Here’s an account of the mysterious adventure I previously embarked on this past week.
I’ll start with why.
I am unquestionably fascinated with the 1920’s- the writers, the art, the music. I think I developed this enthusiasm when I, as a writer, found my personal favorite writer- Unfortunately, he is now dead, but his legacy lives on.
F. Scott Fitzgerald.
If you do not know of him, then you should. He is most famously known for writing The Great Gatsby, but in my personal opinion, this is overrated and it’s certainly not the reason I fell in love with this man. I fell in love with his words.
The first quote I’d ever read from him was this:
“For what it’s worth;
It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not-
I hope you have the strength to start over.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald
I found these words during a time when I needed them most. I was in a dark, cynical point in my life. My head was unsure of what it wanted, while my heart was trapped in a body that didn’t feel like home. And F. Scott came to me, hugging my soul.
I started to become intrigued by his life and others of his time, such as his wife, Zelda, or his friend and fellow writer, Ernest Hemingway. When I discovered, somewhere along the line, that Fitzgerald had frequently visited Louisville, I freaked out. This is my hometown, and I never knew that he had been so close.
One of the oldest Hotels in Louisville- The Seelbach Hotel, had known Fitzgerald as a regular during April 1918, while he was stationed in Kentucky during WWI. Though, for his day in age it wasn’t old, it was sparkling new, and admirably elegant. He actually got inspiration from this very place for Gatsby, in which the hotel is dubbed the Mulbach hotel, and it’s charismatic, 1920’s vibe mirrors the Seelbach completely. Comically enough, Fitzgerald had been kicked out of the bar one night after one too many glasses of whiskey.
With further research, I learned that the Seelbach has also had many presidents stay there, including the great John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt. As well as this, some of the film, The Great Gatsby was shot there.
Many people believe that there is more to this place, something a bit more sinister. The ghost of a woman, named “The Blue Lady” is said to roam the 8th and 10th floors of the grand hotel. She is supposed to be the ghost of Patricia Wilson, a woman who was found dead in the hotels service elevator shaft in 1936, and it’s unknown as to whether or not she was murdered, or committed suicide. Granted, it could’ve been an accident, but how does one accidentally accomplish this?
Being me, I was drawn to this place with an unstoppable momentum. Old history, spirits, and my favorite writer of all time drew me in, inevitably.
I had to see this.
So, I set forth. I drove a half-hour drive downtown, to the heart of the city. When I saw the hotel through the windows of my car, I got chills down my spine. I couldn’t believe it. I grabbed my camera and notebook and began my adventure back in time.
Upon entering, I was immediately mesmerized with the entirety of this historic place- the dark wood along the railing, the grand chandeliers, the ballrooms, the dim-lit and low-ceilinged hallways. It was whimsical and eerie, and gave me the sense that many secrets were woven in its walls. And I was not wrong.
Throughout my whole exploration, from the top floor to the basement, I only came in contact with fewer than 10 guests. It was around 8 p.m., and on a damp Thursday night, the hotel seemed nearly vacant. Don’t get me wrong, this setting created a special kind of melancholy, the captivating kind.
The 8th floor, allegedly haunted by the notorious “Blue Lady” definitely had a different aura to it, but I cannot place what it was. The first thing I noticed was the smell. It was something of old perfume, musty- but prominent. The lighting is slightly darker than the other floors as well, but it’s not anything visible that really stays with you- it’s a feeling. An entity that exists within your chest, a heaviness on the shoulders, a deep sensation in your stomach. I am not going to side with the assumption that ghosts are real, but nor will I deny it.
As I previously mentioned, the body of Patricia Wilson was discovered at the bottom the Service Elevator, and she is most noted to haunt the 8th floor. While on the 8th floor, I wanted to locate the service elevator and get a photo of it- but the service elevators aren’t open to guests. I found a door labeled, “SERVICE ONLY-NO TRESPASSING” And I pushed it so I could take a peak inside. The elevator was right in front of me, looming and ominous.
Walking through empty ballrooms was like watching an old film- I imagined myself in the midst of bustling dancers, who’s breath smelt of burning alcohol and who’s laughter rang like music notes. The chandeliers resembled thousands of fiery diamonds, and the gold paint along the walls added pure elegance fit for the highest of society.
The Seelbach Hilton of Louisville cannot be done justice in simply one article one investigation, or even through photography. This towering building that once was inhabited by the most significant heads of their time, is now but a memory that these people left behind in their wake. From Fitzgerald passing out in the bar, to Kennedy dining on a five-star dinner, to Al-Capone escaping the police through secret stairwells, this hotel doesn’t run out of stories- both living and dead.
Eden Smith, Sweet Spade