The Richmond Register

Local News

July 16, 2012

White Hall filled with tales of scandals and hauntings



“Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

The quote above is from Shirley Jackson’s classic ghost tale, “The Haunting of Hill House,” but it could be easily applied to the brooding mansion known as White Hall, right here in Richmond.

Groups gathered at the old 44-room mansion this weekend to attend one of its annual “Scandals and Ghost Stories” tours.

My wife and I attended took a Saturday evening tour conducted by curator Lashe Mullins, and while the group politely listened to tales of scandal, it was the tales of haunting that seemed to pique the most interest.

Most of the scandals, and many of the ghost stories, surround Cassius Marcellus Clay, a 19th century emancipationist and White Hall’s most famous resident, dubbed “The Lion of White Hall.”

Mullins pointed out that an emancipationist was not the most popular thing to be in the Kentucky at the time, and the fiery Clay was not averse to rough physical brawling to defend himself and his ideas. Besides brawling, Clay’s scandalous behavior included rumors of peccadilloes while he served as minister to Russia and two divorces.

One of the most famous scandals involved Clay’s divorce from his first wife and, subsequent marriage, at the age of 84, to15-yer-old Dora Richardson.

Legend has it that a sheriff's posse showed up at White Hall to “rescue” the girl, but was dissuaded when she told its members she was there of her own free will. Mullins said it was lucky they left peacefully, because Clay had a cannon loaded and ready to fire on the group, had it come to that.

Perhaps “fiery” was too tame a term to describe Clay who, at 89, found himself unable to climb the stairs to his bedroom because of gout, and set up a bedroom in his library.

Probably expecting to encounter a feeble old man, three men intent on robbery, and possibly murder, broke into the library, and were met by Clay, knife at the ready. One of the men was stabbed to death on the spot, another made it to the ice house before he bled out and died, while the third fled, presumably screaming, into the night.

Mullins said tales of ghostly goings on at the mansion have included sightings of a man that many assume to be Clay, a young boy in period dress who seems to like playing hide and seek, a woman in a hoop skirt and even a baby who can sometimes be heard alternately “gurgling” happily, or crying.

“Just about everybody who has ever worked here has had something mysterious happen to them,” said Mullins, who has worked there as a tour guide, and later in her present position as curator at the mansion.

Mullins said she has smelled the waxy scent of burning candles where there are none, and a scent of rose perfume, observations that have been made by others. Like others, she has also heard sounds like moving furniture in the house when nobody else was there.

Mullins said a former curator told her of an incident when she saw a pile of papers levitate across the floor of one of the 10 bedrooms in the house. “Cold spots,” indicative of ghostly activity, have also been reported, as have partial and full materializations of ghostly figures.

While Mullins said she personally does “not have a problem” with the house, she does say that being in the master bedroom of the mansion makes her uncomfortable because, over the whirr of the fans that help cool the upper floors, it seems as though some unseen presence is trying to talk to her.

While most people associate ghostly activity with the dark hours, much of the spirit-like activity has been reported during the daytime, Mullins said. Of course, that may be because the daylight hours are when most people are around to observe the phenomena.

One cannot help wonder if, when the lights are out and the forbidding old mansion is locked up for the night, the hallways echo with the ghostly footfalls of The Lion of White Hall who still guards his home; whether an other-worldly baby cries out in the night; or whether a long-dead12-year-old boy seeks a playmate to join him in an eternal game of hide and seek.

More “Scandals and Ghost Stories” tours are slated for July 20-21, at 7, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. at the mansion. Admission is $7 per person, regardless of age. You must make a reservation by calling 623-9178.

Text Only
Local News
  • 4-17 4Hfieldday1.jpg 4-H Environmental Field Day

    Madison County fourth-graders participated in several hands-on activities Tuesday and Wednesday during the annual 4-H Environmental Field Day at the county fairgrounds.

    April 16, 2014 8 Photos

  • Hearing delayed on West Main zone change

    Signs giving notice of a public hearing on a proposed zone change at the corner of West Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue were not posted in time for the Richmond Planning Commission to scheduled a public hearing for its April 24 business session.

    April 16, 2014

  • Berea mulls break with Kentucky Utilities

    The city of Berea is considering whether to extend its contract with Kentucky Utilities or to shop around for another electricity provider.

    April 16, 2014

  • 4-17 Melissa Lear.jpg BPD charge two in Richmond heroin-trafficking case

    Berea police arrested two women April 10 in a Richmond home in connection with heroin possession and trafficking.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-17 MuseVisit4.jpg Theater students hear actor, Berea alum Muse Watson

    “I killed about eight or nine kids, about your age,” actor Muse Watson joked as a room full of high schoolers erupted in laughter Wednesday at Madison Southern High School.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Legislature passes road-spending plan

    Kentucky House and Senate lawmakers agreed Tuesday to a $4.1 billion road-spending plan on the legislature’s final day, avoiding an expensive special session.
    The plan includes $5.2 billion worth of projects throughout the state. But as much as 25 percent of that money will not be spent. Lawmakers said they would like to include a cushion in case some projects are delayed because of environmental concerns or problems acquiring land.

    April 16, 2014

  • 4-16 CMMShealthfair5.jpg Health fairs cover contemporary teenage topics

    Berea Community High School health students coordinated their first all-day health fair in November that was catered to elementary students.

    But their spring fair Monday handled more mature issues that targeted the middle and high school crowd, said health teacher Cathy Jones.

    April 16, 2014 13 Photos

  • 4-16 Lisa Begley.jpg Police: Woman drove through storage business gate

    Richmond police arrested a Lexington woman Monday night after the property manager at Main Street Storage said she repeatedly drove her vehicle into a gate and fence at the 455 E. Main St. business.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local jobless rate for 2013 same as 2012

    Madison was one of 12 Kentucky counties with a 2013 jobless rate unchanged from the previous year, according to statistics released Tuesday.

    Still, only four counties – Woodford, 6.1; Fayette and Oldham, 6.5; and Scott, 6.7 – had jobless rates better than Madison’s 6.8 percent.

    April 16, 2014

  • Danville officials table fairness ordinance

    City officials in Danville have tabled an anti-discrimination proposal.
    The Advocate-Messenger reports that the move on Monday came after questions were raised about its legality and suggestions were made for changes.

    April 15, 2014

AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Should the Richmond City Commission stop rezoning property to allow construction of apartments?

     View Results