8 Stranger Things In Scott County, KY
Written by Dylan Marson
There’s something strange in the neighborhood, and we don’t have any ghostbusters on call. Just beneath the surface of this unsuspecting Kentucky community, there lies an uncanny number of strange tales and unusual experiences just waiting to be uncovered. Follow along for 8 of the stranger things you can experience that will turn your trip to the Bluegrass upside down.
In the heart of Scott County lies a 12,000-square-foot Grand Manse that was home to some of the sauciest and most scandalous historic individuals to grace Kentucky’s high society. While there are countless stories and artifacts housed within its walls, one item in particular might just make your skin crawl. It’s known as a mourning wreath.
As you can guess from the name, mourning wreaths were made to honor and memorialize family members after they had passed away. This all sounds very normal and perhaps even a little sweet until you take a closer look at what these wreaths were made out of…human hair.
Yes, hanging above a bed in this historic home is a wreath made of hair collected from the deceased. At one time, it was actually a popular and widespread victorian-era tradition to create a mourning wreath and add more hair to it as family members would pass away. It is not uncommon to find wreaths with 10 or more different individuals' hair woven into them as they were passed down through the generations.
So while it is unknown whose hair is woven into this particular wreath, you can be assured that it is not the only one of its kind. Not just wreaths, but hair necklaces, earrings and jewelry can be found all across the United States as the last remnants of this bizarre practice. Victorian-era mourning traditions like this are assumed to have largely died out in the early 1900s as the world was ravaged by the Great War and the Spanish Flu. There was simply too much death to keep up with tradition.
Conversations With A Centuries Old Talking Crow
Throughout the history of Scott County you can find many historical figures who led interesting lives or who were just plain scandalous, but there’s only one you can speak to still today and he’s well over 100 years old!
His name is Pete and yes, he is a crow. While he may not be as animated as he once was in his prime, he is certainly just as talkative as he spends his days perched in the Georgetown & Scott County Museum. “Go!” he would squawk; or so the story goes. It was his favorite word, one which would often confuse the horses at local races and gained him local notoriety.
Troublemaking aside, Pete lived a happy life with his owner and companion Dave Adams. Adams was a hatmaker who ran a hat shop in downtown Georgetown. The pair were known to stroll downtown to socialize and enjoy the local delights. Sadly after 3 years in Georgetown, Pete's story was violently cut short by a naive young boy with a well-aimed rifle.
So well known was Pete, and loved by some, that he was given a burial on the grounds of Georgetown College. And though he now rests on those grounds in an unmarked grave, his mechanical twin helps his spirit live on; Perched in the town he called home and chatting with the people who so cherished his mischievous outbursts. So when you visit the old Museum and a strange black bird squawks at you to “Go,” know that he is truly glad you came.
13 cabins, An Abandoned Camp And A History Of Death
Fisher’s Travel Camp can be found in the outskirts of Scott County, just off of US 25. Opened in 1928, this roadside stop once offered a selection of 13 cabins (numbered 1-12.5) and a full service gas station. While once a busy stop for wayward travelers on the road, it now lies in ruins as newer and bigger highways (I-75) caused it to suffer a slow decline in business.
Passers-by will quickly find themselves picking up on some spooky vibes and a rather unwelcoming gas station sign, but the truly unsettling details of this forgotten destination lie much deeper, buried in the earth beneath your feet.
Fisher’s Travel Camp may look rather cheery from the post cards and newspaper clippings, but it was not always such a care-free resort. In fact, long-time residents knew the area by a different name: Dead Man's Hollow. A name which the area certainly earned over the years.
One standout story tells of a local Confederate sympathizer known as John "Jack" Beard. A group of Union soldiers were camped out in Dead Man's Hollow and one night decided to "Go get Old Jack". They rode out to Jack's farm, drug him from his home in front of his wife and executed him amongst the trees. A grim tale of the violent division that the Civil War drove into America.
Old Jack was not alone in meeting his demise in Dead Man's Hollow. Throughout the 1800s the area had a long history of murders, violence, crime and banditry, with several bodies being dumped into a nearby cave. Reports show many of those bodies were not discovered until years after their murder, supposedly perfectly preserved by the cave's conditions.
With such a storied history of death, it is no surprise there are countless reports of ghosts and hobgoblins spotted in the area dating as early as 1897. Still today at the mouth of the nearby cave, a roar can sometimes be heard; the cries of souls who were hidden away in the depths of the earth.
A Haunting Bullet Hole In A Small Town Boutique
Taking a step inside Abby Mae’s Boutique, you might begin to notice some things are out of place. The architecture is oddly familiar, the changing room is behind a giant vault door and…wait is that a bullet hole in the wall? Yes, this small-town boutique is built inside a historic bank. And you might be surprised to find some tragic stories held within its very walls.
Now back to that bullet hole. You didn’t think we’d just gloss over that one, right? You will find it neatly framed and labeled in the employee bathroom. (If you ask the shopkeeper, they’ll be happy to show you)
“BULLET HOLE FROM SUICIDE OF GEORGE T. HAMBRICK BANK PRESIDENT 1929”
Not the most inspiring thing you’d want to see on your bathroom breaks. For those of you who aren’t history buffs, 1929 wasn’t a great year for the banks. It was the year that the stock market crashed and kicked off a massive financial decline across the United States that is known today as the Great Depression.
George Hambrick had actually been planning to rob his own bank for some time now. One can only imagine, after news of the stock market crash reached him, his motives were of self preservation as the imminent destruction of his livlihood loomed large. Before he could get the chance to carry out his plans, however, the local authorities caught wind of his scheme. As officers were dispatched to aprehend Hambrick, he eluded capture and locked himself in the bank bathroom. Sensing no other way out and a dismal future ahead, he decided to take his own life with his pistol.
Rumors of hauntings have stuck with the building over the years, undoubtedly of the troubled scheming banker who took his life too soon. Some reports conclude that Georgetown's bank went on to perform fairly well through the depression.
Official paranormal investigations were done on the interior of the building by the Order Of The Astral Star in 2009 and while they were unable to conclusively capture a haunting, several "orbs" were reported along with the feeling of being touched by an unseen force while in the building.
Buried Treasure From America’s Most Infamous Bandit
On December 28, 1841 two 16-year-old sweethearts said “I do” in a small home in Stamping Ground, KY. Unbeknownst to them, their union would spawn one of America’s most infamous bands of Outlaws. Their names were Zeralda Cole and Robert James and they were the parents of Jesse James.
Even at the height of their infamy, Jesse and his equally criminal brother Frank would visit the town of Stamping Ground often. This led to the circulation of many rumors and the speculation of would-be treasure hunters. To this day, there are many who believe that much of the James brothers’ ill-gotten gains are buried somewhere in that small town. While the house their parents were married in no longer stands (a fire destroyed the home in 2012), a simple historical marker is now all that stands by the roadside to mark the possible location of perhaps one of America's most saught after treasures.
Cats & Coffee? Sign me up!
Okay…this one might not be as strange as the rest, depending on your affinity for feline friends. Regardless, you just have to admit that it’s not something you run into on every street corner. Central Purrk Cat Cafe opened in 2021 as a dream-project of owner Jennifer Hoskins and her husband Ryan.The operation itself is part coffee shop and part adoption center. Partnering with the Scott County Humane Society, they have found furever homes for over 530 cats since their doors first opened. You heard right, you could go in for a frap and walk out with a newly adopted furry family member!
The cafe and cat sections are cleanly divided and provide large glass viewing windows in case you simply want to watch cats play and not get your coat covered in hair. The cats themselves are free to wander the play area, where they get to interact with new humans every day. They also have a cat-only area to escape to for their own privacy. It’s the perfect arrangement for cat lovers and coffee drinkers alike.
A Field of Dead Horses
Avid readers may recall Nick Allen Brown’s “Field of Dead Horses”, a dramatic mystery novel based in 1939 Georgetown, KY. While the book is based in fiction, readers might be morbidly surprised to learn that we really do have our own field of dead horses. Though the truth is much more wholesome than it seems.
A graveyard of champions rests in a field just a short walk from a busy Kentucky roadside. Some of the greatest athletes to grace the Bluegrass call that field their final resting place, and all of them were horses. Old Friends is a thoroughbred retirement farm which makes it its mission to provide a dignified retirement to Thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have come to an end. Visitors will find everything from the final resting place of one of the most controversial Kentucky Derby winners (Medina Spirit 2021) to the oldest living Derby winner (Silver Charm 1997).
The farm is home to more than just champions as well; sometimes quite the opposite. Some of the residents have never won a single race in their entire career, and some never had a career at all. From winners’ circles to slaughter auctions, every 4-hoofed resident of Old Friends has a unique story to tell that you won’t soon forget.
Bloody Dueling Grounds on the Scott County Lines
Located on the outer ranges of the Kentucky Horse Park sits a nondescript clearing along Cane Run Creek. If you didn’t know any better, you’d probably pass by the scene without a second thought, but in between the small copse of trees and babbling waters lies a long dark history of personal disputes and spilt blood.
Once marked by a large oak tree, now lost to time, the grounds were the infamous site of many bloody duels throughout the 1800s. The area was conveniently located right on the border of Scott & Fayette county, making it a favored spot for duelists who could quickly escape the jurisdiction of local law enforcement should there be any attempt to intervene in their activities. From squabbling doctors to a Kentucky senator drawing down against a disparaging newspaper editor, many are on record to have used the site and undoubtedly there are many more we don’t know about.
In 2014, National Geographic scoured the grounds for evidence of the gunfights and discovered various spent shell casings and lead bullet fragments, all but confirming the popular use of the dueling site. (These can be found on display at the International Museum of the Horse) The practice of dueling had become such an issue for Kentucky politics during that time (1849) that a provision in Kentucky’s new charter was put in place to require all state officers to take an oath that they had never fought, used a challenge or acted as a second in a duel. Kentucky is the only state that requires its office holders to swear to uphold that provision to this day. While the provision did stem the issue of dueling, the final recorded duel at the site would not occur until 1866 between a former Union soldier, Alexander Kimbrough, and a former Confederate soldier, Jo Desha. Desha would walk away unharmed, but Kimbrough left with a pistol ball in his hip.
Author: Dylan Marson
Dylan Marson is a Public Relations Assistant for Georgetown/Scott County Tourism.