AMERICA’S OLD SOUTH is rich in history, folklore, and tales of lingering spirits. David Dominé, who lives in an old Victorian house in the Old Louisville Preservation District, has roamed the old city in search of ghosts and unexplained occurrences.
Q: You are mainly a food and travel writer. How did you get interested in writing about ghosts?
David: I've always had a fascination for ghost stories and old homes. I had a grandfather who used to tell the best ghost stories, and I think he got me hooked when I was young. He was a sheriff's deputy in central Wisconsin in the 1940s and ’50s, and he had lots of stories to tell from that period, including his encounters with Ed Gein, the Wisconsin cannibal who inspired such movies as Hitchcock's Psycho and Silence of the Lambs. There were lots of storytellers in my family, and whenever we came together, it seemed that we always ended up telling ghost stories.
When I eventually ended up living in a big old Victorian home in Old Louisville, Kentucky, I never expected that it would come with its own ghost. The woman I bought the house from told me there was a ghost there, but I didn't really believe her and just shrugged it off with a laugh. Surprisingly enough, two weeks after I moved in, strange things did indeed start happening, and my unexplained experiences there over the next six months formed the basis for the chapter about my house in Ghosts of Old Louisville. It also prompted me to start collecting paranormal tales from other residents and compile a book that would both entertain fans of the supernatural and tout the wonderful history and architecture that characterizes the neighborhood.
Yes, I am primarily a food and travel writer, but one thing those two topics have in common with my ghost stories is Kentucky. I moved here in 1993 after ten years of living in different places around the world, and I was really impressed by the state and its largest city, Louisville. Whenever I can, I try to highlight the things that make the Bluegrass State such a wonderful place for me: its colorful history, unique cuisine, and, now, Old Louisville, "the most haunted neighborhood in the country."
Q: Some of the residents of haunted houses mentioned in your books used Ouija boards to try to contact the spirits. Do you personally have any reservations about using the Ouija?
David: I guess I do have some reservation about using the Ouija board because I've heard so many stories of people inviting less than amicable presences into their midst by using this technique. But then again, I consider myself a skeptic of the paranormal, so the stubborn side of me says there's nothing to it. I've used it several times to no avail in the past, and my biggest concern was always wondering if I could trust the other people to not manipulate the planchette. (I guess I'm a cynic.)
Q: You have explored many old houses in Louisville. What's the most frightening experience you've had in your investigations?
David: The couple of nights when I left my house in the middle of the night after hearing unexplained footsteps and creaks and groans were pretty frightening. Other than that, I'd say the most frightening experience was at an investigation at a home outside of Old Louisville on Garrs Lane. The owner of the house, Suzy Johnson, had several people over for one of the regular sessions she holds in the basement of her home, where she has experienced many strange things. She was there with me, and a mother-and-daughter dousing team from Nicholasville, Kentucky, and the dousers said they had established communication with one of the spirits who haunts the house (which, incidentally is a 50-year-old house built on the site of an old nursing home where some bad things supposedly happened to the residents.)
The EMF reader started going off, the temperature plummeted, and the dousers determined that the spirit was standing next to me, at which time the chair I was sitting in toppled over and threw me to the floor. I managed to snap a picture with my digital camera right at the moment they established that the spirit was next to me, and there were some very strange light phenomena around my head and mouth. I had a photographic expert look at it, and he said it could have been something to do with the shutter speed, so it could have just been coincidence. And as for the chair, I am six foot four and well over 200 pounds, and it was a flimsy plastic kind of lawn chair, so that could have been coincidence as well, but it was still an unnerving experience.
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