Liberty Hall is a historic home and museum located in Frankfort, Kentucky. Built by a statesman, the Hall has seen its fair share of American history and if walls could talk — they would have so much to chat about here. Kentucky alone has a storied past and long history, and Liberty Hall fits right in. A quick trip south will take you to another haunted southern hotspot, the Loretta Lynn Ranch.
Liberty Hall History
The documented history of Liberty Hall can be traced back to 1786 when General James Wilkinson purchased the land that is now downtime Frankfort. Wilkinson laid out the entire town and even named streets after his closest friends. Wilkinson sold the site that includes Liberty Hall to Andrew Holmes, a Frankfort resident. In 1796, Holmes sold the four acres to Senator John Brown.
Brown decided to begin construction on a home on the land very shortly after purchasing it, though he wasn’t around much in Kentucky (he could usually be found on business in Philadelphia.) Liberty Hall is one of the oldest remaining brick structures in Frankfort, it was made of clay fired from the cellar. In 1835, John divided the property so that his sons would have equal inheritance when he passed. His elder son, Mason, inherited Liberty Hall. His younger son, Orlando, would inherit what was to be called the Orlando Brown House. John Brown hired Gideon Shyrock, designer of the Kentucky State Capitol to design the home for his son. The entire project cost $5,000.
In 1934, Mary Mason Scoot, John Brown’s great-great-granddaughter and the final (living) resident of Liberty Hall died. She left the Hall to her brother, John Matthew Scott, and he sold the Hall to a group of citizens who had formed a non-profit to preserve the historic building. They then opened the house as a historical museum in 1937.
Today, the Liberty Hall Museum and the Orlando Brown House are operated as house and historic museum sites. Tours are available and both of the homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the list of National Historic Landmarks in Kentucky.
Hauntings at the Hall
The Grey Lady
While many spirits call Liberty Hall home, one entity, in particular, is well-known around those parts. The Grey Lady is a cornerstone to the hall, and she’s most often seen from the Palladian window. The Grey Lady is said to be the spirit of Margaretta Varick, the aunt of Margaretta Mason Brown, wife of John Brown. She once was traveling from New York to see her son in Illinois when she stopped in Frankfort to see her niece. She died three days after her arrival on July 28th, 1817. It’s said she fell violently ill one night and passed away before the sun rose the next morning. The cause of her death was never determined, but theories range from cardiac arrest to exhaustion.
The first-ever sighting of Margaretta was in the 1880s in the southwest upstairs bedroom. A woman named Mary Mason was sleeping in the room when she woke up to a tall woman in grey hovering by her bed. Mary screamed for her brother, thinking someone had broken into her room, but when he came running to her aid with a shotgun in hand, the ghost had disappeared. Three nights went by with this same occurrence, and a friend later suggested that Mary had seen the Grey Lady.
Family members and guests continued to witness the Grey Lady around the area during the 20th century. Stories of the Grey Lady continue to this day, but why does the ghost of Margaretta still haunt Liberty Hall? Some believe that her body was actually buried on the grounds of the museum. Photographs have captured the Grey Lady on the staircase, in the windows, and outside of the museum.
It is said that the spirit of the Grey Lady is a very helpful one. She watches over the house and seems to take care of the guests and visitors. To celebrate her life, each October, Liberty Hall holds a special tour in her honor. These tours cover the life of Mrs. Varick and discuss the hauntings — a respectful way to tell her story and honor her, indeed!
The Disappearing Opera Star
Liberty Hall is home to yet another resident spirit that is tied to the home. A Spanish opera singer that disappeared on the grounds of the home in the early 1800s. She was said to be attending a grand party at the hall in 1805. She was last seen walking the gardens in the direction of the river but never came back. Many believe she was abducted. Whatever her fate, her ghost seems to be attached to the last place she was seen alive, as a dark-haired woman is seen running through the gardens with her mouth frozen open in a silent scream.
A Spectral Soldier
Another spirit at Liberty Hall is that of a British soldier from the War of 1812. The story goes that the man had fallen in love with a cousin of the Brown family, yet his affection and advances were not reciprocated. The soldier has been seen standing outside, peering into the windows, looking for his love. When he doesn’t see her, he is said to start crying and walk away slowly.
The Orlando Brown House doesn’t seem to have reported sightings of ghostly encounters to tell, but surely a visit may reveal some shy spectral energy. Some say that the spirits of Liberty Hall cross over to the Orlando Brown House due to its close proximity.
Liberty Hall In Modern Times
Even though the heyday of Liberty Hall as a home has passed, the Hall is still a Kentucky cornerstone and beloved gathering place for history buffs and ghostly ganderers alike. Liberty Hall offers a glimpse into what life was like in the early 1800s, and a peek into the beginnings of American History as well. The spirits who reside here are here to tell their tales alongside the Hall, sure that their memory too won’t be forgotten. Have you ever visited Liberty Hall or the Orlando Brown house? Did you witness any strange phenomena during your time there, or perhaps you’ve visited Louisville’s haunted Seelbach Hilton!
For more hauntings tied to American history, check out our article about the Lotz Civil War Museum!