Stretching from the northern border of North Dakota to the Texas Panhandle is a virtually unbroken line of prairie and grassland known as the Great Plains. This strip of states forms the western boundary of the American Midwest and consists mostly of mid-grass prairie. In the not-to-distant past, vast herds of bison roamed the land, hunted by the Plains Indians. Today, it is the center of agriculture in the United States. Mysterious Heartland has found, however, that buried among these cattle ranches and farm fields are many mysterious places where ghosts and phantoms are believed to roam. Which one will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Robber’s Cave
Another cave rumored to have once sheltered the outlaw Jesse James, Robber’s Cave is located in Van Dorn Park, at the end of High Street off Van Dorn Street in Lincoln, Nebraska, just north of the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Salt Creek carved Robber’s Cave out of the sandstone Pahuk Bluff over the course of centuries, but in 1869, Lincoln Brewery enlarged the existing cave and stored beer barrels there. The brewery only lasted a few years. The Scarborough family bought the cave in 1906 and opened it for tours, however, they closed it in 1973 out of concern over vandalism. A local developer named Tom White opened it again in the 1980s, but finally sealed the entrance in 2000. With such a sordid history of occupation and abandonment, it is no surprise that the cave has attracted some unusual stories. In the early 1900s, locals whispered that a box of treasure had been found inside. In one room, a passage appears to have been bricked over, and many said they could hear the ghosts of Robber’s Cave moaning from wherever lay beyond it. In 2015, a local brewery owner planned to purchase the cave and build a microbrew and restaurant at the location.
9. Theorosa’s Bridge
Valley Center, Kansas
Officially known as the 109th Street Bridge, this concrete bridge spans Jester Creek in a rural area about three miles north of Valley Center (itself just north of Wichita). It is an early example of a “crybaby bridge.” The original bridge was wood, with iron trestles. That bridge burnt twice in the 1970s, and for many years the crossing was closed and overtaken by weeds and partygoers. There are several versions of the legend of Theorosa’s Bridge. In one, a party of pioneers was ambushed by Indians. The Indians carried off a child named Theorosa, and her mother, driven mad with grief, wandered the creek crying out for her baby. In another version, a woman named Theorosa gave birth to an illegitimate child and drowned it in the creek under the bridge. The baby’s cries can be heard to this day. A new bridge was constructed over Jester Creek in 1991, but tales of cold spots, ghostly shapes, disembodied cries, and unexplained car trouble remain.
8. Rough Riders Hotel
Medora, North Dakota
Built in 1884 and originally known as the Metropolitan, the Rough Riders Hotel is located in the heart of downtown Medora. It was renamed in 1903 to honor President Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, who served in the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt was the first US President to visit Medora. The hotel underwent significant renovation in 2008 and is currently operated by a nonprofit. For some unknown reason, over the last three decades guests at the hotel have reported encountering the ghost of a young boy on the top floor. They would be awakened by sounds of a child playing in the hallway, but upon further investigation, they could find no child. Disembodied laughter and the sound of toilets flushing is also reported. So far, no historical events have been found to explain this otherworldly presence.
7. Oklahoma State University
Founded in 1890 as Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, Oklahoma State University in Stillwater is home to over 23,000 students. It is best known for having the largest Homecoming celebration in the country, with over 70,000 participants each year. The campus of OSU has undergone many renovations, possibly stirring up phantoms from the past. One of these inhabits the Seretean Center for the Performing Arts, which sits over the former location of Williams Hall. According to a popular campus legend, the building’s designer, Joseph Pierre Foucart, was buried in the courtyard of Williams Hall. When the Seretean Center was built, his ghost was thought to appear. A ghost named Fred is said to tap custodians on the shoulder and call out their names in Edmon Low Library. Cordell Hall, a former dorm, is haunted by a ghost named Cordello. This unseen specter behaves much like Fred, but also messes with the lighting.
6. Easton Castle
Aberdeen, South Dakota
The Easton Castle, so called, is a yellow brick home built in 1886 or 1889 by C.A. Bliss, owner of the Artesian Hotel. It was originally a 30-room, three story Queen Anne style mansion. In 1902, its new owner, Carroll Francis Easton, covered the exterior in yellow bricks. The Eastons employed a young woman, who happened to be the niece of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, as a housekeeper. It is believed that Baum based the character of Dorothy on her. After Easton and his wife died, his son become a recluse and shut himself up in the home. It slowly deteriorated and locals began to whisper that it was haunted. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, the ghost of Baum’s niece is believed to haunt the third floor. The ghost of Mrs. Easton has also been spotted, and creaking footsteps have been heard throughout the house. Incredibly, at least one person claims to have been chased through the house by a knife-wielding phantom. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the owners of Easton Castle opened it to tours around Halloween, probably contributing to the legends.
5. Lincoln East High School
Opened in 1967 and home to Martin the Spartan, Lincoln East High School is located off South 70th Street, adjacent to Seacrest Park, on the far west side of Lincoln, Nebraska. Its relatively recent construction has not stopped rumors of ghostly activity from spreading. According to Alan Boye, author of A Guide to the Ghosts of Lincoln, the girls’ locker room is haunted by the ghost of a teenage girl who slams locker doors, causes showers and lights to turn on and off, makes strange sounds, and stops the wall clock at 12:12. The strange activity occurred as recently as 2012, when a janitor reported the locker room lights inexplicably turned off. There does not seem to be a single explanation for the ghost. Some believe it is the ghost of a girl who died in a slip and fall accident at the school, while others believe it is a remnant from a time before the school was constructed.
4. Harvey Public Library
Harvey, North Dakota
On October 2, 1931, a woman named Sophia Eberlein-Bentz was tragically bludgeoned to death in bed by her husband. Her husband, Jacob Bentz, was arrested and convicted of the crime after Sophia’s daughter discovered blood in the room. Exactly 59 years after the murder, construction began on the Harvey Public Library, which was built over the location of the Bentz residence. Library staff began to move in on the anniversary of Sophia’s funeral. Strange activity soon followed, particularly in the librarian’s office, which is believed to sit approximately where Sophia’s bedroom was located. According to William Jackson, author of The Best of Dakota Mysteries and Oddities, “Librarians report that the library door mysteriously relocks itself after they have opened it, that lights have blinked on and off in the library and that on one occasion one entryway light remained mysteriously on after the librarian flicked off the other lights.” The temperature in the librarian’s office is said to always be chilly, even in the summer, and unexplained computer glitches have also been reported.
3. The Sallie House
This unassuming home on N. 2nd Street was the scene of alarming poltergeist activity in the 1990s at the hands of the ghost of a young girl nicknamed “Sallie.” Built between 1867 and 1871, it was occupied by members of the Finney family for a century. Debra and Tony Pickman rented the home for nearly two years beginning in 1993. Almost immediately, they began experiencing strange activity. Their dog barked at nothing, there were electronic disturbances, and their child’s toys seemed to rearrange themselves. The activity soon accelerated, and several small fires broke out. Tony Pickman seemed to be the focus of the attacks—his arm, back, or stomach was scratched on several occasions. Each time, a cold spot would proceed the attack. It was believed that Sallie had died at the hands of a doctor who had his office in the home in the early 1900s, and that her ghost was lashing out at Tony because he was a man. The home had previously been occupied by a single lady from the 1950s to the early 1990s. Television shows like Sightings, A Haunting, and Unexplained Mysteries have all featured the Sallie House. The Sightings crew purportedly filmed Tony Pickman being scratched by the ghost. Since the Pickmans moved out, the paranormal activity has died down.
2. Hotel Alex Johnson
Rapid City, South Dakota
Built by Alex Carlton Johnson and opened in 1928, the Hotel Alex Johnson was described as the “showplace of the West.” Its famous guests included President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Alex Johnson died in 1938, but according to some hotel employees, part of him never left. There are two rooms on the eighth floor that are widely believed to be haunted, so much so that the Hotel Alex Johnson offers a special “ghost adventure” guest package to stay there. The rooms are 802 and 812. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, a young couple staying in Room 802 had several hair-raising encounters. They described hearing music that did not seem to have a source, and both said they awoke to feel like they were being choked. Their pets also appeared agitated and behaved strangely. Room 812 is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a bride-to-be who jumped from the window on her wedding night. The windows in Room 812 have reportedly popped open on their own, and one guest got out of the shower to see the words “help me” written on the mirror.
1. Kansas State University
Established in 1863 as Kansas State Agricultural College, Kansas State University is the oldest university in Kansas. It has a student population of around 24,000, and is known as a research institution. It was the second public institution of higher learning to admit women and men equally in the United States. Though its students are focused on the sciences, behind closed doors they whisper about several ghostly happenings around campus. The Purple Masque Theater is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a Wildcat football player named Nick who was fatally injured during a game. According to Tom Ogden, author of Haunted Colleges and Universities, his footsteps have been heard throughout the theater, and he is known to cause all kinds of mischief, including rearranging chairs, playing loud music at night, setting off fire extinguishers, and spilling paint. There are two haunted fraternity houses on campus, the Pi Kappa Phi and Delta Sigma Phi houses. At Pi Kappa Phi, the angry spirit of a pledge named Duncan expresses his displeasure over removal of a paddle leftover from the days the house was used by Theta Xi. Delta Sigma Phi occupies a former hospital, and its ghosts are leftover from those days. One, a nurse, continues her rounds in the afterlife. The other, George, was the last patient to die at the hospital, and he makes himself known by rearranging furniture and generally making a nuisance of himself.