Union Cemetery

History

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.

Headstone slowly being reclaimed by nature. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

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!)

You can see the small white Sexton Cottage on the right side. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

Haunted History

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 (the Alexander Majors House) in Kansas City is notoriously haunted, which I did get to investigate myself a while back.

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

During my first visit here in October of 2020, I immediately came 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/author on this blog, this was definitely an eerie find for me! And although it isn’t necessarily paranormal, it was still a little bit spooky.

Towards the back end of the cemetery off of the path 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 and almost teared up. I walked back there and read the headstones, and commented about the ones that fell over. I never received 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.

I returned to this cemetery in March of 2021, and went back to the old tree that I previously mentioned where I felt overwhelming feelings of emotion during a past visit. I performed a long-distance Estes Method session with my friend and fellow investigator, Cherise Williams (from The Spirit Haven) and I sat at this particular tree to try and see what was drawing me there the last time I went.

The large old tree on the back east side of the cemetery where I sat. It is fairly secluded, and quite cozy! Photo taken in March, 2021.

The Estes Method session was pretty successful, with multiple intelligent and immediate responses following the questions Cherise was asking as I listened to my spirit box with headphones and could not hear her. The responses seemed to tell us that whoever was communicating with us was buried in an area of the cemetery that has since had the headstones removed and been paved or built over, seeing as we were given words like “I’m here”, “let me out”, “I’m cold”, “stuck”, “secret grave”, and when asked about where they were, the direction “south” came through. This is corroborated by the fact that the south side of the cemetery that runs up on Union Hill might have bodies from unmarked graves underneath the various buildings and apartments that are now built there. In full disclosure, I obviously know a bit about this cemetery having covered it on this blog, and I knew there was unmarked graves/areas where headstones were removed to build and make roads. What I did not know was the directions well and I had to google search for an old map that featured a compass so I could see which side was the south side of the cemetery.

Union Cemetery - Kansas City
Old map of Union Cemetery, from paranormaltaskforce.com

When Cherise asked for more details, we received names like “Seth”, “Whitney”, and “John”. Further responses indicated that one of them was born in Kansas, and died in Missouri on September 19th, or maybe that was their birthday. When asked about what kind of work they did, the word “electric” came through as well. These were all very specific responses, and were sometimes coming through within seconds after the question was asked. The number 7 also came through a couple of times, but I am not sure what the significance of this number was. The two fires that burned down the Sexton Cottage and the records inside make it nearly impossible to learn about graves that are no longer marked with a headstone, so I don’t believe there is much more I can do for research. Still, this was without a doubt one of the most compelling Estes Method sessions I have had to date! (Learn more about this method on our Equipment We Use page under the Spirit Box section.)

While there, I also wanted to find the grave of Anton Sauer so I could take a photo to put in my blog post about Sauer Castle. I forgot to grab a pamphlet with a map when I first entered the cemetery, and it is so large that I did not feel like walking all the way back up the front to get one. I could have tried to googled it, but I was trying to preserve my phones battery life and didn’t really think to. I wondered around for a while, aimlessly looking for one particular headstone out of the thousands that are there. (The weather was beautiful, so I did not mind.) Eventually I came across an old knotted tree that I couldn’t help but take a photo of.

Old knotted tree in Union Cemetery. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

Just after taking this photo, I noticed a black (maybe crow) feather on the ground under the tree. I picked it up to take home, and as a “thank you” I left three coins under the tree. As I walked away and continued on my hunt for Anton Sauers grave, I noticed more small black feathers along the ground. I decided to follow these feathers along the trail, and (I kid you not) they took me directly to the foot of Anton Sauers grave.

The feather found under the tree, and Anton Sauers grave. Photo’s taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

Personally, I view this as a clear case of getting some help from the cemetery spirits, or perhaps nature. I will never not bring offerings to a cemetery, because you never know the messages, answers, or the help that you might receive.

I highly recommend this location for my fellow ghost hunters and cemetery lovers. Every visit has been fun and exciting, and this location has not disappointed me yet!

My Tips for Visiting

Can it be investigated? Yes! Mostly on your own terms, just keep it quiet and respectful.

It is free to walk in, just check online for current business hours. Private tours can also be set up upon request.

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.

If the Sexton Cottage is closed when you visit, they do leave pamphlets with information and a map of the cemetery outside so you can still find your way around.

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, and always use cemetery etiquette. (Don’t disrupt mourners, respect the dead, etc.)

There was a wedding ceremony being held there during my initial visit in October of 2020, so if you visit during fall, there might be an event of some sort going here.

The crypts on the south side that are often used for wedding ceremonies during fall. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

Frighteningly yours,

Ivy!

Works cited:

https://www.kmbc.com/article/spirit-of-young-prostitute-that-had-her-grave-robbed-still-haunts-kansas-city-s-missouri-union-cemetery/29536287

https://www.paranormaltaskforce.com/KC_Union_Cemetery.html

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