The last few weeks at work have not been what I would call fun. With a deadline looming I’ve been trying to finish up a project that was started before I even came on board at UK. We’re creating a digital archive of UK yearbooks also known as The Kentuckian. The total nerd side of me has loved this project. Having taken so many photos destined for yearbooks, I loved looking at the portraits. Watching fashions and hair styles change from year to year has been completely entertaining. The first person to smile with their teeth showing didn’t occur until 1915 or so. Most people probably wouldn’t care, but I’ve had too many mothers tell me “Make sure he/she shows her teeth,” so I notice these things. Another interest for me stems from the fact that I went to school at UK. Campus has changed so much over the years. I walk around now and try to imagine what it looked like back in the day based on the various photos I’ve seen.
The down side of this project is that it spans over a 100 years, and the University has obtained several copies of each edition. Most were owned by actual students, which means people have cut out pictures and/or removed entire pages. Covers have been replaced. Not all the pages are numbers. Pages have fallen out and been reinserted in the wrong order. I’ve made countless trips to the archive and reading rooms to verify odd ball things, like the fact that the printer did indeed jump from page 10 to page 12 in the 1910 volume. These are all little things, but they are driving me slightly crazy.
So good, ol’ Kopana said to me last week, “You just need to get out and do something fun. Come on a group of us are going on a ghost walk.” I was totally up for it. Officially, it’s named the Lexington Ghost Walk and Creep Crawl. I didn’t catch the name of the man that leads the tours, but he also does history walking tours of Lexington, although he admits the ghost walks are the more popular tours.
Thursday night, the weather was wonderful. The tour starts at Main and Broadway. Our group got their early to grab a warm drink from Starbucks. Around 7:00 the tour guide arrives, decked out in a top hat, long black cape and carrying a lantern. I remembered a few years back sitting at a traffic light and seeing him come down the street with cape blowing in the wind and being scared to death until I saw the group following behind. That’s when I figured out what was going on. So I had to chuckle at expressions of people driving by catching a glimpse of the man
The tour itself lasts about an hour and half. You walk through downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods stopping to hear a spooky story about how somebody died and the ghostly things that have happened in the building since. The stories range in time from the late 1700’s going all the way up to 1970’s. The tour winds its way up through Transylvania University’s campus and the Gratz Park neighborhood. (Incidentally, the Bluegrass Trust also offers a ghost walk where you actually get to go inside some of the buildings. It is only scheduled for this weekend, and given that I’m here in Ohio, I’ll have to remember to sign up to for next year.) In addition, to the ghost stories, historical land marks are pointed out, like the oldest brick building in Lexington and the home where Mary Todd Lincoln was born. I learned that the horses used by Lexington Livery Co. actually still live downtown. I assumed they were trucked in from a nearby farm. These are types of things that a nerd like me loves to learn. The tour is only $10 per person and completely worth the money if you like a spooky stories and historical tidbits.
After the tour was over, I made my way back home. Still keyed up from the Pumpkin Spice Latte, I found myself wide awake at midnight. I clicked on the TV and surfed channels a bit, eventually settling on KET (PBS). The show was Kentucky Life, which features interesting people and places across the state. I started to nod off during the show, until I heard the host say “Next up, we’ll talk to photographer, Sam Abell, who has worked for National Geographic, but got his start right here in Kentucky as a photographer and editor for the UK yearbook.” My eyes shot open and there on the television was the 1967 Kentuckian.
Forget the ghost and sprits. I have my own haunting.