Historically, Missouri has been the gateway to the American West. It sits at the confluence of the three great waterways of North America: the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers. The St. Louis Arch is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the United States. Missourians are notorious skeptics, earning their state nickname “The Show Me State.” As we at Mysterious Heartland have discovered, however, Missouri is also known for a number of very famous haunted places. The strange occurrences at these places are enough to make even the most skeptical Missourian take notice. Which will prove to be the most convincing of them all?
10. Bone Hill Cemetery
Also known as Ebenezer Church Cemetery and Levasy Cemetery, “Bone Hill” got its name from an old American Indian practice used for hunting buffalo. The tribe would find a sheer cliff or drop off and frighten a buffalo herd into stampeding toward it. Many of the buffalo would fall to their deaths, where they could be easily harvested. One such “buffalo jump” was located near this cemetery, where pioneers discovered a large pile of buffalo bones. According to legend, a pioneer family buried a fair amount of gold somewhere near a stone fence on the cemetery grounds. They planned to return after seven years, but never did. Since that time, visitors have reported seeing a blue light hovering over the stone wall. It is supposedly the spirits of the family protecting their gold.
9. Landers Theatre
Built in 1909, Landers Theatre is a handsome, four-story brick building along E. Walnut Street in Springfield, Missouri. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been in continuous operation since it opened. It is rumoured to be haunted by several ghosts. On December 17, 1920, a fire broke out in the theatre that nearly burnt it to the ground. A janitor perished in the blaze, and his ghost has been seen in the balcony. Another tragic story involves an infant that was accidentally dropped from the balcony. Witnesses report hearing a baby crying, or the sickening “thud” of the fall being reenacted. A “green orb” and inky black vortex have been encountered in various places throughout the theatre, and passersby have sometimes seen a blonde woman wearing an Elizabethan costume in a fourth floor window.
8. Satan’s Tunnel
Hawk Point, Missouri
Ghostly figures inhabit the dark recesses of this old underpass, or so many locals believe. The railroad tracks that once ran over the tunnel are long gone, and its rail bed has been reclaimed by nature. The entrance to the tunnel is covered with moss and graffiti. According to legend, when the railroad was there, a train struck a man walking along the tracks and he fell to his death. Another legend tells of a man who was lynched in a tree near the entrance. Still another story involves a hobo who made his home in the tunnel. He was found dead, they say, with a look of fear frozen on his face. The ghosts of all three unfortunate men are believed to haunt this old underpass. All this negative energy has allegedly attracted a group of Devil worshipers, who perform rituals there. Any one of these stories is reason enough to stay away, but all four make Satan’s Tunnel one very creepy place to visit!
7. Black Tram Bridge
Formerly located along Upper Blackwell Road over Big River, the area around this bridge has long been described as “ominous” and “creepy.” Visitors claim it gives off an evil vibe that matches the old, creaky steel bridge known as “Black Tram.” According to legend, there was a Judge named Blackwell who used to hang people from the bridge. If you can find it despite road signs that appear and disappear, you might be chased off by a ghost car. If you park your car on the bridge and flash your headlights three times, the ghost car will appear. Visitors have also seen a young couple wandering down the road. They vanish upon approach, and are said to have been killed in an accident in the 1950s. The area is also believed to be home to a group of Satanists attracted by its negative energy. Recently, the original steel suspension bridge was torn down and a concrete bridge built in its place.
6. Northwest Missouri State University
Northwest Missouri State University was founded in 1905 as a teachers college, and was originally known as Fifth District Normal School. Its Administration Building has suffered several accidents. It was struck by a tornado in 1919 and a fire destroyed most of its west wing, central wing, and auditorium in 1979. It was a different accident, however, that gave rise to Northwest Missouri State’s most enduring legend. On April 28, 1951, a gas tank exploded outside Roberta Hall (then unimaginatively known as Residence Hall). The fireball blew out many windows and injured several students. Roberta Steel received third degree burns over most of her body, and lingered for several months before she died. According to A.S. Mott, in his book Haunted Schools: Ghost Stories & Strange Tales, students began to hear sad piano music coming from an empty room in the basement. Roberta has also physically manifested, appearing as a shadow or a figure in a window. In one incident, she disturbed two coeds as they slept. Roberta Hall is named in her honour.
5. Savoy Hotel and Grill
Kansas City, Missouri
Built by owners of the Arbuckle Coffee Company in 1888, the Savoy Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States west of the Mississippi River. Its restaurant, the Savoy Grill, is the oldest restaurant in Kansas City. The restaurant features stained glass windows, lanterns, and a large carved oak bar. The Savoy has served many famous guests, but some more ethereal visitors are less than welcome. According to legend, during the 1800s a woman named Betsy Ward lived in Room 505. One tragic day, she was discovered dead in the bathtub. Some say she committed suicide, while others called it murder. Regardless, her ghost is blamed for many strange occurrences in Room 505. Another ghost, that of a man named Fred Lightner, is believed to haunt a different room, and a young girl wearing a Victorian dress has been seen wandering the fourth floor.
4. Devil’s Promenade
Near Joplin, Missouri
Since the 1860s, an old road near the Oklahoma border has been the scene of one of America’s most famous spook lights. The Hornet Spook Light or Tri-State Spook Light, as it is known, appears in an area called the Devil’s Promenade. The light, which rushes, bobs, and weaves down the road, is described as being bright, hot, and about the size of a basketball. In the 1950s, a reporter who witnessed the light described it as a diffused, orange glow. Hundreds of people have seen the light. It has been photographed and investigated by scientists, but so far no one has been able to explain what it is. According to legend, however, the light belongs to the ghost of an old miner whose children were kidnapped by Indians in the early 1800s. He set off into the Devil’s Promenade with a lantern to search for them and never returned. Others say the light is the spirit of an Osage Indian chief. The Hornet Spook Light became so famous that a small museum was once dedicated to it.
3. Zombie Road
Once called Old Fawler Road, this claustrophobic stretch of pavement now known as Al Foster Trail (Rock Hollow Trail in some places) follows the Meramec River, but has been closed to vehicle traffic for years. It has developed quite a reputation over the years, and is well known even outside the St. Louis area. Most of its legends centre on an old railroad crossing at the western end of the trail. It is here that labourers who died building the railroad rise from their graves at night—hence the name, Zombie Road. Other folks say the road is named after an inmate named Zombie who escaped from a mental institution and was found dead on the road. In the 1970s, two teenagers were struck and killed by a train near the crossing. Multiple suicides and murders are believed to have occurred here as well. Strange lights, sounds, and sightings have led many to believe Zombie Road is thrilling to visit, but a bad place to stay for too long.
2. Pythian Castle
In 1913, the Knights of Pythias, an American fraternal organisation and secret society, built this structure from Carthage Stone quarried in the Ozarks. It was originally called the Pythian Home of Missouri and was used as an orphanage and retirement home for children and widows of members of the organisation. According to legend, children staying at the castle were forced to crawl through a steam tunnel to deliver laundry to an adjacent building. During World War 2, it was commandeered by the US government for use as a recovery home for wounded soldiers. Soldiers staying there during WW2 reported hearing screams and seeing the ghosts of children. One veteran heard a conversation taking place on the second floor, though he was alone. The Pythian Castle was recently purchased by a private owner and opened up for tours. The building has since been featured in TV shows like Ghost Lab and Haunted Collector, and the documentary Children of the Grave.
1. Lemp Mansion
This historic mansion in St. Louis’ Benton Park neighbourhood was once home to the Lemps, who made their fortune brewing beer prior to Prohibition. The house itself was built in 1868, and in 1876 William J. Lemp and his wife Julia purchased the property. It belonged to that family until 1949, when Charles Lemp (William’s son) committed suicide. Three members of the Lemp family committed suicide in the house, leading to rumours that their tormented spirits still walk its halls. In 1980, Life magazine labeled the Lemp Mansion as one of America’s nine most haunted houses. For years, there have been rumours that William J. Lemp, Jr. fathered a son with one of his mistresses and kept him hidden away in the attic. Believed to have been deformed, he is referred to as the “Monkey Face Boy.” Subsequent tenants of the mansion reported a wide variety of disturbances, including apparitions, voices, floating objects, and the feeling of being watched. Today, the mansion is a restaurant and inn.