If you have been to Paducah, you have seen Brent Dukes’ home. The house on the corner of Sixth and Monroe looms over Lower Town, and alternates from beautiful historic plantation home to creepy old mansion depending on the weather and time of day.
Dukes, better known as the Colonel, bought the “Belle Louise” three years ago, although he frequented the house when its previous owner was the tenant. It is the perfect home for him — Dukes is an active Civil War re-enactor and has a passion for the styles of the time, so living in a house where he can be surrounded by the period is a dream come true ... even if things do go bump in the night.
“There’s no doubt that this house has its quirks,” Dukes said. “I have guests stay over and they report the weirdest things. I’ve had people tell me they hear voices, see things move, hear the music box upstairs play. The house is haunted, but with a house with this much history that is to be expected.”
The “Belle Louise” was originally built just before the Civil War by a lieutenant in the Confederate army. With six bedrooms and five bathrooms, the living space is full of antique furniture and art, including paintings of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. It’s the perfect location for a haunted house, which is exactly what Dukes and his friends decided to build.
“What is better than a haunted house in a haunted house?” Matt Howe, who lives at the house, said. “We spent three months devising ways to show off the house, then scare people. So far, it’s done both pretty well.”
Howe and Dukes set up their two-part haunted house at the “Belle Louise” two weeks ago, and already people are coming away both awe-struck and scared. Just talking to Howe, who has only lived in the house for six months, one can understand how much paranormal activity is in the house.
“Doors open and close, you hear muffled conversations and footsteps,” Howe said. “One of the first nights I was sleeping in the house, I was laying in bed and the sheets just tore off of me. If that doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand up I don’t know what will.”
The “Belle Louise” is said to be occupied by at least three ghosts: A couple, who is always seen or heard downstairs in the parlor area talking next to what used to be a fireplace, and a little girl who really only appears to females in the house but can be heard playing her music box, calling for her mother, or moving things.
With a history like the house has, it’s no wonder paranormal events happen there. In its almost 200-year history, the house has been several things, including a funeral home. President Harry Truman’s vice president Alben Barkley’s body was laid out in the home, a room that is now being referred to as the “Exorcism Room” for the haunted house tour.
However haunting the house was before, Dukes and his team turned it into an absolute terror. Guests start with a tour of the house, which is mostly done in the dark with the help of candles. His tour guides, dressed in period-style clothing, tell stories about the house and the rooms, highlighting strange occurrences that have happened inside. Then, it is on to the garage maze, which Howe says leaves you on your own.
“We leave you off in our back room, the boiler room,” Howe said. “That’s where it turns traditional haunted house — things jump out at you, it’s completely dark, it’s absolutely terrifying.”
Dukes has heard plenty of good reviews from people who stop at the house, and their resident ghost has even made a few appearances through the two weeks that they have had the haunted house. Even if the spirits who reside in the “Belle Louise” are active, Dukes has learned to live with them in peace.
“It took a little getting used to, but I know I am not alone in the house and I don’t mind,” Dukes said. “I’ve said it before: I am just a caretaker here. You don’t own the house, the house owns you.”
The Haunted House is open Thursday through Sunday (and, of course, Halloween night), from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Admission is $12. It is located on the corner of Sixth and Monroe Street, across from Paducah Bank.