Speed Art Museum

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Mrs. JP Speed liked to supervise to ensure a perfect outcome, and she still does here.

A spirit that is connected to items displayed is not a happy camper.



Harriet Bishop Speed, the second wife of J B Speed, was a high society woman who was also a concert pianist, music teacher, and huge, enthusiastic promoter of music and the arts in Louisville. It wasn’t surprising then, that Harriet Bishop Speed established The Speed Art Museum in 1927, as a memorial to her beloved husband, donating many pieces of art they had collected together, to begin the art collections to be enjoyed by the people of Louisville. Today, “The Speed Art Museum is Kentucky’s oldest and largest art museum with over 12,000 pieces in its permanent collection. Its extensive collection spans 6,000 years, ranging from ancient Egyptian to contemporary art.”

The regal looking Museum, with its Greek-influenced architectural marble facade, has a fine collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings, 18th century French art, Renaissance and Baroque tapestries, and a large display of contemporary American painting and sculpture. Also, the museum has been growing in their display collections of African and Native American works.

In 1997, a major $12 million renovation and expansion has brought major exhibitions of photography, painting, design, and sculpture into the museum. While the admission is free, a $4.00 donation is suggested.


The Entity of Harriet Bishop Speed

Being a perfectionist, Harriet liked to supervise in whatever she was involved with, to be sure things were done correctly. She had a strong gift in organizing events and keeping things going in an efficient, orderly way. She was the perfect person to be the champion of the arts in Louisville. Needles to say, with such a glorious art museum, it would be hard to have to leave this world, especially with the new renovations.

Harriet also struggled with feelings of jealousy over J B’s first wife, Cora Coffin. As she was a perfectionist, she yearned for the same depth of love that J B had for Cora, which wasn’t possible. While he loved Harriet, and they had a happy marriage for the six years they had together, Cora and J B had raised two children together, had a lifetime of memories and the time to develop a deep love for each other. When Cora died, he was devastated, as he loved her with all his heart. He loved Harriet too, but not in the same way as Cora.

The Upset Entity and other entities in the Basement

Many artifacts and art work from the native communities are on display on this floor. It seems that some spirits are attached to some of the items in these displays, which sometimes happens.



(For all the details, be sure and read David Domine’s Book, Ghosts of Old Louisville)

The entity of Mrs. Hattie Speed is most active all over the museum…

During the evening hours, when the museum is closed, she keeps herself very busy indeed, managing in her own way.

Some evenings, her apparition in a white dress has been seen floating down the galleries, looking at the art on display.

Her cloudy mass has been picked up by camera monitors.

A security guard fell asleep at his station outside the Native American Gallery in the basement. He awoke suddenly to see the entity of a woman in a white dress, looking at him with concern.

Two security guards went down to the basement to the Native American Gallery. They were greeted by a friendly entity, Harriet, dressed in a white dress, probably pleased to see them making their rounds.

While the aroma of her well-known rosewater has been detected all over the building, it is most often present in The Kentucky Room Gallery, a favorite room of this entity, where her personality perks come through after the museum closes.

A docent was working in the Kentucky room, and watched a weird moving cloud-like entity with a golden orb, shimmering its way through the room, eventually disappearing.

The label which was glued on the wall identifying the Cora Coffin portrait kept peeling off the wall by itself.

The picture of Cora Coffin was mysteriously taken off the wall without the help of the living, in one instance. Only the docent was in this area of the museum.

The label glued on the wall identifying the gypsy woman, who was admired for her beauty by many, including J. B. Speed himself, peeled off the wall by itself.

The docent had just finished working on a file in the Kentucky Room and was leaving the room, when she smelled the rosewater and was lightly brushed by a cold presence, which had gone right in front of her. She looked at her hands and the file was gone! She looked everywhere for it, and finally found it in the American Indian Gallery. Hattie wanted to check up on her work, and was curious as to what the docent was doing.

The entity of the American Indian who has issues with the living…

An entity described as an Indian with long dark hair, a head band, brown skin, and dressed in a simple beige tunic, has been seen standing on the steps leading down to the Native American Gallery, and the area just outside this gallery.

A psychic on holiday reports seeing this rather angry entity, upset with the living. Throughout his visit in the gallery, he felt this hostile, negative presence, too angry to communicate with the psychic.

Two women saw this solid, life-like entity standing in the corner, next to the steps. His persona was scary, and made them jump. He eventually faded away.


Yes Indeed!

The monitors and eyewitnesses have seen the entity of Hattie Bishop Speed, who is still helping the living keep an eye on the museum, and is still struggling with her jealousy. The spirit of the Indian, which is attached to something in the exhibit, has been seen and felt by the living.




The Speed Art Museum
2035 South Third Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40208
(502) 634-2700

The J B Speed Art Museum is located on South Third Street, across the street from the University of Louisville’s Belknap Campus. As it is a one way road heading south. One could get there by going east on West Ormsby, then turning right onto South Third Street. The museum is northeast of the nearby William Stansbury Park.




  • Photos by Tom Carr
  • The Speed Art Museum
  • Ghosts of Old Louisville
    By David Domine
    McClanahan Publishing – 2005

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Special Thanks to Nate Lee for some of the photographs


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