Bernson's Corner: The mystery woman of Harrodsburg Springs
Louisville, KY -- (WDRB) A tragedy of 170 years ago still fascinates visitors to Harrodsburg, Kentucky.
In a special Halloween edition of Bernson's Corner, Barry Bernson has the story of a life ended too soon and a mystery that persists to this day.
Once upon a time a hotel stood in central Kentucky called the Harrodsburg Springs. The historical marker and a stone wall are about all that's left to show it was here. But it was a magnificent place in 1830, a sumptuous place of joy and laughter and music.
And one day, a young woman came to stay at that hotel and that is where the story begins.
Jerry Sampson is the president of the local historical society and the owner of an antique store. For more than 180 years, he says -- the story of that mysterious visitor has been told and retold in town.
"Because at that time, a young lady -- if she could say that she danced at the Harrodsburg Springs -- her social life went through the roof, because that meant she had attained the ultimate," explains Sampson.
She had traveled here alone. From New Orleans, the other hotel guests believed. Or perhaps Tennessee. Her real name -- she wouldn't say.
Sampson says the woman really enjoyed her stay. "She charmed everyone. Had 'em wrapped around her little finger. And she danced with every man that was there at the Harrodsburg Springs."
And she was with one young man -- and said: "This is the happiest place that I've ever been, and I could stay here forever and ever."
The sun started to come up, and the last strains of the music were playing, and she said, "I am so very happy here," and as soon as she said that, she fell at his feet, dead."
The hotel staff tried for days to find family to notify but no one knew who she was.
So with heavy, sad hearts, they carried her out to the elm tree where she had said she was so happy, and that's where they buried her.
And here she lies to this day, on land that's now a town park. "Unknown," reads the marker.
As for ghost sightings?
"There have been several reports that she has made an appearance. Probably the mid-1930's was the last reported sighting of the mysterious girl who danced herself to death. And some say it happened... and some say it didn't," according to Sampson.
And some say in Harrodsburg -- when the wind starts blowing through the trees in October -- you can still faintly hear music in the air.
Where it comes from -- like the girl who's buried here -- Unknown.
Our thanks to the performers from the Stephen Foster Story in Bardstown for helping us recreate that 19th century ballroom scene.
Some say the mysterious lady was named Molly Black, the adventurous wife of a Tennessee planter. But others prefer she remain... unknown.
In Harrodsburg, Barry Bernson, Fox41 News.