Ghost stories

Ghost hunters explore Shelby,
Oldham sites

A Floydsburg house is said to be haunted

By Helen McKinney
Contributing Writer

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (January 2004) – In the small community of Floydsburg, Ky., Mary Belle Wilson’s name has become synonymous with things that go bump in the night. Some believe it is her ghost that haunts the Floydsburg cemetery, which occupies the same property as Duncan Memorial Chapel near Crestwood.
Mary (or Emma) Belle, is said to return periodically to the neighborhood and walk the cemetery grounds, where she and her family are buried. In her hands she carries a lantern or clutches a prayer book.

Floydsburg house

Photo by Helen McKinney

This house in Floydsburg
is believed by some to be haunted.

Across from the front gates of the chapel stands the log home, now a gray vinyl sided home, where Mary Belle once lived. Her father was Col. James F. Wilson, and the Wilson family was a prominent one in the area. The upstairs bedroom where it is said Mary Belle met her death overlooks the chapel grounds.
Mary Belle’s story is an old one, one that predates the Civil War. She was in love with two suitors and couldn’t bring herself to choose between the two. When both young men joined the ranks of fighting soldiers during the Civil War, Mary Belle believed her dilemma would be solved of its own accord. What she didn’t count on was the fact that both suitors would return from the war, still enamored with her.
After some time, Mary Belle chose Joseph Vincent as her fiancé and began wedding preparations. On the eve of her wedding in 1874, the rejected suitor returned to her home and stabbed her on Dec. 27. There is supposedly a spot of blood on the second floor of the house in what was her bedroom that will not go away.
Many residents claim to have seen this beautiful apparition attired in her wedding dress walking the cemetery grounds. Others claim there is no truth to this tale. Henry and Mabel Cassidy have lived in the Floydsburg community for 30 years and heard Mary Belle’s story many times.
While they may not put much faith in a supposedly haunted house, Mabel does provide insight into the longevity of the story. She said the tale still exists because the “house has existed this long. It’s one of the oldest” surviving houses in the area. She said the fact that Mary Belle’s father was “a man of prominence,” has also contributed to the story’s survival.
Helen Bryant, caretaker of Duncan Memorial Chapel for more than 20 years, said there is a memorabilia case within the chapel that contains an old newspaper clipping referring to Mary Belle’s ghost. But she, too, discounts the ghost story as a myth.
Oldham County has another ghost story to tell, and most shop owners along Main Street in La Grange are familiar with it. “There are all kinds of haunted buildings on Main Street,” said Dorothy Lammlein. Lammlein’s building, which now houses Sign of the Times Too gift shop, is located in what used to be the old Head’s Drugstore at 104 E. Main St.
Lammlein offers as an explanation for the Main Street hauntings the story of Don Carlos McDowell, the first mayor of La Grange. McDowell was the original owner of the building that houses Lammlein’s business, and from it ran McDowell’s Pharmacy. He was killed while helping extinguish a fire on Main Street. It is perhaps his spirit that returns to haunt the building.
Lammlein said that she purchased her business space from Billy McMakin, after Head’s Drugstore had gone out of business. Being quite familiar with the building’s history, McMakin had left a brief message on her Rolodex, “Hope you like the ghost.” Lammlein scoffed at the ghost stories at first, but she said it soon “became apparent to everyone in the building that something (abnormal) went on in the building.”
McMakin had warned her that things would turn up missing. Lammlein said she began missing things such as contracts and ribbons she had prepared for wedding decorations. These items would later show up but conveniently disappear when needed. This distraction got to the point where it was really aggravating for Lammlein, who couldn’t ignore what was going on.
Noises seemed to originate from the back rear upper section of the building early in the morning or at nighttime, she said. Loud banging and clanging overhead sounded like furniture being dropped. Lammlein’s employees saw glimpses of a woman, but when they went to the front of the store to wait on her, the mysterious figure had disappeared. Music boxes would often play by themselves.
Frustrated, Lammlein had radio announcer and ghostbuster Chris McGill visit her building to see what he could detect. She said McGill and his crew set up cameras a year and a half ago, but their orbs – ghostlike balls of light – “detected very little activity.” Whatever had been haunting her building left with the ghostbusters, she said.
Miriam McDowell Kircher is Carlos McDowell’s granddaughter. She finds it hard to believe that her grandfather’s spirit would haunt the building and make so much noise because he was deaf. McDowell, a pharmacist, was only 46 years old when he died, Kircher said. Feeling as if he should be assisting with the firefighting efforts, he went into his drug store to make sandwiches for the firefighters. A chimney fell on McDowell and killed him.
“I guess there is some truth to this story,” said Kircher. Lammlein had called her to ask if she had any idea who was haunting the building. When Lammlein described the mysterious female figure in a long, old-fashioned dress, Kircher guessed it was her grandfather’s half-sister, Betty McDowell.
Aunt Betty, as Kircher referred to her, had never married and had always helped in the drug store. “It’s what she did her whole life,” said Kircher. “She was so helpful.” There was a large room in the building where Betty devoted her time to making chocolate syrup and ice cream, as well as other concoctions for drug store customers.
The home where Don Carlos lived still stands behind the old Head’s Drugstore. His father, William Albert McDowell, once owned this property. Don Carlos lived between Betty and his other half-sister, Isabel. His home has recently been renovated into a bed and breakfast.
The Oldham County Chamber of Commerce is located nearby at 108 E. Main St., and chamber president Joe Schoenbaechler backs up Lammlein’s ghost story. “Most of the activity we noticed were sounds coming from the roof,” he said. And these were no ordinary sounds, but very loud noises, he said.
Ironically, Schoenbaechler found these odd sounds disturbing because he said, “When workmen are on the roof working, we can’t hear them.” But the odd noises on the roof continued fairly regularly and always when someone was in the office and working alone.
That is, until the spirits disappeared suddenly with the ghostbusters. “Things were really active until that night,” said Lammlein.

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