West Building, built in 1839 is not normally open to the public but will be part of the paranormal investigation. Photo from KD Stafford of Supernatural Ink.
Haunted History Event at the Shawnee Indian Mission Takes a Trip into the Paranormal
By Diane Euston
Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, there are groups of trained ghost hunters searching to identify the unexplained in every major city. Half of all Americans believe in the paranormal, and numerous shows on television touch on the unknown phenomena spotted in private homes, ancient battlefields and historic landmarks across the United States. On Oct. 27, you, too, can tap into this subject firsthand at the historic Shawnee Indian Mission just as I did on a recent visit to the site.
Established as a manual trading school for Native American tribes, the mission (at 3403 W. 53rd St. in Fairway) was founded in October 1839 by Rev. Thomas Johnson, a Methodist minister. He chose this location due to its proximity to Westport and the Santa Fe Trail. All Native American children were welcome at the mission, where they were taught basic education, agriculture and manual labor skills.
Rev. Johnson himself was a pro-slavery man and at one time had slaves working at the Shawnee Indian Mission. After the outbreak of the Civil War, he sided with the Union, moved to Kansas City and was murdered in 1865. His killers were never brought to justice.
Today three of 16 original buildings still stand on the property that once encompassed 2,000 acres in Kansas Territory. Two are open to the public and feature artifacts such as Native American shoes, tools, the reverend’s Bible and even his recliner. The third is not renovated and is normally closed.
The mission site, now reduced to a 12-acres and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is rumored to be haunted. On Oct. 27 participants will have the opportunity to enter all three buildings with investigators from Supernatural Ink to see if the tales are true.
Last month on a crisp Saturday night under a full Harvest Moon, I was given a test run before the big event. With an open mind, I accompanied K.D. and Katy Stafford of Supernatural Ink on an evening I will not soon forget.
The business has investigated several locations since it was established in 2003, including the Smithville Historical Museum and Inn (built in 1886) and Robidoux Row Museum in St. Joseph, Mo. (built in the late 1840s). And it won’t be their first time at the Shawnee Indian Mission. Jennifer Laughlin, mission site director, organized a sold-out paranormal event last April and will be present at this month’s.
“People had firsthand experiences with paranormal activity,” Laughlin said. “Even one person, who was a skeptic, got touched on the arm and became a believer!”
Katy Stafford commented, “As a researcher, I believe I am to research a location to prove it is not haunted.” She explained that participants will investigate with Supernatural Ink in small groups from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. After learning about the mission’s history, people will be shown some of the evidence gathered in prior investigations and learn how to operate the equipment that is used, including R.E.M. pods, Ovilus, laser grids, K2 EMF meters and spirit boxes. The group then will be broken into three parts so that everyone has the opportunity to investigate each building.
It’s a unique opportunity to be able to stand in structures constructed over 175 years ago in daylight; it’s quite another experience to shine a flashlight down pitch black hallways and ask questions of notorious spirits of yesteryear.
No one needed to inform me of the mission’s history. I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time researching Rev. Thomas Johnson and his complicated story. So I was handed numerous devices and allowed to ask questions as we went from one building to another. I was shocked when the spirit box on more than one occasion seemed to whisper my name.
When talking in the North Building, orbs of light on a nearby camera that was pointed at me danced around the screen. This wasn’t dust; they moved all about my body and glowed Even as I tried to ignore them, I was left wondering if I was somehow a catalyst for activity.
“History plays a huge roll in our technique to communicate with unexplained occurrences,” Katy explained. Before investigating any location, Supernatural Ink does research in order to ask authentic questions. “These questions, for example, could be of a person who lived during a certain time period or a well-known event that occurred that impacted a large group of people.”
The hope, of course, is that they will receive confirmation from spirits of these events. “If a direct response occurs by using facts of history, then you can start to understand the next step to further your research into provocation of paranormal activity,” she explained.
We, too, on that night in September received confirmation of historic events at the mission that only a seasoned historian would know the answers to, and the answers never were wrong.
In addition to the Staffords, intuitive Renee Rau, lead tech specialist Doug Plimbott and special guest Megan Medley from Paranormal Task Force in St. Louis will be present for the Haunted History event. Participants will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with these seasoned veterans just as I did to investigate what energy still lies in the dark of the mission.
Mission director Laughlin says the event is a way to get a new segment of the community to the site. “It’s interesting that we can bring education in various forms, such as paranormal research, in order to inform the public of our history.”
Tickets to the Haunted History event are $60 per person and include the full investigation and light snacks. Ages 14 and older are welcome to attend, but anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
The success of this event has also led to another evening called Teen Haunted History. On Friday, Nov. 2 from 7-10 p.m. a younger audience can learn about the history of paranormal activity and participate in a hands-on investigation at the mission. Participants must be accompanied by an adult throughout the event, and registration of $40 includes one teen and one adult.
Also upcoming is the free Fall Festival on Oct. 12-14, featuring folk music, arts and crafts, children’s activities, living history presenters and food trucks.
Diane Euston will be at the Haunted History event on October 27 from 8 pm to midnight as a guest investigator! To register for Haunted History on Oct. 27 or Teen Haunted History on Nov. 2, go to fairway.recdesk.com/Community/Program or call 913-262-0867.
Diane writes a blog on the history of the area. To read the stories, go to www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com