On Throwback Thursdays we at Literary Labors will feature reprints of previously published blog posts and other creative work. Just in time for Halloween, this ghost story was recently reprinted by the Courier-Journal.
The Lady of the Stairs
The spirit of a lovely young woman in a white gown is seen in the evenings, pacing back and forth across the steps of the neo-classically inspired First Church of Christ, Scientist in Louisville, Kentucky. Sometimes her cries can be heard echoing throughout the neighborhood. They call her the Lady of the Stairs, but according to local lore, they called her “Miss G” when she was alive. The “G” stood for Gathright and they were one of the prominent local families. Miss G’s part of the family hailed from the famous bourbon city of Bardstown, about a half hour south of Louisville.
Legend has it that Miss G graduated from high school in 1918 and her parents, thinking she was now ready for marriage, arranged a lucrative match into one of the local distilling families. The wealthy man they chose for their daughter was also considerably older; when she found out about the man, she refused. Not because he was older, but because she was already in love with somebody. Several months before, Miss G had met a dashing young soldier at a party and they fell in love. World War I was raging in Europe and he was fighting in Belgium, but he had earned some leave and found himself in Bardstown. He courted Miss G and promised to come back and marry her after the war ended and he was discharged.
When Miss G’s parents heard this, however, they weren’t very happy. To keep their daughter away from the young man, they sent her to Old Louisville to live with an aunt and uncle who would keep close watch over her.
What Miss G’s parents didn’t know was that the young soldier loved their daughter so much that when he was discharged and sent back to the States, he reenlisted in the army, knowing that they would station him in Louisville, at Camp Zachary Taylor, which was barely two miles from the steps of the church.
As it turns out, it was very easy for Miss G to see her fiancé. Across from the church was a popular ice cream parlor known as Imorde’s. Most evenings Miss G told her aunt that she was going to meet her friends there, however, after a few minutes she’d quickly leave and hurry to the steps of the church, where her boyfriend waited.
For several weeks they met like that, on the sly, and they eventually decided to run away and elope.
They planned on meeting here the next night, and they’d get a taxi to take them downtown, and from there they’d get an overnight train to Chicago, where the young man had relatives. They would get married, stay with them, and then break the news to Miss G’s parents.
But the next night, something happened and the young man never showed.
According to her friends at the ice cream parlor, Miss G had shown up that evening with a small suitcase at her side. She chatted for a bit and then made her way to the steps to wait, and although she hadn’t told anybody about her plans, they had it figured out and actually felt sorry for her. They hoped she’d make it away okay and be happy.
Miss G went to the steps to wait, and while she waited, she paced back and forth.
The evening wore on but the young man didn’t show. Later that night, after the shops closed up and people were walking home, they saw Miss G, pacing back and forth, and some called up to her to see if she was okay. They also told her it was late and too cold to be out alone and that she should go home. But she shook her head and told them not to worry, that she would be fine.
The following day, everybody assumed that Miss G had made it Chicago and would soon be married.
But when the sun went down that evening, there she was again, pacing back and forth in front of the massive columns. This time, however, she looked pale and sickly, and when people called out to her, it was as if she couldn’t hear or see them. She paced back and forth as if in a trance.
The next night the same thing happened: when the sun went down, Miss G appeared on the steps, nervously walking back and forth. This time, people said they could hear her sobs as she paced to and fro. Residents of Old Louisville started to wonder what was going on.
The next day they found out.
The young soldier never showed up because he had taken ill. This happened during the Spanish Flu outbreak in Louisville, and he was one of many soldiers struck at Camp Zachary Taylor. He came down with the flu during the day and was quarantined. In his delirium, he tried explaining that his girlfriend was waiting for him, but nobody understood what he was talking about and word never got back to Miss G. She waited and waited in the cold night air, pacing back and forth into the wee hours of the morning. Finally, she gave up and went home. Devastated, she assumed her boyfriend had abandoned her.
The saddest part is that she contracted the flu as well; even worse is the fact that two days later, both Miss G and her boyfriend were dead and buried. Each went to the grave never knowing what happened to the other. They say Miss G’s spirit still haunts these steps, waiting for the young soldier to show up and take her away.
Adapted from True Ghost Stories and Eerie Legends from America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood by David Dominé