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This Halloween, explore all things spectral on these Kansas and Missouri ghost tours

The front of the Missouri State Penitentiary building towers as dark, shadowy clouds loom above.
Missouri State Penitentiary
Between the haunted villas of Atchison, Kansas, and the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, Kansas City is a prime region for ghost tours and paranormal investigations.

If you love a haunted house and learning our region's history, this list of Kansas City ghost tours and paranormal investigations is for you.

Mercury is out of retrograde and spooky season is upon us. You know what they say — in the days leading up to Halloween, the veil between present and past is thinner than ever.

If you love a haunted house — such as The Beast or Macabre Cinema in West Bottoms — but prefer a dash of nonfiction, this list is for you. These spots are less jump scare and more slow burn.

Besides being historic sites in and around Kansas City, they share another common trait: They all host haunted tours.

Take Belvoir Winery and Inn in Liberty, for instance. The present-day wedding venue and glorious picnic spot was once home to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization and secret society. Walk the grounds and cemetery at Belvoir and you'll likely catch the slightest wisp of the other realm.

Some locations listed here are kid-friendly during the day — but beware the overnight ghost hunt.

Sallie House and McInteer Villa

McInteer villa
Wikimedia Commons
A fair amount of ghastly encounters have been reported by visitors of McInteer Villa in Atchison, Kansas.

First on the list are two experiences outside of Kansas City in Atchison, Kansas, a town known for being, well, haunted.

Atchison offers seasonal events such as haunted trolley tours, but true thrill-seekers can stay overnight at Atchison’s most famous haunted house — the Sallie House — or the larger 1889 McInteer Villa.

The Sallie House story goes like this: built at the turn of the century, the house was once home to a physician who used a room within to examine and operate on patients. His name was Charles Finney, and he was treating a young girl named Sallie for appendicitis when she died on the operating table.

Legend has it she still haunts the house, allegedly setting fires and scratching former male tenants. In 2015, the house was featured on the Travel Channel series “Ghost Adventures.” Visitors can book overnight stays or spend an hour inside on a self-guided tour.

The McInteer Villa is also available for self-guided tours, where you’ll learn about Irish immigrant John McInteer, who made harnesses and saddles in Atchison. Perhaps not as famous as the Sallie House, the sprawling brick mansion still makes for a picturesque and spooky stay — though you might hear something go bump in the night.

A fair amount of ghastly encounters have been reported on the property, which can be rented out to groups of up to 10 people.

Belvoir Winery and Inn

Image shows the brick facade and front door of Belvoir Winery and Inn, with steps leading up to the building and green grass on both sides.
Emily Standlee
On five-hour paranormal investigations at Belvoir Winery and Inn, you can expect to be led through the hallways, dormitories and old hospital rooms that line the property.

As mentioned before, Belvoir Winery and Inn once housed a Missouri chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, or IOOF. Founded in 1819 in Maryland, the Odd Fellows are one of the world’s oldest and largest secret societies. A question on their website asks, simply: “Are you odd enough?”

Though not religious or political in nature, the Odd Fellows’ mission is to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.” That goal was at the heart of the Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, where members — who paid their monetary dues — were educated, housed, cared for and buried.

In fact, there’s a skeleton on display in the main Belvoir building (plus a wine bar and rooms for rent upstairs). You’re welcome to bring your own food, purchase wine and relax on the side patio. Just don’t get too comfortable.

Outbuildings at Belvoir Winery and Inn include what were once a school, hospital and nursing home — all constructed in the Jacobethan Revival architectural style. The winery actively puts on paranormal investigations, murder mystery dinners and Halloween parties.

On five-hour paranormal investigations, you can expect to be led through the hallways, dormitories and old hospital rooms that line the property.

Wornall/Majors House Museums

An external shot of the Wornall/Majors House Museum, a large and white colonial style house, surrounded by green grass and trees. Located in Kansas City, Missouri.
Wornall/Majors House Museum
Both the John Wornall House and Alexander Majors House host kid- and adult-friendly ghost tours, paranormal investigations and Halloween-themed events.

Known as two of the most historically intriguing structures in Kansas City, the John Wornall and Alexander Majors houses are a joint nonprofit offering guided and self-guided tours year-round and camp for kids in the summer.

The John Wornall House was Kansas City’s first house museum, opening in 1972. It was built in 1858 and restored in 1964 by the Jackson County Historical Society. Originally a 500-acre farmstead, the house is one of the few Kansas City homes that still stands despite being built prior to the end of the Civil War.

The Alexander Majors House was built in 1856 and was home to Majors — who co-owned the Pony Express — as well as his family and overland shipping company. Majors was married twice and had 13 children, 11 of whom made it to adulthood.

Both houses host kid- and adult-friendly ghost tours, paranormal investigations and Halloween-themed events. That includes the “Anatomy of a Haunted House” on Oct. 22 and a free Historic Howl-o-Ween party (featuring a dog parade and costume contest!) on Oct. 30.

1859 Jail Museum

A historic black-and-white drawing of the Independence, Missouri, Jail, which was built in 1859 and now serves as a museum.
Jackson County Historical Society
The most famous captive held in the Independence Jail was Frank James — Confederate soldier and brother to Jesse James — whose cell was outfitted with lush carpet, furniture and paintings.

As strange as it is to consider, the men who were employed as jailers often lived in the jailhouse along with their wives and children. One example of this is Alcatraz, the now-closed federal prison on an island that held 300 civilians at any given time.

Similarly, though on a much smaller scale, the jailer and his family lived onsite at the Independence jail, which was built in 1859. It’s one of the oldest surviving structures in Jackson County and the county’s third jail that was ever built. It was saved — and converted into the 1859 Jail Museum — by the Jackson County Historical Society after the group learned it would soon be destroyed.

The limestone-and-iron space held Frank James — Confederate soldier and brother to Jesse James — for six months. Of the 12 cells total, his was outfitted with lush carpet, furniture and paintings, and he was allowed to play cards each night.

The mission of the museum is clear – it is “first and foremost a historic structure with the mission to provide an educational opportunity.” In addition, JCHS hosts paranormal investigations each Friday and Saturday in October.

Missouri State Penitentiary

MO state pen_credit_MO state pen.jpg
Missouri State Penitentiary
The Missouri State Penitentiary is one of the longest-running prisons in the U.S. Today, visitors can take various tours of the prison, including a two-hour ghost tour, where a guide highlights "the strange, unusual and unexplained occurrences behind the walls."

We saved the most sinister for last. At the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, visitors with a penchant for history can tour one of the longest-running prisons in the United States. “The Walls” are 100 years older than Alcatraz and stayed open for 168 long years.

The “bloodiest 47 acres in the U.S.,” as the grounds are also called, once held 4,900 inmates at a time — including some 40 people who were put to death in the prison’s gas chamber. A variety of tours are available, including the $25 history tour, which covers prison reform, escape attempts and the Riot of 1954.

For $35, you can take the two-hour ghost tour, where a guide highlights “the strange, unusual and unexplained occurrences behind the walls.”

In fact, in 1985, when the prison was still open, contractors dug into the dirt to find a row of hidden prison cells dating back to the 1840s. Those cells — probably the oldest spaces within the prison — have since been added as a stop on the tours. Each one measures only five feet wide and would have been consistently dark for lack of windows. Inmates were made to sleep on the ground.

Other tours include a three-hour mystery tour, which features a Q&A session with a former inmate. Spookiest of all, you can pay to stay in the prison overnight, in five- to eight-hour increments, or as part of an overnight investigation with MSP staff.

Trust us, these tours aren’t for the faint of heart — you must be 18 to attend.

Emily Standlee is a freelance writer at KCUR and a national award-winning essayist.
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