“On a hot October day in 1862, 20,000 Union troops and 16,000 Confederates clashed in the Battle of Perryville. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Thousands of soldiers were killed or wounded, leaving their bodies on the battlefield for days. It was a gruesome scene, so Perryville has a reputation as a haunted town.
Perryville is known as one of the most haunted little towns in America. I think it’s because so many of the residents, both those who’ve passed on from my childhood and those who still live today, have had an experience of some kind with that which they cannot explain. The battle in Perryville in 1862 was the Southern attempt to recruit and occupy Kentucky. There were 7,500 people killed, wounded or missing.
There is a mass grave at the Perryville battlefield site. It’s filled with 300 Confederate soldiers. They couldn’t afford the time and the ground to bury those men individually. As I understood it, many of them were buried in very shallow graves. A high percentage, in fact, maybe all of the homes that date back to the Civil War were used as a hospital or a staging ground for the young men left here wounded. So, it seems there are just a lot of spirits left in the town, associated with the ground on which they either convalesced or died.
We had this horrific battle fought in 1862, and there are stories from residents and visitors alike that they’ve seen ghosts or heard ghosts. Several townhomes have handwriting on the walls from soldiers who lay convalescing in the homes, maybe dying. It was typical for them to write their name, rank, and where they were from. Some drew pictures of a home, a horse, or a house or wrote messages to their mother. That is very common. Blood stains on the floors could make you relive what that time was like.
According to legend, Sam is a Confederate soldier who fought and died in Perryville. It is said by visitors and residents alike that you can see him sometimes a night, usually hot. He will walk out of the opera house, dressed in his full Confederate uniform, cross Merchant’s Row, and walk up the hill to the cemetery. One resident in town will tell you they had a conversation with Sam. He walked into their yard and said, ‘Hi, how are you? I’m fine. How are you tonight?’ It was during a commemoration. They talked to this gentleman, and she went in to get something for him to drink, and he was gone when she returned.
One of the accounts told here in Perryville of haunting concerns our local beautician. They were sitting on the front porch of the HP Bottom House, which is actually on the battlefield grounds. She was with a friend, and they were enjoying the night when they saw a Confederate soldier. They could identify him by the color of his regalia. He walked out of the field, just in front of the home as it sits now, and did during the battle. He addressed them in a generic form and said, ‘Ladies, the lamp will give our position away.’ Then, he turned and walked back in the same direction from which he had come, materializing as he approached and dematerializing as he walked away.
In the Carrick Parks house, in front of the cave where the town was settled, there is said to be a young girl that lives in that house. When driving by or walking by, people have seen her appear in the window, and she looks down at them. She doesn’t wave; she doesn’t smile. She’s just standing there, looking out the window.
My ghost story from being raised here in Perryville takes me back to the age of 10. We were renting the Crawford House, which dates back to the Civil War era. It was, in fact, Braxton Bragg’s headquarters during the war. One Saturday afternoon, in the light of day, probably around two o’clock, I was watching cartoons, prostrate on the floor with my chin in my hands, when the spring-loaded door, maybe 30 inches wide, opened and suspended itself without relieving the tension in the spring whatsoever. I could hear it load because I’d opened it daily for the previous two years we lived there. I knew no one else was home, or at least I thought I did. I turned to look over my shoulder to see absolutely nothing there, but the door remained open. I didn’t wait to see it close. I ran out of the house to town to the business where my mother was working to tell her.
Learning history and what Perryville is all about, whether it’s the ghosts, the architecture, or the battle, is a beautiful experience. I think that’s what’s essential about the ghosts in this town. We have a wealth of history, and the hauntings are a part of that history. Our motto is, ‘Our history is our future.’ That’s what makes Perryville.”