 a man named Jarrett or Duke and another, Dan Morgan Shacklett, were shot and killed between Meadeville, Kentucky and Louisville, likely in the vicinity of Garnettsville. Jarrett or Duke was cursing his captors, and the Captain gave the O.K. to shut him up by shooting him. The men were prisoners captured in the raid Captain Hare made on the “Sheep Shed Rocks.” It is possible that these men were in contact with Morgan and could be the same people that Mrs. Pusey prepared for burial. There was a contingent of Louisville men with these soldiers.
I have been told of an apparition that sometimes appears past the cemetery toward the top of the hill. One night some lady ghost hunters from E.V.P., “Entity Visual Paranormal,” went to that location with Shirley Brown and me. Shirley took a photograph of the women as they walked back to the cars. There was an orb following behind them high in the air. Could this be one of the dead Confederate soldiers?
Incident in Haunted Hollow
In 1899 John Boling wrote a story in the “Messenger” about an area known only as haunted hollow. The haunted hollow he referred to was across from Meade County in Indiana. The place described as down river from Mauckport. The article had a headline that read, “Ghouls Operated Years Ago.” Ghouls of course are defined as those that exhume the dead and prey upon their flesh. The area was thought to be haunted, curious things happened there, and people shunned the place known to contain the graves of Native Americans. He wrote, “My brother, Jim Cain and I obtained a skiff and went down the Ohio below Mauckport to “Haunted Hollow.” Our object was to examine the Indian burial ground located there, and our trip paid dividends.” The expedition met with a very old man that lived nearby the hollow named Jimmie Trotter. He told the men that the river bottom that contained the graves had been largely washed away. By walking along the yellow banks and digging into the walls where dark stains appeared the men collected several skeletal long bones and an intact skull with all 32 teeth present. A doctor J. M. Hardin examined the skull and pronounced, “This is a skull of a very old human. All 32 teeth are present and although much worn, are sound and would have given years more good service.” Undoubtedly the Indian cemetery and the skeletal remains gave rise to the notion the hollow was haunted. It may have been, and may be yet today.
The Apparition at the Battletown School
There was a visitor to one of the historical societies meetings on a night when Shirley Brown was speaking about her great-great-great aunt Leah Smock. Leah came from the area near Battletown formerly called Staples. It is a wild and remote forested area even today. The lady was a former worker at the school. She spoke to me after the meeting and asked if I thought the ghost at the school was associated with the ghost of Leah Smock. Since I did not know about the story of the apparition at the school I asked that she tell me. She related to me that a number of people have glimpsed the figure of a man walking the halls when no one is about.
The first time she saw the apparition was when she was working late one night, and a door was opened onto the corridor she was busy looking at some papers, but noticed someone, a man, had moved past the open door. She thought it must be the custodian who was also working late. She got up and looked down the hall but saw no one. After a while she decided to go to the custodian and see if he had been up the hallway. He was busily working on a project and had not been away from his work. The lady told me that they looked in each room, the restrooms storage areas, and the hallways and found no one present in the building. Other people she said had seen similar, fleeting apparitions in the school or on the lawn outside.
Meade County’s Most Famous Ghost
There is one ghost sighting that’s the most documented in Meade County. It is also the most repeated in Meade County folk lore, and that is the legend of the ghost of the beautiful witch Leah Smock. There are diverse opinions about whether Leah is really a witch. It is a debatable issue. Most of the old people who knew first hand reports of Leah like Cowboy Bennett think she was a very intelligent, beautiful girl, who knew the magic of herbs and natural cures. She was also thought to possess powerful intuition and maybe had the second sight, or be able to predict through natural or supernatural reasoning, things yet to be. She was very intelligent. Among other things she was accused of driving two boys who teased her, to go out of their minds. She supposedly cursed and caused the death of two fine horses when their owner forbade her petting them, and caused the death of an infant whose mother refused to let Leah hold the child. Causing crops to fail and other calamities were attributed to her. A posse visited her father’s farm when she was alone, locked her or tied her, in a smokehouse, and set it on fire burning her to death. She is the only known person to have been burnt as a witch in the United States. Salem witches were hanged or stoned to death.
Shortly after she was burned her ghost appeared to her mother at the remains of the smoke house. Her body was taken to a remote place and became the first burial in what is now called the Betsy Daily Cemetery. Not long after she was buried a hunter saw her ghost standing at her grave looking down. In both instances her apparition was dressed in in a white garment with cords at the sleeves and waist. She had long black hair and was very pretty. Her form did not touch the ground, and she was invisible below the knees. She was surrounded by a purple haze or aura. The town’s folk were so afraid they carried a wagon load of rock to the grave, and dug down into it filling the grave with stones to keep her spirit from rising. It didn’t work. She has been seen many times, and people who visited her grave sometimes became confused and could not find their way back to their cars. The walk to the cemetery is a long hard one of a mile or more. Sometimes, even today cooper’s tools are found on her grave. Her father made barrels and she helped him. Hunters in the area cannot bring down game and sometimes see her. Leah had a love and a sense about animals, and could control and gentle even dogs that were known to bite. It is said her love of animals cause the hunters to miss their mark. Snakes are sometimes seen sunning atop her grave. She has made herself known even until today causing computers to malfunction or reverse images to occur when people are writing about her or copying photographs of her grave. A film crew’s equipment failed to operate at her grave after it was repeatedly tested and found to function elsewhere. Remarkable and beautiful Leah is Meade Counties’ most famous ghost, and witch.
Have a happy Halloween everyone.