Bardstown’s Chilling Haunt: The Old Talbott Tavern and Inn

It was late one evening at the Talbott Tavern when a manager and cook were closing up for the night. As they made their way to the tavern’s safe, they saw a figure of a man in a long coat walking across the landing of the stairs. They both reacted, hurrying up to the top of the staircase just in time to watch the bedroom of the infamous ‘Jesse James Room’ close on its own.

They followed, thinking someone must have broken in and was surely headed for the exit after being caught. As they arrived at the exit, they watched a man wearing a long coat pass through the door. He turned to look back at them and laughed, disappearing down the stairs of the fire escape.

The manager happened upon a TV show a few days later about outlaws of the West and found a familiar face on the screen—Jesse James, the same man in the long coat who had spooked her and the cook days before.

History of the Talbott Tavern and Inn

Opened in 1770, the passing of time is evident in the Talbott Tavern, with the creaking of floorboards and whispered stories. Throughout history, the Talbott Tavern and Inn has been a place of rest for various historical figures, including Daniel Boone, General George Rogers Clark, Abraham Lincoln, and the French King Louis Phillipe.

In March of 1998, the tavern suffered a fire that damaged the roof and most of the second floor. Extensive rebuilding was done shortly thereafter to restore the tavern’s rooms to their former glory. Each room is named after someone who has visited the inn in the past, and the rooms are decorated with antique and period pieces, giving guests a glimpse into the world of the inn when it first opened.

The Talbott Tavern is Kentucky’s oldest inn and hasn’t changed much in its centuries-old history. It still operates as a bed and breakfast and is visited by countless visitors every year—arriving by car nowadays.

Jesse James Rides Into Town

Infamous outlaw, Jesse James was known to spend a fair bit of time at the Talbott Tavern. He was also the first person to report seeing a ghost in his favorite watering hole.

Jesse had a reputation for being a good man who was caught up in a very bad situation. However, a look at his past tells otherwise. He took part in the Civil War-era Centralia Massacre in Kansas, where he was among those who dismembered and scalped many victims. He’s also said to have taken part in the Lawrence, Kansas Massacre, where 200 men and boys were killed. James was also a southern sympathizer and had an overdeveloped sense of vengeance as he executed his many bank robberies.

He rode a wave of publicity and soon became tied up with the resistance to post-war reconstruction, even donning KKK robes during his first train robbery. As a train robber, Jesse developed his reputation for being a modern-day Robin Hood, refusing to rob the passengers and only helping himself to the safe. But it should never be forgotten that Jesse James, despite some kindness in his nature, was also a cold-blooded killer.

According to Bardstown legend, Jesse James had a few relatives in the area of the Talbott Tavern, one of whom was a cousin who worked as a jailer at the Old Jail next door.

One evening, after Jesse finished his drink, he retired to bed and was startled by something unusual in the room. He believed it was an intruder and fired his pistol at him, only to see the figure vanish.

Ghosts of the Talbott Tavern and Inn

Other ghosts exist within the walls of the Talbott Tavern, including those of six of George Talbott’s children. George Talbott purchased the inn in 1886, and by 1889, six of his children had died within the building’s walls. Two were very tragic — one child fell down the stairs, and another daughter hanged herself.

Mrs. Talbott has also been reported floating around the tavern and up the stairs. The spirit of a young girl is seen running about the dining room, and guests of the General’s Quarters room report feeling someone sleeping with them in bed.

Of course, Jesse James’ apparition is another commonly reported entity at the inn. His ghost is said to hang out in his namesake room, banging on walls, going in and out all night, and making a ruckus.

Haunted Kentucky

The Talbott Tavern is one of Kentucky’s most haunted watering holes, but it’s far from the only haunted location in the state. To uncover Kentucky’s most haunted locations, take a ghost tour in Louisville with US Ghost Adventures!

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