by Nancy Hinchliff, Innkeeper/freelance writer
Fall is a great time to jump in the car with the kids and head for our beautiful state. October is the most colorful month
of the year in Kentucky. The state parks are either at peak color or soon will be. Although the Oak trees are still green, a variety of trees, from Dogwood to Sourwood and Blackgum to Maples and Hickories, among others, are in full color. Trees are showing off their glorious reds, yellows and oranges all along the countryside. And hopefully there will be some color throughout the remainder of the month.
Plenty of ghosts
It has been said that Old Louisville is one of the spookiest neighborhoods in the country. Why? Because, according to legend, there are ghosts on every block peering from many of the gardens and leaning against the mansion gates. They sit on the steps of the Christian Science Church and sob each night from the windows of the houses down the street. Seems as though they’re everywhere.
Old Louisville has beautiful tree-lined streets with turn of the century mansions built in seven major kinds of architecture. They are decorated with gargoyles, chameleons, serpents, swans, turrets, and towers and enhanced with a variety of wrought-iron fences, hand-carved doors, and stained-glass windows.
There are also hidden balconies, secluded courtyards, and secret passageways. All of this dark and spooky ornamentation sets the scene for our ghostly reputation. I keep thinking there must be some explanation for all these creepy decorations … some reason why they’re here … and why so many of them? It certainly is something to ponder. The many ghost legends and the historical accouterments make Old Louisville one of the most interesting areas in Kentucky.
The Spirit Ball
The Spirit Ball, a wonderful Masquerade Ball in Old Louisville, will be held on Saturday, October 30, 2010 from 8:00 p.m. to midnight. This will be the fifth annual Spirit Ball and will be held in one of Louisville’s most opulent Victorian mansions, a 1890s masterpiece known as the Conrad-Caldwell House. Gourmet fare and expertly mixed cocktails amidst the backdrop of costumed splendor will be served. Join us and keep the past alive as you enjoy a one-of-a-kind masquerade ball that is sure to be the highlight of your Hallowe’en season for years to come. Tickets are available online now
A magnificent Richardsonian Mansion on St. James Court, it is the finest example of this architectural style in the city.
Also known as “Conrad’s Castle,” this is one of the most stunning of Old Louisville’s houses and defines Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.
You don’t have to stay home to celebrate Hallowe’en. Bring the kids, stay in Old Louisville, and go trick or treating in the spookiest neighborhood in the US.
Hallowe’en, “celebrated each year on October 31, is a mix of ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals and European folk traditions that blended together over time to create the holiday we know today. Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity and life and death, Hallowe’en is a time of celebration and superstition. Hallowe’en has long been thought of as a day when the dead can return to the earth, and ancient Celts would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these roaming ghosts.” … “The more secular community-based Hallowe’en has become a children’s holiday. Although the superstitions and beliefs surrounding the holiday may have evolved over the years, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people can still look forward to parades, costumes and sweet treats to usher in the winter season.”
The American Hallowe’en tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.
The tradition of dressing in costume for Hallowe’en has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Hallowe’en, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Hallowe’en, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.
October is a great time to visit one or two of the wineries and distilleries for samples of superb Kentucky wine and Bourbon, and makes a great day trip from Louisville. A drive down the Bluegrass Parkway to the horse farms or a trip down a country road to the Huber Farms, just across the bridge in Indiana, for fresh apple cider makes an enjoyable fun day of fall fun for the whole family. There are also plenty of Fall festivals and outdoor concerts going on.
The Louisville Bed and Breakfast Association has twenty member bed and breakfasts. Their Inns are beautiful, comfortable, and clean. Rates vary according to room sizes and amenities. All of them serve wonderful breakfasts each morning and will be happy to accommodate your dietary needs.
If you decide to visit, be sure to book a Ghost Tour with the Old Louisville Visitor’s Center.