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Damn near every cable channel has a ghost hunting show. Ghost Hunters is SyFy's version. There's A&E's Paranormal State, and the Travel channel's Ghost Adventures. Even Animal Planet has The Haunted, which, I am sad to report, is not about ghost puppies. Five bucks says next season, MTV dumps the cast of Jersey Shore off at the Stanley Hotel.
Two of Kansas City's most likely locales for an undead infestation have already been demolished. Serial killer Bob Berdella's house met the wrecking ball in 1993. Colonel Swope's mansion in Independence, where three members of the Swope household were allegedly poisoned, was torn down in 1960.
But that's OK -- KC has plenty of restless spirits for investigators to harass.
Here are five suggestions for lazy cable producers:
The Coates House, 10th and Broadway
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The Coates House hotel opened in 1867 and was a stopping place for passing dignitaries, including Presidents William McKinley, Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt. A century later, it had become a shelter for transients. In January 1978, a massive fire broke out, killing at least 16 residents.
Today, the Coates House is a Quality Hill apartment complex. At least one resident feels that it's haunted. According to that resident, who doesn't want to be named for fear of angering the building's manager, "Just yesterday morning, I saw some kind of shadow moving in front of me down the hall, and there was no one else in it." But he's not afraid of the ghosts, if they're there. "If they're ghosts, they're friendly," he says. "I hear things, too -- appliances that start making all kinds of noise and growling. You know, old hotels have a lingering aura. And if as many as 20 people were killed in a building and you believe in anything paranormal at all, you can imagine there would be spirits lingering."
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Pretty Boy Floyd's hideout, 6612 Edgevale Road
In June 1933, Verne Miller
and Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd
conspired to take over a Leavenworth-bound train at Union Station to help a federal prisoner, Frank "Jelly" Nash
, escape. The plan resulted in the shooting deaths of Nash, two Kansas City police officers and two federal agents in the infamous Union Station Massacre
The Armor Hills home at 6612 Edgevale was where Miller's girlfriend, Vivian Mathias
, lived. Miller and Floyd planned the botched Union Station job there, and returned to hide out for a short time after the massacre. It's said that another man who was wounded at Union Station died in the attic of the house.
Twenty years ago, Dennis Cross
owned the home and describes some of the strangeness he experienced: doors that wouldn't stay closed, including the door to the attic, and lights that wouldn't stay off, even after the electricity in the entire house was rewired. Cross worked nights, and every time he left the house, he would turn the attic light off and shut the door, locking it with the skeleton key that he kept sitting in the lock. Reliably, upon his return, he'd find the attic door open and the light turned on. Once, the door to the basement slammed shut by itself in front of Cross and his housemate.
During a long-term house-sitting gig, Cross moved out of the house and subleased it to two female roommates. He didn't tell him about the paranormal activity, but three days after moving in, one of the girls called and asked Cross to come over. "Have you had anything odd happen to you here?" the women asked. "Like something moving in the attic?" Cross told them he thought the house was haunted, and offered them a refund. Instead of moving out, the girls invited their minister to bless the house. Cross says the doors stayed shut and the lights stayed off thereafter.Mrs. Finch's house, Independence Avenue and Chestnut
1884 Victorian Gothic
house in KC's Historic Northeast is haunted by the ghost of a mother and her alcoholic son, he says. In 2008, Megee and his husband moved in. The home had been split into six apartments, so they started tearing down walls to restore the place to its former glory. Doors would open and shut and lights would turn on and off. Megee talked to a neighbor who'd lived on their block for more than 30 years, and she said the Finches, a mother raising her single son, lived in the home for 70 years.
"Then, all of the sudden, we started seeing them," Megee says. "Between midnight and one in the morning, we think we hear the front door open, and we hear him coming up the stairs. Mrs. Finch, we see her presence wandering the halls until he gets home. She looks like she's in a mourning gown, and her son looks like he's in a suit with a bowtie."
There was a bar down the street on Independence Avenue that Megee's neighbor remembers as Mr. Finch's favorite. He would walk home after closing time. Megee and his husband say Mr. Finch was a closet alcoholic because they found a cache of liquor bottles behind one of the walls they knocked down. And that's not the only thing they presume Mr. Finch was in the closet about.
Since restoring the home to more of what it may have looked like years ago, Megee says, the Finches have gotten friendlier. Now, it's like they're part of the family. "We have this chair we were going to move, but we haven't because our dog Atticus gets up in it and gets petted by something," Megee says. "He sits and lays like he's laying on a lap."
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The Charles B. Leach home, 308 Garfield Avenue
Kansas City lumber baron Charles B. Leach
built the large Queen Anne Victorian
on 3rd and Garfield in 1887. He lived there with his wife until she died of cancer in 1892. In 1915, the residence became the Jefferson Home for Women, a home for unwed mothers. When shunning single women for getting knocked up went out of fashion, the institution evolved into a women's shelter and remained active until 1990.
In 2003, partners Kent Dicus
and Michael Ohlson
bought the home and have been rehabbing it in the years since. They've seen unexplainable shadows passing by doorways, footsteps from the third floor when no one is there, peripheral images of people in the entrance hall, the sound of a woman laughing, and a "dark light" traveling up the staircase.
Dicus has photographic evidence of the latter haunting, thanks to a paranormal investigator who did some filming and EVP
recording at the house. Sometime in the future, he hopes to organize a Paranormal Walking Tour of the Historic Northeast.
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Pendergast Family Home, 5650 Ward Parkway
The boss of Kansas City's early-1900s Democratic machine
, Tom Pendergast
, lived with his wife and raised their three children at 5650 Ward Parkway
OK, OK, there's no reason to believe the Pendergast home is haunted just because the political kingmaker and his family lived there (a property tax search shows that someone named Joel Cohen Barton
owns it now). Then again, Pendergast was known for mustering an army of ghost voters to push a candidates into office whenever the occasion arose, and his ghost still haunts every corner of Kansas City's civic structure
. If the guy won't die, shouldn't
his house be haunted?