Lisa Hefner Heitz has traveled the state in search of its ghostly folklore. What she has unearthed is a fascinating blend of oral histories, contemporary eyewitness accounts, and local legends. Creepy and chilling, sometimes humorous, and always engaging, her book features tales about ghosts, poltergeists, spook lights, and a host of other restless spirits that haunt Kansas. Heitz's spine-tingling collection of stories raps and taps and moans and groans through a wealth of descriptions of infamous Kansas phantoms, as well as disconcerting personal experiences related by former skeptics. Many of these ghosts, she shows, are notoriously linked to specific Kansas structures or locations, whether an eighteenth-century mansion in Atchison or a deep - some have claimed bottomless - pool near Ashland.
I've been searching out some local ghost tales this month. I have to say, trying to finish this up at night, down in the basement while walking on my treadmill was probably not the smartest idea ever! I was just sure I was going to see something when I turned around!
It's fun to hear stories from places that you have heard of or even been to. While the previous local ghosts book I read, Haunted Kansas City, Missouri focused on primarily public and often well known places, the stories were often vague or very generalized. In Haunted Kansas, the author tells the stories, often quite detailed, including different versions of the legend and discussing how it changes over time, or the purpose that the story served in the community, grouped by type. While many of the stories are treated with a great deal of skepticism, often the many different versions of the stories undermine their credibility (kind of like the whispered secret game, where the message rarely ends how it starts out), there is still plenty here to give you goosebumps, especially if your setting is ripe! (i. e. cobwebby basement at night, with your back to the room, did I mention that was a bad idea?) I do wish there had been more photos of locations as there was in Haunted Kansas City, Missouri, but a lot of these stories are set in private places, or areas where there really isn't much to see, or are no longer as they once were, so a lack of images is understandable.
I do recommend them both if you are interested in local Kansas legends, history and hauntings, but of the two, Haunted Kansas was by far the more informative and a meatier read. There is also a notes and sources section at the back that lends credence to the author's work, giving ideas for further reading if you are interested.
And with this, I think I'll say goodbye to October and to ghosts for awhile! Happy Halloween everyone!