A Most Haunted Fort

Part 2

by A. Raby

An article from the April 2017 Star Beacon


         In the December 2016 issue of The Star Beacon, I wrote the first part of this article. Here I continue with more reports about hauntings on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
         Another well known story is about the ghost of Catherine Sutler. Her family was passing through the fort on the way to the Oregon Territory. One day, Catherine sent her two children, Ethan and Mary, to go fetch firewood. After they did not return after a reasonable amount of time, search parties were immediately formed.
         After three days of searching, the children were given up as dead. Of course, Catherine never gave up. She became a familiar figure as she was constantly out searching for the children. She eventually caught pneumonia and died that winter, and was buried in the cemetery on the fort.
         Her husband, Hiram, returned home to Indiana. The children reappeared in the spring. It seemed they had been swept downriver while searching for firewood and were rescued and taken care of by a tribe of Fox Native Americans. The children were returned to their father.
         Despite this sad story, it seems Catherine does not rest easily. People have reported seeing a woman wearing a calico dress, usually during the fall, walking with a lantern above her head, calling for Mary and Ethan. Apparently, no one told her the children were found.
         However, according to research, it was found that Hiram Rich was the sutler for the fort until 1862, when he died. His wife’s name wasn’t Catherine, but that of his only child, who died in infancy. This means the apparition is still unidentified.
         Another story involves the "Lady in Black" at 16 Sumner Place. Reportedly, she is seen wearing a black dress and shawl, and is known for helping with various household chores. She is also drawn to children and she tries to calm them when they’re upset.
         One report relates a family's child told his parents that a nice lady would read stories to him before he went to sleep, and they found a book in the child’s room they didn’t remember owning.
         However, after one family was scared by her appearance, they consulted with the base chaplain. He suggested an exorcism. This only managed to send her to the next house over, 18 Sumner Place. People still report seeing her look out from the attic window.
         The currently active United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) has only been around since 2002. Still, in just 15 years, it has seen a lot of pain. There have been a few deaths of prisoners within the walls, even though the policy is no one is prounounced dead within the facility. People have claimed to see odd occurrences, but nothing overtly ghostly.
         However,  there is a piece left over from "the Old Castle" as it is called. The Trusty Unit (TU), a place separate from the main facility for prisoners who have shown impeccable behavior and maturity, has been in the same buildings for 50-plus years.
         One prisoner related he was in the bathroom of one of the "bays," as the different units are called in the TU, doing his laundry.
"I had been told about something of the ghostly goings-on in the bay, but I hadn't experienced them myself yet. People told stories about walking into the bathroom and all of the faucets would be running. One night I was in there, doing my laundry, just pulling my clothes out of the dryer, when a nearby stall door just slammed closed. I knew I was the only one in that bathroom, but I grabbed my clothes and backed out the door. It was creepy," Bob* said. Talking to a few other prisoners confirmed the stories had circulated about this particular day for a long time.
         There are dozens of other small tales about various sightings and hauntings on post. The Frontier Army Museum runs a Haunted Homes Tour every year. For those interested in ghost tourism, they can look for more information on line at http://www.ffam.us, or they can call the museum itself at 913-684-3767. Until next time, keep an eye out and share your ghost stories!

* Name changed due to facility rules

         A. Raby writes from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and is editor/formatter of the institute’s publication, The Passing Times.




This page updated April 11, 2017



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