Arts/Entertainment

Ghosts of the Wornall House Come Out to Play

Before the Wornall House Ghost Tours begin this weekend, we went inside for a spooky first look.

Story by Riley Mortensen

If you’re looking to add a little fright to your Halloween experience, the Ghost Tours and Paranormal Investigations of the John Wornall House might be right up your dimly lit alley.

The chance to glimpse at a ghost, tour a house more than a century old and hear stories of history and a little mystery await you this Halloween at 6115 Wornall Rd.

A longstanding Kansas City tradition, the Ghost Tours and Paranormal Investigations of the Wornall House offer guests the historical scare of a lifetime as you walk through the home of John Bristow Wornall and his descendants.

Built in 1858, most of the ghost stories center on the house’s involvement in the Civil War and the Battle of Westport, which was fought in October of 1864. The house was used as a field hospital for both Confederate and Union soldiers and saw its fair share of death.

Those brave enough to take the plunge will be guided through multiple rooms in the house, each with its own historical theme, says Sarah Bader-King, director of public programming and events for the Wornall/Majors House Museums.

Room themes include spiritualism, Victorian-era divination games and spells, Victorian-style mourning, Civil War surgery and a grand finale performance of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” by actors from the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Although the tour will be packed with historical information, reports of ghosts coming out to play are also not uncommon. Patrons often report seeing a Civil War soldier leaning or standing on the staircase, footsteps across the landing in the entryway and the distinct smell of cherry tobacco (a product not too common nowadays); there’s even one tale of a tour guide being hit by a hat that flew off the wall.

One of Bader-King’s favorite stories involves the entryway of the house, which she says would have been a center for activity during the home’s more lively days.

Many years ago, before the house was given more modern updates, the light fixture suspended in the front entrance required attendants to lean over the staircase in order to turn it on or off, Bader-King says. On two occasions, two separate tour guides reported feeling a reassuring hand on their shoulder, as if it was there to stabilize them while they reached for the light. Coincidentally, both of the guides also happened to be pregnant, the director says, making her think the culprit might have been Wornall’s second wife, Eliza, who was pregnant during most of their 11-year marriage.

Eliza, who buried five children of her seven children before dying herself at 29, may have been protecting the women, Bader-King says. Wornall’s first wife also died extremely young less than a year after they were married, but his third wife, his second wife’s cousin, outlived him.

Clara Van Draska, a volunteer who works in the Victorian mourning room, says her favorite story may have involved Wornall himself.

One day, a group of women were meeting in the house to go over some material. There were no men in the house, says Van Draska. On this particular day, an electrician had been called to do a repair.

After going upstairs for a very short amount of time, he came back downstairs and told the women he was leaving. Surprised, the women commented on how quick the repair was, and the electrician said, “Well, that man up there told me to get out.” The electrician left and never came back, she says.

If ghost stories aren’t enough to curdle your blood, how about the true horrors you’ll find in the surgery room?

The Western Bluecoats Field Hospital (WBFH) reenactors will put on a show as doctors and patients tell you their tales and show you their wounds.

Often referred to as “the Gettysburg of the West,” the Battle of Westport was pivotal and high in casualties, says Mason Lumpkins, a WBFH member. Most of the deaths were caused by disease, since the importance of sterilization was not yet known, Lumpkins says.

Bullets used during the Civil War were made of lead, a soft metal, and would shatter any bone they came into contact with. The only option then was amputation. Luckily during this time, access to anesthesia was available, which helped with a clean cut.

In the surgery room, guests will have the chance to see tools and examples of procedures, some of which are still used today.

Tours depart every 15 minutes from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on October 23, 24, 30 and 31. Tours cost $15 per person and last about an hour with an edible treat in the carriage house included. Paranormal investigations led by professional investigators will go on after hours with two sessions each night, 10 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 2 a.m. Tickets to the investigations are $50 each, but hurry—there are only a few spots left.

Visit www.wornallmajors.org for more information and to reserve your spot for the Ghost Tours and Paranormal Investigations now.