“A house is never silent in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, and earthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man woke in the night.”
— James Matthew Barrie, “The Little Minister”
Atchison, Kansas is proclaimed the most haunted town in Kansas, so much so that a haunted homes tour is available on the Atchison Trolley. This old town once played host to over 1600 wagons per day as settlers made their way west en route to the goldfields of California in the 1850s. Some of these early settlers have apparently chosen to stay in Atchison in a ghostly form. The town is full of stories about ghostly sightings and other paranormal events.
Located in northeast Kansas, Atchison is situated on the bluffs along the Missouri River and is one of the most scenic and historic towns in Kansas. Brick streets climb hills and wind along river bluffs, offering sweeping views of the river valley beyond. Grand Victorian homes with carriage houses recall glorious days when wealthy lumber merchants and railroad magnates walked the streets.
The town of Atchison is so haunted that the Travel Channel has done a special segment called Haunted Town that depicts many of the haunted places in Atchison, including Sallie’s House, Benedictine College, and more.
Atchison Street – This road, once known as Ferry Street, travels down a steep hill toward the Missouri River. Long ago, locals would board the ferry at the landing at the bottom of the hill. When it was still referred to as Ferry Street, a woman traveling down the road in a buggy lost control of her horses, became unhitched from the animals, and plummeted down the street into the freezing river. Trapped inside, her drowned body was never recovered. Today, men walking along the riverbank have heard a woman calling them to join her in the murky water below.
Gargoyle Home, 819 N. 4th Street – More often referred to as the Waggener House, this turn-of-the-century home was built in 1884-1885 by B.P. Waggener who was a lawyer and politician in the Atchison area in the late 1800s. While gargoyles are usually erected to scare off evil spirits, legend has it that Waggener accumulated his wealth through a deal with the devil, and the gargoyles were constructed in honor of the pact. It is said that the house is afflicted by an evil curse. One homeowner, who attempted to remove the gargoyles, fell to his death on the staircase. A segment on the Travel Channel reported that Kansas City Ghost Hunters, while visiting the home, picked up the presence of ghosts on their special equipment and reported having felt a presence in the house. This house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1974, located at 819 N. 4th Street.
Jackson Park – A woman by the name of “Molly” is said to haunt this park. Supposedly, moaning and terrifying screams can be heard throughout the park around midnight. According to one legend, Molly was a beautiful young woman found dead in the park the day after her prom. She was found hanging by her neck to a park tree in a hollow with badly torn clothes. Allegedly, she and her date had argued the night before, and when Molly exited the car, her date drove off, leaving her in the park. It was never determined if her death was by her own hand or was a murder. Though some suspected that her prom date killed her, no one was ever charged.
Another legend of the park’s haunting states that Molly was a black woman who was lynched by a white mob years ago. Rather than the eerie screams of a young prom girl, the cries instead come from the brutal slaying of an African-American Molly. In any case, the area today is known as Molly’s Hollow, where couples go to “park.” In addition to Molly’s chilling cries, many witnesses also claim to have seen a ghostly figure hanging in the tree where her body was discovered.
North 3rd Street Home – This home was once inhabited by an elderly, single schoolteacher named Nellie Trueblood. Legends told say companionless and bereft she died in the house. When the house was sold, the new owners began renovating, evidently to Nellie’s chagrin. It is said that when crews are working within the house, they report seeing gleaming balls of light measuring 18-24 inches, which hover just out of reach. If approached, the lights quickly move away. Frightened, the work crews quickly abandon the project before the restorations are ever completed.
We heard from Nellie’s Nephew, Scott Neilson, from Denver, Colorado in 2012. Neilson says that his Aunt was far from bereft and that she actually died at the Atchison Hospital in 1958. Neilson added though, “I’m not surprised to hear Nellie may haunt the 3rd. St. home. But that haunting would not be at all negative, beyond a possible desire for the old home to remain as it always was. She came from a large family, and there was a lot of love in that old home.”
Riverview Drive Home – Several strange occurrences have been reported in this house, such as the television and stereo mysteriously turning on at full volume and noises from rooms where no one is occupying. On one such occasion, the resident thought the noise was her dog and called out to him. However, instead of the dog responding to her call, an elderly woman’s ghostly spirit entered the room. Wrapped in a shroud, the spirit smoothed a place on the bed and sat next to the resident. Screaming, the resident ran from the room to be answered by the slamming of the attic door behind her. Another strange experience has occurred to several guests who have stayed within the house. Apparently, when guests stay in this home, they are instructed to place their luggage at a space at the top of the stairs, which leads to the attic. However, the spirit seemingly doesn’t like the suitcases stored in this area because the luggage is often found tossed to the bottom of the stairs.
Kearny & 5th Street Home – According to the former owners of this house, a friendly ghost lingers here. While there are many unexplained events, such as the sounds of someone walking throughout the house, this ghost is seemingly very helpful. At one point, the ghost helped the man of the house into his dinner jacket. Thinking his wife had helped him, he turned around to thank her, but no one was there. On another occasion, when the couple was returning home from a trip, the wife mentioned that she would love to have a cup of tea when she got home. Upon their arrival home, a teakettle was hissing, and a cup, saucer, tea bag, and spoon were sitting on the counter.
Riverview Drive & R Street Home – When this home was purchased by the current owners, it came completely furnished, including several paintings on the wall. Making changes to their new home, the new owners removed several of the paintings, wrapped them carefully, then placed them in the basement for storage. However, the very next day, every single painting was back in its original location.
Sallie’s, the Heartland Ghost, North 2nd Street Home – Sallie, the “Heartland Ghost,” is said to haunt this house that once belonged to a local doctor. The tale of Sallie’s ghost has been featured three times on the popular 1990’s paranormal television show Sightings, as well as Unexplained Mysteries. Long ago, six-year-old Sallie grew terribly sick during the night with severe abdominal pains. Sallie’s mother rushed her to the doctor’s house, where his family lived on the upper floor, and he operated his practice on the main floor.
Sallie’s mother listened as the doctor diagnosed young Sallie with a severe case of appendicitis, requiring immediate surgery. The little girl panicked at the sight of the surgical tools, and the doctor was forced to hold her down to give her ether.
However, in his haste, the physician did not allow the anesthesia to take its full effect and began operating. Sallie awoke during the initial incision and began fighting and wresting against the pain. Before she died, she was said to have looked at the doctor with both fear and loathing and remains within the house to this day.
In 1993, the house was rented to a young couple who reported that Sallie made an almost immediate appearance, playing frequent pranks such as turning electrical appliances on and off, turning pictures upside down, and scattering their child’s toys about the nursery.
Shortly after these harmless pranks, the ghostly activities turned malevolent, with the young husband suffering from frequent attacks. The couple also experienced several small spontaneous fires throughout the house. In fact, when the Sightings crew was at the house filming for the upcoming show, a red welt appeared on the man’s stomach and then began to bleed. The man, who described a severe drop in temperature before the attacks, would often be left with several long bloody scratches.
At their wit’s end, a psychic was consulted who informed the couple that there were actually two spirits within the house. The psychic indicated that it was not Sallie who was responsible for the malevolent activities but rather a ghostly woman of about 30. While Sallie may have been responsible for the harmless pranks, it was this older woman who was the evil one. Allegedly, this mysterious woman was, at first, fond of the gentleman who lived in the house and tried to get close to him while at the same time attempting to drive a wedge between him and his wife. When she was unsuccessful at this, she began to attack the husband.
Finally, after the husband felt a strong shove from behind that nearly sent him over the stair railing, the couple could no longer take it and moved from the house.
Since this couple has moved, later residents have reported no activity occurring in the house.
In addition to being featured on the popular TV series Sightings, the Sallie House Haunting was also made into a made-for-TV movie called Haunted Heartland that first aired on Showtime.
Legends of America Visits Sallie’s House
On November 13, 2004, we had an opportunity to visit Sallie’s House with local Atchison resident Jerry Talbert. Obtaining permission from the home’s current owner, we entered the house along with Jerry’s crew, carrying boxes of sophisticated electronic equipment. Newly remodeled, the home sported brand new carpet, paint cans about the home, and the sound of a radio playing faintly from the upstairs rooms.
The first sign that perhaps there is still some activity in the house occurred when I was the first to climb the staircase to the upstairs rooms. Suddenly, the volume on the radio increased fivefold. In no time at all, Renae, a member of Jerry’s group, appeared behind me, “Did you turn up the radio?” “No, I responded.” The volume had increased before I ever had a chance to reach the third step. Later, one of Jerry’s crew picked up an odd noise on a voice recorder that might have been described as a little girl’s voice, and another member reported having felt pinched.
The psychic that Legends of America brought along described; that while the house still has some type of presence, it has little activity. She did get a sense of anxiety in one upstairs room. Of the many pictures that we took along the trip, only one suggests the possible sign of something unearthly. On the staircase where I had stepped, when the volume increased on the radio, an orb appears in the photograph. While this might be contributed to the use of a digital camera, the coincidence is interesting.
Update from Jerry Talbert, April 2005: Legends of America originally visited the Sallie House with Jerry Talbert, an Atchison resident, in November 2004. Jerry and his crew have continued their investigations and reported recording audio of several sounds in the house during their 60-hour investigation. These include audio of a little girl singing and playing, one that sounds like a little boy, one of a man, and another of at least one woman, maybe two. Other recordings include the sounds of coins hitting a wood floor, footsteps, thumps, growls, and whispers. Often when the crew is talking, other voices have been heard interacting with their conversations. Jerry concludes that the house is still haunted, though there is nothing left that is evil. He continues by expressing his opinion that whatever malevolent presence was there when the young couple lived at the house left when they did.
Glick Mansion, 503 North Second Street – Construction on the Glick Mansion began in 1873 by George Washington Glick. Glick had moved to Atchison from Fremont, Ohio, in the spring of 1859 with his wife Lizzie Ryder Glick, son Frederick H. and daughter with his Jennie. Soon, he established a law practice with the Honorable Judge Alfred G. Otis under the firm name “Otis & Glick.” When the war between the states broke out, Glick served as a Union soldier in the 2d Kansas Regiment during the Civil War.
In April 1873, Glick purchased two lots for $950.00 and razed a structure on the property to begin the building of the mansion. First built in the old Gothic Victorian style, construction of the grand structure would continue for the next 39 years.
Glick was elected to the Kansas Legislature in 1862 and served 14 of the next 18 years in that post. In 1874, Glick also became active in farming and stock raising on his 600-acre “Shannon Hill” farm, well known in the area.
In 1879, Lizzie Glick, George’s wife, purchased two adjoining lots north of their home for $1,000, and another building was raised to make room for expansion of the mansion. It was also during this year that George Washington Glick would become the 9th governor of Kansas and the first-ever Democratic governor of the state. Though he only remained in office for one term, he continued to remain active in the political arena and active in local businesses, participating as one of the original founders of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.
After years of civic service, George Glick was forced to abandon his political career because of a throat infection that nearly destroyed his speaking ability. He continued, however, as an attorney for various railroads. He also managed his farm and served as a charter member and first vice president of the Kansas Historical Society.
In October 1909, George deeded the Glick Mansion property to his daughter Jennie and her husband, James Orr. Just two years later, at the age of 83, George Washington Glick died on April 13, 1911.
In 1912, James and Jennie Orr began to remodel the home, retaining the mansion’s appearance but transforming it from a Victorian style to the current Tudor Revival Manor style. When James Orr died in February 1927, the mansion was left with Jennie until she died in 1944.
Having no children, the estate was divided among relatives, friends, the First Church of Christ Scientist of Atchison, Kansas, and the Atchison, Kansas Public Library. The estate then sold the mansion to the local mortician, named William Stanton Jr., in January 1945 for $4,000. After Mr. Stanton passed away in August 1962, his wife Amelia sold the property to James M. and Christeen Griffith. It passed through several hands until it was purchased by its current owners Ray and Joyce Barmby; he currently owns and operates the beautiful, restored mansion as a Bed and Breakfast Inn.
The Glick Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 26, 1992.
Along with the rest of Atchison, the Glick Mansion is also said to have a ghost of its own rattling around in this century-old home. Allegedly, the strange sounds heard in the night are that of a resident benevolent ghost. The sound of doors being opened and inexplicably closed by unseen forces is a common occurrence, as well as the sounds of footsteps when no one is around.
For years, guests could enjoy the century-old home by sipping English Tea or wine and tasting the lovely d’oeuvres in the parlor when the building served as a Bed & Breakfast Inn. Unfortunately, it is closed today. The building is located at 503 North Second Street in Atchison.
McInteer Villa – This stately mansion, called the McInteer Villa, at 1301 Kansas Avenue, was built by Irish Immigrant John McInteer in 1890. The villa was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 26, 1975, and odd phenomena are reported in the mansion, including lights turning on and off in the tower, which does not have electricity. People walking or driving past the building have often reported seeing figures at the windows when no one is in the house. Figures have often been reported to appear in photographs taken inside the old villa.
Benedictine College – Located on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, the 150-year-old Benedictine College is also haunted. Not by evil spirits, this historic college is said to remain home to the spirits of some of the old monks who founded the institution more than a century and a half ago. Continuing to look after and protect the old school, at least one of these spirits is known to be lurking about Ferrell Hall, a campus dormitory.
It all began in 1858 when the monks opened a boarding school with just six students. The following year, St. Benedict’s College was officially opened with 16 students.
From there, the college continued to grow into the beautiful 120-acre campus, which now serves the educational needs of over 1000 students.
At another dormitory called Memorial Hall, several eerie things have been known to occur. According to legend, a girl was in her closet changing when the dresser mysteriously moved in front of the door. When she tried to open the door, it wouldn’t budge. Immediately believing her roommate was playing a prank on her, she yelled out, “haha, very funny, let me out.” However, her roommate wasn’t even in the room. It wasn’t until she began to scream at the top of her lungs that someone finally came to her rescue.
Another girl reported that while she was at the mirror in her room, her desk chair began to rock, then suddenly stopped. Frightened, she immediately left the room and was too afraid to return for some time.
While all manner of freakish occurrences have been reported at the college, they are seemingly harmless to the students of Benedictine College.
Reader Update: I am a sophomore at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and last year, when I was a freshman, I lived in the Memorial Dorm. On my first night at the dorm, I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a noise in my room. When I opened my eyes, I was startled to see someone standing in my closet, rifling through my belongings. Exhausted and thinking it might be some kind of prank being played as part of “Recruitment Week,” I said nothing, as the person came and went several times, always returning to the closet. The next morning, my roommate stated that she had also heard the commotion from the night before. Checking the closet the next morning, I found it to be a mess. When I reported the strange event the next morning to the Resident Director, she responded that perhaps someone might have inadvertently gone into the wrong room. However, our door was locked. To this day, both my roommate and I are convinced that we were visited that night by a ghostly spirit. – Maria, October 2004
Muchnic House – Built in 1885, this old home was host to frequent Saturday night parties. On one such evening, the event ran into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Having been kept up very late, a maid who had worked for the party the prior evening overslept the next morning. Rushing from her bed-chamber, she ran down the back staircase to the kitchen and fell to her death. Today, witnesses report that lights from the back staircase turn on and off by themselves on Sunday mornings, followed by the smell of cooking bacon from the kitchen when no one is there. This house, which serves as an Art Gallery today, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1974, located at 704 N. 4th Street.
Reader Update: My husband and I took a guided tour of the Muchnic House two years ago, and I had quite an interesting experience. The nice lady who gave us the tour gave us all the history of the house when I happened to glance up to the top of the stairs and saw a young woman, maybe early 20’s, peering over the edge of the banister.
She seemed to be regarding us with wary curiosity as if to say, ” What are you doing here?!?” When we went upstairs to tour the rest of the house, no one was up there!! It wasn’t until we took the Haunted Trolley tour that I learned about the young woman who supposedly died there, falling down the stairs. I’ve also had some other spooky experiences at other places in Kansas, as well. – Anonymous, February 2005
Theatre Atchison, 401 Santa Fe Street – Built in 1913, as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the building was modeled after the architectural lines of its Mother Church in Boston. In 1973, the Presbyterian Church bought the building, and ten years later, they created a community theater organization. Today the building is known as the Presbyterian Community Center and is home to Theatre Atchison. Allegedly, it is also home to an unearthly spirit. Guests often describe feeling an unknown presence with them while visiting the theatre, while others working in the building describe odd noises that are often heard that have no apparent earthly cause.
The Santa Fe Depot – Built in 1880 as a freight depot for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, the old depot stands as a landmark to Atchison’s historic past. The restored building houses a Kansas visitor information center, historical museum, and the Chamber of Commerce offices. A trolley takes visitors on tours around the historic city, including a Haunted Atchison Tour.
The ghost of “Hangman Bill reportedly haunts the Depot,” a railroad worker is known for his habit of hanging from freight being loaded on and off cars. However, this prankish skill got him killed one day when the cable carrying one of the loads snapped, and he was buried beneath the freight cargo. At the Santa Fe Depot today, staff reports hearing the sound of footsteps coming from above; however, the depot does not have a second floor.
Haunted Atchison Trolley Tours and More! – In September and October of every year, the Atchison provides trolley tours, murder mystery dinners, cemetery lantern walking tours, and more. See the Atchison Chamber of Commerce and Discover Atchison for more information.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated August 2021.
Legends, Ghosts, Myths & Mysteries
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