Baxter Avenue Morgue
The Baxter Avenue Morgue haunted attraction, rated by haunted-house fans as one of the best in the country, is located in the basement of a 100-year-old building at 451 Baxter Avenue in Louisville that was a morgue and funeral parlor for many years—until things got, well, weird. Let’s let the official history tell the story:
“In 1901, Victor Vanderdark opened the Vanderdark Morgue at 451 Baxter Avenue. Over the years the morgue became known as a trusted and respected business in the community. The location, just blocks from the city’s largest cemetery, was ideal, and business flourished.
“All was well at Vanderdark Morgue until October 3, 1932, when Victor Vanderdark disappeared. Control of the family business was passed to Victor’s only son, Warren Vanderdark. Over the next few years, business declined as the city investigated reports of bizarre mistakes and unusual business practices. Two years later, Warren’s wife, Lily, also vanished mysteriously, along with their 8-year-old daughter, Diedra. Soon after this, local residents stopped bringing their deceased loved ones to the Vanderdark Morgue altogether.
“In an effort to revive business and remove himself from the controversy, Warren Vanderdark changed the name of the family business to the Baxter Avenue Morgue. This effort was unsuccessful, and the morgue was closed for good. However, the activity in the basement never seemed to stop. Reports of missing persons, vanishing pets, and grave robbery increased about this time, as did the strange smells and sounds emanating from the basement of the Baxter Avenue Morgue. Then, on October 3 of 1951, the basement suddenly went silent. Warren Vanderdark disappeared into local legend—the stuff of children’s nursery rhymes and parental bedtime threats.
“In 1976 the building was condemned. City inspectors were seen entering, but refused to explain what they found inside. However, for reasons still unknown, the building was never destroyed, and the contents remained undisturbed for another 20 years. In 1996 the building was acquired by private investors and the top two floors were restored to commercial retail space. The basement, again, was left undisturbed. Due to the confining, maze-like structures and low ceiling clearance, it was deemed unrentable by commercial tenants.
“In the spring of 2000, renovations began in the basement to prepare for public tours and the Halloween attraction that it is today. It was during this time of renovation that the history of the Vanderdark family was discovered. Most of the history was pieced together through discoveries made by the staff. But since the reopening of the Baxter Avenue Morgue in the fall of 2000, local residents have come forward with many articles and items relating to the Vanderdark family. To date, the majority of these items are on display in the main waiting room of the Baxter Avenue Morgue.”
The Baxter Avenue Morgue is open every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in October until Halloween. For more information, call (502) 589-0959.