I don’t have kids to take trick or treating. I’m not really into costumes, either, and because I can get drunk any day of the week that I choose, I don’t really need some elaborate Halloween party with dry-ice and unsanitary homemade punch. (Bat-shaped cookies are pretty stupid, too)
I like scary stuff, though. I like it a TON. In fact, Halloween is my favorite holiday. To me, Halloween is for recapturing childhood one weird, orange and black wrapped peanut butter nugget at a time. It’s a suspension of disbelief and the embrace of something childishly sinister.
This HalIoween, I plan on staying up late and watching scary movies and then, after midnight, listening to George Noory’s “Ghost to Ghost AM” on 710. I’m a total dork, and I’m fine with this. I’ve done this every year for the past several, so I’m comfortable with my admission. (It should be noted that I fall asleep 25 minutes into Ghost to Ghost which also means I’m old.)
When I was younger, after respectable trick or treating age, my friends and I would spend Halloween (and regular nights, too) trying to find really scary places. Haunted places. Places where ghosts roam freely and Satan sits around with a pitchfork in oddly erotic tights, stroking his pointy beard.
Throughout the region, there are numerous places of reputed haunt. Houses, cemeteries, hotels, asylums. You name it, and there’s likely one variation of the aforementioned locale that people will label “haunted.” I’ve been to a few of the more famous ones, some of the ones that aren’t well-known and there are others that I’ll visit, someday.
Let’s look at some of these “haunted” locations.
Atchison, KS: All right, so basically all of Atchison is haunted. It’s essentially one big town where everyone is dead and ready to haunt the living, or they’re living people being regularly haunted by the dead. The Travel Channel (or maybe it was Discovery Ghosts and Gardens or whatever) did a whole program about it. They do trolley tours and ghost tours and gravestone rubbings (which sounds sexy, but isn’t) and they boast not one but TWO crazy psychic/mediums/lonely ladies you can contact through this website. I mean seriously. Look at that website! How haunted is this town? Holy shit!
We went to Atchison one night, looking for ghosts. It was in the summer and it was late at night and we really had no idea where we were going. It clearly wasn’t a well-planned trip and the only thing I distinctly remember about that night over a decade ago was accidentally driving into some random cornfield while we were trying to turn around in order to LEAVE Atchison.
I’m sure it’s super scary or whatever, but you’d be better served doing one of their guided tours than winging it in Couser’s beat-to-shit Pontiac FireChicken or ThunderFire or SunBird or whatever it was.
Fort Leavenworth, KS: A bunch of places in and around Ft. Leavenworth are said to be haunted, especially the National Cemetery that acts as the final resting place of executed prisoners from the United States Disciplinary Barracks because, duh. If you know anything about ghosts, then you know that the ones who meet a traumatic ending—murder victims (government sanctioned and otherwise), accident victims, people who step in front of the BNSF—don’t like being dead, so they’re the ones most likely to haunt your balls off.
We took a trip to Ft. Leavenworth the same summer we took Couser’s Pontiac to Atchison. (We were on a roll, apparently). And like that ill-fated trip to the cornfield, this jaunt was just as poorly planned. We found the cemetery—midnightish—and drove in.
Just acted like we belonged. In an historic national cemetery. At midnight.
So after driving around looking for some specific tombstone or something (I think I had a book that talked about it), we got pulled over by the military police. And because we clearly didn’t belong—3 scared kids in a cemetery at midnight rarely do—they searched our car for booze, spray paint and anything else that might prove that we were up to no good. The only thing they found—and this is completely bizarre—were some chili-peppers in my front pocket.
Chili peppers. Whole, fresh chili peppers. In my pocket, where chili peppers typically are not kept.
I couldn’t explain why they were in my pocket (and I cannot still), but they weren’t illegal, only peculiar.
Needless to say, we saw no ghosts. We will all be forever haunted by the stifled smiles of two stern MPs, however.
Airplane Park Woods, KCMO: You’ve probably never heard of this one. The only reason I’ve heard of this one is because growing up, I liked spending the night with my Section 8 Aunt, and she lived in the grimy townhomes situated between NE Parvin and NE Russell Rd. To the east of the townhomes, there’s a huge field. I think—and I might be wrong—that this is called “Airplane Park.” It is bordered on its eastern most edge by North Bennington. The southern edge of the park is bordered by Russell, and if you cross Russell, there’s a huge wooded area. I mean HUGE. Go look at it on a map. It’s pretty impressive.
Anyway, it’s scary in there. Woods are inherently scary, what, with the wolves and the Blair Witch and that kind of thing, but these woods just seem extra creepy. I remember exploring them when I was younger and coming across an old, broken-down shack. The walls of the shack were peppered with awesome graffiti like “Debra suks good cocks” and “THE KKK WAS HERE,” but to a kid, this was all REAL STUFF and it was terrifying, okay? We heard stories from townhomesfolk—likely the byproduct of too much time on disability, too much meth—that Satanists murdered babies in that cabin. (I knew this to be true because they left behind their broken Michelob bottles to prove it). They said that, late at night, you could hear the cries of the babies being murdered—and the clopping hooves of dead Civil War soldiers (or living KKK members).
The Usual Gang of Idiots accompanied me back to this spot years after my last visit, Section 8 Aunt having long since rambled on down the road. We took to the woods one night with a handheld camera equipped with night-shot and shoes we weren’t afraid to ruin.
We found a spooky, algae covered pond, a lot of empty condom wrappers, and not a whole lot else. Blair Witch hunt= failed.
I’d still recommend going, however, though I’d advise that you do it during the day (in case a certain hate group happens to be holding a meeting).
Oddfellows Home, Liberty, MO: Up north, off of 291 highway, there sits a sprawling, decaying estate that once served as an Oddfellows Home. Because teenagers are second only to horses with head wounds in terms of pure stupidity, we had no idea what Oddfellows meant. I mean, clearly, it’s probably bunch of “odd” fellows, right? So like, lunatics. THIS MUST HAVE BEEN A LUNATIC ASYLUM. Armed with this knowledge, we—like thousands of Northland teenagers before and thousands of Northland teenagers after—went to the abandoned spookatorium one Friday night after a football game. There were probably 40 of us. And we went in about 15 cars. Which we then all lined up along the road. Clearly visible from the highway.
So it was no wonder that, a scant 20 minutes or so into our “investigation,” the security person who lived on the grounds showed up with several cops by his side. We were all issued warnings, and our names went into a little book. If we were ever caught on the grounds again, our names would be cross-checked with the book, and we’d be ticketed and/or arrested/executed, whatever.
They had this whole encounter down to a science, a reflection of just how many stupid teens had (tres) passed before us. You know… to investigate a house for a secret society built off of a social support function for people of varied trades.
It was REALLY spooky inside, though, I assure you. It looked like every abandoned prison/infirmary/mental hospital you’ve ever seen on __________ (fill in the blank with ghost-hunting show). The walls were peeling and burned, the windows were cracked and broken, and piles of dead leaves inexplicably swirled about.
It’s a really nice winery, now. Book your next wedding there, or at least go read up on the history I couldn’t be bothered to recap.
Stull, KS: In a make-believe Time magazine article from 1993 or 1995 (fanciful yarns are typically bereft of things like “facts”), it was claimed that Pope John Paul II ordered his private plane to fly around the town of Stull, Kansas, because the airspace above was just too evil. This whole event didn’t happen, of course. Nor was the mayor of the town murdered in a barn which became the church, nor was the tree in the cemetery ever used for hanging witches, nor does the devil appear each equinox, “gathering up the souls of the evil dead so that they can prance around the earth causing havoc.” Fact is, the graveyard in Stull, Kansas—population: less-than-a-football-team—probably ISN’T the earth’s seventh gateway to hell.
The myths that plague this tiny town just 10 miles west of Lawrence were likely begat by drunk KU kids, and further perpetuated by the local media. The Star has written stories about the cemetery. So has the Lawrence Journal-World. I’m willing to bet that even Channel 9’s Larry Moore has done one of his delightfully old-school “Halloween Tales” about the small village.
All that has resulted from this fanciful storytelling is a bunch of vandalism and millions of empty Natural Light cans.
We went on multiple occasions, because of course we did. We took tape recorders and video cameras and we crept around the backside of the burned-out, falling down church (since demolished) away from the road, so we wouldn’t be seen. (The spot is as notorious for trespassing tickets as it is for the goblin who supposedly hung out on the tombstone for “Wittich.”) We whispered and tried to treat everything with an appropriate reverence, and we searched for the “opening” to hell that was supposedly around the rear of the crumbling house of worship.
It was terribly eerie there… you know, probably because this is a CEMETERY and there are dead bodies all around you. Aside from a ferocious wind coming out of nowhere after my elfin friend Brian declared, “Hey, Satan! I’m pissing on your church!” while, well, pissing on the church, nothing spooky happened. (Unless you think wind gusts in Kansas are scary, in which case RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!)
In fact, I don’t know that I ever experienced anything scary on ANY of these trips, at least no tangible scare that happened outside of my imagination. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking. Because I like Halloween and I think ghosts are cool and I don’t care if that makes me an obese Wiccan chick with purple hair, daddy-issues and a credit card that recently got declined at Hot Topic: I WANT TO BELIEVE.
So, readers: are there any spots that I’m missing? Anything worth checking out? Any stories to share? Make words in the comments section.
Follow Lefty on Twitter @StandfordWhistle