The Haunted History of Springfield

  • Springfield’s haunted history cultivates interest in the paranormal.
  • “The unknown is always elusive and interesting,” said Chris Johnson of Springfield Paranormal Research.
  •  The month of October brings out the paranormal investigator in all of us.
  •  Residential homes seem to be more haunted than the tales of Pythian and Landers among others.
Landers Theatre entrance
Landers Theatre has a rich history of ghost stories from apparitions to unexplained noises.

Any city as rich in history as Springfield is sure to have some interesting ghost stories – and this Midwestern town doesn’t disappoint. Urban legends surrounding the undead side of the city have circulated for years, from the Pythian Castle to Landers Theatre and even some tales surrounding Missouri State University. Why are there so many spooky stories in Springfield? To figure that out, you have to look not just at Springfield, but across the world.

Genevieve Vallentine, founder of the MSU Folklore Club’s Haunted Tour at MSU, explained that any large community with cultural history behind it will generate folklore and ghost stories.

“Because they’re so historically diverse, it brings those stories in,” Vallentine said. “I think a lot of it is that it creates a sense of community and it gives groups the chance to explore the things they’ve always heard.”

Wells House entrance.
Wells House, the oldest dorm house on Missouri State’s campus, is one of many buildings on MSU that is rumored to be haunted.

Chris Johnson of Springfield Paranormal Research talks about how paranormal studies have become a mainstay in everyday life. Johnson and his group at Springfield Paranormal Research Society (417prs) says that their Halloween never ends due to their interest in paranormal studies.

“The unknown is always elusive and interesting,” Johnson said. “The month of October usually piques people’s interest and SyFy shows such as Ghost Hunters have made the paranormal a trend.”

It isn’t necessarily a requirement to have a paranormal experience to be an investigator Johnson continued.  Most paranormal groups have had an experience in the ones the team is familiar with.

Johnson also said that the group always goes in as skeptics instead of always believing what the people tell them.

“It takes a lot to convince us that a place is actually haunted and we scrutinize all the evidence that we collect,” Johnson said.

Johnson said they have investigated dozens of homes with the “faint style of knocking.” While this is a common thing for home owners to worry about, Johnson describes one experience where the team was physically ran out of a house:

By far, our scariest encounter occurred at the home in Willard where we were physically chased from the home by something very aggressive. That took some quiet time outside and regrouping before we re-entered the home. Whatever it was that took up residence in this very nice basement home was not keen on our presence. We made three return trips to this house and each time the activity got more and more aggressive. Started out small with ceiling fans being turned on and off and equipment being turned off or knocked over and progressed to me being smashed in a doorway by what felt like a very strong man (the other three investigators were in the same room 15 feet away).  We captured several very loud EVP recordings of growling and the very clear words “get out” which led up to very loud sounds progressing down the dark hallway towards us very quickly at which point we cut bait and exited. Interesting side note: during our last trip to this home, we all noticed the distinct smell of smoke and two weeks later, the house burned to the ground with no apparent cause. The homeowners moved to a home in Springfield and brought the activity with them. We investigated their Springfield home and captured the same crazy voice we got in Willard and this time, it liked to move around the Virgin Mary statue which was in one of the bedrooms.

Springfield Paranormal Research uses high tech equipment.  Johnson says that for the amateur paranormal investigator, it is best not to just jump in and expect results.  Johnson says for the best results, get a tape recorder and take a group to a cemetery at midnight.

While every town has its urban legends and tall tales associated with it, there’s something about ghost stories in particular that seems to appeal to people, as it is these stories that often get passed around about buildings or locations. Vallentine believes that the sense of unknown that comes with these stories is what draws us to them, as well as the cultural connection.

“It’s such a cross cultural phenomenon,” said Vallentine. “We’ve got the story here on campus that we’ve looked at and been like ‘Oh, that’s happened in Japan, that’s happened in Newfoundland,’ and they’ve all been the same idea or the same archetype.”

Vallentine’s favorite Springfield ghost story is of the Landers Theater mom.

“There’s something about that story and the way it doesn’t really change,” Vallentine said. “The situation does, but the end result stays the same.”

As the story goes, a mother at the Landers Theatre was standing on the balcony with her baby when she accidentally dropped the child over the edge, resulting in its death. Now, guests at the theatre have reported hearing a baby crying and actually seeing the apparition of a child falling from the balcony.

The full interview with Vallentine:

Springfield Paranormal Research has compiled pages of evidence on their website linked here.  If you think you have some paranormal activity at a business or home, you can contact the team through their contact page.

Video done by Alex Calvillo

Photographs provided by Tyler Hatten and Lacey Curtis

Reporting done by Ben Gilbert and Lacey Curtis