Back when I worked in reference, the library received an envelope postmarked from Santa Rosa, California with our address scrawled across the lower left hand corner in untidy, barely legible print. Inside was a 20 page letter, written in the same hand, requesting information on the alleged paranormal activity at the Eldridge Hotel featured on an episode of My Ghost Story on A&E’s Biography Channel.
The writer specifically asked about the spirit of Colonel Shalor Eldridge. She wrote, “I would like to know why is Colonel Eldridge’s ghost and spirit still remaining and lingering and hanging around the hotel and haunting the hotel? Does he know that he had died and does he know that he is dead and that his body was placed in a casket and buried in the grave?”
According to The Spencer Research Library at KU, Colonel Eldridge was a businessman active in making the territory of Kansas a free state. He bought the land where the current Eldridge Hotel sits at 701 Massachusetts street (see “Ghosts rumored to haunt site,” Lawrence Journal World, Wednesday, May 11, 2005). The lot was previously home to the Free State Hotel, which was destroyed by a pro-slavery mob, and the colonel built what was known as the Eldridge House afterward. Some say it’s his ghost that lingers there today. The activity seems to center around the 5th floor, where an original cornerstone resides, and some tell tales of the old elevator (now no longer in the building) bringing them to this floor after they requested others.
As I’ve no talent for communicating with spirits, I’m afraid I wasn’t able to find all the information the letter writer was asking after. However, in my research, I came across Beth Cooper’s Ghosts of Kansas, which features over 60 haunted Kansas locations that are open to the public. Along with the story of the Eldridge Hotel, Cooper researched such famous hauntings as the ghost librarian who moves books at the State Capitol and the door rattling spirits at a fraternity in Manhattan. From Atchison to Leavenworth to Topeka, each section of the book details a number of haunted locations in cities well known for paranormal activity.
I may have gotten a little distracted in my research, but wouldn’t Ghosts of Kansas serve as the perfect road guide for a tour of haunted locations in Kansas? It would be a quick drive over to Kansas City to visit Wyandotte High School where janitorial staff members claim that footsteps and slamming doors echo through empty hallways (pgs. 48-49). Or I could swing over to Topeka to visit the Kansan Hotel where a current tenant believes she has a ghost roommate (pg. 125)!
I eventually sent the letter writer a few articles from the Journal World and a photocopy of the write up from Cooper’s book. In the response, I explained we could dig deeper if she had other questions. However, we never heard back from her…
- William Ottens is the Cataloging and Collection Development Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.