Located at 227 East 28th Terrace in Kansas City, Missouri is the beautiful and historic Union Cemetery. It is the oldest public cemetery in the Kansas City area, holding approximately 55,000 souls. This cemetery features some of the most prominent names in Kansas Cities history, such as the grave of Thomas Jefferson Goforth, who was the first mayor of Westport, Missouri; (Westport as a city no longer exists, it is now part of Kansas City, Missouri). Veterans from every war from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War are laid to rest here, as well as soldiers from both sides of the Civil War.
The cholera outbreak of 1849 left most local cemeteries full, so in 1857 James M. Hunter deeded 49 acres of land between the towns of Westport and Kansas (both towns are now Kansas City) to be used as the Union Cemetery, with the name “Union” representing the new union between the two towns. They believed this area of land would be suffice for the two towns but they grew and merged together; leaving the cemetery surrounded by a busy metropolitan city. In August 1889, a fire in the Sexton Cottage on the cemetery grounds had destroyed much of the cemeteries paper records. Then in 1910, the cemetery had started to show signs of damage, with many of the headstones and grave-markers deteriorating over time due to them being made out of materials like wood and limestone. This was unfortunate because the 1889 fire destroyed the cemeteries records, so many unmarked graves could not be identified. To help pay for some of the maintenance, the Cemetery Association sold 18 acres of land intended to be used for the cemetery. It was later discovered that there was a secret plot within this deal, where several people involved with the association had actually sold it to themselves to squander it into other land deals. To make matters worse, there were unmarked graves on the acres of land that were sold to developers which were built over. The remaining 27 acres were deeded to Kansas City in 1937 and the Parks and Recreation department maintained the grounds.
In 1984 the Union Cemetery Historical Society (UCHS) was founded, and they have actively been working towards preserving as much of the cemetery as possible, including the restoration of existing headstones.
The Sexton Cottage burned again on Halloween night in 1985. The cottage was then rebuilt by the Women in Construction of Kansas City it was rededicated in October 1990. (What a fantastic group of ladies!)
To no surprise, this very old (and very large) cemetery has numerous reports of paranormal activity.
One story goes that a 12-year-old prostitute Libby Mavis had died and was buried in this cemetery. Just a few nights after her funeral, Libby’s madam had a dream where Libby came to her and told her that her grave had been robbed and her body was stolen. The madam alerted the authorities about this potential grave robbing, to which they discovered that Libby’s body was indeed missing. Libby’s body was never recovered, and many people today claim to see the ghost of Libby still confused and distraught as she wonders Union Cemetery. There are no records to back this story up, so it may not be based on any truths; however, grave-rodding and body-snatching was a common occurrence during this time period, so it is possible that this did actually happen with other graves.
There are many mass-graves within this cemetery for victims of war, cholera, people who couldn’t afford a nice burial, and there is plenty of other unmarked graves on top of that which were located on areas of land sold to developers. During the construction of Warwick Boulevard, human bones from these unmarked graves were pulled from the ground. The Hallmark parking lots south of 27th Street are likely built over potters graves; another term for unnamed people and mass graves. Union Hill is also said to have unmarked graves underneath as well. It is not uncommon to find restless spirits in areas like this that are upset over the disrespect shown to the site of their burial…
I have heard one local rumor by ear that a mother (who’s child was buried in Union Cemetery) came to the cemetery to take her own life and reunite herself with her child, and her ghost/spirit now wonders the cemetery looking for them. I do not like the idea of exploiting certain deaths (such as suicide) for the sake of paranormal clout, so this is not a haunting that I will ever pursue in Union Cemetery; in fact, I advise that all visitors and aspiring paranormal investigators avoid calling out to any specific entity in a location like this, especially when the story of their passing is this traumatic. (Only do this if you believe that a ghost/spirit is trapped and lingering, and only call out to them to help them, not take advantage of them for spooks.) That being said, I have yet to confirm whether this actually happened or not. This is the type of legend that you will hear with many old cemeteries, so it is possible that people confused another cemetery with Union Cemetery.
Alexander Majors is another prominent local figure that is buried here, and although no paranormal activity has been noted around his grave, his house in Kansas City is notoriously haunted. I have been to his house before for a paranormal investigation, but the details of that investigation will have to wait for a future blog post… (Edit: The post about his home is now available! Scroll in the Blog page to find it, or search “Alexander Majors House” in the sidebar menu!)
People will also capture apparitions in photographs, and the spirit of a young boy has been seen sitting on the headstones as well!
My Findings and Final Thoughts:
The only possible paranormal experience I had was towards the back end of the cemetery off of the path. There is an incredibly large, old tree that is surrounded by many broken headstones, and it was the only area of the cemetery where I felt overwhelmed with something. I became very emotional and almost teared up. I wondered back there and read the headstones, and commented about the ones that fell over. I never recieved any other feeling or message, but I definitely plan on returning on a less busy day to investigate and find out what (or who) was making me emotional and drawing me back there. Other than this experience, I didn’t capture anything in the many photos I took, and I felt a very calming vibe from the rest of this lovely local cemetery.
I will note that I did come across two headstones side by side, one with the name Hannah and the other with my name, Ivy. Seeing as Hannah is the other Ghouls Trip guide on this blog, this was definitely an eerie find for me…
My Tips for Visiting Union Cemetery:
- This is a very friendly and welcoming cemetery, so I highly recommend this location to my fellow graveyard-obsessed ghouls! On their website, they state that strollers, dogs, skateboards, bikes, joggers & walkers are all welcome.
- There are apartments that overlook the cemetery grounds, so please remain composed and respectful! Plenty of people have investigated this location, so locals are used to it and seem ok with it so long as you aren’t being loud and disruptive.
- There was a wedding ceremony that was about to be held while we were there, so we did not attempt any investigating. It was also fairly windy that day, and it was in early October so there is still plenty of bugs and birds that make it impossible to listen back for EVP’s. I am leaving this in the “tips for visiting” section because this cemetery is very popular, so you are likely to run into a scenario like this that might prevent you from investigating.
- The grounds are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day, and the Sexton Cottage Visitor Center and Gift Shop is open Thursday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. If they are closed when you visit, they do leave pamphlets with information and a map of the cemetery outside!
My main sources for this post: