If you asked Frankfort residents what the most haunted place in town is, Liberty Hall Historic Site is sure to top the list with its infamous Gray Lady legend.
In fact, some years ago The National Enquirer listed Liberty Hall as one of the top five haunted houses in America. With this mysterious reputation, can you imagine any place in town where kids would rather trick-or-treat than on the grounds of Liberty Hall Historic Site?
Saturday, for the first time, that is exactly what kids are going to get the opportunity to do. This new Halloween event is called “Monster Mash Movie Night with Trick-or-Treating.”
Liberty Hall’s Wilkinson Street gate will open at 6 p.m. for ticket sales and trick-or-treating. All ages are welcome and adults and children alike are encouraged to come dressed in Halloween costumes. The ticket price is $3/person and kids under 3 are free.
Guests will wander the boxwood maze in search of candy. At every turn they will encounter ghosts and figures from the past, including a Spanish Opera singer said to have disappeared on the grounds in the 19th century.
After many years, “Ghosts of Frankfort,” the play that traditionally took place in the house and at Fort Hill every October, is on hiatus. Some of the actors who have participated in the production will be in the garden this year handing out candy and dressed in period costume.
In addition to trick-or-treating, the entrance fee will allow visitors to enjoy a movie in the garden under the stars on a 10-foot screen. “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” is a 1948 monster mash movie classic. The 83-minute movie, selected by Readers Digest as one of the top 100 funniest films of all time, will start at 7 when the trick-or-treating ends.
The movie selection was inspired by the holdings of the Brown family library located on the site and is a way to bring attention to the library.
Seating for the movie will be open and people with chairs are asked to sit in the back. Concessions and bathrooms will be available and the garden, which is normally closed at dusk, will remain open for 15 minutes after the film ends.
Dress warmly and bring blankets. If the weather is bad, the event will be moved indoors. Follow us on Facebook to keep track of changes. The address is www.facebook.com/libertyhallhistoricsite.
Margaretta Mason Brown (1772-1838), first lady of Liberty Hall, read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein shortly after it was published in 1818. The Browns were avid readers and collected many books. Sen. John Brown (1757-1837) who built Liberty Hall in 1796, wrote to his son, “Let good and wise men or good books be your constant companions …” John Brown to Orlando Brown, 1826.
LHHS is also rolling out a new ghost tour in November called, “Our Beloved Ghost.” The nighttime tour will include a guided candlelight walk through the 1796 home and will focus on the legend of the Gray Lady and other ghosts said to haunt Liberty Hall and grounds.
The tour will include a discussion of the various Brown family members who died at the site, including slaves, some of whom were believed to have been buried on the property.
Gray Lady’s bedroom reopens to the public
In preparation for the new tour, the second floor bedroom, where the Gray Lady died, and has been reportedly seen since the 1880s, is being opened back up to the public for the first time in years. Whether you believe in the ghost legend or not, the stories are part of the history of the home.
Historic documents written during the Victorian era give accounts of ghost sightings. Including a sighting around 1910 by a houseguest, Rebecca G. Averill who recalls being awakened when she heard, “… the swish-swish of silken garments, I sat up straight in bed … and half-way across the big room there walked the Gray Lady, pausing now and again as if communing with other presences …”
The new ghost tour is not intended to sensationalize the story; rather it will be a fun way to bring the history of Liberty Hall Historic Site to new audiences. Visitors will be able to learn about the people who once lived there, and the practices associated with Victorian Spiritualism conducted in the home, including palm reading, séances and Ouija boards.
For 150 years, members of the Brown family lived at Liberty Hall. The continuity of the family is what allowed so much of the original furnishings to be preserved, and likewise their personal belongings; their stories of the otherworldly were handed down as well. The tour will show how generations of the same family were connected by these stories and how they felt benevolence toward the haunts that, after all, were family too.
Who is the Gray Lady?
The Gray Lady is said to be Margaretta Varick (1744-1817). She traveled from New York to Liberty Hall to see her niece, Margaretta Mason Brown, who was still in mourning over the death of her only daughter, seven-year-old Euphemia. Sadly, Mrs. Varick died shortly after arriving in Frankfort. Take the tour to learn the cause of her death and the mystery of her burial.
According to the book “Historic Haunted America” by Michael Norman and Beth Scott the legend of Mrs. Varick’s hauntings started in 1820, shortly after her death.
The Lady in Gray reference was first found in a 1922 article about Liberty Hall’s ghost in The Courier-Journal. Prior to this, the ghost had only been referred to as “Our Beloved Ghost.” Mary Mason Scott, last resident of Liberty Hall, reported that the spirit was dressed in gray, in her gray traveling cloths.
Other ghosts associated with Liberty Hall include an opera singer and a War of 1812 soldier. The tour will convey the story of these characters and share what is said to be an image of the Gray Lady captured on the grand staircase in the 1960s.