Kansas City has its fair share of spooky lore and urban legends, many of which are associated with beloved historic buildings. These images and tales from the Missouri Valley Special Collections touch on a few of the more renowned hauntings in the Kansas City area. Whether fact or fantasy, these stories reflect the unique histories of the Kansas City buildings and personalities they involve.
Muehlebach Hotel, 12th and Baltimore
The Muehlebach Hotel has been one of the Midwest’s most prestigious hotels since it opened in 1916. Over the years it has been a luxurious gathering place for conventions, dinners and teas, and during the jazz era the Muehlebach played host to some of the nation’s biggest bands. Among the hotel’s famous guests have been Babe Ruth, Harry Truman, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles.
A ghost known as “The Blue Lady” has also been known to stay at the hotel from time to time. Described as a blonde in her early 30’s, she has been seen wearing a 1920s-style blue dress with her hair tucked up into a wide-brimmed hat. Some have speculated that she is the ghost of an actress who once played at the Gayety Theater next door, and searches the Muehlebach for a lost lover.
The Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street
The Folly in 1915
Completed in 1900, the Folly Theater and adjacent Edward Hotel were the center of the theater world in Kansas City for many years. Designed by Kansas City architect Louis Curtiss, “The Pink Lady” was managed from 1902 to 1922 by a legendary character named Joe Donegan, who brought the biggest showbiz names in the country to Kansas City. The Folly stage played host to vaudeville and burlesque greats such as the Marx Brothers, Fanny Brice and Gypsy Rose Lee, as well as prizefighters like Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson.
In the 1970’s, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and restored to its early glory through a monumental renovation effort. Over the years, Folly employees and theater-goers have told some strange tales. A former custodian reported seeing a mysterious male figure in a bowler hat, who some believe is the ghost of Joe Donegan. The ghostly figure of a woman in a long gown rushing toward the stage, as if late for her cue, has also been described.
Longview Farm, Lee’s Summit, Missouri
Longview Farm was built between 1912 and 1914 by lumber magnate and philanthropist Robert A. Long. When completed, Longview consisted of 1,780 acres, 42 buildings, a staff of 350, and a racetrack.
Lovely Loula Long Combs
Long’s daughter, Loula Long Combs, lived at Longview and became a world-renowned equestrian, winning horse competitions in Europe, Canada, and throughout the United States. An animal lover at heart, she was known to spoil any number of stray dogs, and had her favorite horse, Revelation, buried with honors in front of the Longview Show Horse Arena. While Loula Long Combs died in 1971 at age 90, some students of nearby Longview Community College (for which Loula and her sister Sally donated land) have reported hearing ghostly hooves on pavement, and catching glimpses of an unknown woman on horseback in the area. When the Longview Mansion was chosen as the Symphony Designers Showhouse in 1987, a staff member reported the curious necessity of having to remake Loula’s bed every morning.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 13th and Holmes St.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church postcard
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, one of the city’s oldest congregations, traces its roots back to 1857. Mass has been served at its present 13th and Holmes location since 1888, where a spectacular 100-foot nave, vaulted ceiling, and brick arches make this church a classic example of English Gothic architecture. The building is also noted for its unique interior features, including an altar made of Italian marble, and gas light fixtures, which remain in place (though no longer in use) along its walls.
The ghost of an early rector of St. Mary’s, Father Henry David Jardine, is said to haunt the church. In leading the congregation from 1879 to 1886, Father Jardine’s zealous style resulted in controversy. Although he helped organize the parish, founded two schools, and had a hand in the creation of the hospital that would become St. Luke’s, Father Jardine ran afoul of some church members and officials. His untimely death in St. Louis in 1886 was ruled a suicide, and for this reason he was not buried in consecrated ground until he was officially exonerated 35 years later. Today, eerie noises heard in St. Mary’s are attributed by some to the ghostly return of Father Jardine, who intends to clear his good name.
The Elms Hotel, Excelsior Springs, Missouri
The Elms Hotel in 1890
Excelsior Springs, Missouri was once a national destination for people seeking relief from various ailments through the use of mineral water from the numerous springs in the area. In a town lined with bathhouses and water bars, the Elms Hotel became the most majestic place in town to “take the waters.” Founded in 1888, The Elms fell victim to several fires until the current structure was completed in 1912. Among the resort’s finer moments was election night, 1948, when Harry Truman and his entourage spent a suspenseful evening at The Elms tracking poll results.
According to legend, a fire at a Halloween masquerade ball in 1910 killed two coal shovelers in the bowels of the building. Today, if a phantom clanking of pipes is heard at The Elms around 1:30 A.M.--the exact time of the historic blaze--it is thought by believers to be the result of a ghostly grudge held by the fire’s victims. Mysterious calls to the front desk from empty, locked rooms have also been reported.