URBAN LEGENDS

KANSAS - Sauer Castle

by: Becky Ray

 

READ MORE IN KANSAS CITY HAUNTINGS: HISTORY AND MYSTERY OF THE PARIS OF THE PLAINS by Becky Ray

On July 2, 2015, Sauer Castle's owner made a post to a Facebook group about the house, and I think it is important anyone interested in this home knows his feelings and respects his wishes and property. Here highlights from his post:
"I would like everyone to know that respects and admires the Castle and its history that I am very appreciative of your support of our restoration efforts. I am sure that when Jason started this Facebook page, his intentions were noble. However, as with all social media, there is a big downside when people come onto sites who are not informed or who have a negative agenda. As a result, I have been the recipient of vitriol, character assassination, hate mail, and numerous threats against me.
"From the mid-fifties on, the Castle has been the subject of constant trespassing, attempted break-ins, dangerous encounters and often violence. As a result, from the day I purchased the Castle, I have attempted to keep a low profile for the Castle believing that the fewer people who knew about the Castle the better. Moreover, the less that people who were already familiar with Castle thought about her, the less damage that would occur, and I was correct. That is why I have never given interviews to newspapers, radio, or TV stations who constantly contact me.
"Unfortunately, the Facebook page has brought the Castle to the attention of thousands of people, creating tremendous problems for the Castle and the restoration efforts. The constant flow of traffic with people trespassing on the property and trying to break in is a sad byproduct of the Facebook page. Windows are shot out every month or smashed by those trying to break-in. My caretaker and dogs are harassed nightly and often threatened with physical violence. While this has happened occasionally in the past, the Facebook page has accelerated the level of attention and, therefore, damage from the people wanting to encounter ghosts. The police are called on almost a nightly basis to arrest people who are trespassing on the property.
"Now, I will dispel the myths that most people on this page enjoy fantasizing about. There are no ghosts and no evil spirits inhabiting the Castle or the property. The Castle is not about to fall down or be destroyed. She is structurally solid and sound, and the work that needs to be done is merely cosmetic. There is nothing endangered about the Castle and the people that want to palaver about that have no idea what they're talking about... There are no buried treasures, no secret tunnels, no bodies buried there, and nobody hanging in the tower.
"The Castle is attended to and defended daily. Even when I am not there, I get daily reports on everything. It is a private family residence, and the people who are on this page need to recognize they are not the owners. I respect other people's property rights and don't attempt to inject myself into other people's business, and I appreciate it when others don't get involved in mine. I have my own plans and timetables, and rest assured the Castle will continue to be maintained and improved over time. I expect to publish a book in the future on the real inside story of what I have gone through in trying to maintain this property.
Sincerely,
Carl G. Lopp" 

The following was initially written in 2003 and has been revised over time. I have also removed parts of my research due to others plagiarizing my work. If you wish to use any part of my research, please credit me, Becky Ray, properly.

I believe in proving a haunting; you must thoroughly research the history of the location and all persons involved. There must be credible correlating stories about the haunting, as this is the only proof we can obtain at this time. Since a physical investigation on the property is not possible, finding the root of the rumors about the mansion has become my goal. My findings are disappointing to most people as I do not believe the property is haunted. 

HISTORY

I did a complete background report on the home, and its owners and occupants from builder Anton (also known as Anthony) Philip Sauers birth, to his relocation to America, to the building of the Castle, his death, and to the present owner. 

On August 15, 1996, the present owner's caretaker was charged with felony theft for stealing at least $30,000 worth of articles from the landmark. Items stolen at this time included an antique chandelier, wall sconces, an antique dress, and a garden tractor. Also, the copper had been stripped from a turn-of-the-century heating unit in the basement.

In 1999, the Wyandotte County Unified Board of Commissioners created a redevelopment district for 41 acres, including Sauer Castle, over the present owner's objections. 

MYTHS/LEGENDS

There seem to be more myths about this grand building than people who know the truth about it. One of the legends is that members of the Sauer family are buried on the property. In actuality, Anton Sauer died a month after the death of his infant daughter, Helen. When Maria Sauer realized her husband was dying, she temporarily buried Helen in the family garden. When Anthony died, both were then buried side by side on the same day in Union Hill Cemetery. 

Another legend I heard is that there are buried treasures on the property. Some think that this comes from the small stone house built over the vast wine cellar on the house's south side. The Sauer family stored food and goods there for many years, and it is still intact and in perfect condition. However, in my research, I did find the source of this rumor. After Sauer's death, while a fence was being built at the edge of the grounds. A spade struck a brick and led to the discovery of a brick base about two feet underground with a flat stone at each corner. On each of the four flat stones, arrows had been chiseled, pointing in the same general direction. People believed these arrows meant that they might find a hidden treasure if the searchers could discover the point where the arrows' lines converged. No treasure was ever found.

Many people in the area of the home believe there is a secret tunnel to the Kaw River. However, Shawnee Hill is a solid ledge rock, and making a tunnel would be an enormous and laborious task. Some local historians propose that this myth is from people mistaking this legend with the Quindaro Slave Tunnel. For those not familiar with this legend, the Quindaro Slave Tunnel was supposedly an underground passageway built during Civil War days for the transportation of escaped slaves into the free city of Quindaro from the Missouri River. No proof that either tunnel ever existed has been found. Why the Sauers would have such a tunnel built never seems to come up in explanations.

One legend I heard is that there are radium springs on the property. This one probably came from the large springs on the south side of the property. However, these are just natural springs. Radium springs are hot odorless mineral water that has long been known for its soothing and healing powers for aches and pains. If such springs were on the property, I'm sure someone would have put them to use by now.

A common legend is that the land was stolen from the Shawnee Indians. In 1859, Tom Bigknife was given the title to this property, and he sold sections of it. Some say that Bigknife had the title stolen from him, or he was tricked out of it. However, the deed and papers are on file in the courthouse in the Register of Deeds' office, and they show that the Indian Commission approved the sale. Since Bigknife continued to live on the property, this is also highly unlikely.

But my favorite legend goes with the haunting stories—murders on the Property. The reports say that one of the former owners killed his entire family (a wife and either one or two children, depending on who is telling the story) and buried them in the backyard. Shortly after, he committed suicide by throwing himself from the tower. These stories sometimes make the crazed man Anthony Sauer himself or even his son-in-law, John Perkins. There was never a hanging at the house, although there were one suicide and one natural death. No murders have ever taken place in the mansion.

BUT IS IT HAUNTED?

This was the reason for all my research, and my feeling is that it is not. Sauer Castle is just a beautiful empty house that seems to beg for ghost stories to be attached to it. I must admit, it does resemble the Addams Family mansion. 

Haunting rumors go back to the 1930s, and the house has received much publicity as such. Tales of fire in the tower or lights flickering off and on (sunset reflecting off the windows) and ghosts moaning (wind whistling through the weather stripping in the tower) were circulating, but no one knew where they originated. Historian J.R. Russell attempted to discredit the rumors in his 1975 Kansas City Kansan article Old Mansion Filled with Legend.

Even the types of hauntings vary greatly depending on from whom you get your story. Some ghost lore seems to stem from the belief that since there were four deaths in the house, it must be haunted by Mr. Anthony Sauer, his daughter Helen, his son-in-law's suicide, and the drowning of his great granddaughter. 

Some say that Mary Sauer would walk the widows walk at the top of the four-story tower early in the evenings and sometimes late at night. For anyone who has been up there, it is obvious why. It has been compared to sitting in front of a cool fan on a hot day. Mary lived in the house until she died in 1919. Perhaps it was simply Mary atop the tower at night that was mistaken for a ghostly figure.

In an article called, The Phantom of Sauer Castle by John Hughes, published in Star Magazine in October of 1987, he stated that some psychics who visited the tower believe a doctor shot himself there and claimed to have sensed a medicinal smell. Hughes did not say who these psychics were. However, a later mention of Maurice Schwalm in the article leads me to believe that he was the psychic. Schwalm was the organizer of an Occult Studies Special Interest Group in the Kansas City branch of Mensa. He wrote two feature articles published in Fate Magazine and had a radio program in Kansas City where he would give call-in answers to psychic problems.

The owner of the house at the time of Hughes's article was Cindy Jones. I was also unable to find Ms. Jones while I was doing my research. When the Jones family bought the home in January of 1987, they intended to lead tours of the house dressed in period clothing. Of course, a little ghost lore wouldn't hurt business. In his article, Jones states, I've been terrified, and most of the time, it's during the day. My father-in-law laughs at me, but he has to admit that he has had experiences he cannot explain. I can feel it, but I keep wondering if it is just in my head. Jones went on to relay to Hughes a couple of strange happenings in the house. Her first story took place in the library. One of her friends had asked to have her wedding at the mansion the previous February. A lot of work had to be done to prepare the neglected home for the occasion, with the wedding date set for Valentine's Day, February 14. Visiting the Sauer family graves, Jones discovered that Josephine Sauer Kinney had died on February 14, 1967, twenty years to the date of her friends wedding. 

With all the people in the library of the house working to prepare it for the special day wearing masks to avoid breathing the dust and the windows open, Jones's father-in-law began using a crowbar to tear out the ceiling. Jones was in the middle of the room shoveling debris when something seemed to fall from the ceiling. It was a newspaper clipping that looked to be about 20 years old with a photograph of a woman in a wedding gown. Spooky? Yes, but proof of a haunting? Hardly.

During the interview, Hughes notes that the fireplace cover rattled furiously. If you are familiar with Kansas City winds, especially up on a hill, you know what causes that type of sound. Could this sound be heard outside by others and thought to be something else? Absolutely.

Jones also told of a day that she woke up with the idea to take photos of the Sauer family plot. It was May 1. When she got to the graveside, she noticed that one of the Sauers had died on May 1. I hate to be a party pooper, but I bet I could go to any cemetery today and find someone who died on this day. 

Jones recalled her most frightening experience to Hughes in the attic level of the tower. It seems Ms. Jones always kept a .22 derringer in her pocket. Given the trouble that Mr. Berry had with break-ins, this is not surprising. On the particular day of her story, she had forgotten her gun and asked her husband to go back to their home and retrieve it. No sooner had he left when Jones heard a noise coming from the attic that she could not explain. She remained where she was until her husband returned. Together they went to the attic, and there was nothing there. Once again, I feel compelled to bring up the Kansas City winds.

While Jones was the owner, the home was a favorite place for psychics. Jones claimed they told her the attic was the center for paranormal activity. Maurice Schwalm was one Jones invited to the house. He was convinced that a photo he took of the house clearly showed a haunting. However, his photo only showed a scratch of light over the doorway and another over an upstairs bedroom. I could not reach Schwalm for comment, but he was notorious at the article's time for getting his name in print. Several people have faith in Schwalm and believe he knew what he was talking about. 

I started asking around locally for haunting stories when I began this research early in 2003. However, for a house that most people in Kansas City consider haunted, no one has any activity stories. One of the legends I heard frequently is that a young boy haunts it. No one knew who this boy was or what he did. That is just the story that they have heard and believed.

Some people told me that there had been frequent apparition sightings by previous residents. But when questioned as to who these residents were, no one knew names or time periods. It was just another legend. This reminded me of when I was a child. The house three doors down was empty. Now, this wasn't a beautiful castle like the Sauer place. This was just a ranch-style house with a massive tree in the front yard. We referred to this as the haunted house, as it was very spooky to look at from the sidewalk. The entire front of the house was hidden in the shadows of the tree. After a couple of years, a family moved in, and I got to know them. I visited this house frequently. It was not a haunted house, but the legend was there because we started it in our fear of the unknown.

While Paul Berry owned the home, he protected it with a shotgun filled with rock salt. His German Shepard was his only living companion, and a past throat accident left him with a wailing bark. Many people mistook this for a haunting. Some say Berry was a hermit for the 30 years he lived there.

I found a post on an Internet bulletin board, and I have tried to locate the person who posted it but to no avail. He or she only left an email address, and that email is a dead end. The post is as follows: 
When I went to Sauer castle, it was called Igors. It had a strange caretaker named Mr. Berry who would chase away the cults there for their black masses. The story of the main haunting and the ghost that we saw was of a woman. The story is this she would go up to the widow's walk and look out at the river. One day and no one knew why she hung [sic] herself up there. You could see her in the tall windows swing; the family moved to the east and left a caretaker for the place. The pictures we took show the figure of a woman in the fount upstairs window on the right looking at the house and another on the entrance stairs. We never heard the story of the boy. I received several emails from people who remember calling the place Igors and trespassing and/or harassing the caretaker when they were in high school.

Caretakers seem to have a habit of not staying very long at the Castle. One could speculate that this is due to a haunting, but I feel it may be more the result of endless frustration in trying to protect the property from the curious and vandals who try to enter the property nightly. I believe the fence's addition has helped slow the trespassing, but there will always be prying minds as long as the house remains abandoned and mysterious.