The stench of death clung in the air around the entryway closet of Misti McKenzie’s rural home.
Misti’s parents built the house in 1968, about a mile east of Richmond, Mo., on the spot where the parent’s of Bob Ford, the assassin of outlaw Jesse James, once lived. Ford, murdered in Colorado 10 years after the assassination, is buried in the Richmond City Cemetery.
“Not too long after we moved in, there was a terrible smell that came from the entryway coat closet,” Misti said. “Mom was convinced we had a dead mouse in the wall and tore out drywall in the closet and the basement below in an attempt to find the source.”
Misti’s parents never found a source for the smell, but knew it wasn’t a natural smell, because it never went away.
“It was so bad we couldn't store our coats in there,” Misti said.
Eventually, Misti’s mother turned to someone to find where the smell was coming from. Not an exterminator, not a carpenter or a plumber, but a psychic.
“Mom always had an interest in spirituality, psychics and metaphysics,” Misti said. “She was a pretty darn good psychic herself but she never wanted that to get out too much.”
During a gathering hosted by Misti’s mother, two psychics discovered the origin of the odor of death.
“She met two little old ladies who were ‘ghost busters,’” Misti said. “They believed that there was the spirit of a Confederate soldier that had run away injured from the Battle at Lexington.”
Misti had doubts about the story. That battle, from Sept. 18 to 20, 1861, was approximately 12 miles away. The wounded soldier would have also had to cross the Missouri River, which wasn’t likely.
“They said he died there where Mom's house was built,” Misti said. “They helped his spirit make his crossing to the light – he apparently had great remorse for running away and left unfinished business and I guess that is why he got stuck in our closet.”
After the cleansing, the smell of death was gone.
“After nearly 15 years, we could finally hang coats in there. The smell never returned,” Misti said. “To this day, if I think about it, it can feel sorta creepy in that entry hall if I am there alone. My son is living in the house now and does his best to keep that story as far in the back of his mind as he can – understandably so.”
Misti’s son, Ray Smith, said research on the Ford house revealed it wasn’t a soldier from the Battle of Lexington who died in the home, it was Bob Ford’s brother Charles, who shot himself through the heart.
“Charlie Ford committed suicide in the house that was once out there,” Misti said. “The little old lady ghostbusters thought the ‘young man’ had died from a head wound and had taken up staying in the closet because he was confused. Could it be that Charlie Ford was hanging around in our closet, trying to find his way home?”
But, as with many places marred with tragedy, Charlie Ford wasn’t the only one to try to commit suicide there.
“One more creepy little sideline in this story is that my Mom's Uncle Sammy was one of the last people to live in that old (Ford) house before it was torn down,” Misti said. “He attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head but was unsuccessful. Obviously, Uncle Sammy was never quite the same again. I don't remember much about him except he scared me as a little girl. I do remember seeing blood on the wall upstairs bedroom.”
Misti also remembers bullet holes in the walls of the old Ford house and a trap door in the floor.
“I was told the trap door lead to a tunnel that came out down the hill from the house and was used as an escape tunnel,” she said, but like the original house, the Fords and the smell of death, “any evidence of that is gone.”
Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt
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