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Travels in the Heartland: Spend a hauntingly fun time in Atchison, Kansas

History abounds a short drive from the Omaha area
Sallie House at night
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Lockheed Electra-10 airplane at Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum.jpg
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Posted at 1:57 PM, Oct 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 08:24:15-04

ATCHISON, Kan. (KMTV) — Mystery defines Atchison, Kansas. It's the hometown of one of the world's greatest aviation mysteries. Add the mysterious activities of a few alleged haunted houses and you have the makings of a wonderful day trip or fun weekend adventure.

Amelia Earhart, whose plane disappeared over the South Pacific in 1937, was born in Atchison and spent her childhood here. Atchison is also considered the most haunted town in Kansas, so there are plenty of eerie things to do around the city.

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Amelia Earhart statue in downtown Atchison

Located in Northwest Kansas, Atchison is about a 2.5-hour drive from Omaha.

Amelia Earhart

The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum anchors attractions related to the record-setting aviator. She was the first woman to set several flight records, including flying solo non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Dining room at Earhart birthplace

Born in Atchison, Earhart and her sister lived with their grandparents while their parents worked in other cities. The childhood home is located on a bluff not far from the Missouri River.

Built in 1861, the Earhart girls lived in the Gothic Revival cottage, painted white, until Amelia turned 12. Then, they reunited with their parents, living in Midwestern cities such as Des Moines and Chicago.

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Amelia Earhart birthplace

The house resembles life during Amelia's time there. However, most of the furniture didn't belong to the family. A table used for guests to sign a register was owned by Alfred and Amelia Otis, Earhart's grandparents. Tours include exhibits in a parlor, dining room, kitchen and study. Mannequins, looking amazingly a lot like Earhart, are located throughout the house, wearing her aviator outfit and other attire. You'll also find busts and photos of Earhart on the main floor.

The second floor consists of the family's bedrooms, with the children's rooms decorated to reflect Earhart's childhood. The master suite includes Earhart photos and a set of luggage that she sponsored during her flying career.

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Costumes from the movie Amelia

Visit Muriel, a Lockheed Electra-10, at the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum. The airplane was donated by a woman who had planned to retrace and complete Earhart's final flight before an illness changed her plans. The Electra-10 came off the same assembly line, shortly before Earhart's plane was completed.

While not completed yet, the hangar museum is open for tours by appointment. Call 24 hours in advance to schedule your visit.

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Muriel at the hangar museum

A sculpture of Earhart is located in downtown Atchison. You'll also want to visit the Amelia Earhart Earthwork at Warnock Lake. An observation deck offers an excellent view of the one-acre portrait of the aviator, created with permanent plants and other accessories.

Haunted Atchison

Explore Atchison's ghostly attractions by foot or trolley. Since the city is considered the most haunted in Kansas, it seems likely that spirits occupy several houses. The Sallie House has been named the "most haunted" house in America. A young girl died during surgery, waking during the operation to see the surgeon working on her. It's believed her ghost haunts the house, attacking men because she believes the doctor was hurting her, not trying to save her.

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Sallie House during daylight

While self-guided tours are offered year-round, I visited the house during a media trip. Our host led a group of about five into the house one night. The chill that came over me could have been imagined or real. But, when our host's EMF (electromagnetic force) meter indicated an unfriendly spirit, we quickly left. Overnight stays can be reserved at the house, but it's recommended to reserve a hotel room in case you don't make it through the night in the house.

The 1889 McInteer Villa is another haunted attraction that may serve chills down your spine. With surveillance cameras located through the house, odd occurrences have been documented. During my visit, the EMF indicated two visitors in a room we were in, each trying to communicate with a friend and me. The EMF indicated one of the spirits said my name, so that made for an interesting experience.

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1889 McInteer Villa

Haunted Atchison trolley tours are offered each weekend throughout October. On our first visit to the city, Lisa and I took a daylight tour. Our guide recommended a day tour because you can see the classic architecture of houses, mansions and business buildings. Guides point out sites that have reported ghostly experiences, including colored orbs circling the "Gargoyle" mansion, a large house with gargoyle sculptures on the roof. Orbs are believed to be spirits.

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Gargoyle Mansion

Backroad Atlas, an antique store said to be haunted, posts photos of orbs on its bulletin boards. I took a photo of the glass door where they're kept. When I looked at the photo after my trip, I saw a face looking back at me. I called the store, the owner asked if the face was sticking his tongue out at me. It was. She asked for a copy of the photo.

"He likes to do that," she said. I also had one of the clearest pictures of him they'd seen, she added.

Atchison is full of ghost stories, thus its title of "Most Haunted City in Kansas." Whether you believe in ghosts, spirits or the afterlife, Haunted Atchison is a fun experience.

Religious art

Benedictine College's campus is full of beautiful art. Start your self-guided tour with a stop at St. Benedict’s Abbey church. The classic church's design resembles a ship, with the altar as the stern and the entrance at the bow. Completed in 1957, the church features Winona limestone. The interior features Indiana limestone, along with marble altars and white oak pews. The church seats 600 people, with room for a 174-member choir. Mosaic murals are located among the art.

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Grotto at St. Benedictine College

Among the public art on the spacious campus are statues of Jesus Christ and St. Benedict. A small grotto with a waterfall honors Mary.

History museums

If architecture and beautiful decor attract you, then a visit to the Evah C. Cray Historical Home Museum is a must. With 25 rooms, the mansion, built in 1882, features immaculate fireplaces, hand-carved woodwork and impressive furnishings. A gift shop is located in the carriage house.

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Santa Fe Depot

The Santa Fe Depot Museum offers a look at the area's history, from Indigenous peoples to the railroad. Located inside a former depot, you'll also find locomotives and rail cars once used by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Whether you believe in ghosts, things that go bump in the night or just prefer a good scare, Atchison is definitely for you. If you prefer history, architecture and art, Atchison is also for you. Regardless of your interests, a road trip to Atchison, Kansas makes for a fun and adventurous road trip.

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