Be Very Afraid: Old Ormsby Village House—Trick of the Light, or Something More? (Unseen Louisville No. 1)

100_0736-curious-skull-2.jpgAt dusk last night I biked through the Hurstbourne Green Office Park in Eastern Jefferson County, east of Louisville. Long before this area sprouted with corporate glass boxes and manicured greenery, it once was considered the “country.” That’s why back in the 1920s a home and complex for “wayward” children was built here on the advanced idea that rehabilitating kids in the fresh rural air would do them better than punishing them and forcing them to stay in prison-like buildings in the grimy city.

From 1920 to 1967, The Louisville and Jefferson County Children’s Home operated properties in this part of the county, one for white kids called Ormsby Village and another for black kids called Ridgewood (about a mile or less to the southeast).

100_0750-ormsby-rd.jpgOrmsby Village was mostly cleared out in the ’80s and ’90s for development, yet one large and very stately home from the complex still stands almost completely hidden behind a lush grove of trees. Few people in the area seem to realize that this creepy, but beautiful old abandoned home still exists just a few yards from the corner of Ormsby Station Road and Ormbsy Station Court. It appears, at least from the exterior, to be maintained somewhat, possibly by the managers of the office park. It doesn’t appear dilapidated, but there is no sign of life inside. The windows reveal a pitch dark interior. The house stands like a ghost, out of place in its time. Very eerie and isolated despite being in the middle of heavy development.

I took pictures of all sides of the house, but a sense of foreboding kept me from venturing any closer than about 10 yards. The thick hedgerow surrounding the house presented a slight obstacle to closer view, but the sense that something might be hiding in the hedgerow—a crazy caretaker or some such—made me feel some trepidation. And those large pitch-dark windows were like big black irises. You felt a head might appear from the gloom and peer out at you at any minute.

100_0731-14faroff.jpgI didn’t see anything out of the ordinary as I snapped the pix, but when I got home I used the zoom feature on my camera to see if I could glean more exterior details of the house. I was very impressed by the sweeping iron portico around the front entrance. I had wanted to get closer shots of these, but as I said, I felt better keeping my distance.

As I started looking at zoom-ins of many of the windows, I noted lots of patterns created in the glass due to the reflection of light and tree leaf shadows and the wavy nature of the old-style panes.

In several of the panes I noticed shapes that resembled human forms: faces, a devil head, an old woman, and a skeleton like figure. I believe that these are nothing more than tricks of the light created by the conditions I previously described.

However, fans of the paranormal still might find this of interest.

Check out this scan-in view of the house-front. And pay particular attention to the dark window at the upper right.

I took several pictures of this housefront, each from only a very slightly different angle and distance. Yet, even these slight changes of perspective changed the light patterns in the windows significantly. Either that, or something inside the house changed between the times I took the shots. (Images copyright Evan G, please note)

Reflections of leaves, or something else….?





Now, check this view of the back side of the house. Then look at the zoom-in of one of the windows of the second floor…



A nurse caretaker, perhaps?

And below, on yet another side of the house (facing southeast), we have an oddity depicted in the widow at bottom left. Somehow a knight from Monty Python’s Flying Circus seems to have taken up residence… And to the right, notice the frolicking skeletal figure profile.





And below, if you strain a bit, you can make out a demon-faced fellow peering back in this next one…


So maybe the Ormsby Village house should be thought of in the same way as the popular haunting spot, the old Waverly Hills Sanatorium on the far southwest side of the county.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for Art Bell to call…



34 Responses to Be Very Afraid: Old Ormsby Village House—Trick of the Light, or Something More? (Unseen Louisville No. 1)

  1. I love the look of the place…not so sure about those tricks of light, though. Didn’t they have a cable TV special on the hauntings of Waverly Hills not too long ago?

  2. gravybread says:

    This is not Waverly Hills; it’s Ormsby Village. I was making a comparison to the two. Waverly Hills is 20 miles to the southwest, and is indeed said to be haunted.

    As far as I know, I don’t know of anyone who has identified this Ormsby Village house as haunted. I might be the first one to suggest it. Maybe not.

    As I queried in the posting: Trick of the light, or something else? You decide. Personally, I’m certain it’s the waviness of the glass that is causing these weird effects.

    Thanks for stopping by. -EG

  3. badcastd says:

    Creepy place, but I think there’s nothing to it. The trees play tricks with your eyes, as I can see a face in some of the pictures if I wanted to. I still have my doubts on this place. Sure don’t want to be here at night.
    Good work, as I’m never this brave to go out and seek the haunted places.

  4. gravybread says:

    Of course. There are countless patterns in all the windows. You can always find a few that look like something. just like you can see profiles in clouds every once in awhile. It’s like those people who see Jesus in a concrete stain or a potato chip. They ignore the patterns of millions of other potato chips or concrete walls, but hone in on the occasional happy accident. I posted this mainly to see how many paranormal fans would come out of the woodwork.

    By the way, I would live in that house with no hesitation. For one thing, it sits on very valuable property.


  5. Joe says:

    I just did a walk around on this property and also took some photo’s. It seems that the tree’s and bushes play alot of tricks on the camera lens along with the fact of the wavy leaded glass in these windows. But I too had a sense of forboding and it was the middle of the day with traffic going by. I did manage to put my head against the window and peer inside to see —nothing special just some faded carpets and peeling paint, but spooky none the less.
    Thanks for pointing this one out I had never even noticed it before even though I had driven past it countless times.

  6. Tessa says:

    I think this is effects of light, reflections and shadows. You can find ghostly images in nearly everything. The house is pretty creepy!

  7. Mary Kent says:

    My sister and her family lived in the house while her husband David was director for the facilities. She knew some of the history of the house, which included a woman dying in childbirth in the upstairs bedroom on the right (which you climb the stairs). She always felt a presence in the house – but it was always friendly.

    The last time I was in the house was in late 1970’s. It was beautiful. I hope that the county or whomever takes care of it as my sister did when she lived there. It’s a pity to let such a glorious building fall to ruin.

    If anything, I would imagine that the house feels very out of place with all the commerce surrounding it. Originally it was a plantation home – surrounded by grassy lawns, trees and a few outbuildings. No doubt having its space disturbed would make one think it was upset.

  8. Robert says:

    Hello Everybody. I lived at this location from 1975-77. The place was called Ormsby Village Treatment Center. My father worked as a Probation Officer for the county. Our friends the Riffes lived in the house, and we lived around the corner in a white house. I have slept in the house on numerous occassions with my friend Steven Rife and his family. To my knowledge, we never experienced any paranormal activity in the house.

    The last time I was there was in 1995 and the mansion had Asbestos warnings on the house, but the rest of Ormsby is gone. Nothing is the same as it was when I was a little kid.

    I live in Southern California now, and hope to go back again one day…I do miss it.

    Robert Strong

  9. Jay Williamson says:

    I have been trying to find this house for years! My Great Grandfather, Walter Williamson and his brother Frank were abandoned at Ormsby Village in 1893. I have a letter on Ormsby village letterhead dated January 19, 1928. The text of the letter is below.

    My Dear Mrs. Williamson

    In reply to your letter of the 16th, I wish to state that Walter Williamson, with his younger brother Frank, was committed to this Institution January 23, 1892 on a charge of dependency, in that he was homeless. The father deserted the family and the mother was destitute. The Charity Organization had the children sent here. They were released to the mother September 9, 1893

    Very truly yours,

    H.V. Bastin

    There were many sad soles in this place and so it wouldn’t surprise me to here that there was paranormal activity in this house.

    I would like to get a list of orphans here and learn more about this facility.

  10. Wow, next time I am in Louisville I will have to find this place. Waverly Hills is definitely a neat place to check out.

  11. pie says:

    The name of this house is Bellevoir. For those interested, here’s more info. about it from the book Jefferson County: Survey of Historic Sites in Kentucky (1981) by Elizabeth F. Jones (ed.): “The house was built about 1867 by Hamilton Ormsby to replace an earlier house which had burned. Ormsby was grandson of Judge Stephen Ormsby, a member of Congress from 1811-1817 … The site of Bellevoir was originally part of his large estate. Bellevoir was sold by the Ormsby heirs in 1912 and later was part of Ormsby Village, a facility for dependent and orphaned children. The house is now owned by Jefferson County government” (p.94).

    Jay: the dates referenced in your letter appear to be too early. The Louisville Encyclopedia confirms that the institution existed on the property between 1920 and 1968. Perhaps they were abandoned at the Jefferson County Poorhouse, which the Jeffersontown Public Library now occupies? There’s a nice half page entry in the Louisville Encyclopedia under “Ormsby Village-Ridgewood” with more info. about the facility in case you are interested.

  12. […] orphanage campus that sprawled all over this part of the county from 1920 to 1967 (see my earlier posting on this from last year). Now it’s all office parks, but, thankfully when the new stuff was […]

  13. The house is pretty creepy, though a lot of things can be seen through the reflection of the leaves and its shadows. But, definitely a nice place to check out.

  14. Beverly McCallister says:

    I was a resident of OV in the 50’s. There will be a 143rd birthday party / reunion October 26, 2008 at George Rodgers Clark Park in Louisville, Ky. There will be a video about the founding of the Village and was retreived by some of the social workers. There will be folks there who lived there in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s & 60’s.
    It will be in the Lodge in the park. Anyone who wants to attend is welcome. You may contact me at:
    PO Box 17724
    Lou, Ky 40217

  15. matt riffe says:

    my dad ran the group home and we lived in the house for 4 years. me and a friend of mine came home from school and went threw the big doors in the front of the house and both of us at the same time seen a white figure of a woman in a long white dress move frome the main staircase to the 2nd staircase in the room by it. we both ran out of the house and told my father david Riffe, about what we saw. he called security to check it out cause he thought it might have been one of the kids in the house. we knew better that it wasnt. i had always heard wild noises in the house. the ghost hunters came to the house and i told then the story and we stayed in the house most of the night taking pic’s and asking for the ghost to come out. i did get some pic’s of orbs and one pic of a face on the top left window in the front of the house. i do think that with the lead windows and te bush’s and tree’s do make some with features. the house has been in the paper about the ghost. i would love to go back in there just to see whats happens.

    matt riffe
    502-445-1497 if any info is needed.

    • juanita wilson says:

      I would like to know how I can get a pic inside of that place because I was there in 1960. I really liked the place and this would help me on my genealogy.
      juanita wilson

      • I ran across this by accident, wish I had seen this feed when it was current as we were doing investigations at this house since 2003. I have many pictures of the inside of the house – but the house had been made over by the Bellarmine Showcase and it’s not historically the same. You can contact me at


  16. David Rafferty says:

    This is a very interesting thread. My late father, Bradley D. Rafferty and his two younger brothers, William and Robert lived there from maybe 1915 to the middle thirties. There mother was sick with TB and father was old and couldn’t take care of them . They were originally in the Louisville school for Industrial Reform and moved to Ormsby when it opened. My dad graduated in 26 and always spoke highly of the education and people that ran the place. I have read the book by Jim Settle, the Beanery, and spoke with his widow. Jim was a friend of Robert, who they called “Red”. I just have a few photos and some of the school papers from the early 30’s and would love to have the video mentioned in an earlier post.

  17. Mandy says:

    My grandfather went to this orphanage. I am looking for information about the place that I can give to him. His birthday is coming up and I think it would be a great gift. He is always talking about the time he spent there. I am not sure on the dates. If anyone has any history on the orphange please email me at I would greatly appricate the info.


  18. dean carpenter says:

    Well…first of all, I’m glad the house has been saved. I lived there from 1956 – 1968 while my dad ran the home and really enjoyed it. That front porch was fun to roller skate on when I was little. My bedroom was right above the double front doors. There was a pretty spooky dirt-floor cellar with a huge coal-fired boiler (converted to gas). But the only wild noises I remember were from the radiators banging as the heated and cooled. My sister and I found an old coffin up in the attic and used to scare friends by hiding in it. Maybe ghosts have come since no one is living there!

    • Mike Mehler says:

      Hi Dean, my name is Mike Mehler, my brother Jerr and sister Wilma lived Ormsby Village on 2 occasion in the early to mid 1960’s. i was the oldest at about 10. I remeber it being referred to as Sunshime Lodge. Another great memory was the giant giraffe that stood in back atrium. Please tell me if I am off base here, Thank you in advance and have a great rest of the day!!!

  19. Sherry O. Donaldson says:

    My family moved into the Ormsby mansion in 1955 when my father became Assistant Director. I was about 2 1/2 and my brother was about 4 1/2. We lived in the main part of the house. The head farmer lived upstairs in the small part of the house and the Dean of Women lived downstairs in the small part of the house. When we came to live there, the majority of the kids were orphans and dependent children. Ormsby was for the white kids and Ridgewood was for the ‘colored’ kids. There was also Sunshine Lodge for kids under the age of, I think, 14. I can’t remember where it was, but it was nearby. There was eventually the intake center in downtown Louisville. Eventually, Ormsby was populated nearly completely by ‘juvenile delinquents’. There was ‘lock-up’ for boys and one for girls. There was a working farm with a dairy which provided milk, a large chicken house which provided eggs, there were pigs. Corn was grown in the field behind the administration building. Hay was grown and alfalfa. There were woods where only my brother and I went.

    The attic was a wonderful place, not scary at all. We played up there all the time. There was a long linen chest up there, around the corner from the main part of the attic, under the eaves. My brother and I would take turns lying in the chest and bringing some hapless friend to see ‘the coffin’. On a signal, whoever was in it would creak open the top and scare the pants of our victim.

    At Christmas, a big star with lights was put on the upstairs porch. At Easter, my father held sunrise services – he is an ordained Methodist minister. We would sit on the upstairs front porch on the 4th of July to see the fireworks at the St. Thomas / St. Vincent Children’s Home over on Dorsey Lane. I don’t know if it’s still there.

    We lived there for 12 years, until the politics in Louisville changed. From what I understand, it was a political appointment position.

    You want to know about? Ask me. I was there for 12 years.

  20. Sherry O. Donaldson nee Carpenter says:

    I lived in the house from 1955 when I was 2, until 1967. My father was the director of Ormsby Village during that time. It was a wonderful home, lots of fun. We played in the attic which was light, from the big windows. We used to slide down the bannister. You’re welcome to call me at 859-266-6527 if you really want to know about Ormsby in the 50’s – 60’s.

  21. KB says:

    Just a bit more to add to what pie wrote. My research shows that in the late 1800s, the estate was known for its dairy cattle and trotting horses.

    I am a descendent of Judge Stephen Ormsby who immigrated from Ireland as a boy. He and his son built their homestead (sold eventually to the Kentucky Military Institute) naming it after the Ireland homestead, Maghera Glass.

  22. juanita wilson says:

    I was at Ormsby Village in the 1960 and I didn’t think it looked scary at all. I haven’t been back there to see what it looks like today but I really can’t say if it’s haunted.

  23. What wonderful memories! My only knowledge of Ormsby Village was when my field hockey team played their team. I used to say “never again” until they learn some rules! Waverly Hills was mentioned and I do know some about that place. My friends and I found the old tunnel in the hills and climbed it finally after being scared out a few times with strange noises (squirrels I believe). We were in middle school and walked a good mile there. We found our way up the steps and into the inside of the hospital. Not wanting to be caught, we dashed across the hall into the “morgue” not knowing it was the morgue. I’ve written many stories about my experiences there. Finally, being caught by a well-meaning doctor he explained what Waverly Hills was and did over the years which fascinated me. I didn’t realize TB was considered an almost “political” disease, meaning if you have it, you are thrown away. The patients who died there were taken down through that tunnel on that single rail with someone helping to guide them down the stairs, then onto a railroad car to be taken and buried somewhere. All of that was done in secret. The morgue held body parts in glass jars that were being studied. That was a scary prospect prior to knowing the body parts were being studied for a cure.
    Ah, I digress! Sometime back I was looking for an mental intitution in Lexington, KY. When I took psychology courses at EKU we traveled there on a field trip. Well, I cannot find that place anywhere. It had an old name much like Transylvania which is a collge there now, but they told me it was never a mental institution…
    There are many places in KY so beautiful to the eye and intriguing to our memories. I haven’t returned to KY very many times since moving away, and if it wasn’t for the cold winters, I could almost say I miss it! I shall be visiting this new site (to me) many times. I love the nostalgia of it all.
    My website is just a hobby. I am retired living in TX now.


  24. Denise Ormsby says:

    My husband is a descendant of the Ormsby family that originally built the home. I have a picture of the house in all its original glory when it was still privately owned. It has a long history – not all of it good – but very interesting.

    • Debra Tyler says:

      Hello Denise,
      My mother and her brother were at the Village from late 40’s to early 50’s. I would be grateful for any info or copies of photos you might have of the Village at that time and it’s history.

      Debra Tyler

    • Carrie says:

      Denise, would you please contact me – I would love to have pictures of the original house. I teach a class at U of L which allowed me the opportunity to spend a good deal of time in the house. I’ve developed a fascination for the home and would love to learn more about the property. My email is
      Thanks, Carrie

  25. Come see us on Facebook and share your memories and photos of Ormsby!!

  26. Barb says:

    I have an original painting of this mansion done by the internationally acclaimed artist Mr. Peter Williams best known for his equestrian paintings, Derby, Keeneland and Breeders Cup. It was painted in the fall of 2007 and is a delightful autumn scene. This is a one of a kind painting. There are no copies or prints of this painting as it was commissioned by me as an auction item for a Gala to benefit the Sentinels of Freedom. If anyone is interested in purchasing it please contact me at

  27. I was one of the “throw away kids” from ormsby village in the60’s. I found it to be a very nice place to live.We were self sustaining. We were not mistreated. We had all the things there we didn’t have at home. I have the video & book on ormsby. My name is Georgia Hampton. contact at

  28. I ran across this by accident, wish I had seen this feed when it was current as we have been doing investigations at this house since 2003 – however now the property is under a property management group and will not allow investigations. We were able to document the many experiences that the Roberts & Riffe families reported as well as many strange experiences, photos, and video that the class collected over a 6yr investigation period. There’s something very special about this house and I m iss geting to visit it regularly.

    Carrie Galloway
    Founder Kentucky Paranormal Research

  29. Doug Nettro says:

    I lived in the house for about 1yr or so. My wife’s father was one of the directors for the county and was there for about 5yrs I think. My wife and I lived upstairs where most of the paranormal activity occured. Our living room was the room on the right just next to the stairs. Things happened about once or twice a week. We just got use to the little games as we called them. I think we were the last to live in the house, from May of ’87 to ’89, then it was turned into office meeting areas.
    If anyone has any photos of the interior, please let me know. The Belmont mansion in Nashville is exactly like the Bellevoir in the interior design.

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