Located at 508 N 2nd Street in Atchison, Kansas is the infamous Sallie House. This house was built in 1867 by the Finney family, who occupied the home until the death of Dr. Charles Finney, a local physician and surgeon, in 1947. During this time, at least four members of the Finney family died in the home, including Michael Finney in 1871, Richard Finney in 1874, William True in 1918, and Agnes Finney in 1939.
With so many deaths having occurred in this house, it seemed as though it was already primed for evil and hauntings. It was rumored that at one point, the house was inhabited by a witch who performed animal sacrifices in the basement where she had painted a pentagram on the floor to create some sort of demonic portal. This pentagram has since been covered up with black paint and this paint is still visible on the floor to this day. It is also said that anyone who dares to step foot inside this black spot will be violently attacked by unseen forces or will feel so overwhelmed with negative emotions, that they have to leave. Another woman who moved into the house, and her young daughter would play with an “imaginary friend” named Sallie.
The house gained fame in 1993 when it was rented to Tony and Debra Pickman, who began to experience the hauntings that seemed to come with it. The paranormal activity started very mild, with their dog growling at nothing while in the nursery and the dolls in the nursery would move on their own often forming a circle on the floor. The Pickmans would put the dolls away, only to find them arranged back in a circle. It was after one of these events that Tony’s brother Greg decided to try and take a photo of one of the dolls and he claimed that as he took the photo, the doll spun around right before his eyes. Tony’s sister-in-law also reported experiencing an overwhelming and
unsettling feeling in the nursery as well. On top of this, their newborn would act as though someone was playing with him while in the nursery, and neighbors would ask them why they kept the light on in the nursery all night, which was odd because they would always turn it off before bed.
One morning as Tony was walking into the kitchen, he saw the apparition of a young girl wearing 1900’s period style clothing, and she became known as Sallie, just like the imaginary friend of the previous tenant’s daughter. Psychics and investigators who came into the house would all pick up on the presence of a little girl named Sallie, and her existence was later confirmed when a local gravestone was discovered that was marked with the name Sallie Isabel Hall who died in 1905. It was later determined that Sallie had been suffering from appendicitis and was brought to the home while it was inhabited by Dr Charles Finney. Sallies mother begged the doctor to perform an emergency at-home surgery to try and save her because there was no time, but Sallie did not survive the surgery and she died in the house. Today, a table is set up in kitchen of the Sallie House in memory of little Sallie who died so young. Tony, who has a good level of artistic ability, made this sketch of Sallie as he saw her:
The paranormal activity surrounding the Pickmans worsened; objects would be thrown across the room, candles lighting on their own, disembodied voices would be heard, and photos on the walls would turn upside down. The activity began to center around Tony, as an unseen force began leaving scratches on his body. These scratches were usually defined with three long marks, which are believed to be demonic and a mocking of the holy trinity. These scratches would also two cuts forming an “x”, or a cross. On one occasion, Tony was so overwhelmed with whatever was afflicting him, that he killed one of their cats in the kitchen. During another violent fit he felt as though he wanted to stab his own wife, Debra. They asked a psychic Renae Leiker for help, and when she first arrived at the house, she immediately reported seeing the shadow of a tall man sitting by the window who got up and walked towards the kitchen. Renae reported feeling multiple other spirits in the house, with one of them being especially evil. The Pickmans couldn’t handle this horrific haunting, and moved out after having only lived in the house for two short years…
Today, visitors can pay for day-time tours or nighttime investigations to experience the history and horrors inside of this house for themselves. Countless investigators have visited this house over the years since these terrifying events occurred, and have experienced things like being pushed down the stairs, having their hair tugged in the basement, high EMF (electro magnetic field) spikes, seeing a face through the window on the second floor, hearing pounding on the floors and walls, and capturing photos of orbs: small circular manifestations of ghosts or spirits. In recent years a team of investigators also found a bloody sweater in the attic and used luminal to uncover other blood splatter stains throughout the house from mysterious past events that are likely contributing to the hauntings we experience today.
My Findings and Final Thoughts
There was a practicing witch that lived in the house who still lives in Atchison, but from all accounts she is a kind woman who has been negatively affected by these fake rumors of animal sacrifice. As for the pentagram that they claim used to be on the floor, this also has nothing to back it up and the black splotch that is still visible on the floor today does not resemble a pentagram in any way. People who have worked the home have also pointed out that it isn’t plain black paint on the floor, but it’s a thicker, more weather resistant type of paint that is commonly used on concrete floors to patch up cracks or leaks. This splotch also resembles a paint spill much more than a attempted pentagram cover-up, so this is likely all that the spot on the basement floor really is. As someone who practices witchcraft, this is a common stereotype and fear that people have with witches: they often assume that we work with the devil and kill animals, but this couldn’t be further from the truth – we mostly collect jars and crystals.
Dr. Charles Finney was a local physician and a surgeon for the Missouri Pacific Railway from 1894 to 1908, which does line up with the date on the grave that belonged to Sallie, but it was later discovered that this grave didn’t belong to the Sallie. Sallie Isabel Hall was a 34-year-old African American woman who had been married for 16 years and gave birth to 14 children before she passed away in 1905. So no, there was no little girl named Sallie in Atchison who died of a surgery gone wrong, and these stories that you will see on the Sallie House website, TV, and on the internet are not true; they are simply carried on to keep visitors (and their money) coming back for more…after all, the Sallie House is one of Atchison’s biggest sources of income. But although these stories have almost all been disproven, this doesn’t mean that the house still isn’t haunted.
As someone who lives close to Atchison and who has investigated this house many times, I do passionately believe that there is still a degree of paranormal activity within this house. Based on the Pickmans experience, myself and many other paranormal investigators have concluded that whatever was afflicting the Pickmans was attached to them and not the house. That being said, when you have a location that frequently gets investigated, you will often find that it will probably become haunted. This is usually the result of people either bringing their spirit attachments with them who can then attach to the house or this can occur from the act of having people at the location frequently calling out to entities to communicate with them- doing this will naturally attract some entities to that location where they are likely to stay.
During my first investigation at the Sallie House, I witnessed a shadow figure that the team I was there with caught on camera and we had successful flashlight communication. This flashlight communication is when you slightly turn a Maglite flashlight to the point where it is almost on, making it easier for a spirit to manipulate it so the spirt is able to give you flash responses; such as one flash for to answer ‘yes’ or two flashes to answer ‘no’. While in the nursery, an entity was giving us consistent responses and claimed to be a young girl, age 6. Personally, we took this as the entities in the home being aware of the “Sallie” story and messing around with us! (It is good to know that a sense of humor can follow us to the afterlife!)
It is also worth mentioning that I have stepped inside the black spot in the basement multiple times and experienced none of the scary things that are supposed to occur.
During my more recent investigation in February of 2020, I captured multiple EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) including growls in the nursery, and a hushed voice saying, “get out” in the larger upstairs bedroom. The following videos contain them, but you may need to turn up your volume or use headphones to hear them well.
I also took a polaroid photo which shows a white misty anomaly in the nursery. I tried to debunk these as being a glare because my phone was somewhat in the frame of the picture, but it could not be re-created.
Something else mildly unsettling was this dying/dead fly in the nursery. Fly’s are not uncommon to find in most homes, especially older, musty homes like this one. But the fact that fly’s are associated with the presence of a demon was slightly unnerving at the very least.
My full-spectrum infrared camera was also able to see odd stains on the floors that could not be seen in regular light, and these cameras are capable of picking up on blood, which gives some credibility to the claim that a bloody sweater and blood splatter was found in the house. Unfortunately, I have not had access to the resources needed to test these stains yet, but that is something that I would love to do in the future. As for the attic, it has since been screwed shut, likely to keep people from going up there and falling through the floor.
As startling as this evidence is, I do not think it had anything to do with the claims that were made by the Pickmans, seeing as the story of Sallie has been largely debunked. Many of the claims made about the house and its history also tend to vary slightly depending on who is telling it. For example, the leading claim was that Sallie died after the failed surgery at Dr. Finney’s house (the Sallie House) but according to other sources, the house had belonged to Sallie and her family. Another version claims that Dr. Charles Finney had an affair with a house maid, resulting in the birth of “Sally” who passed away from an illness at 6-7 years old because Charles refused to take her to the hospital, fearing people would find out about his love affair. Regardless of which version you hear, they are not true considering that the existence of a young Sallie (or Sally) in Atchison during that time has been debunked.
Some other debunking that I have performed in the house:
- This is a very dated house with VERY narrow stairs which are easy to miss a step on, especially while investigating in the dark. My assumption is that people are probably tripping or missing a step. (Trust me, I have first hand experience slipping on these steps…good thing the camera wasn’t rolling!)
- There are countless spider webs on the ceiling in the basement, which is a pretty low ceiling. These spider webs are likely to blame for the feeling of your hair being tugged.
- This house has bad wiring, so check for high EMF before you start investigating. There is a particularly strong spot in the middle of the living room floor where investigators will often drag a small table to set their devices on. Their devices will obviously react and they will be startled and think it is paranormal, but in reality it is just the bad wiring under the floor.
- The window at the front of the house on the second floor is perfect for matrixing, which is when we think we see a human face in something, but it’s not. It is an old window that is somewhat warped, so if the blinds in the window are up and you stand at the right angle outside, you will think you see a face.
- The piping in the floors and walls makes noise for a while after the plumbing has been used. (There are two usable toilets in the house.)
- Almost any possible orb captured in a photo or on video is just dust, because there is PLENTY of it! The basement is especially dirty, with literal exposed dirt in the crawl space.
Don’t be discouraged by the false stories, claims, and all of the debunking that has been done about the house and the activity inside; based on my own personal experience it is still a paranormal hot spot, just not for the reasons that the city of Atchison thinks it is.
My tips for Visiting
Can it be investigated? Yes!
Investigations occur almost nightly here due to it’s fame. It cost us about $300 to boon the entire place to ourselves for a night. Some local paranormal groups do offer ghost hunts here around the month of October, for tickets usually in the $20 range. Just check online for current options and prices.
The house is somewhat “staged”, so be mindful of this. The radio in the living room is usually left on during the day to keep noise in the house to help prevent break ins, but many people who pay to stay the night don’t know this and they show up believing a ghost or spirit must have turned it on as they arrived.
The dolls in the nursery are also usually set up in a circle on the floor to go along with the story from the Pickman’s, so do not be startled to find them set up like this either.
If you are staying the night, bring a sleeping bag and pillows/blankets. The couch is NASTY, and you are not allowed to sleep in the beds.
This house is VERY moldy and musty. Many people claim to experience a heavy feeling in their chest and headaches while they investigate…this is just the mold! Bring a mask to help you breathe in less mold spores and be prepared to leave smelling like an antique store.
There is some sort of wasp/hornet nest in the crack of the wall in the basement. In the Ghost Adventures episode, they claimed that Tony was attacked by Sallie in the basement as a welt appeared on his neck, but this was just a hornet (?) sting. The nest has been dead for a few years now, but it is still important to be mindful of the potential insects in the house.
There is a college on one end of the road and a pub/bar on the other; so there are many younger people who often walk the street and who will knock on the door and try to get you to let them in while you investigate. During one investigation, a couple even approached the door, knocked, and were taking photos of the house while we were inside. This can make it quite literally dangerous to be at the Sallie House late at night, especially if you are female and alone/in a small group. A local owner of an antique store told us stories about groups of young men who would try to convince women who were staying at the Salle House to let them stay the night with them, so please keep the doors and windows closed at all times and do not let anyone inside. Living people are often more dangerous than any sort of entity you might encounter…
Although activity does happen often, it is not guaranteed, which can be said about any haunted location. Many people who visit will leave negative reviews online because nothing spooky happened to them. Although much of it can be considered a scam considering they continue to lie about the house and its history, there is still paranormal activity that has been documented and experienced here time and time again.
One last thing – It has been brought to my attention that the activity in the Sallie House has seemingly died down recently. It has been suspected by other local investigators that the previous city employees responsible for getting the home ready for investigations may have been dabbling in methods of summoning to try and keep activity going on in the house. Those responsible have since left, which could be why the houses paranormal activity is not as consistent as it used to be. This is just a local rumor, and I have no proof or evidence to back this up.
To Note: Some of this information has also been gathered through years of studying this location, talking to local investigators, watching every possible TV show, and hearing the rumors first hand.