The Lady of the Stairs

mysterious child shining flashlight on face covered with blanket

There are a lot of houses of worship in and around Louisville. There are five within walking distance of my house and hundreds spread out all across Jefferson county. This story isn’t so much about a church as it is about the ghost that allegedly calls its front steps home.

First Church of Christ, Scientist – Louisville, Kentucky

Construction of the First Church of Christ, Scientist building that stands at the corner of South Third Street and West Ormsby Avenue started around 1916 and was completed in 1927.

According to numerous articles & the book “Ghosts of Old Louisville” by author David Domine’, the Lady of the Stairs is known as “Miss G” because she was allegedly related to the Gathright family. Why is she seen walking on the steps of the church? The legend goes, that “Miss G” was waiting on her lover so they could run away and elope. As with a lot of these stories, her lover never showed up. In this particular story, it’s because her lover had caught influenza while stationed at Camp Zachary Taylor and died before they could meet. After two days of waiting in the cold and dark night, “Miss G” also caught influenza and died shortly after and now wanders the steps of the church waiting for a date that will never come.

That’s the story as I saw it in several different books and across dozens of websites online. However, I wanted to know more about who the “Lady of the Stairs” and her lover were.

First Church of Christ, Scientist – Louisville, Kentucky

During my research, “Miss G” was only called by that name or “The Lady of the Stairs”. But is this ghost actually a ghost of Miss Gathright? There were members of the Gathright family in Louisville during this time period, but “The Lady of the Stairs” is most likely not Miss Gathright. In the December 1st, 1918 morning edition of the Courier-Journal, the engagement of Mr. and Mrs. Owen Gathright’s daughter Elizabeth Ball Gathright to Second Lieutenant John Charles Stanhope-Fleming was announced. They were married later that month – right after Christmas on December 28th, which doesn’t line up with the timeline of the ghost and her lost lover.

Courtesy: Courier-Journal – December 1st, 1918

There is another person in this ghost story. The soldier that the “Lady of the Stairs” continues to wait for night after night. In an article published in the online edition of the Courier-Journal in 2015, “Miss G” met the soldier, identified in several versions of the story I found during my research as Herbert Fullerton Dickson, and fell in love at a party. Dickson was deployed to Belgium to fight in World War I but promised to come back and marry his sweetheart after the war. Dickson would eventually come back to Kentucky and was stationed at Camp Zachary Taylor, a few miles away from the church, but according to a December 10th, 1918 article from the New York Tribune, a soldier with that same name, stationed at Camp Zachary Taylor, died suddenly of Pneumonia.

Courtesy: New York Tribune – December 10th, 1918

Is the “Lady of the Stairs” waiting on her lover? Possibly. Is the “Lady of the Stairs” the ghost of Miss Gathright? Probably not. However, if you are ever in Old Louisville at night and take a stroll by the steps of the First Church of Christ, Scientist – take a peek up the stairs and you might just catch a glimpse of a beautiful young woman, crying as she paces the steps and between the columns in front of the church.

First Church of Christ, Scientist – Louisville, Kentucky

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