Stumble through a foggy werewolf forest, come face to face with the world’s largest anaconda in captivity, feel what it’s like to be buried alive—it’s all possible this Halloween season in Kansas City. These eerie exploits and more have solidified KC’s place as the Haunted House Capital of the World but Kansas City also holds other haunted secrets – a few choice locations around the city where a creak in the floor or a cold draft may be more than you think.
One of the oldest ghostly residences is the John Wornall House. Completed in 1858 by John Bristow Wornall, he was one of the most prosperous farmers in Jackson County farming more than 498 acres. The historic Civil War Battle of Westport occurred just a few blocks from the house and became a main medical hub. Many soldiers from both the Confederate and Union armies were treated at the house and many also died. Employees of the John Wornall museum and guests have reported seeing ghostly armed soldiers guarding the doors and patrolling the balconies.
About an hour drive north of downtown you’ll find the town of Atchison where what some claim to be the most haunted house in the state of Kansas. Once home to a doctor and his family, the practice operated on the entire bottom floor from examination to operation. The house gets its name from its most famous patient and now apparition named Sallie. Sallie came to the house seeking medical care for a stomach ache which was diagnosed to be appendicitis. Legend has it that six-year-old Sallie needed immediate surgery but ended up passing on the operating table. Over the years, many have tried to make the house a residence but always resulted in continued vacancy due to constant sounds of children’s voices, objects levitating and in some cases items disappearing entirely.
Overlooking 4th Street west of downtown Kansas City sits the Strawberry Hill Mansion. The 3- story, 42-bedroom mansion was built in 1887 by a successful attorney named John B. Scroggs. The Scroggs family occupied the house until the last remaining family member passed in 1915 which the house was then converted into an orphanage to support children who had lost their parents to the deadly 1918 flu epidemic. One of the reoccurring manifestations in the home is “The Lady in Red.” She has appeared several times in the last 50 years during tours and asks the same question “Where’s the house of the priest?” and then quickly vanishes. Three other ghostly presences also exist on each of the three floors on the house.
Without a doubt one of the most unknown ghostly sights in KC has to be Sauer’s Castle located in Shawnee Heights. The 18th century German Gothic inspired mansion was built by Anton Phillip Sauer for his wife and 5 daughters. A key feature of the hose is the watchtower located atop the house. Though the house has been vacant for 10+ years, regular reports include lights appearing in the lookout tower, along with apparitions of both a woman and a boy seen standing and walking in front of the property’s windows.
Our final Kansas City haunted hotspot belongs to Donaldson Mansion. Constructed in 1901 by Mr. and Mrs. Lewin Donaldson, the large two-story has the signature design of any turn of the century home. Owned by the Donaldson family until 1967, it was purchased by the Kansas City Art Institute as use for additional studio space and offices. It was only after the KCAI purchase did ghostly activities begin to be reported at the residence. Eight different entities have been identified and all have a sour disposition for visitors. Floating lights have been seen on the second floor, and in one case during a social gathering, a toolbox was hurled across a second floor studio as it’s believed the apparition was showing displeasure for the party.
Just a reminder that most of these ghostly tales are on private property. If you go, make sure you obey posted signs about trespassing and happy ghost hunting!