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10 Most Haunted Places Downtown
With autumn’s chill in the air and All Hallow’s Eve approaching, it’s a perfect time to tell some ghost stories and discover some of urban Kansas City’s real-life haunted structures.
Ghosts have an affinity for places where tragedy, murder, and mysterious deaths have occurred. With Downtown’s rich history, it’s no wonder so many spirits have taken up residence in the dark corners of its oldest homes and businesses. So light a candle, draw the shades, and let’s do some ghost hunting together.
931 Broadway Blvd.
Built a century ago by Kansas City entrepreneur James Fitzpatrick and the infamous political powerhouse “Boss Tom” Pendergast, the Fitzpatrick’s grand facade has welcomed businessmen and gamblers, prostitutes and politicians over the years. The original structure housed a saloon on the first floor, a discreet bordello on the second floor, and private living quarters on the upper floors. Throughout its murky past, the Fitzpatrick witnessed its share of shady happenings, and the building’s owners claim as many as 16 different ghosts inhabit its historic walls. You can see if you experience anything otherworldly yourself, because the current-day Fitzpatrick houses the Majestic Restaurant, which features dry-aged steaks, seafood, and live jazz every night in the space formerly occupied by the basement speakeasy.
300 W 12th St.
The beautiful Folly Theater was completed in 1900 and served as the epicenter of Kansas City’s theater world for decades. Joe Donegan, a man with a passion for theater and a big personality to match, managed the venue from 1902 to 1922. Donegan gained a name for himself by attracting some of the brightest stars in show biz to Kansas City. Today, his ghost is claimed to haunt the Folly. Following a major renovation of the theater in the 1970s, reports emerged about sightings of a man in a bowler hat matching Donegan’s description, appearing and disappearing in various places throughout the theater. A second apparition is a woman in a gown who runs toward the stage before disappearing.
Hotel Savoy (now 21C Museum Hotel)
219 W 9th St.
Since 1888, the elegant Hotel Savoy has welcomed well-heeled clientele into its opulent rooms. A hotel that has been around more than a century is bound to have encountered its share of tragedy within its walls, and in the late 1800s, Betsy Ward was found dead in the bathtub of Room 505. Guests staying in that room have reported hearing music in the room when nothing is turned on. Ward’s restless spirit also is said to open and close doors and turn on the bathroom faucets, perhaps drawing her final bath. Employees and visitors have also reported seeing a girl dressed in Victorian clothes wandering the halls. Much of the luxurious Savoy was damaged in a fire, but the historic building’s gorgeous stained glass lobby window and the dark, clubby mural-and-wood-paneled Savoy Grill remain largely unchanged. Grab a seat at the bar, order a chilled gimlet, and see if you can spot any spirits yourself.
200 W 12th St.
The historic Muehlebach Hotel, opened in 1916, has hosted prestigious guests over the years, including everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to the Beatles. Its most famous guest, however, may be “The Blue Lady,” an elegantly clad spirit in her early 30s who has been seen throughout the years. She wears a blue flapper-style dress with her blonde hair tucked into a wide-brimmed hat. Many believe her to be an aspiring actress who once appeared at the Gayety Theater next door, but now spends eternity searching for her lost lover.
Coates House Hotel
200 W 12th St.
The impressive Coates Hotel opened its doors in 1868, hosting the wealthy elite of the time. Dignitaries, and even three U.S. presidents – Teddy Roosevelt, William McKinley, and Grover Cleveland – have stayed at the Coates Hotel. Like many grandes dames, the hotel fell on hard times. In the 1970s it was primarily a haven for transients who paid weekly rent when a fire tragically killed 20 people there in 1978. Years later, the building was rehabbed and converted into apartments where residents say they repeatedly see shadowy figures lurking around the building, and appliances mysteriously emit strange growling noises. [Note: Loop co-publisher Kevin Worley, who lived in the Coates House in the late 1980s/early 1990s, claims to have frequently heard a dog barking on the elevator.]
227 E 28 Terr.
The final resting place for more than 55,000 souls, Union Cemetery was founded in 1857 as a joint cemetery for both the City of Kansas and Westport. City founders, veterans, and well-known figures rest beneath stately monuments alongside mass graves for Civil War soldiers and victims of the influenza epidemic of 1918. The public cemetery’s Potter’s Field also served the poor, and this is where many tales of grave robbers and disturbed spirits originate. Demand for medical research cadavers made grave robbing both lucrative and relatively common. Since most of the victims of this grisly business were the indigent, people tended to look the other way. That changed, however, when the death of Libby Mavis, a young prostitute, gained national attention. A few days after Libby’s funeral, her madam had a dream where Libby visited her and claimed her grave had been robbed. Authorities discovered that Libby Mavis’ body actually had been stolen from the freshly dug grave. Her body was never recovered, and to this day, witnesses claim the spirit of young Libby lives among the cemetery’s timeworn headstones and iron gates.
1228 Main St.
Tragedy struck the Midland Theatre the night of January 11, 1932, when a bomb blast rocked its grand staircases and glittering chandeliers, tragically killing a young janitor named Frank Alexander. Frank had been cleaning up the balcony shortly after a show when he discovered a package stashed under a seat. Thinking it was trash, he was carrying the parcel downstairs when it exploded. The authorities determined the bomb had been left by one side of a feuding projectionist-union quarrel, and the men responsible were sentenced to life in prison. Since then, employees and patrons have reported seeing a solitary man, in old-fashioned clothing, near the theater’s loge level and men’s room. There have also been reports of feeling a presence when the theater is empty or experiencing unexpected chills and cold spots. The Midland follows the long held theatrical tradition of leaving a “ghost light” burning on the darkened stage when the theater is closed. It’s intended to keep bad spirits at bay, and maybe it worked, since Frank is generally considered a friendly spirit, who is there to simply watch over things.
Charles B. Leach House
Private residence, Historic Northeast
Built in 1887, this ornate Victorian home was built by lumber baron Charles B. Leach. Leach came to Kansas City in 1869, founding the Leach & Hall, and later Leach & Olmstead lumber businesses. In 1915, the house was converted to a home for unwed mothers. It later became a women’s shelter and operated in this capacity until 1990. People have reported hearing footsteps when no one is there, as well as hearing ghostly laughter. Unexplained shadows and figures moving out of the corner of the eye have also been seen in the home’s foyer.
The Chestnut House
Private residence, Historic Northeast
This Gothic masterpiece was built in 1884 and is allegedly haunted by the spirits of the home’s former tenants, the Finches, an eccentric widow and her grown son who lived in the home for more than seven decades. Residents have reported locked doors opening and closing mysteriously as well as visions of an elderly woman in a black mourning dress and a younger man in a bow tie. Other tenants claimed their dog would settle into a specific chair, and lie there contentedly, as if a ghostly hand were stroking it.
30 W Pershing Rd.
The failed attempt to free notorious bank robber Frank “Jelly” Nash ended in the bloody Union Station Massacre, leaving Nash dead alongside four murdered law enforcement officers. We will never know whether Nash was killed accidentally or intentionally silenced by his former compatriots, but his restless spirit, and those of the murdered police officers and federal agents, reportedly haunt Union Station’s historic halls. Some witnesses claim to have seen vanishing figures of men in dark suits near where the massacre took place. Others say they hear retreating footsteps echoing near the station entrance, where Nash, and his doomed sentries, took their final steps.
We hope you have enjoyed discovering some of Downtown's most famous ghosts and real-life haunted places. Maybe you will be inspired to do a little ghost hunting of your own … if you dare.