Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 14, 2013

Ghost walk reveals town's troubled past

Points of interest include Paintsville mansion, church and school

PAINTSVILLE — Aspiring actor Rick Roberts reveals things not often discussed as part of the city’s history as he leads small groups along a nearly nonstop stretch of haunted houses and other buildings as part of the Ghost Walk of Old Paintsville.

“The reason we say ‘Old Paintsville’ is that some of these hauntings have been going on for a long time,” said Roberts, who conducts the tours year-round with groups as small as four.

The ghost walk follows a 1.3-mile path and focuses on 16 homes and structures, including the SIPP Cinema, Mayo Mansion, Mayo Methodist Church and Paintsville Elementary with a documented history of suspected paranormal activities. Roberts said he became interested in the city’s history of hauntings when he moved into a home built there in 1903, around the same time John C.C. Mayo was building his mansion and other structures that remain as local landmarks.

Roberts said there is at least one strong theory about the abundance of unexplained phenomenon in the city. Anyone standing in front of the courthouse in downtown Paintsville and looking toward the old library may notice a rise of about 5 feet along one side, he said, explaining the elevation is because of burial mounds that received little consideration as the city was developing.

“It might be a little cursed, I don’t know,” Roberts said.

The Stafford House at 1834 College St. is built atop a massive burial mound that makes a perfect triangle with other mounds in the immediate area, Roberts said. The house is believed to be haunted by the spirit of F.M. Stafford’s younger brother, who was murdered behind the home on Christmas Day in 1900, possibly in retaliation for the Staffords’ Southern sympathies during the Civil War. The murdered brother’s bloodied clothes were hanged on a line in an upstairs room, Roberts said, noting the dead man’s apparel remained in place until the line broke in the 1970s.

Roberts said he tries to keep the tour historical as well, providing information about each of the houses along the way, including the private passage that once existed between the Mayo Mansion and Mayo Methodist Church. The concealed corridor was later filled in, he said, although some say Mayo himself may have dabbled in the occult in the private passage.

According to legend, Roberts said Mayo’s wife can still be heard crying inside the church next door to their mansion.

While Roberts makes it clear he has seen none of the spooky things of local legend, such as Mayo standing in front of his former mansion surveying the street and modern buildings before him, he has experienced plenty of things that gave him reason to be curious.

The walk is available for groups of at least four, Roberts said, between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children and free for those younger than 6. For more information or to make reservations, call (606) 367-0384.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.

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