Rochester Cemetery

History

Located in Topeka, Kansas is the oldest historic cemetery in Shawnee County: Rochester Cemetery. This large cemetery is home to over 14,000 burials and even has its own pet cemetery. Like most old burial grounds, this location has been surrounded with eerie legends for decades. As someone who was raised in Topeka, I grew up hearing some of these legends first hand…

Sign for Rochester Cemetery. There are a few others nearby along the roads with arrows that direct you to it. Photo taken by Ivy in September 2021.

Haunted History

Rochester Cemetery is home to the legend of the “Albino Woman”, or more commonly, the “Blue Albino Woman”. There are a few variations of this legend, so I picked the one that I grew up hearing and will also share some versions that I found online:

The most common version of the story, and the one I have known about for years, claims that sometime in the 1800’s a woman with Albinism (some say her skin almost have a pale blueish tint) had lived in the area and gave birth to a daughter with the same condition. She was often bullied by locals because of her appearance, and could only go outside at night because the sun hurt her skin. One day her daughter suddenly went missing, and she searched endlessly for her but could not find her. She spent the rest of her life (and afterlife) searching desperately for her daughter, and her spirit can still be seen along the road and in the cemetery to this day looking for her lost child.

Some other versions of this legend have different endings to essentially the same story, with one claiming that she was so devastated with the loss of her child that she threw herself off of a cliff into Lake Ontario, killing herself, and that her spirit is still seen searching for her child. Yet another variation claims that the story ends after some local men thought she was a witch so they kidnapped her and buried her alive, leaving her spirit to wonder the area in search of vengeance for her killers.

Other odd behaviors witnessed by locals was that this woman would glare at children who were walking outside or getting on/off the school bus which scared them, would peer at them through the windows of their homes, and was generally “odd” and anti-social.

By far, the most creepy and outlandish take on this legend titled “Blue Albino Woman” on the Fandom wiki website describes her as being “a ghoulish cannibalistic lady” that is “known to devour human flesh”. The post, which is linked at the end under my sources, also goes into more detail about what supposedly happens when you actually see her:

Sometimes, she can be seen roaming around the streets of Topeka. From afar, she just looks like a harmless and frail elderly lady but the closer she gets to you, the more you notice how deformed, mutated, decomposed, and monstrous she looks. Many people who’ve encountered this hag like creature have noticed that they can sense that her intentions is brutal revenge. She hardly utters a word but that only makes her seem even more inhuman. She has a strange blueish pale pigment, rotting atrocious skin, red glowing eyes, sharp carnivorous teeth and long white hair. Many people who dare visit the Rochester Cemetery at night time usually encounter her. She often runs them off. Some people who don’t make it, say that the Woman will devour them alive like a zombie. She’s even been seen arising from the graveyard ground. She’s even seen once in a while out in public like stores but it’s on very rare occasions.” The post goes on to talk about the origins of this story and how she was a real person with Albanism who’s spirit is now stuck in a “revengeful limbo” because of the mistreatment she faced during her life.

Old photo of a woman with albinism used on the Fandom wiki website for this post. Note: This is not the “Blue Albino Woman”.

Legends of the Blue Albino Woman have caused enough of a stir that the cemetery usually closes in the evening and cannot be visited at night. Some brave people still sneak into the cemetery at night to try and catch a glimpse of her, but some people are still too scared to enter…

Other than the Blue Albino Woman, some visitors also experience other general signs of a haunting, like feelings of paranoia and like they are being watched, hearing footsteps or voices when no one else is there, and a heavy, dark presence that seems to follow them as they try and leave.

My Findings and Final Thoughts:

Photo of Ivy outside of the entryway to Rochester Cemetery, taken in September 2021.

As someone who grew up in Topeka, I have known about this legend since I was a child. I remember being young and occasionally driving by this cemetery at night and being scared that I might look out of the car window and see her. Many people I know have snuck in for thrills at night to try and see the Blue Albino Woman, including not just people in my own generation, but people in my parents generation as well. Rumors of this ghostly figure have been circulating Topeka since at least 1967, with some sources saying that the albino woman died in 1963. There is an obvious factor of judgement, lack of education on the condition, and false stereotypes about people who were born with Albinism that this legend likely stems from which allowed it to evolve into what it is today.

I found the comments underneath the Fandom wiki website to be interesting, so here is a few of my favorites from anonymous Fandom users:

A Fandom user (4/1/2020)“Ok this is really beyond all truth. My mother knew this woman and this woman’s parents were abusive to her because she was born albino which was a rarity. The family lived near Rochester cemetery and she did have a child but was not married. My mother said the baby died because the woman’s parents did not know until she went into labor. My mother said the family did bury the baby somewhere in Rochester cemetery, but the site was not revealed and this happened sometime in the late 40s to early 50s. The woman walked the road near the cemetery and behind where our Goodyear plant is now located. She was not mean, just very lonely. She had a gray dog that was seen with her. Children would make fun of her if they saw her, but my Mom and my grandmother said some people would bring her food after her parents died and they would leave it outside because she was terrified of people. My mother could only speculate at how the woman became pregnant because it was never talked about. Because of all the silence and abuse which caused the woman to hide is why such a legend exists and continues to grow. My Mom told me she called her Mary or Molly and she said the woman died in another state possibly California where she went to stay with relatives of her father. She was just a mentally disabled person who didn’t understand the cruel ways of others. My Mom is gone now but I remember that she was saddened by the ghost’ stories.”

A Fandom user (5/27/2016) – “My wife and I live a half mile from Rochester Cemetary, a lot of our relatives are buried there.  About the only part of the story above that we have ever heard is that she was a real albino woman.   Havent heard of flesh eating or even attacking anyone.  I heard of her first in the mid70s, and that she had lost a baby and would go out looking for her at night.  Sounds like the story has really grown over the years. My wifes’ grandmother says she went to school with her,  and she died in a house fire.

A Fandom user (5/13/2019) – “Wow! This makes her sound like a horror video game character. I don’t know who made up this description, but she wasn’t evil when she was alive and she isn’t an evil spirit now.

Other comments from social media posts (like Facebook) agree that this was a real woman that their parents/grandparents knew, and that the stories about her have spiraled out of control over the years. Although it is difficult to research some aspects of this story and fact check all of the details, there is one thing that I am confident about: these legends can be incredibly insensitive, and if this was a real woman who’s spirit wonders the area, her spirit and memory deserve to rest in peace. The most likely scenario is that she was indeed real and mistreated, may have lost a child, and grieved the loss in her own way while possibly dealing with other mental health issues/was mentally disabled to some extent.

I decided to visit this cemetery the last time I traveled back to Topeka. As with most outdoor locations, large-scale investigations can be a hassle due to all of the contamination of nearby people, houses, cars, dust/dirt, insects, and animals. I arrived later than expected and assumed it would be closed, but despite it being listed as closed online, the gate was still open so I was able to go inside. I was not there for long out of fear of the car and me being locked inside if they came to close the gate, but I did take some photos and tried to get a general feel for the place. It was very quiet and calm, and I did not experience anything out of the ordinary. (Nor did a heavy, dark presence follow me as I left.)

Side note: Many ghost hunters/visitors who take photo’s at night in this cemetery claim to capture glowing orbs on camera, but my trained eyes tell me it’s just dust/dirt and insects.

My Tips for Visiting Rochester Cemetery:

Can it be investigated? Yes! But mostly during the day. I have heard of some ghost hunters getting permission to investigate at night, so that might still be a possibility.

At the time I am writing this, the cemetery is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has a gate that closes to keep cars out at night. But like I said, I showed up after it was supposed to be closed (around 6:30 p.m.) and the gate was still open so I went in. It is a lovely cemetery to take a stroll through and is very well kept, and there are some relatively recent graves that I spotted so it’s important to remain respectful as to not upset mourners who come to visit their deceased loved ones.

Rochester Cemetery as the sun goes down. Photo taken by Ivy in September 2021.

One more thing: If you are from the area or plan on visiting, please try and share this legend in a more gentle and accurate way. I don’t want this woman being immortalized as a scary legend that people seek for thrills. I know that the line of ethical investigating is thin and difficult to avoid crossing, but it’s important that we do our best to be as kind and respectful as possible to innocent lives that have been lost. The woman in this legend does not deserve such an insensitive and inaccurate form of remembrance.

Frighteningly yours,

Ivy!

Works cited:

https://www.rochestercemetery.org/

https://itsmth.fandom.com/wiki/Blue_Albino_Woman

http://dayincatasauqua.blogspot.com/2011/08/albino-lady.html

https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/ghost-stories/12066

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