Is the Kentucky Museum of Speed ​​Art Haunted?

It’s standard for an art institution to have a close relationship with its founder, but the staff at the Speed ​​Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, are in the unique position of apparently extending that relationship beyond the veil. Although Hattie Bishop Speed ​​founded the institution in 1927 and subsequently passed it on in 1942, some workers at Speed ​​say they continue to feel her presence.

Most often, supernatural phenomena are limited to a sense of presence, shadowy figures, or unexplained movements in one’s peripheral vision. However, a more indisputable incident, and one with many witnesses, occurred appropriately during the member’s review for the exhibit Supernatural America in October of last year—an event that seems to have been attended by more than a living patron of the arts.

“While Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art originated in Minneapolis, the first place was Toledo, followed by Speed,” Erika Holmqvist-Wall, curator of European and American painting and sculpture, told Hyperallergic. She continued that on the first night of the show, a small bottle of “spirit water” collected by artist JB Murray “appeared to jump onto its pedestal in front of a guest”.

“Within 30 minutes, this new ghost story spread widely throughout the museum,” said Holmqvist-Wall. “It definitely shows that there were visitors from another world with us that night.”

Of course, Hyperallergic cannot independently verify these testimonies, nor the claims of persecution of the museum by its founder. (We also couldn’t find a contact email for the ghost of Hattie Bishop Speed.)

A bronze masque of Abraham Lincoln’s life, made by Leonard Wells Wolk in 1860, is one of the items in Speed’s collection that fueled rumors of supernatural activity. (image courtesy of Speed ​​Art Museum)

Another worker recalls a dramatic incident that occurred when he first started working at the museum in 2012, in the midst of packing for a $60 million expansion that disrupted business as usual at Speed.

“We were closed for about three and a half years and moved a lot of the offices off site,” said Steven Bowling, the museum’s marketing officer. “We were packing and two elderly ladies – an accountant and her assistant – had huge cupboards full of accounting documents. They came in one morning and they went to open their door that opened into the room, and there was a file cabinet that was pushed in front of the door, about four to six inches, which is weird because there’s only one way to get in there.

Bowling and a construction worker had to fight their way into the room and could find no explanation for the movement of the cabinet.

“To this day, I wonder how that happened?” he said.

Perhaps, as is common among ghosts, the ghost of Hattie Speed ​​was disturbed by the changes at the museum and decided to register her complaints with the accounting ladies. But reports of supernatural activity at Speed ​​aren’t limited to the office staff.

“I’ve heard stories of Hattie’s ghost intruding on installations in the past from employees who have been at Speed ​​longer than I have, like tags that keep illogically falling off the wall,” said the exhibition and project coordinator Adrienne Miller at Hyperallergic. “But I think after the renovation of the building in 2016, we got rid of any remaining spiritual presence.”

Maurice Cantor, Haunted House (1930), included in Supernatural America (image courtesy of Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY © Estate of Morris Kantor)

Although spiritual activity seems to follow the exhibition Supernatural America wherever it travels—Bowling mentions disruptions reported by security staff at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where the exhibit traveled in February of this year—the Speed ​​folks seem to attribute most of their unusual occurrences to the presence of their founder.

“Sometimes the elevators will open by themselves and there’s nobody there,” Bowling said. “And we always joke and say, ‘Come on, Hattie, it’s okay. We hope you enjoy it.”

“I strongly believe that Hattie Bishop Speed ​​would have a genuine interest in ensuring that things go well for the museum that she founded and led for many years,” Holmquist-Wall said. “I’d like to think she checks on us from time to time.”

“Sometimes we verbally thank Hattie when things are going well or we take the staff out to lunch,” Miller added. “I think we all superstitiously think that she is still watching us do the work she started.”

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