Under old town

Ghost stories in and around the Monarch community


Lia Farrell

We all know Old Town Louisville. From the staples of our childhoods like Sweet Cow and Lucky Pie to the newer bits such as Punch Buggy Shaved Ice. It’s a safe, familiar place. This safety associated with the suburban heaven of Louisville makes the town’s history all the stranger.

During the prohibition era of the 20s, the Denver mob got involved with the saloons of Old Town, taking advantage of tunnels that had previously been constructed to aid striking coal miners. These tunnels stretched all under what we know as Old Town Louisville today, extending in particular to the restaurants 740 Front, The Melting Pot, and The Empire. 

“During Prohibition, which was in the 1920s, that’s when liquor was illegal, you know. But the coal miners …they couldn’t work year round because of gases certain times of year, the temperature and all that,” Fred Burns, the proprietor of 740 Front, said. “The gases in the in the caves were dangerous form when they had a lot of time on their hands they ended up in the tunnels playing poker.” 

The only problem with this arrangement, of course, was that the mob was involved, which meant people inevitably got hurt. In the Empire, these victims were a young couple that got involved in the gambling scene.

 “Yeah, the couple both got shot and I think the ghost here is a female,” Eric Vanderven, a manager at the Empire, said. “Sometimes at like 12:30 in the morning when I’m leaving, I’m the only one in the whole building. I would go down to check the beer cooler and make sure it’s locked, and when I’m walking down the hallway, I honestly feel like someone [is] watching me.”

There have been many reported sightings of the Empire’s ghost, especially by employees late at night. None of these sightings, however, are as obvious as the sightings of Jimmy, the ghost resident of the Melting Pot, another restaurant in Old Town.

“When there’s a lot of people here, there’s just so much going on that you don’t really have the quietness to notice anything,” Lorenzo Balderas, an employee at the Melting Pot, said. “It’s kind of strange, you know, it’s always like towards the end of the night. Not like when there’s nobody in here, per se. But when there’s just a few people, I’ll always kind of just see, like, something there, almost looking down and watching.”