My daughter, who is 14, has developed an interest in haunted houses. I don’t mean the kind you go to for Halloween. She’s intrigued at the thought that the historic homes we tour may be inhabited by spirits that have not crossed over. I’m not a believer in ghosts or spirits, but when I came across Octagon Hall in Franklin, KY and saw that it claimed to be one of the most haunted places in the south, I knew we had to visit! For me, it was for the history. For my daughter, it was the chance to “see” ghosts. So, we loaded up and hit the road, taking my mom along for the trip as well.
Did we see ghosts? You’ll have to read on to find out!
About Octagon Hall
Octagon Hall Museum is an 8-sided brick home just north of Franklin, KY. It was the home of Andrew Jackson Caldwell and his wife Harriett Morton Caldwell, who had the home built beginning in 1847 with completion around 1859. Caldwell owned several hundred acres along Nashville Rd., known today as U.S. 31, and wanted a home that was unique and stood out from the rest. Mission accomplished!
(While octagonal homes were a popular architectural style in the US and Canada during the 1850’s, it seems only 2 remain in Kentucky; Octagon Hall and Octagon Cottage in Barren County.)
Caldwell’s home was 3 stories. Two and a half were above ground with a half story below ground creating the foundation. The exterior walls of the home were built 3 bricks deep with bricks made by the slaves Caldwell owned. Slaves also cut and dressed the Bowling Green white limestone used for the home’s foundation. Each floor had 4 rooms, 2 in the front and 2 in the back of the home.
While many of the brick homes of this period were lavish and intricate to show off wealth, Caldwell’s home was more about strength and usefulness. The home was built to be strong, dry, and have great ventilation and light. The layout of the rooms was for best use of space. For more information about the home’s architecture click here.
Andrew Jackson Caldwell
Andrew Jackson Caldwell owned 25 slaves by 1865 and was a staunch supporter of the Confederacy, so after the Civil War broke out,
“It was known that any Confederate soldier who could make it to the Caldwell’s’ farm would receive shelter and medical care and be hidden from the Union forces that were often following in hot pursuit.”bgamplifier.com
Kentucky – A Neutral State
As we know, Kentucky was torn between the North and the South when the Civil War broke out. “Brother vs. Brother” occurred within families as mothers watched their sons march off in opposite directions to fight. For this reason, Kentucky declared itself neutral.
What some may not know, is that although Kentucky remained neutral, the city of Bowling Green became a focus for both the Union and Confederate Armies for many reasons.
In September 1861, 4,000 Confederate troops occupied the city of Bowling Green. A pro-Confederate state government had formed in Russellville and it soon declared Bowling Green to be the Capital of the Confederate State of Kentucky. It didn’t last too long though.
(Click here to read about Riverview, a Bowling Green historic home used during the Civil War.)
In January of the new year, Union troops experienced victories in Kentucky, and they set their eyes on Bowling Green.
According to Battlefields.org, “Under the command of General Ormsby Mitchel, Bowling Green was bombarded from across the Barren River. ”
The Confederate Army evacuated the city soon after and by February 1862, the city fell to the Union Army.
Octagon Hall – A Safe Place for Confederate Soldiers
As Confederate soldiers fled Bowling Green in January and February of 1862, they headed south and found sanctuary at Octagon Hall. Individual soldiers who had fled were hidden in many places throughout the home, from the cupola full of bees, to the space under the hollow front steps. In addition, the home was used as a hospital and recovery site for Confederate soldiers throughout the war.
On February 13, 1862, somewhere between 8,000-10,000 Confederate soldiers camped on the grounds of the home on their march to Tennessee. Just two days later the Union Army took occupation of the home in pursuit of the Confederates.
After the War
In 1866, Andrew died of typhoid fever. His widow, Harriett, continued to live in the home until 1918 when she sold the home to a Nashville doctor named Miles Williams. His family continued to live there until 1954 when the doctor died. From there, it became rental property. In 2001, the property was purchased by the Octagon Hall Foundation turning it into a historic home museum.
Our Visit – The Home
An Octagon Hall volunteer greeted us after our arrival at the backdoor of the home. After paying the $5 donation for each of us, we were ushered into the front dining room of the home. We were seated at the dining room table were she proceeded to tell us the history and hauntings of the home. After the history lesson, we were left to tour the home on our own.
My daughter, my mom, and I started in the vestibule to see the hole in the wall where Confederate soldiers would hide out when on the run. From there we continued into the front parlor. While the doors and woodwork within the home are all original, nothing else in the home belonged to the family. Instead, the parlor is used to display artifacts and relics from the Civil War.
We continued our tour throughout the home taking as many pictures as possible. My daughter was hoping to catch an image of a spirit. Never did I feel a presence in the home. Although, I’m not sure I would know what that would feel like! I did have a feeling of being in my Great Aunt’s home as a kid. The rooms were a little cluttered with what looked like hand-me down furniture and various other items “of the period.” There were mannequins in most of the rooms in period clothing. I wondered if these were placed to help with the spookiness of the home. It didn’t come off feeling like a home museum, but instead a home that needed to be straightened, cleaned, and de-cluttered. In some spaces we found items that were not period, which took away from the experience.
In the basement, we saw the winter kitchen. It was in this room that Harriett and Andrew’s daughter, Mary had a horrific accident. She was too close to the fire in the fireplace when her dress caught fire. Within just a few days Mary passed away due to the burns she received. She is buried on the property behind the home. It is said that Mary is one of the spirits that remain in the home.
Also in the basement, you can see the space below the hollow stairs were soldiers were hidden.
We left the home to tour the grounds. Out back there is a summer kitchen, the family cemetery, a slave cemetery, and two documented Confederate soldier graves. There is a fireplace standing on the grounds. It is the only thing remaining from a slave cabin that once stood there. Time and termites are to blame for the loss of that piece of history.
We wandered the property, took plenty of pictures, and headed off down the road to our next stop… historic downtown Franklin.
Well, I’m sure a few of you would like to know if we saw anything that might resemble a ghost in “one of the most haunted places in the South.” When we sat down for lunch my daughter looked through all of my pictures, zoomed into window panes, and saw nothing that intrigued her. She then looked through the photos my mom took. She about fell out of her chair at the sight of an image in a window. She had zoomed into a window pane where she saw what looked like the outline of a face. I had taken a similar photo from the same angle. We pulled out my photo again, zoomed in… nothing. It was then that my daughter about came unglued. She believed she had caught a ghost on camera and was beyond excited!
Was it a ghost? I’ll leave that for you to determine. (Pictures below) I will say this, there were no creepy mannequins in that window, and directly in front of that window was a very step stairwell to the 1st floor that was off limits. What do you think? Was it a ghost?
For me, it was probably a reflection of some sort. I truly feel better not believing!
Visiting the Home
For me, it was not the most impressive home I’ve ever seen. I think the cluttered feel put me off a bit, and I believe there is a focus on the paranormal aspect more than the historic. I am glad we went. I’ve never seen an octagonal home before. The floor plan is certainly unique. I loved seeing the places where soldiers were hidden as that was what made the home feel historic to me. While it was my daughter’s favorite part of the day (because of her ghost finding), I enjoyed the other stops of the day more. Boy did we make more stops! Franklin truly is full of history. Join me next time for the history and stories of our following stops. It was certainly an adventure!
I do hope you will visit if given the chance. Even though it was not my favorite, the home is still an architectural treasure that needs to be preserved for generations to come. Without visitors, that will be hard to do. If you visit, make sure to have $5 cash for each person you take. Double check the website for the days and times that they are open. They are closed for a little bit in the middle of the day.
Until next time, Happy Travels!
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