Docked along the Ohio River near downtown Louisville, Kentucky, this paddlewheel steamboat dates to 1914 when it was originally named the Idlewild. The boat was renamed the Avalon in 1948, and in 1962 it was purchased by the city and renamed once again, this time to The Belle of Louisville. Through the years, the boat has developed a reputation of being haunted, especially by those who have worked on the boat for any amount of time. The Belle of Louisville has been the site of several deaths, including that of the captain.
In 1948, Captain Ben Winters suffered a fatal heart attack in the wheel house and died shortly thereafter in the captain’s quarters. According to a former employee of the boat, on at least two separate occasions, workers have died in both the engine room and near the paddlewheel. One was crushed to death when machinery was turned on accidentally, and another died when the paddlewheel was inadvertently placed into motion while he was performing routine maintenance in the area. Paranormal activity has been reported in these areas by long-time workers, and many of these events are said to take place in the early morning hours when the boat is nearly deserted.
According to former employees of The Belle of Louisville, newly hired workers are advised of potential paranormal occurrences aboard the boat. They are told they can talk about what they see or hear among themselves, but that no “official record” of such an event will be recorded in the log for fear of driving away the public or having government funding revoked. Therefore, any official statement regarding a haunting or paranormal activity aboard the boat has never been released to the general public.
One former employee of the Belle reported that he was alone in an office late one evening completing some paperwork when he had the sense that he was being watched. He had looked down to file some papers into a nearby drawer and when he look up again, he claimed he was looking directly at the late Captain Ben Winters. The encounter lasted several seconds before the apparition faded away. During that time, the former employee said he was paralyzed with fear and could not take his eyes off of the ghost. The same employee stated that the late captain has also been seen in the wheel house where he suffered his fatal heart attack back in 1948.
The Louisville Ghost Hunters Society has investigated The Belle of Louisville a number of times, the last being on July 20, 2004. We have recorded cold spots on the upper deck of the boat and numerous unexplained EMF readings throughout the entire structure. Although no apparitions were recorded during these visits, the history of the boat and the credible sightings from former employees make the Belle a top prospect for further study.
Written by — Louisville Ghost Hunters Society
THE BELLE OF LOUISVILLE