Photos taken at Oak Hill Cemetery on October 21, 2016.
8:00 pm. After dark. October 26th, 2013. The Saturday before Halloween. Ghosts are diligent, haunting places year-round. But people seem to think it only happens in October. This is the most popular time for the Lawrence Ghost Tour, as well.
There were some vivid historic accounts of the Quantrill Raid, and some tidbits on a couple of haunted houses that used to be brothels. Apparently a buxom redheaded apparition appeared at the foot of a husband and wife’s bed undulating scintillatingly. The wife attempted to wake her husband, but he was in some type of sleep paralysis and missed the whole thing. One of the neighbors called the police because she thought an intruder was in the house. This was the first stop after leaving the Eldridge, the point of departure.
Sigma Nu Fraternity House. Kansas Governor Roscoe Stubbs lived there in the early 1900’s. He returned from a trip one day to find his wife sitting in a rocking chair and his young lover hung in an upstairs room. Legend has it, Virginia, the young woman who hung herself still haunts the building.
The last stop was the Children’s Cemetery at Haskell.
An all-around informative tour without any over-dramatics, just a lot of great history and ghost stories. I went with a couple of skeptics. However, there were several people who bought ghost-hunting apps on their phones part-way through the tour and seemed to be having a good time with them.
For more information about this and other Kansas Ghost Tours: http://www.ghosttoursofkansas.com
“What are you doing today?”
“I’m going to walk around in cemeteries.”
“Be careful; people do all types of things in cemeteries.”
This conversation with my mom had me wondering if I should paint my nails black, put on some makeup, and don a ritual robe to fit in with all the people I might find at the cemetery engaging in bizarre and unnatural rituals that day. Am I listening to the right music? Should I put on a Cure album or something by The Sisters of Mercy when I drive into Oak Hill Cemetery so the throngs of miscreants reading Baudelaire and smoking clove cigarettes don’t eye me suspiciously?
No, just act natural. Be true to yourself, I thought. And I pulled into the cemetery with Donna Summer singing “MacArthur Park” on the stereo, driving through the winding, circular roads, until I found a spot to park that wasn’t blocking one of the lanes.
Before I was struck by the beautiful, sloping hills, trees, and varied burial markers, I couldn’t help but notice that the cemetery was only occupied by a groundskeeper, someone jogging, and a woman on a yoga mat with her dog. No strange professors with shifty eyes dressed in Victorian suits lurking amongst the graves with hunchbacked assistants, no covens of witches chanting and drinking blood, nothing like that. What a let down! Or, perhaps a relief. You can’t be too careful these days.
For instance, there may be crazed, deranged history buffs who frequent Oak Hill Cemetery to see the graves of famous Lawrence residents like Lucy Hobbs Taylor, who was the first woman dentist in Kansas; or poet Langston Hughes’s grandparents; or the Quantrill Raid Monument, which memorializes those who lost their lives in the raid on Lawrence, who were the reason why this cemetery was built in the first place, because their first burial ground, Pioneer Cemetery, was too far from town, inaccessible, and difficult to upkeep. Historians and history buffs are a strange lot, perhaps even moreso than librarians or archivists, and you never know what they’re capable of. Especially in a cemetery.
But if you dare walk in Oak Hill Cemetery, the following is some of what you might see:
Haskell Indian Nations University opened in 1884 as a boarding school for Native Americans. Due to poor conditions, many of those in attendance died and were buried at the southeast end of campus.
There is a marker just outside the cemetery that reads: “The Haskell Cemetery has approximately 100 students buried here. The child’s name, tribal affiliation, date of birth and death are engraved on their headstones. Some causes of death were listed as consumption (Tuberculosis), pneumonia, accidental death, typhoid-malaria, heart and kidney problems. The earliest burial was 1885 and the last burial was 1943. Please, be respectful of the offerings left on the headstones.”
Legend has it that the cemetery at Haskell is haunted, that you can hear the children buried there cry after dark.
As for me, I went during the day.