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Kentucky Horse Park’s Halloween tour features ghosts, graves and duels

Ashlee Chilton, education coordinator at the Kentucky Horse Park, discussed the grave of legendary jockey Isaac Burns Murphy as she previewed the Cemetery Crawl tour, to be held each Friday in October.
Ashlee Chilton, education coordinator at the Kentucky Horse Park, discussed the grave of legendary jockey Isaac Burns Murphy as she previewed the Cemetery Crawl tour, to be held each Friday in October.

Think Halloween, and you don’t automatically assume, “Hey, let’s go see the historical horrors at the Kentucky Horse Park.”

Park educational coordinator Ashlee Chilton wants to change that.

During October, the park will offer four two-hour “Cemetery Crawl” tours.

Participants will get to see the graves of legendary jockey Isaac Murphy and the nearby Man o’ War Memorial, which will soon be re-patinaed to attain the horse’s original “Big Red” hue. Both of those are emotionally moving, but they’re not generally considered spooky.

The tour mainly will concentrate “more on the human history side” of the park, Chilton said. Activities are planned for each tour stop.

Close to the park’s visitors center is the S.J. Salyers House, built about the time of the Civil War. In 2005, a park employee reported seeing a ghost there dressed in 19th century attire during a storm that was eerily silent.

“We call her Mrs. Salyers,” Horse Park spokesman Lisa Jackson said.

The house isn’t on the Horse Park grounds, but those on the tour can catch a glimpse of the antebellum Buford-Duke house, built in 1792 by Col. Abram Buford, who fought in the French and Indian War and in the Revolutionary War. Buford raised Thoroughbreds.

Buford’s daughter married James K. Duke, and the Dukes inherited the house. Duke’s nephew, Gen. Basil Duke, came to live at the house and later married Henrietta Morgan, sister of John Hunt Morgan.

The house is now unoccupied.

The tour also will go through the dueling grounds, which straddle the Fayette-Scott county line and which Chilton calls “one of the bloodiest grounds in America for duels.”

Dueling in Kentucky has a rich if appalling history, even aside from its current status as the thing that office-holders must swear they have not done in order to be sworn in.

A worthy dueling footnote: Kentucky Gov. William Goebel, known for being the only state governor in the United States to be assassinated while in office, fought an impromptu duel with John Lawrence Sanford in 1895.

Goebel had called Sanford “Gonorrhea John” in a newspaper article. Goebel was acquitted of killing Sanford, but he died in 1900 four days into his term as governor when he was assassinated.

On the Horse Park site, William Richardson, a Lexington obstetrician, dueled with another doctor, Benjamin Dudley, who shot Richardson in the groin. The source of their dispute involved an 1818 fracas over faculty politics at the Transylvania school of medicine in Lexington.

After the duel, Dudley put pressure on the artery severed by his shot, saving Richardson’s life.

Dudley and Richardson apparently became friends afterward. The Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Masons in Kentucky suspended both men but later reinstated them, citing “the reconciliation which has happily taken place between said brothers.”

And there you have an unlikely Halloween yarn: a Kentucky Horse Park dueling story with a happy ending.

If you go

Cemetery Crawl

Tours at the Kentucky Horse Park, 4089 Iron Works Pike, will be at 5 p.m. Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28. To make reservations, call 859-259-4213. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and students ages 17 and younger.

Tours are recommended for ages 12 and older. Space is limited.

For information, go to bit.ly/2cHqeSi.

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