It was a dark and stormy night. No, actually it wasn’t stormy. Not a rain cloud in sight. Come to think of it, it was also relatively bright – a nice moon and a sky full of stars. (Although it would have been pretty cool to have had a storm, or at least drizzle or fog – to add to the eerie atmosphere). The antique headstones glimmered in the faint light. So did the wispy, white figure that moved from place to place around the cemetery.
Have you ever seen something from the corner of your eye and brushed it off as your imagination? Have you ever felt a chill or like someone is watching you, but there were no drafts or people present to justify these feelings? Perhaps you have had a brush with the paranormal. Or not. There could very well be a logical, scientific explanation. I have had more than a few such experiences. Such encounters have led my family and me to explore Haunted Kansas. Why not pursue a not-so-scientific investigation of locations that are reported to be, for lack of a better word, haunted? Whether or not there is anything to the ghostly legends behind such sites is open to interpretation, but such studies are a fun way to explore history.
What are Ghosts?
There are many theories about the existence of ghosts. Some believe ghosts exist. Others say there is no way they possibly do. There is even discussion about just what ghosts are. (I know. I own a fairly large collection of books about ghosts, hauntings, exorcisms, and the like). One theory is ghosts are spirits of deceased human beings (or even animals). Another is they are something of the spiritual word, but they are not and never have been a living being as we know living beings to be. Still another theory says ghosts are energy from those who have lived in the past. Whatever ghosts are or are not, there are many of us who have experienced happenings that are not quite a part of the everyday world.
My Early Encounters
I just know there is something in my house. Actually, there are a few somethings in my house. Some of the spirits are mischievous but seemingly harmless. One is pretty scary. (I can be thankful it is not seen as often as the others). One is a cat whose shadow my family and I see off and on. Our house is thus, by definition, “haunted.” My family and I have had enough otherworldly encounters that curiosity led me to investigate the history of our house. Through research of the city directories available at Salina Public Library, I was able to discover that our house was used as a detective agency in the 1930s. Maybe that explains a bit. Although, that does not seem to explain why the primary paranormal being in our home is a little boy. In fact, he is usually experienced by other little boys. Just before my now eighteen-year-old son’s third birthday, this being took his favorite toy and kept it hidden for almost two weeks. Other young boys who have visited our home have also seen (and had some of their items hidden by) this spirit.
There are some known haunted areas in the city of Salina. Central High School is often seen in books about Haunted Kansas. Reports say some of the buildings at Kansas Wesleyan University are haunted. If I were to tell you some of the other locations in Salina that I have experienced as haunted, you may not believe it. They are not listed in the books or on the internet. I have, in the past, worked at two prominent, well-known, and frequently used locations that I believe are haunted. In one location, the spirit can be seen wandering a specific area, that includes the men’s restroom. (It often flushes the toilet when no one is in there). Another location has a few spirits that haunt the back rooms. One may be the ghost of a past employee.
The Fun of Exploring
Did you know there is a haunted teddy bear in Ft. Riley, Kansas? I have seen this haunted teddy bear at Custer House. The teddy bear is said to move on its own (or by a ghostly hand?) from one place to another. The tour guide at this historic location informed me the teddy bear had mysteriously moved locations the very morning that my family and I visited. Perhaps that is true. I have no reason to doubt her word. I can say, I took photos of the entire house. Unlike the rest of my pictures, all of the photos of the teddy bear turned out to have a slight blur.
I have visited cemeteries that are said to be haunted. One historic cemetery south of Salina most certainly is. As I described in my introduction, one of the spirits seemed to want to play a game of hide and seek. Another something at this same cemetery stood beside me. I eventually noticed it was not the real, live person I thought it was. It then disappeared. Another Kansas cemetery that is often listed in books as one of Kansas’s most haunted locations was a little less than spooky – at least during my visit. In fact, I did not feel, see, or sense anything at all otherworldly there. However, I did have an interesting encounter with a ghostly woman in a lavender dress at a cemetery here in Salina. There is definitely one of those unexplained somethings at a bridge located between Salina and Wichita. I have also seen interesting specters on a road close to Gypsum. Oh, and I cannot forget the weigh station north of Salina or the remains of an asylum to the east where I always hear a woman’s voice calling. These are just a few of the haunted locations I have encountered.
Don’t Forget the History
Of course, I have to discuss the importance of studying the history of haunted locations. The research is half the fun. For example, Custer House in Ft. Riley is named after George Armstrong Custer, even though he never lived in that house. The infamous haunted teddy bear may have belonged to a little girl who died of cholera in the nineteenth century. The cemetery with the playful spirit (and the rather creepy one that stood beside me) is an awesome location historically. It even has a marker from the Daughters of the American Revolution and another marker telling the history of how the cemetery came into being. Oh, and I cannot forget how the asylum I visited has an association with Boston Corbett, the man who killed John Wilkes Booth (and one of my personal favorite historical studies). I recommend exploring the history of haunted locations before visiting. It makes the visit that much more exciting.
How to Explore
There are a few ways to find haunted locations in Kansas if such quests interest you. An internet search may provide you with some basics. The books about haunted Kansas in our collection at Salina Public Library may also give you some ideas. (One of my favorites is Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz). Sometimes it’s fun to just explore what is around us – and allow ourselves to be open to sensing unusual phenomena. Using this method, I have discovered many of those haunted locations that never made it to the books or the internet – like that weigh station north of Salina. Maybe one day I will discover its history.
If you decide to set off on your own Haunted Kansas adventure, be sure to check which locations are or are not open to the public. Some haunted locations are on private property. These will require special permission to explore. Of course, we never want to enter those locations without consent, no matter how many ghosts we may find. We also must always show respect for the locations we visit. When I visit haunted cemeteries, I respect the people who are buried there and their loved ones. When I visit haunted tourist attractions and historic sites, I ask for permission to take photos. I know that the artifacts that are present are there to teach us about the history of the individuals they represent.
Why Not Now?
October is the perfect month to begin an exploration of ghosts and the paranormal. There are a few locations close to Salina that conduct ghost tours, cemetery walks, historical but ghostly talks, and paranormal investigations. As I said above, don’t be afraid to research and find locations that are reported to be haunted. As you search, expect the unexpected.
A few years ago, my family and I visited the Hutchinson Public Library in hopes of seeing the ghost of Ida Day, a former librarian who has passed on (or has she?). It’s one of those stories we found in a book about Haunted Kansas. Unfortunately, Ida Day dwells in the basement of this building, and, when I visited, patrons and visitors were not allowed in the basement. (Yes, I asked if I could visit the basement, but, unfortunately, I could not). However, all is not lost. There may just be a ghost that haunts another library in Kansas that I frequent. I am not the only one who has seen it. Maybe you will as well should you dare to begin your spooky expedition.