From a former slaughterhouse-turned-haunted honky tonk to a mystical shop packed with magic potions, a tavern with spine-tingling ghost stories, and futuristic houses and alien carvings, there’s no shortage of eccentric and spooky spots in Northern Kentucky. Here are eight otherworldly spots you can’t miss.
Known as “the most haunted nightclub in America,” Bobby Mackey’s Music World is located in a small northwest Kentucky town fittingly named Wilder. Though today Mackey, a Kentucky native and country singer, brings people together in a honkytonk venue featuring nightly musical acts, the building itself has a more sinister past. In the mid-19th century, the building served as a slaughterhouse and meat-packing facility. One of the more gruesome aspects of the grounds – the well – was where the gorey remains wound up. Some still reference the well as a “portal to Hell.” Macabre stories range from murderer to mobster shenanigans and Prohibition-era antics. Stop in on Friday or Saturday nights and experience a ghost tour or book a paranormal tour with Gatekeeper Paranormal. Mackey and his band take the stage most nights at 10 p.m.
In need of a little eye of newt? Hierophany & Hedge, a magic shop in Covington, has you covered. From candles and crystals to intricate reliquaries, bespoke wands, and powerful talismans, the Pike Street shop is packed with all things mystical, enchanting, and, sometimes, just plain strange. Stunning intricately carved wooden cases, many packed with jars of magical substances, are found throughout, along with books and tarot cards and lots more. Not sure what you’re looking at? Seek out one of the two owners – Augur or Coil – and strike up a curious conversation. If you plan to go, keep an eye on the website: the owners usually only open the shop for a few hours at a time, and then – poof! – they’re gone.
A cozy B-Line tavern known for its comfort-food menu and cocktails, Three Spirits Tavern has another side that’s packed with mystery and intrigue. Spine-shivering signs that they might not be alone in the tavern began soon after current owners Charlie Zimmerman and Leslie Blair purchased the historic 1883 Bellevue home on Halloween of 2017. Originally named Three Spirits to reflect the most common trio of wine, beer, and bourbon, the name began to take on a new meaning the following year. After starting some interior updates, they began hearing noises and noticing tools moving on their own. Footsteps when no one was around and reflections of a mustached man in a mirror came next.
Something special is brewing in the small suburb of Ludlow. Inspired by their prior careers as creators of some of the largest shows in Las Vegas – including Viva Elvis and Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE – friends Carus Waggoner and Rick Couch created Second Sight Spirits with a laser-focus on ultra-small batch bourbon (they produce roughly 80 to 100 barrels a year) and meaningful connections. The show-stopping element of this distillery is their handcrafted still, built in-house to mimic a fortune-teller booth. Drop a quarter in the still and out pops your fortune. Don’t like what you hear? Ask Fortuna, the distillers’ fortune-telling goldfish.
A colorful owl, a wizard, and a gnome named Brian are just a few of the whimsical friends you’ll meet along the trailside at Highland Hills Park in Fort Thomas. The forest’s canvas came about when diseased ash trees had to be cut down for safety reasons. Local fireman and artist Chris Rust decided to create art out of the tree remnants and stumps. Alien lovers will want to seek out the three little green men – one sitting on his haunches, one who comes in peace, and one holding a rabbit.
Forty feet off the ground near Covington, a spaceship-style home has touched down on a Kentucky hillside. This private residence, with stunning views of the Cincinnati skyline, is one of roughly 60 or so remaining Futuro Houses in the world. Built by Finnish architect and designer Matti Suuronen in the early 1960s and ’70s, Futuro Houses can be found everywhere from Australia to Russia, and all across the U.S., from California to Kentucky. The oval-shaped structure,with oval windows and airplane hatch-style entrance, was originally intended to serve as a portable ski lodge, with materials that made it easy to heat quickly and construct in tough terrain. For years, owner Rob Detzel presented the craft at home and garden shows across the country, and it even wound up on display inside an area mall.
In the waterfront town of Newport, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, amidst the colorful homes of the East Row Historic District, tiny, ankle-high doors stir up awe and wonder for visitors and residents alike. Some of the handmade doors take the names of local businesses, like Newberry Bros. Coffee, which helps create a sense of connection and community. A popular area pub, Jerry’s Jug House, even has a fairy door decorated with a tiny stein fit for Tinkerbell.
Clive the Alien has landed in a parking garage in Covington, Kentucky. But have no fear – this otherworldly creature is a friendly fellow. A Squizzle from the galaxy Artalon, Clive is mischievous and loves to explore. From Covington’s Midtown Parking Garage, he examines the brains of Covington’s creative residents and visitors with a massive magnifying glass. The quirky, fiberglass-and-Styrofoam sculpture was crafted by Marc Phelps, an artist with AlloyFX, who also creates installations for the annual Burning Man festival. Clive is one of a dozen or so art installations that make up Covington’s Quality of Place program intended to keep the region full of quirky art.