A summer storm brewed on a morning in July 1878 as a group of railroad section men hurriedly got their handcar onto the tracks. They hoped to beat the storm to nearby Edwardsville, a small town just west of Kansas City. Their car hadn't gone very far when the men saw what appeared to be a locomotive barreling around the curve ahead.
Quickly moving their car off the track, the men soon realized what they saw was not a locomotive after all. The phantom issued a great deal of smoke as it sped down the track toward them, and from its center they could see flashes of what appeared to be a headlight. Suddenly veering off the track, the ghostly locomotive circled a pile of cordwood before heading into a thick wood nearby.
A dozen frightened men witnessed this incident, described in the Atchison Globe on August 7, 1878. The authorities never discovered what caused the apparition.
Many people love a good ghost story, particularly in October. Although ghost stories are most often associated with Halloween, mysterious events have happened year-round in Kansas.
White Woman Creek winds through Greeley, Wichita, and Scott counties in western Kansas. It gets its name—and its ghostly legend—from an old story full of love, betrayal, and violence.
Many years ago a group of Cheyennes attacked a western settlement in retaliation for an earlier raid on their camp by white men. The Cheyennes recaptured their stolen goods and also claimed 12 white settlers—10 men and two women. As time passed, the white women decided to stay with the tribe and married Cheyenne men. Most of the white men also were accepted and remained with the Cheyennes.
Among the white men, however, was one person eager to leave. After many months with the tribe he was able to steal a horse and travel to Fort Wallace. There he convinced the army that the remaining whites were being held against their will. In the ensuing attack the head of the tribe, his white wife, and their infant son were killed, but not before the wife had slain the white man who had betrayed them.
The Kansas stream where the Cheyenne village once stood is known today as White Woman Creek after the tribe leader's white wife. Many people claim to have seen her ghostly figure and heard her singing along its banks.
> A more recent haunting and one of Topeka's best-known ghost stories has its roots in the life of an albino woman who wandered her north Topeka neighborhood at night and glared at children on their way to school during the day. After the woman died in 1963, residents began reporting a glowing white female figure walking in the area after dark.
Often the sightings were near Rochester Cemetery where the woman was buried. Several employees of the nearby Goodyear tire factory claimed to see her regularly, and some neighbors saw the apparition as often as once a week.
The ghost's route was so regular that one resident began watching for it as it strolled across his lawn on clear nights. Eventually, he claimed, the figure began to pause and gaze at his house as though it wished to speak to him. It began to pass closer and closer to the house until one night it stood at his children's bedroom window and watched them as they slept. The man was badly scared, but the apparition never harmed his children.
Our Kansas folklore is filled with similar ghost stories from throughout the state.
Entry: Ghost Stories
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2009
Date Modified: July 2011
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.