Published Thursday, December 21, 2000
Lexington Herald-Leader

Don Edwards

Herald-Leader Columnist



OK, it's the part in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge first sees the face of Marley's ghost on the front door knocker. No problem. If Patti Starr were there, she'd whip out a compass, two cameras, two tape recorders, a laser-beam shooter, a magnetic-field detector and two brass dowsing rods.


Then she'd go to work.


Starr, 52, is a ghost hunter who tries to get visual/audio evidence of unseen energies. Monday night in Lexington, she took a shot at literally finding the Christmas spirit. Well, some kind of spirit. The one she was searching for supposedly haunts the former Union Army headquarters today known as the Bodley-Bullock House, 200 Market Street, built in 1814, and the subject of many ghost stories. Snow showers were falling outside, and a tall holiday tree by the elliptical staircase had a large, golden angel on top.


"The basement!'' Starr said. "I feel like there's something down there.'' She took off down the stairs like a beagle following a rabbit scent.


She had said she hoped her magnetic-field detector would register between 1 and 6.5 the spirit range, she called it near some object. "If it's over 7,'' she said, "it's caused by something else.''


The needle did hit 6, next to an old wheelchair covered with dust.


"That's Miss Minnie's wheelchair,'' said Gloria List. "She died in 1970.'' List supervises the house for the Junior League of Lexington, which leases the mansion from its owner, Transylvania University. Miss Minnie was Minnie Bullock, who lived in the house from 1912 until her death.


Starr, meanwhile, had felt what she called "a strong pull outside'' and had gone out into the snow-covered flower garden on the north side of the house. She went in such a hurry that she didn't put on her hat or coat.


"That garden,'' List said, "was Miss Minnie's pride and joy. She spent all her time there.''


When Starr came back in, she spent a lot of her time near the Christmas tree. She shot some pictures looking up toward the ceiling.


"I have never personally seen a ghost,'' said her helper and husband, Chuck Starr, who owns Collectors Gallery on Versailles Road, where he sells equine art and gifts.


"When we started dating, and Patti told me this was her hobby, I thought: `She's a kook.' But after working with her and seeing some of the pictures we get, I now have an open mind.''


Patti's ghost pictures are posted on her Ghost Chasers International web site at


Patti formerly managed the Old Talbott Tavern, a Bardstown landmark that was gutted by fire. After the blaze, she took photos that showed balls of light floating in the burned-out building.


`"That's when I got serious. I decided to find out as much as I could about doing this stuff the right way,'' she said.


What were the results of the Bodley-Bullock search this week?


There were three unusual photos: two showing a broad, red, partly transparent streak that seemed to be in a corner of one room, and one that showed a tiny grayish ball; an orb Starr called it, floating near the ceiling not far from the Christmas tree angel.


And one of the tape recorders picked up a gruff, angry-sounding voice saying something that sounded like: "Tree!''


"I think he was trying to tell us that he was near the Christmas tree,'' concluded Starr, who thinks the old mansion is home to several spirits.


I was one of six people in the house while the ghost search went on. Nobody reported seeing any streaks or orbs or hearing gruff, loud voices. But there they were in the photos and on the tape. Make of them what you will.


Meanwhile, is the real holiday spirit inside each of us?

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