Stranger Things, Southern Style: Kentucky Tourism Hypes Paranormal Places

A first-of-its-kind effort, with marketing from indie agency Coomer, links spooky destinations around the Bluegrass State

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Kentucky is world famous for its bourbon distilleries, rolling hills and horse farms. But there’s a lesser-known paranormal current running through the Bluegrass State that features alien visitations, abandoned sanatoriums and haunted hotels.

And, according to a new travel advertising project, the sites are best explored under cover of night.  

Kentucky After Dark, a first-of-its-kind effort that wraps a dozen far-flung destinations under one spooky banner, debuts today with a marketing campaign that includes in-theater ads in multiple surrounding states, unskippable digital spots and creator content.

The program—shepherded by independent ad agency Coomer for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet—taps into the burgeoning interest in all things spectral and unexplained. 

Haunted attractions alone are estimated to reach $300 million to $500 million in ticket sales, per the partners, while true crime and supernatural TV shows and movies are among the most-watched entertainment.

The timing of the launch is no coincidence, since Americans spend $10 billion annually on Halloween, per the National Retail Federation.

Witches, aliens and ghosts, oh my

A custom website introduces the concept of Kentucky After Dark, which includes a passport for visitors to chart their progress around the state. Among the eerie locations and experiences are the historic Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, the Kelly Green Men Alien Encounter in Hopkinsville and the Battletown Witch Festival in Brandenburg.

The project intends to speak to “travelers eager to get out and explore places they haven’t been before” and exercise their “strong interest in thrill-seeking adventures,” according to Robbie Morgan, director of the Lawrenceburg-Anderson County Tourism Commission and a prime mover of the effort.

three images of creepy figures in nighttime scenes
Haunted hotels, abandoned sanatoriums and other creepy sites are part of the Kentucky After Dark tour.Coomer

Organizers are targeting the lucrative “dark tourism” market by directing visitors to otherwise unknown, speck-on-the-map towns like Cadiz—home of Civil War-era statues described as a “strange procession that never moves”—and Marshall, where the legend of the murderous “Dogman” originated on the incongruously named Happy Hollow Road.

“When you add the folklore and entertainment element, we think people will gravitate to these out-of-the-way places,” David Coomer, the agency’s CEO, told Adweek. “It makes these rural areas more accessible, and the economic impact could be life-changing” in a similar way to Northern Ireland’s boost from Game of Thrones-themed tours.

The initiative, the first to connect the geographically diverse dots of Kentucky’s supernatural lineage, includes regions and towns that may have never mounted a destination ad campaign before.


To spread the word, Coomer created a 15-second spot that begins with typical Kentucky scenes like Thoroughbreds grazing in fields and sun bouncing off lakes. 

two little green men standing in front of a quiet farmhouse
Alleged UFO sightings in Hopkinsville may help put the tiny town on the paranormal fan map.Coomer

The team intentionally chose carefully curated stock footage, which then bleeds into some ghastly, tech-driven images of ghosts, goblins and other spine-chilling creatures for the “after dark” shots. 

The agency worked with artists whose CVs include Nike and League of Legends for a spot that features a mix of 3D models for architectural accuracy, 4D, AI and Adobe After Effects.

Through a deal with National CineMedia, the spot will air before big-screen thrillers like The Nun 2, Saw X and The Exorcist: Believer in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois and West Virginia. Those multiplexes will also display posters for the travel program.

Creators on TikTok and Instagram who specialize in paranormal content will help amplify the campaign, which will also run on connected TV and YouTube.