Saturday, March 28, 2009

Round Mound Cemetery

Colors streaked the sky above Round Mound Cemetery like it had been wiped with a raw steak.

The cemetery sits in the shade of a small copse of trees atop a hill surrounded by a sea of dead fields. Gravel roads tendril from county-paved highways in this rural area, some that lead from Atchison, Kan., to the nearby small town of Cummings.

That’s where Brady had first heard of Round Mound. Local legend has it that a witch is buried in the cemetery, although genealogical records are somewhat sketchy on the subject of witches. The legend says the cemetery is haunted, that wind doesn’t blow on top of the hill and the dead scream from their graves.

Back in the fall, Brady, Will and I made plans to travel to the cemetery armed with cameras and recorders to see what happened. Of course, it was now January.

Brady had been to the cemetery as a kid, but that was long enough we needed GPS to actually get there. A gravel road dropped from a county highway just after a bridge and snaked between fields, branching off toward the hill. Brady’s friend Kurt once had a bad experience at that bridge.

“The Round Mound story. Easily the weirdest, most confounding thing that’s ever happened to me,” Kurt said.

Kurt had gone to the cemetery one night with five other people, including his friend Brian. They got out of two cars and Kurt, Brian and another walked ahead, the three girls behind.

“As we go up the path, we all see a light moving between the trees,” Kurt said. “All of a sudden, when we’re about three-fourths of the way up, the light stops and starts running towards us. Another light pops … on the side of the path. We turn around and haul it to the cars. As we run, more lights appear on either side of the path.”

They hop in the cars and drive to the highway.

“I get out of my car,” Kurt said. “And go to the one behind me to see what we’re doing.”

The people in the second car yell at Kurt, telling him to get back in his car. He turns and lights are coming from under the bridge.

“There are lights just off the side of the road,” Kurt said. “We drive down to the intersection east of there, everyone decides to go home. Since I live by Cummings I drive back down past Round Mound. There are still lights moving along the path.”

Although Kurt said the most logical explanation is flashlights, he’s not convinced the lights weren’t supernatural.

“When the lights moved they moved more smoothly than someone running with it could,” he said. “And there didn’t appear to be anyone behind the lights.”

Brian’s not sure there’s a more realistic explanation. He saw a light in a tree too small to hold a man’s weight.

“The lights looked like flashlights the way they were moving around,” he said. “But some were in places that would be impossible for a person to be.”

Yep. That’s what we were looking for: strange lights, witches, a windless hill and the screaming dead.

Will pulled his car through a wide-open, home-welded gate that sat down the hill from the cemetery and parked on the brown grass just outside the cemetery grounds.

Stone walls blockade Round Mound Cemetery; its entrance a series of pipe gates built like the queue at an amusement park. We wound our way in and prepared for the night.

Will and I brought cameras, Will brought the type of hand-warming packets hunters use, and Brady brought stomach flu.

Soft, rounded gravestones from the 1800s were scattered amongst sharper granite ones. A few colorful plastic flowers sat at the occasional grave, showing someone still remembered.

January in Kansas is cold, especially when the wind blows across the plains. Especially when you’re standing on a hill surrounded by those plains. Especially when you’re standing in a haunted cemetery on that hill where the wind wasn’t supposed to blow.

I thanked Will for the hand warmers.

We took pictures and, as the sun left and night slung black across our world, we waited for the dead to howl.

Then we saw the lights. Two of them, crawling along the base of the hill. We jogged to the front of the cemetery and looked over the stone wall for a better look. The lights were coming closer, winding up the gravel road toward the cemetery.

They stopped.

“Isn’t that by the gate?” Will asked.

“Yep,” I said.

Will used his keychain remote to flash the headlights of his car as we ran from the cemetery. The lights were from the caretaker’s pickup. He’d almost locked us up for the night.

Later, as the three of us sat in a restaurant in Atchison, laughing at the fact that: 1) we experienced nothing paranormal, 2) we froze our tails off, 3) we were almost locked in a cemetery, and 4) we’d stopped at the one restaurant in town that didn’t serve beer, we realized one thing.

The night was still fun.

Oh, except for Brady. He got sick in the restaurant bathroom. That’s horrifying enough.

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is here. Order online at:,, or visit Jason’s Web site at

Friday, March 20, 2009

Encounters with The Shadow People

Walking shadows.

People across the globe have reported seeing these black, two-dimensional, human shapes stalk the bedrooms and hallways of their homes. Sometimes these Shadow People ignore you, sometimes they pay all too much attention, but they are always sinister.

Although there are many theories as to what they are – ghosts, demons, aliens – there is one thing for certain regarding these walking shadows. They’re a mystery.

“I’ve seen them three times,” an anonymous poster to ‘From The Shadows’ wrote. “Two times in the daytime with my sister, and once by myself at night. What really is it?”

No one knows for certain, but the people who encounter them know they exist.

“There truly are a such thing as these Shadow People,” ‘Shadows’ reader Mike H. said. “I have had my own encounters.”

The first was when something wrenched Mike from sleep.

“This one started off waking me up in my sleep by smacking me,” he said. “Then I felt uncomfortable and started sleeping with lights, TV and door opened a crack.”

But the door started slamming shut, but only when Mike slept.

“This happened several times, and, no, it was not wind and it was not another person. Believe me, I checked,” Mike said. “That is what my first conclusion was, until it happened.”

The door slam jolted him from sleep. He sat up and looked at the door. He wasn’t ready for what he saw.

“I initially looked up at the door and what I seen shocked me,” he said. “There was a tall Shadow Man standing above me at the door and it had both its hands up as if in the motion like it just got done slamming my door.”

There was no confusion as to what had slammed his door, because Mike had left his bedroom light on. The Shadow Man was in full view.

“Before I seen this Shadow figure, I kept telling myself that, ‘oh it’s just a muscle spasm, nothing smacked me,’ or, ‘oh, it must be neighbors messing around or wind blowing against the door and causing it to slam like that.’ But when I seen this thing, there was no denying it anymore, I had either a ghost or evil entity in my room.”

Then it was gone. But not forever. The Shadow Man still haunts Mike’s room, often enough Mike gave it a name, Casper the Unfriendly Ghost.”

“I think it is something more along the lines of an evil entity or maybe a demon or some other form of being and not human,” he said.

Carl has seen the Shadow Man, too, and, much like Mike’s sighting, the room was well lit.

“Back when I was about seven years old, I was walking to the kitchen to go eat breakfast,” he said. “On my way there, I ran into a black cloud hovering above the floor but didn’t pay it much attention and walked right through it, at which point it vanished.”

But the black cloud in the kitchen hadn’t really gone.

“About 10 minutes later, while I was still in the kitchen, I saw a completely black figure with blood-red eyes watching me through the window,” Carl said. “As soon as it saw that I had noticed it, it ran through the wall (out to) my front yard. Strangely, my parents were looking in the same direction and did not see anything.”

Carl thought the red-eyed Shadow Man had left him that day, but he was wrong.

“More recently, I have begun noticing figures similar to the one I saw eight years ago walking around,” he said. “No one but myself seem to notice them, and they do not run away or disappear when seen, they just stick to dark secluded and hidden corners, watching as though some untold event is about to transpire.”

Another anonymous “Shadows” poster saw the Shadow Man in March.

“Four nights ago I was sitting on my bed, laptop on my lap, and something suddenly caught my attention,” the poster said. “At the foot of the wall a shadow started to grow and crawl up the wall.”

Anonymous slowly reached over, picked up his cell phone and snapped a picture of the Shadow.

“As soon as I snapped the picture it stopped moving up the wall, paused for a second and then faded away,” Anonymous said. “The whole thing did not last more than six or seven seconds. I didn’t feel anything negative or evil from the Shadow. If anything it felt like I had surprised it and once it noticed I was watching it, it got out of there.”

Trying to avoid ridicule, Anonymous closely guards the photo and his identity.

“I have only shared this with a few trustworthy friends as it has been my experience that most people laugh, make fun of such things, call a person names, and mock them,” Anonymous said. “Because of people like that we may never find out what these things are. No one wants to be thought of as crazy, delusional, or a liar, so they won’t seriously investigate it. The ones that do try to find out what things are are not taken seriously by the scientific community.

“Anyways, that is my story.”

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is here. Order online at:,, or visit Jason’s Web site at

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ryan Straub Knows There Are Ghosts -- He Sees Them

The car wreck left 16-year-old Ryan Straub broken, but it may have fixed something in him that had, until that point, lain dormant.

“I was hurt really bad,” Straub, now 25 and living in central Missouri, said. “Then I started seeing things, even that night. Spirits. After that I thought, ‘what the hell’s happening to me?’”

As he saw more and more people – dead people – no one around him could see, he set out to find out what had happened to him.

“That’s what’s sparked my interested in the paranormal,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my life to it. Since then I’ve been indulging myself in research.”

Straub began investigating the paranormal in his hometown of Marceline, Mo., the boyhood home of Walt Disney; which included a local nursing home, and the “lady in white” that haunts a Marceline restaurant.

Straub chose to attend Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., because of its paranormal reputation.

“It’s haunted,” he said. “That’s the only reason I went to it. It’s a Catholic university. There were exorcisms conducted on the top floor of one building. That’s why I went to school here. I heard it was haunted by demons.”

Today, Straub, along with Jeremy Taylor and Mike Hourcade investigate the paranormal with their group Tirfirnath, which means, “to observe the dead” in Tolkien elvish. They also, if asked, try to rid an area of any unwanted spirits.

“The three of us started doing extensive research,” Straub said. “I like to call our group an ‘evaluate and eradication’ group. We’ll go into an area and determine what (type of entity) is there and get rid of it. I don’t like going somewhere and not helping someone.”

Straub’s group has investigated spots in Idaho, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma, and although the group specializes in hauntings, they’ll also entertain reports of aliens, Bigfoot and werewolves.

Tirfirnath has received a report of an Ohio man witnessing what looked like a large dog walking on two legs near a construction site and one report from Missouri.

“A friend heard stuff in the woods and he saw what looked like a large wolf-like creature walking around the property,” he said. “That’s probably the most non spirit-related thing we’ve dealt with.”

Straub’s most chilling encounter was at Hill Haven, a nursing home in Marceline that was in the process of closing its doors.

“My mom used to run the building,” he said. “My mom would work up there during the day. There was no electricity.”

One night the police called Straub’s mother reporting lights were on in the building and it looked like people were walking along the hallways. She was ill, so she asked Ryan to go by the building.

“She sent me and a friend to figure out what was going on,” he said. “We walked through the whole building. The lights were on when we went up there. There was one light on in one room on the third floor.”

As they approached the room on the third floor, they could hear the creak of a rocking chair on a hard floor.

“The doors were very big and very heavy,” Straub said. “We opened the door and there was the spirit of an old woman rocking back and forth.”

The sight of the apparition startled the two, but not like what happened next.

“The woman who was facing the window without moving her body turned her head 180 degrees to face us,” Straub said. “The smile was literally across her face. It was unlike anything paranormal I’ve ever seen.”

His mother later confirmed a woman had lived in that room.

Since that encounter, Straub has tried to banish spirits from the building, but whatever’s there isn’t ready to leave.

“What I don’t understand from that building, you can go through and do cleansing and before you know it there is something else going on up there,” he said. “It sounds like the building growls at you. It’s not pipes. I can tell you that.”
Have a haunting? Straub and Tirfirnath can be reached at
“I’ll do anything I can to help somebody,” he said. “I’ll go just about anywhere.”

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is here. Order online at:,, or visit Jason’s Web site at