The Widow Hoag & The Ice Boy

Old Louisville is one of my favorite parts of the city. Old Louisville is made up of about 48 city blocks in central Louisville and is the largest preservation district featuring almost entirely Victorian architecture. Old Louisville, despite its name, is not the oldest part of the city. In fact, it was actually built as a suburb of Lousiville starting in the 1870s, almost a century after Louisville was founded.

A neighborhood this old is bound to have its collection of ghost stories and urban legends attached to it. Old Louisville has dozens. Two of them surround one small part of of the neighborhood – Fountain Court.

A sign pointing the way to Fountain Court, located in a flowerbed off of St. James Ct.

Fountain Court is, put simply, a sidewalk that cuts through the houses between St. James Court and 4th Street. But it is so much more than that. Fountain Court is flanked by gorgeous old Victorian homes with plants and flowerbeds on both sides of the sidewalk.

Fountain Court facing towards 4th Street

At one point, all of these buildings would have been single-family homes, but by the 1940s many of them had been converted into apartments. It is in one of these apartments we find out first ghost story.

The story of the Widow Hoag, as I heard it on one of the walking tours, is one of heartbreak and loss. According to my guide, Mrs. Hoag was living in one of the apartments located on Fountain Court when her son was drafted into the United States Air Force during World War II. Airman Hoag, as I’ll call him – his name is never mentioned in the story – was fighting in the Pacific when his plane crashed while trying to land. His body was never found, but the Air Force informed Mrs. Hoag that her son had died. I searched for anyone named Hoag in the national archives that was killed in action during World War II, but I didn’t get any matches. It is possible the Airman had a different last name, he is never mentioned by name in any of the books or stories I have read or heard.

Mrs. Hoag, while devastated by the news, never gave up hope that her son would return. As the years went on, she became a recluse and waited for her son to return – never leaving her apartment – the same apartment she would eventually die in. The Widow Hoag, also known as the Lady in Black, has been reportedly seen several times in Fountain Court over the years – still waiting for her son to return.

A brick planter on the 4th Street side of Fountain Court

While many of the homes in Old Louisville are split into apartments now, that wasn’t the case at the end of the 19th century. In 1897, a six-floor building, designed to house high-end apartments, was built on Saint James Court. A little more than a decade after it was completed, on February 4th, 1912, an explosion caused a fire in the St. James Apartment House.

Courtesy: The Courier-Journal – Monday, February 5th, 1912

While several people were hurt escaping from the fire, no one was killed. However, according to the stories and legends attached to this fire, someone was killed – the Ice Boy.

Courtesy: Conrad-Caldwell House Museum

In his book, Ghosts of Old Louisville, author David Domine’ tells the story of the Ice Boy as a young boy from the nearby Cabbage Patch district. On that cold night before the fire, the boy went to the top floor of the building to run an errand. Not wanting to make the walk several blocks back in the cold, he fell asleep – never to wake up again. The story goes, that after firefighters were able to put the fire out, the boy was found curled up in the corner. And like the burned building, was covered in ice from the water used to fight the fire.

Courtesy: The Courier-Journal – Monday, February 5th, 1912

According to the story, on the coldest night of the year, the spirit of a young boy can be seen wandering Fountain Court looking for somewhere warm.

Both of these stories can be heard in person on the daily ghost tours put on by David Domine’ in Old Louisville. The tours are offered seven days a week from March through November. You can get your tickets HERE. If you really want to dive deep into the ghostly history of Old Louisville, I would suggest you get tickets to the Annual Victorian Ghost Walk. This walking tour has actors that tell you the ghost stories along the way. You need to act fast for this one – it only happens for one weekend in October. You can get more information HERE.

The Fountain in St. James Court

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