Curtains flutter without a breeze. A bathroom faucet turns itself on. An unseen hand soothes a woman’s hair. Mysterious voices emanate from the wall. A lamp clicks off and on. Shadows flit around the room. Orbs of light float over a bed.
None of those things happened to me when I spent the night at the Jailer’s Inn. But they are experiences that previous visitors in the room wrote about in the Colonial Room guestbook. Not surprisingly, the historic place in Bardstown, Kentucky, is listed by the Travel Channel as one of the Top Ten Most Haunted Places in the United States.
“I’ve had no experiences like that myself and I’ve been here 15 years,” says proprietor C. Paul McCoy. “But many of my guests have had encounters and that’s why some people come here. Right now, two different companies are doing documentaries about it.”
Stands to reason that – if any place is haunted – the old Jailer’s Inn certainly would be. Located in the heart of beautiful Bardstown, the imposing facility housed prisoners from 1819 to 1987. When it closed in 1987, it was the oldest operating jail in Kentucky.
“My parents bought it at public auction the following year in 1988 and did a lot of work to turn it into a bed and breakfast,” McCoy says. “My father’s office was right next to the jail. He was the county attorney here and he put a lot of prisoners in this jail.”
Now, McCoy adds with a chuckle, “His son is in jail here and has been for 15 years.”
Actually, McCoy lives down the street with his wife and twin 5-year-old sons. But until about six years ago, he did live in the innkeeper’s quarters at the jail. “It took me a long time to find a woman to date me, let alone marry me,” he jokes. “You tell a woman that you live in jail and that’s the end of it. The women who did like the fact that I was in jail were a bit too scary for me.”
Iron bars on the windows, 30-inch thick limestone walls and heavy steel doors slamming behind you may give the feel of a jail. But that’s where the similarities end. Looking like a miniature stone castle on the outside, the Jailer’s Inn features luxurious accommodations, pampering amenities and a delicious breakfast served in the same courtyard where prisoners were once executed.
Over the years, guests have spoken of strange noises and incidents when they stayed at the Jailer’s Inn. “There has to be something going on,” says innkeeper Karen McLean. “Too many guests have talked about the same things and there have been too many photos taken with orbs in them for it to just be a coincidence.”
Sometimes when night falls, McLean says she can fell the house coming to life. “There are noises that you can’t explain … When I’m working and staying here at night, sometimes I’ll wake up for no reason. I’ve heard other people say that, too.”
Of course, some of the ghost stories do seem to take on a life of their own, whether there is any basis of truth to them or not. “Someone said they saw a man dressed in black walking in the cemetery back there,” innkeeper Chip McLean says, gesturing to a pioneer graveyard behind the Jailer’s Inn.
Then, adds McCoy, someone said that the spooky black cat prowling the cemetery is actually the McCoy family pet, Maggie, a snow white feline who seems to have no desire to go beyond the courtyard walls. “That’s the new one,” he says, chuckling. “That during the day Maggie is white but at night she turns black … We do have a lot of fun with our ghosts.”
For more information: Contact the Jailer’s Inn at (800) 948-5551, www.jailersinn.com or the Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist & Convention Commission at (800) 638-4877, www.visitbardstown.com