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For the third installment in this year’s spooky series, I feature a town close to home. Located 15 miles northeast of Joplin, Carthage, Missouri is the county seat of Jasper County.
This charming town offers stately Victorian homes, an annual Maple Leaf Festival and Parade and a magnificent 126 year old courthouse that dominates the downtown square.
While Joplin has strong roots in the mining industry, Carthage is deeply connected to the Civil War. The first major battle of that war between the states took place in Carthage. Subsequent skirmishes severely impacted the community and ultimately, most of the town was burned to the ground.
Perhaps that’s why this community is home to so many restless spirits. These are five of the ghost stories from Carthage.
A Divided Community
Carthage, named after the ancient Phoenician city, became the county seat in 1841. The federal government bought the land that formed Jasper County from the Osage Tribe 33 years earlier. Gradually settlers arrived and the community grew around a public square. By 1851 a two story brick courthouse occupied the center of that square. Businesses opened up around the perimeter, providing goods and services to the citizens of the growing town.
By the time of the Civil War, Carthage claimed about 500 residents. The area divided over the issue of slavery. Many of Carthage’s early settlers arrived from the south. Others participated in the Underground Railroad movement.
Missouri, a border state, did not secede from the union. To the north lay Union states and to the south, the Confederate states. Missouri contained both pro-Confederate and pro-Union governments. Southwest Missouri additionally experienced violent skirmishes due to guerilla warfare along the Kansas border.
On July 5, 1861, 16 days before the Battle of Bull Run, armies of the North and South clashed in Carthage. The Second Battle of Carthage occurred in October of 1863. Multiple battles and skirmishes in the area resulted in the burning of the town, including the brick courthouse, by pro-Confederate guerrillas in September 1864.
After the war the community built back and thrived. Businesses reopened and Victorian style houses rose along wide streets. Nearby limestone quarries contributed to the prosperity of the community. And Route 66 brought travelers and tourists.
That energy from the Civil War still lingers in Carthage. Stories abound about people hearing cannons booming, where none now exist, and the cries of soldiers in battle, long after the war ended. These are the ghost stories from Carthage.
On the northern edge of Carthage sits the oldest surviving house in Jasper County. The Kendrick house, completed in 1856, is one of only three area houses that did not burn during the Civil War.
William and Elizabeth Kendrick finished the big house on the prairie, that another owner began in 1849. They planted crops and orchards on the land and operated successful blacksmith and gunsmith shops for many years. The Kendrick Family descendants occupied the house for 130 years until Victorian Carthage bought the property in the 1980s.
During the Civil War both Union and Confederate troops used the house as a hospital. The Kendrick’s enslaved woman was tortured and hung in the orchard by Confederate guerrillas who thought she hid a Union soldier.
And the Kendricks experienced tragedy in the house. Three of their sons died during the war years. William died in 1868, followed four years later by his wife. A granddaughter and her husband raised their family in the home and lost their young daughter Pauline there. The last person to die in the house was Carol Sue, the great granddaughter of William and Elizabeth, who passed away from polio just shy of her third birthday.
The Ghosts of Kendrick House
A great deal of paranormal activity occurs in this house. Locally owned Paranormal Science Lab conducted research during Haunted History tours of Kendrick House.
Among the evidence collected:
- EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) all over the house, many of which refer to local Civil War battles and generals. In total, EVPs captured 12 distinct voices.
- shadow people caught on camera and seen visually
- orbs, bright balls of light that move
- apparitions in the house and yard, including a man in a war uniform and a young girl in a plaid dress that often walks to a neighboring house and passes through the back door
- cold spots and hot spots
- objects that move on their own, especially curtains in upstairs windows that are frequently disturbed even when no on is in the house
- the sounds of children laughing and playing upstairs
- the ghosts of Pauline and Carol Sue, the young girls who died in the house
- footsteps going up and down the stairs, when no one living is walking there
- a black mass that appears at the top of the stairs
Jasper County Courthouse
The massive courthouse presiding over the square is impressive. Built in 1895 from Carthage stone mined in the nearby quarries, the turrets, towers and arches give the Romanesque Revival building the look of a fortified medieval castle. It took the place of the brick courthouse that burned during the war. Two workmen supposedly died during the construction. One fell from the clock tower. Another died from a fall while installing the elevator.
Besides battles fought on the grounds, public executions took place on the courthouse lawn and many, many dramas played out within the formidable walls. It’s no wonder that ghosts appear on this property.
Apparitions flit across the lawn. Footsteps are heard in the attic and bell tower, when no one is up there. Shadow figures appear there as well. When paranormal investigators set up equipment in the courthouse, batteries quickly drained and filming and audio interruptions occurred. It’s believed that ghosts pull energy from such devices, to strengthen their own presence.
The most activity occurs on the third floor, occupied by the courtrooms and court offices. Disembodied voices are heard and a shadowy figure frequents the women’s restroom on the third floor. I find this interesting. While in the women’s restroom in the Charleston Courthouse, I experienced the shadowy figure of a man standing in the corner. He faded away as I watched him.
Burlingame and Chaffee Opera House
Across the street from the courthouse stands the Burlingame and Chaffee Opera House building. It occupies the footprint of two former buildings, destroyed during the Carthage battles. Francis Chaffee constructed the current building in 1878, opening a hardware store on the lower level while the opera house took up the entire second floor. For years the people of Carthage enjoyed a variety of entertainment in the opera house. Then tragedy marred the space.
John McCrillis, who had purchased the lower level hardware store, found love letters written to his wife, from another man. After inviting the offending man to breakfast, the two ended up in the hardware store, where McCrillis shot him. The man died outside in the street.
Over the years, the building changed hands frequently, housing a variety of businesses. Then it sat empty until a couple from California bought it, with the intention of living on the upper floor while running a business from the lower level. During renovations the couple encountered numerous strange experiences including unexplainable noises and footsteps in the dark building during the night. They abandoned the building after hearing what sounded like cannon fire in the middle of the night.
The current owner operates McBride’s Antiques on the main level. The most common paranormal activities include:
- hearing footsteps upstairs, in the empty opera house
- being followed around the shop by an unseen presence
- apparitions of a grandmotherly woman and young boy seen and heard on the main level
- disembodied voices
- the sound of a cash register ringing and coins falling in the old opera house upstairs…where no cash register exists anymore
- a dark, heavy presence on the backstairs leading up to the opera house
- a shadow figure captured on film, standing at an upstairs window
- at 3:00 pm most days, the sound of someone falling down the backstairs
- the sound of a piano playing in the basement, where a saloon once was
- cannon fire, musket fire and a woman crying, all in the basement as well
- the ghost of a young girl seen walking through the basement, and interestingly, in the basements of other buildings around the square
Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast
Built in 1893, this Queen Anne Victorian features stained glass windows, hardwood moldings and a grand staircase. For the past 23 years this beautiful “painted lady” functioned as a bed and breakfast offering guests a peek into the past with Victorian wallpapered rooms and antique furnishings.
One resident seems reluctant to leave this cozy space. No smoking is allowed in the house. However, guests report the strong and inexplicable scent of a cigar on the main level, in the parlor and dining room, when an unseen presence is around.
The smoking ghost is believed to be a former owner, Albert Carmean, who died in 1933.
Sadly, Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast closed due to COVID. Visit their website though, for photos of the interior. You might understand why Albert chooses to stay.
Historic Phelps House
Also located on Grand Avenue, the Phelps House, built in 1895 from Carthage stone, is a whimsical mix of Beaux Arts, Classical Revival and Romanesque styles.
Colonel William Phelps built the home. An attorney, he became prominent in state politics and was actively involved in Carthage businesses. He knew tragedy however.
His first wife died in St. Louis in 1894, in a runaway carriage accident. She never got to live in the house. One of William’s daughters died at the age of 29, from tuberculosis. And a young son from William’s second marriage died while riding his bicycle in front of the house, after a car struck him.
The colonel’s second wife Bridgey sold the house to St. Ann’s Catholic Church Parish. Nuns who taught at St. Ann’s School occupied the house and used rooms on all three floors plus the basement as classrooms.
The Carthage Historic Preservation bought the deteriorating house in 1988 and restored it to its former grandeur. Today the property hosts weddings and events.
The ghosts at the Phelps House are benevolent. They turn off lights. Their footsteps are heard on the stairs. And unexplainable breezes spring up in closed rooms.
I include this haunting primarily because of my experience there. See my story about the Phelps House in the next section!
My Experiences in Carthage
I love this charming community. My son and daughter in law and their family live in Carthage, so I visit this town often. And I’ve had several paranormal experiences there, including one while shooting photos in town earlier in the week. I wrote a post in 2015 about my experience in the old opera house. Read it HERE.
Twice I’ve explored the Kendrick House, with the Paranormal Science Lab. It is fascinating, watching them use their meters and sensing tools and even more interesting observing the results. During my first visit a humorous thing happened to me. Sitting in the parlor, listening to Lisa with PSL speak, I became distracted by the sound of another voice. I could hear a woman speaking quietly, behind me, even though I sat in a corner against the wall. I even peered outside, through the window, but didn’t see anyone. So I mentally asked, “Who are you?” Immediately, the song Elvira began playing in my head. Just as I thought “that’s weird”, I tuned in to Lisa talking about one of the Kendricks…Joshua’s wife ELVIRA. Her ghost often makes itself known…in the parlor where we sat.
I first attended an event in the Phelps House with my mother in the early 2000s. A photographer captured our photo and then we explored the house with a large group and enjoyed a sumptuous dinner. I told my mother that I felt like spirits were following me around throughout the house. As we prepared to leave, we stopped by the photographer’s table to collect our photos. He apologized, explaining he didn’t know what happened. Distortions appeared in our photo and apparently, no other photographs except ours were affected. I’ve included that photograph at the end of this post. I’ll let you decide what’s going on!
Civil War Battlefield
And Wednesday, as I traveled around Carthage snapping photos for this post, I stopped by one of the battlefields, for the first time. Truthfully, much of the city classifies as a battlefield. This one, marked with a stone, is now a park with playgrounds and a soccer field. I felt strangely disappointed at how modern it all looked. Then I drove through the park. My scalp began to tingle, which is a signal to me that spirit energy is present. When I parked my car and walked over to read the engraved stone, my chest felt heavy and ached, an even stronger sign that negative energy is present. Finally, as I returned to my car, I could “hear”, in my mind, the sounds of battle and the cries of wounded men.
Do you believe in ghosts? As my tour guide John said, in Charleston, I’m not here to try and convince you. I’m sharing stories, mixed with history, and letting YOU decide. Next week, we are off to Rome, Italy.
October Ghost Stories Series 2021
Check out this book from Lisa, with Paranormal Science Lab:
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