American Folklore: Kansas

American Folklore: Kansas

Kansas has had thousands of years of human habitation in an odd and intriguing geographical environment. This has made it ripe for folklore of all kinds from both European and Native cultures. Here are some of the highlights of the folklore of the state of Kansas.

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Kansas was only settled by European-Americans in 1827, which is relatively late for other states in the union. Fort Leavenworth was the first settlement, and though the territory was not officially opened to other settlers than the military, they still came. Kansas had a goodly sized European-American population when it was officially opened to settlement in 1854. Prior to that, it was home to dozens, maybe hundreds of Native tribes going back thousands of years, with those on the eastern side living in farming villages, and those on the western side being semi-nomads who followed the herds of bison on the plains. Kansas officially became the union’s 34th state in 1861.

Being in the middle of the continent and on a large plain, Kansas has some unique geography, and its human habitation has combined with those natural features to create some interesting folklore. Here are some of the highlights of the folklore of Kansas.

A Kansas Fairy Tale

This is Kansas’s own take on the classic fairy tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” though residents will tell you this story is absolutely true. In the early days of European-American farming in Kansas, a farmer sent his son named Jack out to check the corn harvest. Jack was not very tall, so he brought a ladder, which helped him reach the first joint on a cornstalk. He proceeded to climb up the stalk and could see from the top that they had enough corn for a beautifully abundant harvest.

Jack tried to climb back down the cornstalk but discovered it was still growing while he was on it. It kept growing as he climbed down, such that he was never able to access the ladder. Jack’s dad discovered the boy when he went to check why Jack hadn’t returned to the house yet, and he gathered neighbor men to help him chop down the stalk. However, the stalk kept growing so much that there were eighteen inches between every chop they made.

Jack was forced to stay on the cornstalk until it stopped growing due to a drought. He made it down safely, eventually, with people sending food and drink up to him while he was there.

Stull Cemetery — It’s a Bad Place

If you’re a fan of the TV show Supernatural, you’ve probably heard of Stull Cemetery in Kansas, as that is the location the show chose for the fictional aborted apocalypse between Lucifer and the archangel Michael. Did you know, however, that Stull Cemetery is a real place? It is, and it is considered one of the evilest places on the planet. In fact, it is said to be the location to one of seven gates to hell that is supposedly found on Earth.

The gate is somewhere in the cemetery, hidden by a seal that is covered in grass. It only appears at Halloween and the Spring Equinox, so it is almost impossible to find, which is a good thing. The town of Stull itself is also said to be creepy, with witches and dark cultists practicing their evil crafts there even today. The townspeople of this small and quiet place certainly do seem to be hiding something, because those who come from out of town as thrill seekers have reported being chased out of town by pickup trucks (presumably driven by locals), sometimes as far as twenty miles away from the town border.

Another Creepy Kansas Cemetery

If you are eager to have proof of the supernatural, while getting the pants scared off of you in the process, by all means, pay a visit to Child’s Play Cemetery in Burlington, Kansas. The place is said to be home to numerous ghostly children playing on its grounds. The story goes that if you park your car there at night, there will be a loud thud on it a few minutes later, signaling you to leave right away (no one knows what happens if you don’t go….no one has reported trying it, and probably for good reason). Only once you cross the border into the next town is it safe for you to stop your car and exit it. When you do, you will see ghostly handprints of the small children who inhabit the place all over your car.

The Legend of Saline River

According to local Native Americans, there is a ghost of a Native American man named Takaluma there, walking along the banks of the river. Takaluma’s father had been murdered by European-American settlers in the 1840s, and Takaluma’s spirit was forced to wander the earth until he found his father’s skull. His spirit was first seen by a cowboy in the winter of 1879. Takaluma warned, upon first rising as a spirit, that more powerful spirits might join him in his search. So far, however, only he has been seen, and since he appears to still be wandering, he apparently has not yet found the thing for which he is searching.

The Ghost of the Road

Nothing good can ever come of something called The Man in Black, and that theory appears to hold true for this particular bit of Kansas folklore. Along US 56, near 189th Street, there is a mysterious ghostly man dressed in all black who wanders the edge of the road and disappears before your eyes if you drive too close to him. His identity is as yet unknown, as well as his reason for wandering this particular span of road. Maybe it will be discovered one day, but so far, there are no clues.

Kansas’s Romeo and Juliette

The Sauer mansion in Kansas has quite a few creepy and downright gruesome stories associated with it. None have been so haunting and sad, however, as the story of the young married couple who lived there during the Civil War. The husband had gone off to be a soldier in the war and told his wife to look for him on a particular ferry that would be bringing him home when the war ended. He was not on the ferry, and, thinking him dead, his wife hung herself from the mansion’s bell tower. The husband was still alive, though, and came home to find his wife dead. Distraught, he killed himself, too. There are said to be strange lights and odd noises that come from the bell tower to this day. They are believed to be the spirits of this star-crossed couple.