Halloween Hauntings: Part I — Ghost hunting at the Karrick-Parks House in Perryville

Published 6:19 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

By Lance Gaither

lance.gaither@bluegrassnewsmedia.com

As one Kentucky’s oldest cities and home to the largest battle in the state during the Civil War, Perryville has a rich history that a tourist could easily spend many days discovering. Many think the echoes of this history can be seen and heard in the town today, with Perryville often called the most haunted town in Kentucky.

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Home to many of these sightings is the historic Karrick-Parks House found just off of Merchant’s Row. The home was built in 1800 by Squire Roberts where the property was valued for the spring and cave that provided water and shelter from raids for the early settlers. More than a half-century later in 1856, the home was purchased by James Karrick who wished to enroll his children into Perryville’s schools. Karrick brought with him his wife, seven daughters, one son and 15 slaves.

Confederate soldiers arrived at the house on Oct. 7, 1862 seeking shelter for the night. On the morning of Oct 8, gunfire rang out through the city as battle began. The soldiers in the home told the family they should flee for their safety. With no time to lose, the Karrick family gathered their valuables and fled the home. Their slaves following with the family’s belongings.

When they returned they found that what was left behind had been searched for money and many of their clothing items had been used for makeshift bandages. For nearly a year after, the home was used as a field hospital to treat the wounded. For weeks following the battle, the family would look out their windows in the morning and see the corpses in the front yard of those who did not survive the night.

Today, the house is a key destination in the town’s ghost walk events, Many long-term residents and visitors report strange sightings in and around the house. One of the volunteers who leads the town’s ghost walks, Pete Bottom, said that in his time at the house he had strange encounters with a candle in a window on the upper floor.

“I put that candle together three times,” Bottom said. “It is three pieces. All three pieces and the batteries would just be laying in the window sill. I would go get the key, put it back together. A few days later I come back and it is apart again. I quit going in there. I don’t know who or what, but someone didn’t like that candle in the room.”

That wasn’t the only spooky encounter with the Karrick-Parks House that Bottom and Main Street Perryville Director Aly Huff had to share. There are regular reports of curtains moving in the house, supposed trespassers vanishing into thin air, and regular reports of a ghost called Sam. Sam is a supposed ghost of a Confederate solider who died during the battle and has been seen walking the streets of Perryville at night. Some people have even reported having conversations with him before he disappears when they look away.     

To find out the truth, Huff enlisted the help of 859 Paranormal Research, the same group who hunted for ghosts at the Pioneer Playhouse last year.

“People want to see something when they come, I think anything they find will increase the paranormal tourism,” Huff said.

As the sun set on Perryville, ghost hunters Justin Petrey, Brent Martin and Katie Followell began setting up their equipment throughout the house followed by a sweep for any electrical hot spots and electromagnetic fields called EMFs. Among the things the group noticed were the strong fields emitted by power lines around the house.

“Some people are really susceptible to electromagnetic fields. A lot of electricians use the equipment we use to find faulty wiring,” Followell said. “EMFs can make people feel like they are being watched, they can cause hallucinations, uneasy feelings, or upset stomachs. The power lines could be an explanation for the feelings people get along Merchant’s Row.”   

As the hunters explored the house room by room, they were seeing no signs of any strange activity on their equipment. After searching every room of the house without a single blip of activity, the group went outside the house to see if they could get any hits outside or along Merchant’s Row. 859 Paranormal Research made sure to leave recorders in the house to pick up on any activity that might occur. It was during the review of these recordings that the group found strange activity. When the house was otherwise empty, the sound of a creaking door creaking can be heard. At a later point in the night after the hunters had returned to the home, a noise that sounds almost like three gunshots can be heard clearly on the recording with no reaction by any of the hunters.

After reviewing their evidence from the night, 859 Paranormal Research determined the hunt to be inconclusive. While in the house, it could be seen that passing cars cause a draft through the house that makes the curtains move. Followell explained that in her opinion, if there is a supernatural presence in the house, it could be described more as a residual presence than an active one.

To see a ghost yourself, the City of Perryville is hosting another ghost walk on Saturday, Oct. 28 just in time for Halloween. Tickets can be purchased at downtownperryville.com.