Sometimes I believe we give lip service to ghosts, spirits, whatever you want to call them. It’s easy to say “Sure, I believe in ghosts.” Or, believe there’s no such thing, and chalk up unexplained events to coincidence. Based on the experiences I encountered during a visit to Atchison, Kansas, I believe I am in the camp of believers in the spiritual realm. As a Native American, I have understood the role of spirits as far as religion goes. While Native Americans aren’t truly religious as a people, we believe that the spiritual world is strong. But, have I honestly believed in that? I’m not sure I did. Until my recent visit to Atchison.
As part of a hosted four-person media tour with Sara Broers of Travel with Sara and Thena (Reading-Franssen) and Matthew Franssen of HodgePodge Hippie, we visited the 1889 McInteer Villa, a mansion known for its ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Following an experience at The Sallie House the night before, I was leaning toward the existence of spirits – good and evil (based on the face we saw in the wall at the Sallie House). However, as Stephanie, half of the ownership duo of the McInteer Villa, informed us during our tour, my thoughts started growing stronger in the belief camp.
Stephanie greeted us at the front door with a smile and cheerful “Hi!” Unbeknownst to us, this would come back into play. She showed us around the main floor. Immediately, Stephanie told us that a one-time servant in the house, Goldy, died in the very rocky chair in a corner, with a Raggedy Ann doll sitting in it. Her visitation was held in the next room. Ok, I thought. Lots of old people have died in their homes or places of employment. Nothing too freaky or scary there.
After touring another sitting room and the dining room, we headed upstairs. It was here that things started to change. Really change. “That door wasn’t open when you guys got here,” she said. Sure. Sure. Thanks for the “fright” moment. Are drinks served with this show? She was serious. She recalled closing the door before we arrived. Ok, I thought, a draft from when she opened the front door caused the upstairs door to open. It can happen in old houses.
She asked if we wanted to check the video with her. Stephanie and her husband allow tours and overnight visits to the villa, so they have cameras available to ensure people aren’t doing things they shouldn’t be in the house, like conjuring up evil spirits. We watched the video on her app. We can hear Stephanie saying hello, and then shortly afterward the doorknob turns and the upstairs door opens. We were in that room.
A few of us walked into the adjoining sitting room. Then, our host noticed the EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) app was signaling a lot of energy. She asked if someone (a spirit) was there. “Bill,” the EVP energized a word, to communicate with us. What? Then “keys,” followed by “Toyota.” My first name is William (Bill for short). I originally didn’t think much about it. But, I started to put pieces together. I had used my car keys (to a Toyota) to try to loosen a stuck battery in my camera earlier in the house.
So, our host thought maybe it was trying to talk to me. I asked if it was either my biological dad or my step-dad. It wouldn’t acknowledge. Then, it said “Shoot” and “pose.” Our host told us to take pictures of the mirror, in case it wanted to reveal itself to us. I took pictures with my camera.
We would each stop at times and look to see if we had anything. My pics showed only our group. Then, one person noticed an odd reflection. Where Sara should be standing was a face of a man, unknown to our group. Then, a second one was noticed, sticking his tongue out. Not sure about you, but when I saw the picture, I was stunned. Neither face was recognizable.
Then, another word “Forgive.” For some reason, we then thought the spirit was reaching out to another person. It started with additional words, which led a person to believe it was a close relative lost in an accident. So, the conversation was geared toward trying to help her communicate with the visitor.
Both my first and middle names were spoken. So, our host believed, there were two spirits trying to talk to two of us. More questions were asked. Answers included “Father,” “group” and “prophet.” It was difficult to determine which one of us they were talking to.
Then, “hair.” “You want to touch them,” our host asked. She suggested we hold our hands our next to our sides. We did. Then, my left hand went cold. The other person experienced a similar situation. I noticed a portable air conditioner was running in the corner. I asked another person to stand between it and me. “It’s so cold,” she said, standing inches from me.
Then, after a minute or so, the energy disappeared and hands were warm again. It was then that I noticed the closet door next to me had a draft, kicking out warm air. This was getting a little real for my taste.
As we finished our tour, we ended up in the basement, where the EVP went wild with energy again. Our host asked if anyone was in a pitch black room. “Goldy,” was the answer. It felt like everyone had had enough ghost hunting that day and we were ready to head back to the main floor.
Later that night, I couldn’t help but think of the experience I had at the McInteer Villa. Did I really have someone reach out to me from the spirit world? Or, was it all a coincidence? It’s difficult to rationalize the words that came across the EVP. Even if you could preprogram the app (we looked into this during the visit and afterward), why would you bring up something so personal and traumatic for at least one person? No quality organization would do that. So, we ruled that out.
The next morning, during breakfast, our group discussed the words and their possible meanings. My biological father had several children – the father of a group. Then, I mentioned that my oldest brother had several children. He was also considered a prophet by Native Americans, because of his message and struggles for Native American rights. So, I reached out to a sister about what kind of vehicle one nephew drove the night of his accident (sadly, we lost him at a young age), but it turned out not to be a Toyota.
So, I took a chance and asked a niece in California what kind of car her dad drove prior to his death almost three years ago. She responded it was a Japanese brand. “Toyota?” I messaged. She believed it was. I told her some of the other words.
“Uncle,” she wrote. “Dad came to see you. He found a way to let you know he’s with you.”
I felt so excited that we figured it was my brother. You need to understand the makeup of our family. We’re divided into two groups – the older kids and the younger ones. There’s an 18-year difference between the eldest sibling and the youngest. My brother left home to join the Navy when I was about two years old. So, I never saw him a lot during his life. I can count on two hands the number of times we actually talked together. I was proud of him, though. He dedicated his life – at great personal risk and loss – to serving Native Americans, as well as other oppressed people.
In discussing my experiences with a close friend, he told me that his mother’s spirit had visited him recently. I believe that I am now a member of the spiritual life believers. I think. Sometimes, I still try to rationalize my experiences. But, as our host told the other person and me, “Atchison knew you were needed to come here.” That, my friends, I cannot argue with. Believe it. Or not.