Liberty Hall Mansion
The main female entity needs to help the living and is disturbed about her lost, unmarked grave.
Liberty Hall was built by Senator John Brown, in the frontier town of Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1796, part of a four acre estate. It sits just above the Kentucky River. It’s glorious gardens roll down the hill and come up to the edge of the river itself, right up to the previously Kentucky wilderness.
It is described as being “an exquisite example of 18th century Georgian architecture.” The structural plans were designed and drawn up by Thomas Jefferson himself. Senator Brown had studied law in Jefferson’s office.
Liberty Hall was built of fine, made-on-site bricks, with the flooring, rafters and framing being made of fine hardwood, that was dried for over two years. The inside decorum reflected Mrs. Brown’s desire to bring refinement and culture, that she missed from East coast living, to this rustic, frontier place. Such niceties for the time, such as window glass, mirrors, brass door handles and locks, silk fabrics, fine furniture from the East coast, and lovely antiques from France were brought down the river by boat.
Back side, with extension of Liberty Hall.
The Browns entertained and hosted the elite of American society and important political friends and dignitaries. The 1819 guest list included: President James Monroe, Col. Zachary Taylor, Col. Andrew Jackson, General Lafayette and Aaron Burr. In later years, William Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt were also guests at Liberty Hall.
The Brown family lived at Liberty Hall until 1956, when it was willed to the Colonial Dames of America, to be a “living museum of Kentucky history.”
Tom and I took the tour of the first floor of Liberty Hall. It was most enjoyable, learning about the family, and their lives while they lived here. Our tour guide told us that it was rather creepy on the second floor, and that members of the volunteer group and staff don’t like going up there alone. The second floor is in the process of being restored.
The property was eventually divided into two sections; one for each of the surviving Brown sons, though the gardens are intact. Next door to Liberty Hall is the younger son’s mansion, which was designed for entertaining, as he was a bit of a party animal!
The gardens were beautiful, well landscaped and most appreciated by the community. On the day we visited, a flower show event was being set up in the mansion next door.
Back side of Liberty Hall.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Mrs. Margaret Varick – She was a frail, kind-hearted Aunt of Mrs. Brown, who had raised Mrs. Brown when her mother had died. When tragedy struck the Brown family in 1817, when one of their children died of an illness, Mrs. Varick was asked to make the difficult journey from New York to Kentucky, to be with Mrs. Brown, and give her comfort.
Unfortunately for Mrs. Varick, the trip by coach and horseback proved to be very hard on her physically. She died of a heart attack in one of Liberty Hall’s upstairs bedrooms soon after she arrived, before she could be of much comfort to the bereaved Mrs. Brown.
Although Mrs. Varick was at first buried in the small family plot in the outside gardens, somehow her whereabouts were lost, when the entire family plot was moved to the bigger cemetery in Frankfort, which further upset her already troubled spirit. Not only was she prevented by her own death from helping her poor niece, but the dolts lost her resting place. She seems to have haunted Liberty Hall through the years in part to try to help the living and also to get someone to find her grave and mark it properly.
One ghost keeps a steady presence inside Liberty Hall, while two entities roam intermittently on the outside grounds, and are seen periodically.
The Ghost of Mrs. Varick
Began to appear before the living a few years after her death, shortly after the graves were all moved.
Seen by family members, visitors, and staff, she is described as a kind, calm entity, small in size, dressed in a gray house dress. She has been given the nickname “Gray Lady.”
Her intent toward the living is to be helpful around the mansion, and she has been known to do chores and be a calming, supportive influence. Her appearances never frighten or upset the living on purpose, though on occasion she has been annoying when she goes about her business in the middle of the night, opening and slamming doors.
Mrs. Varick has appeared suddenly in every room of the mansion. Her favorite places seem to be her old bedroom and the staircase.
She first appeared to the new bride of Senator Brown’s grandson, Benjamin, when she was a guest, staying in her old bedroom. The matronly apparition simply walked across the bedroom floor, right in front of the startled bride.
A visitor, Rebecca Averill, saw the benign Mrs. Varick appear to her, standing motionless next to her fireplace. When Rebecca hid under the covers, Mrs. Varick vanished.
Benjamin Gatz Brown’s niece, Mary Mason Scott, who looked a lot like Mrs. Varick, saw her ancestor on several occasions. Mary was treated to a face to face introduction when she came home from college, and slept in Mrs.Varick’s room. She awoke to the sight of the matronly, kindly specter standing next to her bed. In the 1920s, when Miss Scott still lived in the mansion, a story claimed that the ghost of Mrs. Varick was using her as a medium to try to guide others to her unmarked grave
The ghost of Mrs. Varick has been seen on occasion, staring out an upstairs window at the people below. A college professor, who wanted to see if the moonlight could cause unusual reflections in the window panes, that might produce the visual illusion of someone standing there, spent an entire moon cycle, which is 6 weeks, in the mansion. All his findings were negative. The ghost of Mrs. Varick must have appreciated his efforts and his company, and wanted to give him some comfort. On one of his last nights in Liberty Hall, a gentle touch awoke him. When he opened his eyes, he saw the friendly Mrs. Varick, smiling cordially at him.
During the Liberty Hall restoration period, the curator took pictures, documenting the progress of the work being done. In one of her pictures, one can see the faint image of a woman coming down the staircase. No one living was on the staircase when the picture was taken.
The ghost of Mrs. Varick has been determined to be helpful to the living, as she had wanted to be for her niece.
Both the Brown family and the Colonial Dames have documented the following occurrences:
Overnight guests have sometimes been awakened to find themselves being tucked in by a smiling, matronly apparition.
In the morning, blankets have been found folded, and incomplete mending projects found finished.
One employee of the Colonial Dames lived in the apartment above the kitchen. One night, after she had already gotten into the bathtub, she realized she had forgotten to shut the big, heavy, bathroom door. Instead of taking the time to close it, she decided to just hurry up and finish her bath. While she was washing her hair, the door closed by itself, with the probable help of the ghost of Mrs. Varick.
Another time, as this same employee was sitting in her room, wistfully thinking of an old boyfriend who had given her a music box, the unwound, closed music box started to play by itself, perhaps under the influence of the thoughtful ghost of Mrs. Varick.
The same curator who got a picture of the “Gray Lady” on the staircase, found three, antique, early 1800s gold bracelets on the night stand, next to the bed in Mrs. Varick’s old bedroom. The bracelets weren’t listed on the inventory list, and no one had seen them before. Perhaps, the kindly ghost of Mrs. Varick wished to give the curator a gift, to say thank you for restoring the mansion.
The Opera Star
In 1805, a beautiful, Spanish opera star was invited to Frankfort, to perform in a concert. The Browns had graciously invited this young woman to stay with them, during the time of her visit to Frankfort. Being the good hosts they were, they held a party in her honor.
During the party, the young singer went outside in the balmy weather to take a quick walk in the garden. She was last seen walking down the garden path to the Kentucky River, to get a view. She never came back to the party. An extensive search of the area was made, and the river was even dragged, but no body was found.
It was theorized that she was quickly abducted by either Native Americans or despicable characters who were attracted by the lights and the noise of the party. She unfortunately forgot about the dangers of living so close to the Kentucky wilderness.
Through the years a dark-haired female apparition with her mouth “frozen open in a soundless cry of terror,” has been seen running frantically through the gardens, usually on hot, humid nights.
Apparition of a Soldier from the War of 1812
Dressed in a British uniform, he has been seen peeking in the ground-floor windows, to see into the Hall’s living room.
The apparitions of the thoughtful, helpful Mrs. Varick, the terrified opera singer, and the soldier who is still on duty are still haunting Liberty Hall and its grounds.
218 Wilkinson Street
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr