A Most Haunted Fort

Part 1

by A. Raby

An article from the December 2016 Star Beacon


         The older a place is, the more ghost stories seem to accumulate about the place. The more active a place is, the more phenomena gets reported. Fort Leavenworth, with its long and storied history, is no exception.

         For those unfamiliar with the history of Fort Leavenworth, it was first established May 8, 1827 as Cantonment Leavenworth, and its purpose was to protect trade along the Santa Fe Trail. Two years later, the post was evacuated and held by the Kickapoo tribe for several months. In 1832, the post officially became Fort Leavenworth.
         The fort helped protect the wagon trains traveling west. During the Civil War, thousands of recruits were trained and mustered out of the post for the conflict. After the war, Fort Leavenworth became the main base of operations for frontier conflicts, supporting more than 1,000 engagements with many different Native American tribes. In 1866, the post saw the formation of four black regiments, who became known as the "Buffalo Soldiers" among their enemies, due to their valor.
         In 1875, the United States Disciplinary Barracks was built and established. During its history, many events occurred, ranging from the executions of Nazi war prisoners to "Rocky" Graziano getting his start in boxing. In 1991, the School of Application for Cavalry and Infantry was established, and later it evolved into the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. Since then, the post has continued to grow and evolve throughout the years.
         Given all the history, it is no surprise that there is a plethora of ghost stories on post. While nearly every building on post has some sort of story attached, there appear to be a couple places of note.
         In 1875, the St. Ignatius Chapel church and rectory burned down and claimed the life of the priest assigned to the chapel. After the fire, some of the material was salvaged and used to build a home in the same spot. In the dining room of the new home, the fireplace was built with some of the still-scorched bricks. Etched into some of these bricks are names, to include a "Father Fred." There are a lot of apparition reports of a figure in a robe and collar here. In 1973, a photo was taken during a dinner party. When the photo was developed, a smudged image of a robed figure appeared. Interestingly, the rebuilt chapel burned down at its new location in 2000.
         The Post General’s house is said to be one of the myriad places where General George A. Custer can be seen. According to reports, he is often spotted on the first floor of the home. In 1867, then-Lieutenant Colonel Custer was court-martialed at Fort Leavenworth for leaving his command and mistreating his troops. It’s pretty well known that General Custer died at the Battle of Little Big Horn (or Greasy Grass to the Native Americans) in 1876, so why his spirit appears on Fort Leavenworth remains a mystery.
         After the new facility was built in 2002, the barracks of the Old Disciplinary Barracks was torn down in 2004, yet many of the old buildings have ghost stories attached to them. The most notorious story is about Guard Tower 8. The tower was shut down decades ago, after a soldier committed suicide with a shotgun in it. One night, in the early ’90s, a soldier worked the swing shift in Tower 10. He could see someone in Tower 8, even though the tower was supposed to be closed. He thought it was the Watch Commander or the Commandant testing his vigilance. He called the control room and reported the incident. After still seeing the person in the tower and repeated calls to the control room, he couldn’t figure out what was going on.
         It was not until his relief came and told him about the suicide that he realized he had seen a ghost. According to Soldiers Magazine, the old control room still gets staticky and silent calls from Tower 8. Other stories reported from the old prison facility include screams from an elevator shaft where 14 Nazi POWs were executed by hanging, and a ghostly pair of inmates can be seen wandering the third story of the hospital building.
         The best place on Fort Leavenworth for para-normal activity is said to be The Rookery. It is the oldest surviving building on post, and the oldest continuously occupied residence in the state. It is also considered to be one of the most haunted places in the state! There have been reports of at least four separate entities sighted within The Rookery. One report told of a young girl who is often seen throwing a tantrum. Other reports speak of an old man with bushy hair who wakes up sleeping residents. The other two are a little more involved.
         In 2010, the Munoz family was living there when the wife spotted an apparition of a man in a western-style shirt and vest with burlap or tweed pants. Some time later, the family bought a book on Fort Leaven-worth ghosts, when the wife identified the ghost she saw as Major Edmund Ogden. Major Ogden was the quartermaster of Fort Leavenworth, but helped oversee the construction of Fort Riley. He died at Fort Riley during a cholera outbreak and is buried there, but clearly, his spirit returned to his old home on Fort Leavenworth. There are still reports of his spurred footsteps around the home.
         The other entity reported within The Rookery is a pretty scary one. Simply referred to as the Lady in White, she can be seen on either side of the duplex in long, white, scraggly hair. Seeing her is not the scary part. According to reports, when she sees you, she screams and charges you with her hands clawed as if to attack. It sounds a little "Hollywood," but there have been several credible reports of this. To quote a favorite movie, "I ain’t afraid of no ghost." Still, that would be pretty terrifying.
         There are so many places on Fort Leavenworth with so much history, and this is only a part of them. In the next issue, I’ll continue about more of the reports and sightings around the fort, as well as some reported incidents within the current USDB facility. Until next time, readers!

         A. Raby resides at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and is editor/formatter of the institute’s publication, The Passing Times. Part 2 of this article will run in the February 2017 TSB.




This page updated December 7, 2016



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