October 31, 2013

A Lexington Ghost Story

This is an excerpt from "Ghost Stories that Stirred Lexington in Early Days." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. January 18, 1914. Page 4. Genealogybank.com.


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[Jan 18, 1914] -

Perhaps the foremost and most sensational ghost, as far as local interest is concerned, was that of Richard Collins, which, until the old building that formerly stood on the site now occupied by the new Christian Science Church, was torn away, appeared at regular intervals.  Collins, during his lifetime, didn't claim to be a saint.  He was an engineer on the old Q. & C., and one night after returning from work he murdered his wife and children.  The discovery of his crime, which happened many years ago, which happened many years ago, caused the only real good-sized riot that Lexington has ever witnessed, but he escaped the vengeance of the mob and paid the penalty of his crime by hanging by the neck "until dead, dead, dead" in 1879.


The Collins hanging had already become a shadowy memory of the past when the news spread through Lexington that the engineer had come back to his old haunts.  The event was first chronicled by a writer in the columns of The Lexington Herald.  A well known physician, who had acted as foreman of the jury that convicted Collins, was the man  to whom the visitor appeared.  One night as he sat in the dreary old house aforementioned,  reading and puffing his pipe, just as the courthouse clock tolled twelve he looked up from his book and saw before him the figure of a man.  It was Collins.  And the horror of him--as he stood there motionless, his chin buried in the folds of his little drab shawl, his scornful, fiery eyes--was imprinted on the brain of the doctor until the day he was laid away in the Lexington cemetery.


Other than the fact that the little drab man with an accusing finger pointed out the doctor and prophesied that in a few years every man who sat on the jury that sentenced him to death would be dead, nothing passed his lips.  The next instant the specter vanished.

From that day henceforward the doctor and his family who rented the house were awakened every night at the same hour--12 o'clock--by a succession of very peculiar sounds.  Click, click, click, click, click click! was the rhythmic reverberation.  At first the family paid little heed to the disturbance, but as time wore on they became visibly worried and finally moved to another part of town.  Another family moved in, but within a few days they likewise vacated the premises.  The legend of the little drab man became public property and nothing could induce any one to stay for a moment in that particular house at that time.

Finally, a few years ago, a well known baseball "fan" of Lexington, who was exceedingly skeptical about ghosts, came forward and offered to stay in the house overnight.  The owner of the house gladly turned the keys over to him, with permission to stay as many nights as he desired.  So, provided with a lunch, a revolver and a dark lantern, he began his lonely vigil.  Exactly what happened is presented in the following lines as told to the writer by him a few days ago.

Fan's Story of a Specter.

As the hour for the little drab man's arrival approached he listened and waited expectantly.  Nothing happened.  Maybe it was fatigue, anyhow his mind took a queer turn and he wondered at the closeness of the atmosphere--close, clammy sort of atmosphere.  He resumed his watch.  Suddenly he drew back with a start.  There it was.  There could be no mistaking it.  Then gaining control of his slightly scattered faculties, he laughed aloud at his own folly.  It sounded weird, hollow, mocking, in the silent vacant house.

He drew himself suddenly back with a start.  There it was.  There could be no mistaking it.  Then gaining control of his slightly scattered faculties, he laughed aloud at his own folly.  It sounded weird, hollow, mocking, in the silent, vacant house. 

He drew himself suddenly upright.  There could be possibly be no mistaking it this time.  It was as though the sound of his previous merriment having died away, had come back fainter, more ghostly, to haunt the awful stillness of the place.  His fingers closed convulsively about the gun.  He drew the slide from before the lantern and glided to the hall door.  He was nervous, though he thought he had probably mistaken the source of the sounds.

He looked.  He saw nothing.  He listened.  He heard nothing.  But--but--yes, he saw nothing, heard nothing, but he felt them--footsteps, click click, click--measured and silent, coming up--up--up the basement stairs--up--up.  They ceased.  He peered, fearful, into the darkness.  There, dimly outlined at the top of the stairs, stood the little drab man!

He stood motionless, his chin buried in the folds of his shawl, his scornful little eyes boring into the watcher's marrow.  He recognized in this strange specter, Collins.  And his fingers slowly relaxed from the revolver that covered the little drab man, letting it fall with a clatter to the floor. He knew.  He doubted no longer, and before the accusing finger that the little drab man raised reached its position, he fled down the steps, into the deserted street, and away.

It was with a visible shudder that he told this part of the story the other day to the writer.  He said people can doubt the existence of ghosts, but he knew what was what!

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