1412 South 6th Street, Louisville, KY
Opened in 1892 by the Louisville chapter of the Order of the King’s Daughters, Jennie Casseday’s Free Infirmary for Women sought to provide health care for the lower class and lower-income ladies of Louisville.
At the time, Downtown Louisville was not only plagued by the everyday health problems of poverty and poor sanitation in a big city, but tuberculosis and cholera were rampant. Due to this, the city gained the nickname Graveyard of the West.
Decades later, the building proved to be haunted by the restless spirits of those who suffered and died within its walls.
Yes! Although some ghosts from the era of the Free Infirmary for Women were reportedly exorcised, there have still been some contemporary ghost sightings by residents.
Most of the ghostly goings-on were from the women who’d died sick and distraught in the hospital at the end of the nineteenth century. Many met their end in the maternity ward, where they did not survive going into labor.
Jack Conger was a young World War II vet who rented a room at the apartment complex on South 6th Street after retiring from duty. He experienced his first haunting about three months after he’d moved in, one night after he’d been reading a magazine and listening to classical music on the radio in his living room.
So he claimed, when he got up to brush his teeth and go to bed, Conger turned the radio off. However, only moments later, he could still hear the strains of classical piano.
He went back to the radio, thinking he had forgotten to turn it off, only to find that he had indeed. Turning it on and off again, he resorted to pulling the plug from the wall.
But the music played on, along with the hiss and crackle of static.
It finally began to fade out and stopped several minutes later but happened again only a week later.
Then there was the problem with the floor lamp. When the radio wasn’t mysteriously playing, the lamp turned itself back on shortly after Conger had gone to bed.
He returned to turn it off and on and unplug it as well, to the same results.
That was only the beginning.
Later, he began to hear a female voice moaning. It started soft but soon grew louder, mixed with sobs.
At one point, Conger felt pushed into the living room from the kitchen by unseen hands, which he then felt wrap around his throat. The radio and lamp continued to malfunction wildly.
When the spirits finally spared him, he quickly sought out a local parish priest by the name of Father Joe.
Joe explained that he’d been to the building when it was still the Free Infirmary for Women. The living room had once been the maternity ward, where he’d performed both baptisms and many last rites.
Two of the beds had apparently sat up against the wall where the lamp and radio now rested.
After a formal blessing of the room didn’t work, the priest turned to his small leather-bound book of Holy Rites of Exorcism.
He’d been called to exorcise the lamenting spirits twice before to no success, but would try one last time.
As Father Joe was reciting the Latin liturgy, Conger claimed that a mist appeared that turned into a great fog. A ball of silvery ethereal light hovered in the air and took the shape of not just one but three women that simply stared at them with gray ovals for eyes.
They moaned and sobbed and set the two devices on the fritz once more. The loudest and brightest both had ever been.
Having finished his prayers, Joe tried repeatedly coaxing the spirits in plain English to leave the living realm and move on to the next. Though it didn’t seem to be working, yet again.
The younger man then recalled how Joe had said that many of the women didn’t survive childbirth and spoke up, assuring them that their children were fine and they didn’t need to worry.
Finally seeming placated, the ghostly figures and their wailing slowly faded away. The devices finally turned off and never acted up again.
At least as far as Conger said he could remember.
As Karen Marcroft discovered in 2014, her great-aunt Ida committed suicide by hanging herself in her room at the Louisville Neuropathic Sanitorium on November 26, 1926. The forty-four-year-old Ahlf had been living in nearby Tell City and was known to have “moods,” subsequently committed by her husband.
1412 South 6th Street resident Becky Bernheim was the first to see the residual haunting in her ground floor apartment. It was the faint apparition of a woman hanging from the ceiling. Dangling from a makeshift noose, Ahlf’s ghostly figure stayed there for only a moment before vanishing right before Bernheim’s eyes. She only appeared once in the three years that Bernheim lived there, but the sight was gruesome enough to permanently burn itself into her memory.
Born in 1840, Jennie Casseday was an average girl from a wealthy Presbyterian Christian family. In 1861, she was thrown from a carriage and survived but was severely disabled by a spinal cord injury.
She was confined to a sick-bed thereafter but continued to be a philanthropist and social reformer. She founded the Order of Kings’ Daughters in Louisville in 1886 along with her sister and a woman named Jennie Benedict.
Casseday had also founded the Louisville Flower Mission in 1878, whose focus was donating food, clothing, and other necessities to the poor, sick, disabled, and even those in prison. It was so named because it began with the distribution of flowers and fruits otherwise going to waste in the gardens of the rich.
She co-organized the founding of the Lying-In Hospital for Pregnant Women of Small Means in 1882 and the King’s Daughters Training School for Nurses in 1889.
The building that would become the infirmary bearing her name was constructed in 1867 by book publisher Elisha E. Levering, known as the Levering House and also called ‘The Slate House’ due to its original roof and walls being tiled with rich bluish Georgia slate.
The Order of the King’s Daughters purchased the property for nine-thousand five-hundred dollars and opened the Free Infirmary for Women in 1892, naming it in honor of Casseday.
The hospital became Dr. Milton Board’s Sanatorium in 1915, the Louisville Neuropathic Sanatorium a year later. The superintendent of the latter at the time bought the building from Board and moved operations from 3rd Street to 6th.
By the late 1940s, it was the apartment complex from which Jack Conger rented his room. In 2001, it was owned and operated by Third & Hill Apartments, and seven years later, by Olympic Apartments Ltd.
Unfortunately, not much investigating can be done because the building is now a private residence. However, if you’re in town and want to catch a glimpse of the spooky historic place, feel free to walk down South 6th and take a look from a respectable distance.