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Day Tripper: Frankfort distillery offers ghost tours after TV show says it's haunted

Buffalo Trace employee Fred Mozenter lead the first of what will be regular ghost tours at the oldest distilling site in the U.S., Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 at Buffalo Trace Distillery  in Frankfort. Photo by Jonathan Palmer
Buffalo Trace employee Fred Mozenter lead the first of what will be regular ghost tours at the oldest distilling site in the U.S., Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011 at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. Photo by Jonathan Palmer ALL

FRANKFORT — If I were to tell you that Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort was awash in spirits, you would think I was stating the obvious, right?

Well, in this instance, the spirits aren't named Pappy Van Winkle, Elmer T. Lee or George T. Stagg. They are the 27 ghosts identified by a team from the SyFy TV network's popular Ghost Hunters series who visited the distillery earlier this year and documented their findings on a show that aired Nov. 16.

According to those investigators, the 125-acre distillery is one of the few places they've been where every member of the team reported having a paranormal experience.

Now, you can follow their eerie trail on a one-hour walk designed to hit the ghostly highlights. Armed with a flashlight, visitors follow their guide into the forbidding Warehouse C, where workers were saved by a voice telling them to get out just before a wall collapsed. After the workers were safely out, none of them claimed to have given the warning.

The tour continues past a statue of Buffalo Trace's most famous ghost, Col. Albert Blanton. One of Kentucky's bourbon aristocrats, Blanton spent more than half a century preserving and enhancing the heritage distillery. He is said to haunt the grounds, having loved it here so much he didn't want to leave.

Visitors make their way down a dark lane between two looming bottling plants whose shadows, on a moonless night, appear so menacing it would give you the shivers even without the possibility of an unseen presence following you.

The unlit lane leads to the Riverside House, the oldest building in Franklin County, built in 1780. It was the home of Commodore Richard Taylor, then superintendent of river navigation for the city of Frankfort.

The stark white building seems unremarkable except for the number of specters that have been seen at various times roaming the house. Among them are Taylor, whose visage has been spotted in an upstairs window, and an unidentified young boy.

The tour also takes in the imposing hilltop Stony Point Mansion, built in 1934 by Blanton, who some consider a 20th-century reincarnation — in style at least — of his 19th-century predecessor, E.H. Taylor.

According to the Ghost Hunters investigators, the mansion is the site of the most paranormal activity. They, along with distillery employees, have heard humming and singing (said to be that of Blanton's housekeeper Sarah), felt a hand on their shoulders or an icy chill even in summer in the basement, and heard footsteps, which could be those of Col. Blanton's restless ghost.

Some even claim to have seen the figure of a man wearing Blanton's signature bowler hat and long black coat in the mansion's sunroom, where he died in 1959 after devoting his life to the distillery, moving up the ranks from office worker to company president.

The tour ends back at the Stagg Gallery with a complimentary bourbon tasting, which is sure to banish any lingering ghosts.

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