Lewis & Clark, Amelia Earhart, world record holders, music icons, some of the most important inventions, Missouri River culture, incredible architecture and a home for countless ghost stories and encounters. That’s only the beginning of what made us fall hard for Atchison, Kansas. Let’s get right to what we loved and what will eventually bring us back for another gallivant to this area. Picture time!
You’ll learn right away that Atchison is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart and this town knows how to showcase their biggest star. The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum is packed with some of the rarest and most incredible Earhart artifacts, memorabilia, photos and artwork you’ll find. The home overlooks the Missouri and has been renovated to look as close to what it did when Amelia was a child in Atchison. One of the most tear jerking areas of the museum is her old childhood bedroom with letters written to her by school kids. Even after decades of her disappearance she continues to inspire dreamers like herself. Don’t stop here because this isn’t the only amazing museum in town. Time to get over to the Atchison Area Visitor and Information Center! You wanted to buy some souvenirs anyway.
Pioneers in the age of early radios, the pursuit of a quality electric lamp and the music that shaped the 20th century had origins here in Atchison. If you like to “shake rattle and roll” then you must love one of the most important R&B musicians in history, Jesse Stone, a son of Atchison, who has his story told here in the old Santa Fe railroad depot where you’ll find the visitors center and museum. More Amelia Earhart artifacts and my personal favorite part of the museum, a sculpture of the Corps of Discovery depicting the first 4th of July celebration west of the Missouri. I heard Captain Lewis had a wicked box of Roman Candles! And do not leave without being a kid again and seeing one of the most impressive train yards in the country. Imagine this….An old train engine to play on, park and creek within 20 feet of each other. That would have been my dream trip as a kid and still calls to me at 40ish.
While you’re at the visitors center, don’t forget about one of the best trolley rides in the Midwest. This tour will give a historical trip around Atchison’s most famous landmarks, homes and buildings with a guide that knows this better than just about anyone. Taking very few breaths during the long ride, he keeps everyone aboard entertained, engaged and turning everyone on the trolley into an Atchison expert for a day.
Along the bluffs is the campus of Benedictine College and the home of beautiful Saint Benedict’s Abbey. The Missouri snakes past the grounds as you observe unbelievable views on Eastern Kansas overlooks. Inside the church and Abbey you’ll encounter inspiring architecture and quiet echos in the very large church.
William Boular had an interesting life in Atchison. If you drive up an down some of the historic brick roads, there’s a good chance he helped lay those very bricks. Above is the full sized statue of Little Will and that’s no exaggeration. Due to an illness, as a young child, William became deaf from a fever. Later in his youth he would be playing by the tracks and did not hear a train coming. His legs would be severed and it would later give him an ability that not many could have imagined. Special boots were made for him and he went to work for Atchison becoming the fastest bricklayer in the world due to being so close to the ground. It was told that William could lay over 46,000 bricks in one eight hour shift. How’ that for not letting challenges getting you down!
Now, the big reason why we came here. Haunted Atchison is know for many sightings, hauntings and spiritual encounters with the infamous Sallie House being one of the centers of the activity here. We received a private tour of the house and did a long EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) session on our smart phone apps. You can be a skeptic all you want but I urge you to have an open mind. The EVPs we received were spine tingling and this was all in the middle of the afternoon. The attic, which was blocked off, seemed to get the most action when we stood by it and the room with toys saw many names that were popular in Victorian times pop up in our EVPs. The Sallie House is named after a little girl who was stricken by a ruptured appendix and died while being operated on with no anesthesia in this very home. This tragedy is said to have kept her spirit here and calling out to folks decades later. Yes, you can book your reservation here and just contact Visit Atchison for more details. By the way….The Sallie House has the same street address as the infamous Villisca, Iowa Axe Murder House. Sleep tight….
Film crews, paranormal experts and folks who dabble in the ghost world like us can stay here at one of Atchison’s most historic houses. Oh, yea….It’s haunted!
The Villa’s rooms keep going and going and it seems like a labyrinth when you tour the house. Long hallways, winding staircases, beautifully decorated parlors and bedrooms, dank basement and wondrous attic is just a few spots to set up a paranormal investigation and get together.
How’s this for creepy? In the basement you’ll notice a noticeable discoloration in the brick wall. As you get closer you’ll notice how it has a very human form and how it got there is unknown. Upstairs in the parlor is your average antique rocking chair with your not so average story. An elderly lady and former resident died while sitting in this chair and it has been know to rock on it’s own. I wouldn’t use this in your next musical chairs game. Moving on….
Shop ’til you drop! Just don’t drop from seeing a ghost here at Backroad Atlas! They have one of the best antique selections in the area and we decided to ask for a little help from the local spirits. Turning our EVP app back on, we asked questions as we circled the showrooms. Getting more responses, it felt like a good humored and “spirited” shopper with us who was almost willing me into the kitchen supply section. I know what I felt and I enjoyed every minute here at Backroad Atlas. The feeling of this store is still with me and it has crossed my mind multiple times a day since we visited. This emotion has become a common theme if you read our article on Leavenworth as well.
Eastern Kansas showed us an amazing amount of history and that’s exactly what we look for in gallivant after gallivant. Legends are made here, in this region, and Atchison has produced more than what we could fit in this post. And they’re not close to stopping when it comes to making history. I truly can’t wait for our next visit to Atchison and the surrounding area with it’s winds, skies, wild flowers, muddy river and all those friends we made in this dimension….and beyond…..