Louisvillians love Halloween. From the trick and treats of Hillcrest Avenue to the paranormal activity of Waverly Hills to the false gore of Dracula at Actors Theatre, we relish that frisson of fear each October.
Local author David Domine has captured that chill in a trilogy of books: “Ghosts of Old Louisville,” “Phantoms of Old Louisville,” and “Haunts of Old Louisville.”
Domine teaches foreign languages at Bellarmine University and has master’s degrees in both German and Spanish literature. He lived in Germany, Mexico, Austria and other countries before moving to Louisville in 1993. A few years later, Domine bought an old house on Third Street and the seller told him that a ghost came with the house.
“I didn’t think too much of it at first, but within several weeks of moving in, strange things started happening – footsteps could be heard on the stairs, there would be odd smells and noises,” Domine says. “Although I’m skeptical when it comes to ghosts and the paranormal, I became fascinated with the history of the house and started researching to find out who lived there and what might have gone on in the past.”
Domine balances his personal experiences with stories told to him by others and through extensive research into Old Louisville homes, their former occupants and local history. The result is an approach to ghost stories that feels rational and balanced, but still offers moments of disquiet and restless nights.
One of Domine’s favorite stories is that of a young woman who reportedly waits on the stairs of Church of Christ, Scientist for a fiancé who will never appear. “They had plans to elope one night in 1918,” Domine says. “He never showed up, however, because he contracted the Spanish Flu and was quarantined in his barracks at Camp Taylor. She waited and waited, and finally gave up and went home, convinced that he had jilted her. She came down with the flu as well and several days later, they were both dead and buried, neither of them ever knowing what had become of the other.”
The nearly 50-square-block area of Old Louisville is the nation’s third largest National Preservation District and its largest Victorian district. It has also gained a reputation as the most haunted neighborhood in the country. Domine’s books tell tales of the murdered housemaid on Brook Street, the grim “hanging tree,” the two giggling little girls who peer through the banisters of an old mansion, the Demon Leaper of Walnut Street Baptist Church, and the injured jockey who haunts Central Avenue. Domine writes to the readers’ senses: unexplained cold spots; misty forms and swirling figures; the sounds of whistling and singing, mysterious piano music, breaking glass and footsteps; and the lingering smells of coffee, cigars and perfume.
Domine is involved with the Old Louisville Visitors Center ghost tours and the annual Central Park Victorian Ghost Walk. He is also passionate about food and wine, and has written several cookbooks, including “A Splash of Bourbon,” “111 Fabulous Food Finds,” and “Old Louisville, A Feast for the Eyes.” He recommends a nice cabernet sauvignon or some Kentucky bourbon for an evening of reading ghost stories by the fire.
Interested readers can purchase Domine’s books locally at Carmichael’s Bookstores, Barnes & Noble and several gift shops. His books can also be found online.