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Is the T.B. Ripy mansion haunted?

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Ghost tour opening in August explores downtown Lawrenceburg

By Shelley Spillman

Jeff Waldridge, paranormal investigator and owner of the Lawrenceburg Ghost Walk, says benevolent spirits attached to the house, possibly even Thomas B. Ripy himself, haunts the Ripya mansion.

Waldridge, a lifelong Lawrenceburg resident, has been working on the Lawrenceburg Ghost Walk for about 3 years, compiling research through microfilm at the Anderson Public Library, Kentucky Historical Society documents and The Anderson News clippings from the 1900s.

The end product fuses history with the paranormal to give tourists a memorable experience.

“It was like unlocking history,” said Waldridge. “People are fascinated by death. I think people are drawn to the paranormal because they want to know what happens after death.”

The tour will start at the T.B. Ripy House, built in 1888, the Dowling House, built in 1886 and home to bourbon distiller John Dowling, the TJ Ballard Drug Store, reportedly the longest running business in Lawrenceburg located at the corner of Woodford and South Main Street, The Anderson County Courthouse, originally constructed in 1830, and the Lawrenceburg Hotel which used to house patrons who traveled on the railroad.

Waldridge has been investigating the paranormal for about 14 years. He said he’s always been intrigued by ghost stories even at a young age.

His first paranormal experience was at the age of 15 while helping out at a haunted house at the old hotel on Court Street. Waldridge said he heard the unmistakable sound of hard-soled shoes on the staircase.

He said he was mentored by Patti Starr, a certified ghost hunter based out of Lexington with more than 30 years of experience. Some of the sites Waldridge has investigated include the historic Perryville Battlefield, the site of a Civil War battle, which according to the park’s Web site, left more than 7,600 soldiers killed, wounded or missing, the Waverly Sanatorium in Louisville and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W. Va.

“Ghost hunting is like fishing sometimes you sit there for eight hours with no activity,” Waldridge said. “It takes awhile for the spirits to warm up to you. I try not to talk to them like they are dead. They may not know they are dead, and you don’t want to be the one to tell them.”

Waldridge first started investigating the Ripy mansion in 2012. The mansion was home to Thomas B. Ripy, who became one of the largest independent bourbon distillers, and his 10 children. Ripy became a distiller at the age of 21, following in the footsteps of his father. Ripy died in 1902, but Waldridge said he believes he recorded his voice in an EVP recording session at the home.

He asked the spirits a series of questions. “Who built this house?” which was reportedly responded with “I did.” Waldridge also asked what he wanted the new owners to do with the house, which was reportedly responded with “fix it.”

Waldridge also said he’s taken pictures in the home, one of which he said has an unexplainable image of a man.

George Geoghegan, owner of the T.B. Ripy mansion, is an ancestor of Thomas B. Ripy. His grandfather William Richard Ripy was the youngest boy of Ripy’s 10 children.

Geoghegan said he can recall playing there as child, taking schoolmates through the tower and sliding down the long staircase banister. His grandfather moved back to the home the late 20s and would pick up Geoghegan a couple nights a week for a formal dinner.

Geog-hegan bought the house more than 3 years ago as a foreclosure because he feared the home would be torn down. Since then, he has had experiences at the home that he can’t quite explain including sounds of children or a party in the vacant home and doors suddenly slamming shut.

On one occasion, he said electricians were working on the chandelier. He left the light bulbs for the chandelier on the mantle in the foyer.

When we returned to the home he said the electricians were asking him if the home was haunted because the room got significantly colder and the bag of light bulbs moved across the mantle.

Despite this, Geoghegan said he has nothing but warm feelings and memories of the home.

“I never feel fearful when I walk into the house,” Geoghegan said.

As far as the Ripy home being highlighted in the Lawrenceburg Ghost Tour, Geoghegan said he’s excited about the possibilities for tourism. He hopes to one day perhaps find a way to turn the home into a bed and breakfast and reception center.

“I’m in favor of anything that brings people to downtown Lawrenceburg,” he said.

The Lawrenceburg Ghost Walk starts Aug. 23 and will run every Saturday night through Nov. 1.

For more information, visit www.kentuckyghosttours.com.