Union Station

History

Located at 30 West Pershing Road in Kansas City, Missouri is the historical Union Station. This locally famous structure was built in 1914 at a whopping size of 850,000 square feet, and originally featured 900 rooms. During this buildings prime as a working train station, hundreds of thousands of passengers would come through each year. During World War II, this number rose to approximately one million, with many of the passengers being soldiers.

The North Room (now the Grand Plaza) once held 10,000 people and included restaurants, a cigar store, barbershop, railroad offices, the nations largest Railway Express Building, and a powerhouse to provide steam and power. All of this came to an end in the 1980s, and Union Station was left to sit empty and neglected while demolition was considered on multiple occasions. Thankfully in 1996, a historic bi-state initiative was passed to fund the stations renovation, and it was completed in 1999. The grand allure of this location has charmed people once again, with visitors frequenting Union Station daily to admire the atmosphere, which includes the Grand Hall’s 95-foot tall ceiling with elaborate detail, and three 3,500-pound chandeliers that greet every visitor who walks inside.

Inside the Grand Hall at Union Station. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

Besides for hosting business meetings, recognition events, and weddings, Union Station also houses other forms of entertainment, such as Science City which is geared towards children with fun and educational exhibits and activities. Union Station also features the occasional traveling museum produced by the Smithsonian, National Geographic, and other international organizations; for example, a couple of years ago my husband and I went to Union Station to see the Body Worlds & the Cycle of Life temporary exhibit, which consisted of real preserved human bodies put on display. (It was very creepy…but also very cool!) There is also a planetarium and a theater here as well.

The best part is that you can still catch a train at Union Station’s Amtrak Stop and travel to many destinations across the country! This is something I have been wanting to do since I first moved to Kansas City a few years ago. I just need an old-timey outfit and a vintage briefcase to really live up to my classy train-traveling dream…

Although the history of Union Station is fun and inspiring, it holds a much darker past which has brought about it’s paranormal fame; this was the location of the Kansas City Massacre. This event occurred on the morning of June 17, 1933 when Frank “Jelly” Nash, a federal prisoner, was being transported by several law enforcement officers who were returning him to the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas after he had escaped three years prior.

Photo of Frank “Jelly” Nash, from http://www.americanhauntingsink.com

Three of his friends/fellow gangsters, Adam Richetti, Vernon Miller, and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd plotted to free Nash while they were stopped at Union Station.

From top to bottom: Adam Richetti, Vernon Miller, and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd. Photos from FBI files.

This attempted escape resulted in a shootout that killed two Kansas City police officers, an FBI agent, and the chief of police from Oklahoma. Frank was also unintentionally killed during the heavy tommygun and shotgun fire. A memorial plaque was set up outside of Union Station in 1991 honoring the law enforcement officers who’s lives were taken that day, and some of the bullet holes from this shootout can still be seen on the walls just to the left of where the plaque stands.

The memorial plaque for the Kansas City Massacre, located at the front of Union Station at the set of doors to the right. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.
Two bullet holes in the wall to the left of the plaque. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

HAUNTED HISTORY

With such a tragic event having occurred here, it isn’t a shock to learn that there are rumors of a haunting. One of the most popular legends is that the ghost of Frank “Jelly” Nash can be seen wondering Union Station, perhaps confused about his sudden and unexpected death. Staff and visitors alike have reported seeing his ghostly apparition, both during the day and at night.

Other people report seeing the figures of men in dark suits outside of the building where the massacre took place. When people attempt to approach these figures, they will suddenly vanish.

Footsteps can be heard on the pavement outside, and even inside the building as if it is still the bustling train station that it once was. It is also speculated that these are the footsteps of those that were involved in the massacre, with that moment of violence, fear, and panic making some sort of imprint on the area.

Outside Union Station, by the memorial plaque. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

A photo historian, Roy Inman, shared some of his own strange encounters with KSHB (a Kansas City news station) from when he helped to document the restoration process that took place in the 1990s. Inman also reported hearing footsteps, and mentioned a classic legend of a woman in white, stating that “One of them is the persistent story of a lady in white who appears as a reflection in glass. Then you turn around and there’s nothing there.” He also mentioned the sighting of a well-dressed man that stands under one of the clocks. About this apparition, Inman said “You look at him and ask, ‘Hello? May I help you?’ and he looks straight at them, tips his hat and disappears.”

This is believed to be the clock where the apparition of a man is sometimes seen standing underneath. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

From what I can tell, Ghost Adventures is the only paranormal crew to have ever received permission to actually investigate Union Station. This is due to the fact that it is very active and busy, so clearing out the building enough for a long period of time is a hassle. (I am sure Ghost Adventures was able to compensate in some way, or were made an exception due to their fame.) If you are interested in watching that episode, it is season 7, episode 10. In this episode, they did capture visual evidence of an apparition that did not have a reflection on the marble floor, which was interesting.

My Findings and Final Thoughts

I have personally been to Union Station five or six times now for various reasons over the last few years; sometimes to visit the exhibits, and sometimes to just stroll through and take photos and admire the atmosphere and history…and of course to look out for ghosts as well! But during one of my recent visits to prepare for this blog post, I decided to do my best at a discrete, public ghost hunt: I turned on my spirit box and put on some headphones, and listened while I wondered through the station taking photos.

Using my spirit box at Union Station (with headphones, so no one else could hear it) photo taken in March, 2021.

I know that using a spirit box this way gives a lot of room for audio-matrixing (hearing what you want to hear) but it was still worth a shot, and I heard nothing compelling come through it that day.

Another angle of the Great Hall on a slow weekday. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

I am still holding on to hope that I can find a way to investigate this location more; maybe by discretely doing an Estes Method session on a day that it happens to be slow with someone else, or tag along with the next big-name crew that is allowed to investigate.

Union Station. Photo taken by Ivy in March, 2021.

My Tips for Visiting

Can it be investigated? No, not really…

Ghost Adventures is the only group I can find who has been allowed to perform a full investigation here. You can, however, do what I did and try and use some discrete investigative methods.

Anyone can park and walk inside, free of cost. Some of the parking and parking garages just outside of Union Station do cost to park, and some work with the honor system.

It does tend to get busy on warmer days and the weekends, so be ready to park down the street a walk a little bit to get there.

Those in a wheelchair or with walkers can be dropped off at the Front Entrance facing Pershing Road. (I went recently on a Saturday and it was very crowded, but when I returned the following Tuesday, it was a ghost-town inside. Pun intended.)

There are various maps set up and brochures that are available inside for the different exhibits and activities that can be found here, as well as plenty of information on their website.

Although it cannot be thoroughly investigated, it is still historically interesting, and remember: paranormal encounters can happen anywhere during the day when it is least expected, so keep your eyes and ears open, and snap plenty of photos if you do visit Union Station! Many sightings here seem to come from regular staff and visitors who were not seeking the paranormal. You never know what might happen…

If one haunted location is not enough to satisfy your spooky travel needs, you can visit the Union Cemetery which is nearby! (It is a 15 minute walk from one location to the next.)

Frighteningly yours,

Ivy!

Works cited:

https://www.unionstation.org/about

https://www.fbi.gov/history/famous-cases/kansas-city-massacre-pretty-boy-floyd

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansas_City_massacre

https://www.americanhauntingsink.com/kansascity

https://www.kshb.com/news/local-news/the-sounds-of-crowds-footsteps-from-another-time-still-echo-in-union-station-photo-historian-says

https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/ghost-adventures/episodes/union-station

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