Kansas ghost stories and an interactive map
10/22/2011 12:41 PM
08/05/2014 5:06 PM
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-- Photo courtesy of Ghost Tours of Kansas
As a city trolley rumbles up and down the town's brick streets and alongside the Missouri River, the story is told of Molly's Hollow in Jackson Park.
Molly, an African-American slave, is said to have been found hanging from a tree during the "Bleeding Kansas" days.
The tree and Molly’s Hollow is gone.
But is Molly gone?
At midnight on some nights, she is said to be heard screaming.
Sallie the Man-Hater is another favorite Atchison ghost story and perhaps its best known, after it was featured on "Sightings," a popular television series.
It's a story about a young girl who haunts a doctor's house. She is said to have died while in surgery to remove her appendix and hates men who walk into the house.
And, yet another — but perhaps more tangible bit of Atchison’s eerie past is found on one of its most impressive homes, built in 1884 by W.P. Waggener, a noted railroad lawyer and politician. Located at 819 N. 4th St., it has a huge, bulbous chimney and gargoyles peering from the ridges of the roof.
-- Photo courtesy of Ghost Tours of Kansas
In Topeka, there is talk about the Albino Woman and her white pit bull who spend nights roaming Rochester Cemetery searching for victims to mutilate, torture and murder. Hers is a legend dating back to the 1930s and has evolved from a kindly, mischievous ghost into a gruesome killer.
Some stories have shades or hints of national urban ghost stories intertwined in them. Remember the one about the young couple who go out to park at a popular necking spot and hear over the radio that there has been an escape at the state hospital? The escapee is a known murderer with a hook for one hand. They get a creepy feeling and pull away from the parking spot only to discover upon arriving back at home -- the hook on the car’s door handle. Some of the versions of the Albino Woman have her catching a couple necking and ripping the head off of the girl.
Nearly three decades after reports first appeared claiming the devil haunts this town, residents have had their fill with occult-seekers and vandals.
Each year the curious stream to the town cemetery, where a handful of trees and tombstones surround a burned-out prairie church.
It’s pure bunk.
Still various books on the occult, articles and Internet chat claim that this is one of the Seven Gates of Hell -- where witches, werewolves and the devil himself visits.
And why this country cemetery?
Every Halloween, the legend goes, Stull Cemetery becomes one of the Seven Gates of Hell.
In 1992, it got new life when rock group Urge Overkill put out a short album called "Stull."
Other tales about the town abound.
For example, it is supposedly where the alternative rock group Nirvana's Kurt Cobain came to break bottles against the church's walls and scrawl his name.
Lisa Hefner Heitz, author of the 1997 book "Haunted Kansas," says the story may have originated with an article that appeared in the Daily Kansan in the 1970s. As people retold the tale, it grew in magnitude.
But to town residents, there's nothing silly about the illegal and destructive gatherings at the cemetery.
They want it to stop.
In 1965, a blue-eyed monster was spotted in the Clearwater Cemetery. The Eagle reported on May 17 of that year that two witnesses reported seeing a 6-foot-tall "something" with phosphorescent blue eyes. The apparition moved among the gravestones, silently and stealthily.
The Clearwater police investigated.
So did the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office.
The Eagle said the investigators determined it was probably a deer.
The Blue Handkerchief Ghost of Carey House Square is said to have a fondness for roses and rose-colored wallpaper. The ghost is said to be of a young prostitute who worked in the Wichita Hotel on the square during the 1920s or 1930s. She was supposedly murdered in her room on the third floor; her killer was never found.
Sometimes the ghostly woman was seen on a stairway between the second and third floors — or heard walking on the third floor.
She would brush up against people. They’d notice a cold spot or notice the phone was suddenly left off its hook.
When the building was occupied by radio station KFH, Steve McIntosh, the news director, used to go to work early in the morning to read his mail and get a start on the day's events.
When he was interviewed by The Eagle in October 1993, McIntosh remembered in particular one morning in 1982. He went upstairs, and as he walked down a dark hallway, he thought that out of the corner of his eye he saw someone standing on the stairs.
''I took about two steps, turned around, and nobody was there," McIntosh said. "I really felt that I had seen somebody there. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Well, I thought, I've seen the ghost."
Legend has it the ghost of Kate Coffey roams the land out near Hays. During the frontier days, Coffey and her husband ran a saloon in Hays.
When Kate's business started dwindling, she and her husband decided to move their saloon down on Walnut Creek, south of town to catch some of the military traffic from forts Hays, Larned and Dodge.
But unfortunately for Kate, a dissatisfied patron at the new saloon site picked up a butcher knife and murdered her, leaving her ghost to roam the land.
Amore widely known tale in the Hays area is the one about Elizabeth Polly's ghost or the "Blue-Light Lady."
In that story, there is a hill southwest of Hays where Elizabeth Polly has sometimes been seen. A pioneer woman who liked to walk, Polly came to the Fort Hays area to live. But during a cholera epidemic, she died and it is said her ghost is sometimes seen walking along the hill.
Another version of the story includes a pioneer-era husband and wife traveling by wagon alone across the prairie and seeing riders on horseback traveling fast toward them.
Fearing what could happen if it were Indians — fearing she could be tortured, the woman begs her husband to kill her.
The riders turn out to be the cavalry.
At St. Jacobs Well near Ashland, legend has it that a horse and rider were drowned in the horseshoe well that lies at the bottom of a high canyon.
On Oct. 27, 1924, the Dodge City Globe reported a "Daddy Walters" had heard the shrieks of both man and animal.
"It wuz about one o'clock on a moonlit summer night and I wuz kinder wakeful, so I came out here fer a breath o'air and a peaceful piper 'er two. Welt I got the air all right but not the pipe, fer jest as I was fill-in' her with terbaccer, I seen a man on a horse, a-standin'up on the'ridge around the pool," Daddy Walters was quoted as saying.
"I kept a watchin' him, kinder curiouslike, cause it wuz purly late fer a man to be a-ridin around in these parts at that time," Daddy Walters continued.
"I suppose he had come there to water his horse and shore enough, he disappeared down th' rim and I knowed he wuz aridin'down to the pool at the bottom."
"...I hadn't heered no sounds until I wuz jest a-lightin' my pipe, when suddenly I heered the most blood- curlingest sound ever made on this here earth. It nigh froze me stiff, though I knowed right away it wuz the sound made by a dying horse. Heve you ever heered a dying animule?"
"...I grabbed my old nag out o' the stable and tore down there as fast as I could but wuz too late. When I looked over the rim o'that pond o'Satan, thar warn't a dad-blasted ripple on the whole thing and nary a sign o'man or beast."
They say he lives in a grimy, ramshackle lean-to in the sand hills north of Hutchinson. They call him the Hamburger Man because his face is horribly disfigured.
The disfigurement may have come from a house fire, a war injury or a car accident. No one knows for sure.
What is known is that he has an attitude.
Late at night, he searches for unsuspecting hikers, tourists or romantic couples who have parked their cars along the remote sandy roads.
Things were quiet on the Koett farm, eight miles east of Ellinwood, until the summer of 1927.
That’s when the family dog was found stabbed to death with a pitchfork in its back.
Pictures were found turned to the wall.
A religious statue of the Virgin Mary was moved.
Noises could be heard throughout the farmhouse.
When a farmhand opened a closet door to investigate noises, he was punched in the nose by an invisible attacker.
Farmer Koett contacted the Barton County attorney, seeking protection from a “thing.”
The Great Bend Tribune reported Koett and five other men fired guns at a “wraithlike form” spotted in the orchard by the farmhouse. A shadow form was described as looking like it pole vaulted in slow motion over a fence.
A whispering voice told the family to “get out, get out.”
A sale of the family farm and most of the family’s belongings followed soon after.
Legend has it that the ghost of George Armstrong Custer frequents Quarters No. 24 on Sheridan Avenue at Fort Riley. The house, built in 1855, is one of four buildings still standing from when the fort was established in the 1850s. Nothing mysterious was reported until the 1940s, when a major and his wife claimed they saw a ghost in the house.
The ghost form appeared to be leaning against the fireplace mantel, a smile below a bushy mustache.
It appeared to be looking across the room at a picture hanging just inside the front door: a picture of Custer’s Last Stand.
One evening, a full glass of wine was left overnight on a fireplace mantel.
The next morning when the major and his wife came downstairs, the glass was empty.
Earl, the Brown Grand Theatre Ghost, hangs out in the Brown Grand.
He was seen in the mid 1990s as a man wearing a frock coat and top hat in the balcony of the Brown Grand.
The ghost was identified by an Ouija Board as Earl Van Dorn Brown _ the son of Colonel Napoleon Bonaparte Brown, the man who built the opulent theatre at the turn of the 20th century.
Earl was the design engineer and architect for the building.
He died from a gallbladder attack on Sept. 30, 1911.
The mystic cow lights were first spotted during the summer of 1931.
That March there had been a horrible blizzard in northwestern Kansas and several hundred cattle were reported to have been killed when they piled up alongside a fence in the drifting snow.
Cow bodies were piled in mounds alongside the fence. After the snow melted, county crews hauled the carcasses to a nearby creek and dumped them in a large ditch. Dirt was bulldozed over them.
That summer, residents in the area observed spooky lights, numerous lights that ran along the ground, moving above the earth as if in a group.
The mysterious cow lights were sighted several nights throughout the summer of 1931.
And, in Morton County near Elkhart, in the fall of 1922, residents reported seeing a red moon-shaped object the size of a windmill wheel.
It was called the “mooonshine mystery.”
Both instances were explained as being caused from gases escaping from decomposed matter — such as carcasses of cows.
In Humboldt, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, residents told of strange happenings on Humboldt Hill.
On July 7, 1970, The Eagle reported that Clarence Staley and his wife, Cleo, were driving down the hill to their home in Iola when she warned him to be careful: "Funny things" happened on the hill halfway between Iola and Humboldt on U.S. 169.
At that moment, the car's alternator quit.
The newspaper said that several other residents had similar stories about cars and trucks suddenly dying on the hill. One resident reported seeing a flash like that of a camera.
They say there’s an angel that watches over Greensburg.
It was photographed in 1916 by local photographer W.A. Sinklier. He took a photo of an enormous black cloud hanging low over the southwest portion of town.
In sharp contrast against the black cloud was what appeared to be the figure of a human looking over the tiny town.
A ghostly pianist is sometimes heard late at night in Practice Room 307 of McCray Hall at Pittsburg State University.
The Pittsburg Morning Sun reported in October 1995 that a custodian heard someone playing an organ on the fouth floor of the hall as well as a piano on the third floor.
Each time the custodian checked the areas where she heard the music coming — the music would stop.
A dark haired man in khaki pants and plaid shirt was once seen by the custodian walking into a practice room. But when she tried the door handle, it was locked. When she used her key to unlock the door, no one was in the room.
Cold spots have been reported in certain areas of the building.
Chairs have been rearranged.
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