The Vanderdark Morgue

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The Vanderdark Morgue is the original name of the Haunted Attraction The Baxter Avenue Morgue. Opening its doors in the early 1900s, it was a part of the local culture in Louisville Kentucky, when a strange set of happenings caused its doors to close... until recently.

Family History[edit]

In 1805, Ivan Von Borries was born in Germany (area as yet unknown) to the Baron and Baroness Von Borries. The Von Borries family were lesser nobility, having gained their title and small area of land several generations back after doing a favor for the royal family at the time. The Baron and Baroness died, along with Ivan's siblings, in a small pox epidemic when Ivan was in early adulthood. With all of this thrust upon him at such a young age, Ivan had to learn almost everything about running the estate from his father's servants and the others that worked in the house, forgetting completely about his arranged marriage to the daughter of a nearby family. By the time the young Baron remembered his obligation, the girl was twenty-two years old.

The Baron married the girl, Anastasiya, in 1842. He was thirty-seven at the time. Feeling the pressure to sire an heir to the estate, Anastasiya gave birth to the Baron's first child within a year of their marriage. The birth was complicated, and Anastasiya was rendered barren after giving birth to a daughter, Rosalind Von Borries. When the Baron was informed of his wife's inability to have any more children, he went into a rage, which led to his eventual murder of Anastasiya which he blamed on complications from child birth. This is the first record of a psychotic break in the family. When the realization of his actions hit him, the Baron became a recluse, wallowing in his remorse and self-loathing but unable to tell anyone what he had done. This left the raising of his daughter, Rosalind, to the staff of the estate. As Rosalind grew, the Baron slowly came out of his depression.

In 1850, at the age of 45, the Baron finally decided to take a second wife in order to sire an heir. This time, he married a girl from the village around his estate, opting for the more pure blood of a peasant family rather than the inbred blood of the local lesser nobility. Paying a handsome bride's price to the parents of his butler Dmitri, he married their youngest daughter, Nadia (age 13), in the hopes that age and bloodline would make her heartier, and more likely to produce sons than his first wife. After several failed attempts, miscarriages and one son who died shortly after he was born, Nadia gave birth to the Baron's second child, another daughter named Evelina, in 1854. Suddenly, the Baron was reliving the birth of his first daughter, the news that his wife could no longer bear children and his actions that followed, and he killed his second wife in the same manner as the first and then fell in to a fit of self-loathing that he would never recover from.

Rosalind, age eleven at the time, witnessed her father killing her step-mother, who she was very fond of. Keeping this horrible secret to herself, Rosalind bonded with Nadia's brother, Dmitri (age 32), in their shared grief over Nadia's death. As Rosalind watched her father descend into madness, she began to plan her escape. Having seen Dmitri's temper throughout her childhood, she knew how he would react to the news that the Baron had murdered his sister. In 1857, Rosalind revealed this terrible secret to Dmitri. Reacting just the way she had known he would, Dmitri flew in to a rage and killed the Baron. Her father's estate and money now left to her, Rosalind convinced Dmitri that they should take her three year old sister Evelina and flee to America so he could not be tried for his crime. This is when her sociopathic nature began to surface.

Early in 1858, Rosalind married Dmitri several months before boarding a ship to the Americas. It was on this ship that they met Caspar Vanderdark, a 28 year old business man on his way to America to seek his fortune. Utilizing Dmitri, Rosalind started to build a business relationship with Caspar, as she had the money but not the knowledge to start a business upon arriving in America. They went through Ellis Island in January 1859, where Dmitri took the Von Borries last name, on Rosalind's insistence to further shield himself from prosecution. Rosalind and Dmitri, along with Evelina, followed Caspar to his final destination of Louisville,Ky, a city prospering on the banks of the Ohio river. Finally catching back up with Caspar, she lured him, through the voice of her husband, into a business arrangement, where Caspar would be the brains and the Von Borries would supply the money. He agreed to this only after Rosalind offered up a betrothal to her six year old sister, Evelina. A year later, in 1861, Rosalind and Dmitri's first and only child, Aleksander, was born. Like her mother, Rosalind was rendered barren.

Over the next few years, the Von Borries and Caspar started several businesses that failed for reasons unknown. Though frustrated over the loss of money in these ventures, Rosalind and Dmitri followed through on their end and married Evelina to Caspar in 1869 at the age of fifteen. It was at this time that Rosalind and Dmitri acquired the property at 451 Von Borries Avenue, the same road that they had built several buildings on for their different ventures and now leased to other business owners. In 1871, Evelina gave birth to their first child, Victor Vanderdark, as plans for the development of 451 Von Borries Ave began. This was also the time that Evelina discovered her family's true history, and began to pull away from Rosalind and Dmitri in order to raise her son in a proper environment. Due to the strain this placed on Caspar's relationship with the Von Borries, development was put on hold in 1875.

Ten years later, after many failed attempts on their own, Dmitri went behind Rosalind's back and repaired their relations with Caspar. Construction of the very large building at 451 Von Borries Ave started at this time. Evelina continued to shield her son from his Aunt Rosalind, and he grew up learning business from his father, never knowing his family history of mental illness. Records show that in 1890, Rosalind hired a young attorney to write her will which would ensure that the family money, along with the property, business and all its profits, would be passed through the female line on the Von Borries side. There were instructions to give her will, along with a sealed letter, to the next Von Borries female at the time her first daughter is born. It was in 1898 that her son, Aleksander, married Anya (last name unknown), whose family had come to America from Russia when she was young. A year later, their first daughter, Larissa Von Borries was born. Unbeknownst to the Von Borries family, Victor married Emily, the youngest daughter of a large merchant family, that same year.

In 1900, Caspar and Evelina Vanderdark died, cause of death as yet unknown. It was also in this year that Victor and Emily's first child, Warren Vanderdark, was born. With funding he believed to be from his deceased father, whose funeral and burial the family had been appalled by, Victor began working towards opening his own morgue and funeral home.

Opening The Morgue[edit]

In 1901, Victor opened the Vanderdark Morgue at 451 Von Borries Ave.[1] Located close to both Eastern Star, and Cave Hill cemeteries, business flourished. Four years later, in 1905, Dmitri died from natural causes. It was at this time that Larissa began exhibiting signs of mental illness. Over the next three years, Larissa deteriorated significantly and was diagnosed in 1908 as a schizophrenic. She was institutionalized at Eastern State Hospital in Lexington, Ky so as not to tarnish the family name. It was also at this time that an appeal to the state was made to change the name of the street from Von Borries Avenue to Baxter Avenue.[2][3] It passed, leaving only the small alley next to the building bearing the Von Borries name. Three years later in 1911, Anya gave birth to their second daughter, Lillian Von Borries. Rosalind, satisfied that there was a stable female to pass her secret to, died later that year.

The Vanderdark Morgue continued to flourish, becoming a well known and well trusted establishment in the area, and Victor and Emily were able to raise their seemingly normal son Warren in a comfortable environment. However, in 1915 when records show that Evelina died, Warren began exhibiting violent behavior and a tendency towards being a recluse at the age of 15. To help bring his son out of his seclusion, Victor began teaching Warren the family business, which he seemed to be a natural at. In 1926, upon the death of Warren's mother Emily, Victor started pushing his son to get married and continue the family line. Both ignorant of their family histories, Warren married Lillian Von Borries (whose family was now starting to struggle financially) in 1927. Their first child, Diedra Vanderdark, was born in 1930. It was at this time that Lillian received her grandmother Rosalind's will and discovered that not only did she have full ownership and control of the business at 451, but that she had married her second cousin!

A Not-So-Happy Marriage[edit]

Lillian, having played the part all her life of the perfect daughter so as not to end up like her sister, saw an opportunity in this. She calmly confronted Warren and Victor with the news that they were related and threatened to blackmail them, if they did not give in to her demands. Not wanting to cause a scandal, Warren and Victor agreed. It was at this time that Lillian began having affairs, at first with men who had courted her in her younger days and progressing to Vanderdark family employees whom she also blackmailed in to silence. Another child was born to Lillian from one of these flings, but other than a name, Reginald A.M. Vanderdark, not much is known. Warren, unable to do anything about this, secluded himself more and more into his work.

Re-Branding The Morgue[edit]

On October 3, 1932, after several complaints from several families over mistakes and evidence of unorthodox procedures, Victor mysteriously vanished. As the senior Vanderdark was very much a public figure at this time, Lillian did the dutiful thing and reported her father in law missing, looking every inch the perfect wife, mother and grieving daughter-in-law. After his father's disappearance, Warren became more and more intense, and threw himself into his work. It was in this stage of this obsession that Warren took in several new employees. The first was shortly after his take over. This was a man by the name of Gabriel Horner, who Warren trained as a sort of makeshift autopsy doctor. The second was a man who came to him with the proposition of doing pet burials for the rich. This man was Jean-Luc Pongieu, a French-Canadian veterinarian. The other two were a pair of transients named Earl Johnson and Clyde Baker. Warren employed them to do odd jobs around the property

In 1938, Lillian Vanderdark was reported missing, along with her daughter, Diedra. This, coupled with a declining business due to ongoing criminal investigations, drove Warren to move into the morgue itself. And in trying to raise the revenue of his sagging business and to hopefully distance himself from the previous scandals, Warren had the name of the business changed from the Vanderdark Morgue to the Baxter Avenue Morgue.[4] When this attempt failed, Warren officially closed the Baxter Avenue Morgue in 1940.

To the outside world, the morgue was closed. However, the activity in the basement never seemed to stop. Records show that Warren had contacted the management of Eastern State Hospital and requested custody of Lillian's older sister, Larissa. It is also shown that a large number of the other patients were also transferred to the morgue proper. Many of them were violent. Perhaps the nearness of Larissa was meant to ease his suffering. Strange smells and sounds could be detected at all hours of the night and frequent deliveries of large wooden crates were made to the address under cover of darkness. Missing persons' reports grew in the neighborhood surrounding 451 Baxter Avenue, as did reports of grave robberies and missing pets. It was during this time that Jean-Luc suffered a very unfortunate accident involving a pack of neighborhood dogs. He was presumed dead, as no body was found. Then, rather suddenly, on October 3, 1951, 19 years to the day of Victor's tragic disappearance, the basement of the morgue fell silent, and Warren Vanderdark vanished in to local legend, the stuff of campfire stories and parental bedtime threats. Some people said they saw the Vanderdark's autopsy doctor going in to the silent building covered in blood and dirt, or lurking around the area late at night. Strangely, those that saw, soon vanished themselves.

Doubtful Reports[edit]

In 1976, believing the building long abandoned, the city condemned the building to be destroyed. City inspectors were sent to 451 Baxter Avenue, along with a small work crew to board up the building in preparation for demolition. They were seen entering, but the majority of the work crew was never seen or heard from again. Save for one man who emerged and was institutionalized for the stories he told of what he had seen and experienced inside the old morgue. The series of deranged claims made by the man included that he had seen a crazed man covered in blood, both dried and fresh, dragging the unconscious body of Ray Terrance, a member of the work crew, down a corridor and in to a back room in the basement, followed by screaming and gurgling over the sound of a saw and a machine that he could not quite place. He claimed that a girl who couldn't have been older than fifteen had restrained him in a room full of partially alive bodies for several weeks, performing strange experiments on him, and that he had witnessed an older woman preparing human limbs as food in a makeshift kitchen. That there was someone - or something - down there that wasn't quite human and not quite animal, its shredded, bloody face wrapped in gauze and foam dripping from its mouth, and that frozen bodies were hung from hooks like racks of meat. Strangest of all was that his descriptions of the people he saw matched those of the Vanderdark family.

New Life to a Dead Building[edit]

In 1997, the building that once housed the Baxter Avenue Morgue was purchased by a private investor, and converted into office space. The basement was considered "unrentable", and was thus converted into storage space. In the spring of 2001, the idea was thrown around to make the basement into a seasonal haunted attraction. While work was beginning, local residents came forward with stories about the Vanderdarks, and their sordid past, and it was decided to use them as a basis for the haunt, thus The Baxter Avenue Morgue was reborn.

Family Members and Employees[edit]

Victor Vanderdark Senior partner and Owner of the morgue. Father of Warren. Vanished mysteriously in October 1932

Warren Vanderdark - Owner and Operator of the Vanderdark/Baxter Avenue Morgue, prior to its closing in 1940

Lillian Vanderdark - Wife of Warren, and also second cousin. Held a greater ownership of the morgue due to family ties. Disappeared in 1938.

Diedra Vanderdark - First and "only" child of Warren and Lillian Vanderdark. Never received proper schooling. Disappeared at same time as her mother did.

Reginald Andrew Mortimus Vanderdark - Child of Lillian's affairs. Worked at the Morgue for a while and was sent away to college in Mass. Not much else known.

Jean-Luc Pongieu - French-Canadian veterinarian hired by the Vanderdarks to take care of pet embalming. Suffered serious injuries after animal attack. Was presumed deceased.

Gabriel Horner - Man hired by Warren to be an "Autopsy Technician". Medical credentials, rather spotty

Clyde Baker & Earl Johnson - Hired hands. Worked at digging graves, odd jobs, and "body retrieval"


  1. ^ [1] Local newscaster reviews historic haunt
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4] Ket Interviews directors of BAM

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