Sauer Castle

History

Located at 935 Shawnee Road in Kansas City, Kansas is the historic Sauer Castle. This 19th century Italian-style mansion was built for Anton Sauer, his wife Maria, and their many children. The construction was finished and the mansion was fully furnished by 1872-1873, with the home being fitted with some of the best luxuries money could buy.

Old photo of Sauer Castle and the castle grounds, from @ThomasLWeddings

These luxuries included hand-carved sandstone lions on each side of the front door (which was made of solid wallnut), a staircase with hand-carved Rosewood spindles, Belgian lace curtains, a fireplace made of imported marble, a grand piano, expensive paintings of religious figures that lined the walls, and so much more.

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Old photo of the parlor inside of Sauer Castle, from @ThomasLWeddings

Tragedy first struck their new, lavish home when their 14 month old daughter, Helen, passed away in the summer of 1879. It is rumored that Maria had Helen buried in the garden outside of the house with the intent to re-bury her someday after Anton, who was in poor health, passed away.

Anton Philip Sauer Sr. (1826-1879) - Find A Grave Memorial
Photo of Anton Sauer from findagrave.com

Unfortunately this would come too soon, and in 1879 Anton died in the second floor master bedroom from tuberculosis at 53 years old. They dug up Helen from the garden and proceeded to bury her beside Anton in Union Cemetery, which I previously covered here on Ghouls Trip. I have also referenced this cemetery in a blog post for the Alexander Majors House and Barn that I investigated in 2018, who’s owner is also buried in Union Cemetery.

This houses tragic history doesn’t end here; Mary continued to live in the house until she passed way on November 29th, 1919 from a heart attack. Her daughter Eve married William C. Von Fossen and they had a child together named Helen, seemingly after her deceased sibling. Eve and William divorced, and she remarried a widower John S. Perkins. They had a few more children together, but when Johns health began to decline, he decided to take his own life with a handgun on May 20th, 1930. Eve and Johns son, John Jr, remained in the home and dealt with another tragedy in 1940 when his own infant daughter, Cecilia, drowned in the swimming pool on the west side of the house while her mother was inside cooking dinner. Eve and her son John Jr, as well as her daughters Eva and Marguerite, continued to live in the home up until Eves death in 1955.

After Eves death, the castle was purchased by Paul Berry. According to a neighbor, Joy Lindsay, Paul was a good neighbor and would often make drinks and cookies for the neighborhood kids. He spent much of his time protecting the property with his dogs, and in 1977 he got the castle on the National Register of Historic Places. Paul continued to live in the castle until his death in December of 1986, and that following year it was listed as a Local Historic Landmark.

The castle was then purchased by Bud Wyman and his son and daughter in law, Cliff and Cindy Jones by the following January. They tried to fix the place up and had plans to run it as a historic bed and breakfast, but things didn’t work out, partly because neighbors disliked this idea and didn’t want the street traffic. In 1988 they sold the castle to Carl Lopp, the great, great grandson of Anton Sauer, who also had intentions of fixing it up. This proved to be a daunting task, and the repairs were far and few. To make matters worse, a caretaker that Carl hired was charged with felony theft in August of 1996 for stealing $30,000 worth of artifacts from the castle, including a tractor, dress, chandelier, copper from the furnace, and wall sconces. Sauer Castle slowly deteriorated over the years as Carl faced more legal and financial struggles and was reluctant to sell it to new owners. Vandals continue to take their toll on the property by breaking in, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the spirits rumored to be inside…

Photo of Sauer Castle, taken by Ivy in 2018.

Haunted History

Rumors of hauntings have surrounded Sauer Castle since the 1930’s. This isn’t surprising considering the general spooky appearance of the castle, and the numerous deaths that occurred inside.

It is said that the apparition of a woman can be seen pacing on the windows walk of the castle. Some people have even claimed to see the woman dancing with a man, leading many people to believe it is the spirits of Anton and Mary enjoying their afterlife together.

Photo of Anton and Maria

Bud, Cliff, and Cindy allowed paranormal investigators and psychics into the castle during their ownership. They claimed to hear noises in the attic, and said one of the fireplace covers would sometimes rattle. It was during this time that Maurice Schwalm claimed to have taken photos that proved the presence of spirits in the home. These photos showed a sliver of light over a doorway, and another over an upstairs bedroom. Another psychic during that time claimed to pick up on the presence of a doctor spirit in the home, and smelled a “medical smell”.

Other legends surrounding the castle include it being built on stolen native land, there being buried treasure on the property, a secret tunnel located under the castle, a that there is a dead body hanging in the castle tower

My Findings and Final Thoughts

The rumor of an apparition of a woman on the widows walk was likely just Mary herself while she was alive. Mary was known to spend time up there during a hot summers evening, and Anton, who suffered from tuberculosis, likely spent time up there as well because fresh air was thought to help. No one, not even the many neighbors themselves, such as Joy, have ever witnessed ghostly figures around the home. Because of this, it has been concluded that the legend of ghostly figures on the widows walk were born out of people (many decades ago) seeing living members of the household spending time up there. I wouldn’t be surprised if residual energies or apparitions were actually present, but this hasn’t been witnessed in decades…

The photos that Maurice claimed proved spirits were present in the home are difficult to come across, and I have yet to see them myself. Many people suspect that the real cause for the strange light anomalies in his photographs is simple overexposure. This silver/blue light effect commonly occurs in polaroid photos when the light blocking chemical doesn’t spread evenly, so it is very likely that this was the case for these photos.

As for the psychics claim of picking up on the spirit of a doctor, this one remains a mystery, as I could not find anything hinting at a previous resident being a doctor.

Before Anton built the house, that area of land was owned by Tom Bigknife, who sold sections of it. The papers and deed on file in the courthouse in the office of the Register of Deeds shows that the Indian Commission approved of this sale, debunking the legend that this was stolen land.

Put your shovels away, because the buried treasure part of the legend is also likely not true. The source of this rumor seems to be that sometime after Anton’s death, yard work was done and they discovered a brick base about two feet under the ground. At each corner was a flat stone, and carved onto each stone was an arrow, with all of them pointing in the same general direction. This led people to think that the arrows pointed to something secret and significant, like buried treasure. In reality, this was likely the brick base for an old fence, and no treasure has ever been found. (This isn’t the movie Holes…)

As for the last rumor about a secret tunnel under the house, there is a 35-feet long, 15-feet wide, and 12-feet high wine cellar with the castle, so this might have been confused for some sort of secret tunnel at some point in time. In 1873, the Wyandotte Gazette reported that “Under the tower is a private wine cellar, the key of which Mr. Sauer intends to keep snug in his own pocket.”.

Although many aspects of the homes paranormal activity and legends have been debunked, a Facebook page was eventually started for Sauer Castle where people could share stories and their thoughts about the lack of repairs on the castle. This brought even more unwanted and negative attention to the castle, and when asked about the situation, Carl said: 

I would like everyone to know that respects and admires the Castle and its history that I am very appreciative of your support of our restoration efforts. I am sure that when Jason started this Facebook page, his intentions were noble. However, as with all social media, there is a big downside when people come onto sites who are not informed or who have a negative agenda. As a result, I have been the recipient of vitriol, character assassination, hate mail and numerous threats against me.

“From the mid fifties on, the Castle has been the subject of constant trespassing, attempted break ins, dangerous encounters and often violence. As a result, from the day I purchased the Castle, I have attempted to keep a low profile for the Castle believing that the fewer people who knew about the Castle the better. Moreover, the less that people who were already familiar with Castle thought about her, the less damage that would occur and I was correct. That is why I have never given interviews to newspapers, radio or TV stations who constantly contact me.

“Unfortunately, the Facebook page has brought the Castle to the attention of thousands of people creating tremendous problems for the Castle and the restoration efforts. The constant flow of traffic with people trespassing on the property and trying to break in, is a sad byproduct of the Facebook page. Windows are shot out every month or smashed by those trying break-in. My caretaker and dogs are harassed nightly and often threatened with physical violence. While this has happened occasionally in the past, the Facebook page has accelerated the level of attention and therefore damage from the people wanting to encounter ghosts. The police are called on almost a nightly basis to arrest people who are trespassing on the property.

“Now I will dispel the myths that most people on this page enjoy fantasizing about. There are no ghosts and no evil spirits inhabiting the Castle or the property. The Castle is not about to fall down or be destroyed. She is structurally solid and sound and the work that needs to be done is merely cosmetic. There is nothing endangered about the Castle and the people that want to palaver about that have no idea what they’re talking about… There are no buried treasures, no secret tunnels, no bodies buried there and nobody hanging in the tower.

“The Castle is attended to and defended daily. Even when I am not there, I get daily reports on everything. It is a private family residence and the people who are on this page need to recognize they are not the owners. I respect other people’s property rights and don’t attempt to inject myself in other people’s business and I appreciate it when others don’t get involved in mine. I have my own plans and timetables and rest assured the Castle will continue to be maintained and improved over time. I expect to publish a book in the future on the real inside story of what I have gone through in trying to maintain this property.

Sincerely,

Carl G. Lopp” 

Photo of Sauer Castle, taken by Ivy in 2020.

I was hesitant to cover Sauer Castle here on Ghouls Trip blog because 1) the castle cannot be investigated, and 2) Carl wishes that people would speak about it less. I decided to go ahead with this post and use it as an opportunity to further spread the truth about this beautiful (and sadly decaying) home, and hopefully steer people away who have trespassed or have thought about it; it is not filled with the spooks that you think it is! And if it is, we will never know unless the castle is restored enough and opened for visitors. (I personally want to try and debunk the rattling fireplace cover as being caused by a draft, but that will have to wait!) I hope to see Carl receive the finances needed someday for further repairs on the castle, or that he will finally opt to sell it…

My tips for visiting Sauer Castle

The only way to experience Sauer Castle is by viewing it from the street. There are “no parking” signs in front of the castle, so my advice is to park farther away and walk outside of the fence to the front of the castle. Please be quiet and respectful, and do not, under ANY circumstances, trespass on this property. Just imagine being arrested because you broke into an old home to try and see a hanging body that isn’t even there…no thanks!

Frighteningly yours,

Ivy!

Works cited:

https://www.kcghosts.com/kansas-sauer-castle

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58515207/anton-philip-sauer

Some of this information has also been gathered by me being a local and hearing the rumors and stories first hand!

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