An adulterer-governor and his dead, underage mistress. A Clyde Barrow robber. Sad Native American spirits. No, this isn’t an excerpt from a Stephen King blurb, these are the focus of three stories that help make Lawrence one of the spookiest towns not only in Kansas, but in the entire Midwest.
After speaking with paranormal experts in the state, we created a list of the top three locations in Lawrence with the strongest paranormal presence and most intriguing ghost stories. Among the top three, in no particular order, are the Sigma Nu Fraternity, Merchants Pub & Plate, and the Haskell Cemetery.
The Sigma Nu fraternity house makes for what may be the most compelling and spookiest haunting of this list.
“Sigma Nu has a great story,” said Brenda Mason, the founder of the Kansas Paranormal Society. “It’s a romantic story with tragic loss, and the spirit in the house is extremely present there too.”
The spirt Mason speaks of is one named Virginia, the fourteen year-old love interest of the old Kansas Governor Walter Stubbs. The house that now belongs to Sigma Nu was once the home of Governor Stubbs, and one night upon returning to his house from Topeka, Stubbs found Virginia hanging from a chandelier on the third floor. Rocking gently in a chair next to Virginia’s body was Stubbs wife, who was later committed to a mental health asylum.
As far as paranormal activity goes, investigators and the boys who have lived in the house say Virginia makes her presence known. Former residents have felt light touching on their feet while laying in their beds, and the Paranormal Society had a mounted camera in the building thrown and left swinging from the ceiling. But one of the more eery tales says Virginia’s ashes are kept behind a plaque near the fire place, and that those ashes are responsible for a piece of wood paneling on the opposite side of the wall refusing to stay attached.
Nevertheless, visitors of Sigma Nu shouldn’t be scared for their safety. Virginia doesn’t seem to be out for blood, but just a little attention like any teenage girl.
“I don’t get an evil vibe at all from her,” said registered metaphysical practitioner Lena Townsend. “There was a love story there that wasn’t shared at the time, and she’s there to make her self known because she loved him so much that she just couldn’t leave.”
In this haunted bank-turned-restaurant, another juicy story helps raise the spookiness from “Hm, that’s kind of weird,” to “Get me the hell out of here, now.”
Merchants, which used to be the First National Bank of Lawrence, is believed by many to be the first robbery of Clyde Barrow, one-half of the infamous outlaw duo known as Bonnie and Clyde.
While Barrow himself does not haunt what are now buffet tables, the historical significance of the place is enough to keep some spirits around.
“The thing with these haunted places is is that you’re usually going to find out they’re related to historical events and Lawrence has that,” said Mason. “What we’ve found is that it’s never really related to current stuff, it’s connected to the land and all that energy that is now there.”
One of the spirits that has apparently connected to that energy is that of an old poker player who was caught cheating and killed, according to Townsend’s psychic pick-ups.
Now that spirit will toy with the workers at merchants by moving chairs on and off the tables and move noisily up and down the stairs of the building, giving off an understandably creepy vibe; a far cry from his alcohol-fueled poker-cheating days.
In what has to be without a doubt the saddest ghost story in Lawrence, the cemetery near Haskell University serves as the final resting place for many Native American children.
As one of the stops along the Lawrence ghost tours, many people have reported seeing small apparitions roaming the grounds. These are, according to Lawrence Ghost Tour Guide Beth Kornegay, the spirits of long-dead Native American babies.
“This definitely represents one of the saddest parts of Kansas history,” Kornegay said. “Children who were buried here died when they were taken from their families to help assimilate. Unfortunately, these children died because they had no immunities and were exposed to the white-man’s disease.”
Townsend added that you don’t need the third eye to pick up on the sad spirits at the cemetery.
“If you just go stand in the gazebo area of the campus, even if you’re not an attuned psychic, you can almost get a visual sense of the things that happened there so man years ago. You can see children, not college-aged, just kind of wandering, and there’s a very strong presence of sad children.”