A Quick Look at the Gaines Tavern: Kentucky’s Haunted Murder House

Hi, my name is Bridget Stryker, and I’m the Local History Coordinator with the Boone County Public Library. Welcome to the Gaines Tavern. The Gaines Tavern was built in 1812 for Abner Gaines. Over the years, it served as a tavern, a home, and an antique shop. However, since 1899, it’s been most well-known for its murders and suicides and how it was cursed and haunted. In the 1889 Boone County Recorder, I found a whole article talking about nine murders and suicides that happened within this house and on this property. That is almost a murder-suicide every five or six years.

The tavern is closed to the public, and you can’t get onto the property to see the house. So, this is our opportunity to share some of these stories with you. There were two suicides by gunshot in the house while it was still a tavern. Along this route was the main highway between Lexington and Cincinnati. There were few stagecoach routes through this area, so this was the last stop before you got into Covington in Cincinnati.

Sometimes we have things that happen during our ghost walks when people are in the building. Their cell phones malfunction; either they’ll go through the house and will get their text messages when they come outside, or sometimes the malfunction occurs when they’re trying to record on their phone in the house. Sometimes, they’ll see images when they take photographs outside the house.

The last time we did a tour here for the public, we were outside, and one of my staff was standing in the side yard talking about some of the tragedies that happened in the side yard. People were taking photos of the windows on the second floor that were dimly lit. Those photographs showed an older man with a little girl standing in the window. We didn’t have any older gentlemen on staff or in the building at the time, and we didn’t have any little girls around that time.

When I was researching the house, it was opened for museum visits, and there was a teen girl in the front living room playing an instrument like an organ. A woman approached the door, addressed the teen docent in the room, and said, “So that you know, the little girl likes it when you play the concertina.” There had been no little girl guest that day, and the volunteer had not played the instrument for at least an hour before the woman came onto the property. At that same time, I discovered that a little girl had passed away in the family and was buried in the nearby cemetery. We’ve researched who the little girl might be, and we think it is Abner Gaines’s young daughter who died in 1822.

Thanks for joining me today to talk about the Gaines Tavern and the spooky things that have happened in its history. Boone County history can sometimes be pretty creepy and weird, but that’s how we like it.

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