The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #18

#18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

Published in 1997, Heitz’s spine-tingling collection of stories raps and taps and moans and groans through a wealth of descriptions of infamous Kansas phantoms, as well as disconcerting personal experiences related by former skeptics. Haunted Kansas pulls together a various collection of accounts chronicling Kansas folklore and eerie stories. Kansas’s deep history paves way for some complicated and unsettling accounts. Heitz tells the haunting stories of Kansas as she travels from location to location, uncovering the secrets that Kansas has had buried.

Set in various locations across the Sunflower State, the book aims to relay the haunting stories through Kansas’s history, while also giving a bit of knowledge of each location. Most locations are historical sites and important geological markers, adding more to the eerie quality these tales hold. From the haunted Teddy Bear in Fort Riley to the plethora of spirits walking alongside tombstones in the cemetery to the haunted town of Atchison, Heitz covers a lot of ground in telling the haunted tales of Kansas.

“Prior to the publication of the book, I spent a year researching Kansas legend and lore, traveling around the state to many communities, small and large, visiting museums and libraries for materials on local ghost stories, and interviewing residents,” Heitz explains. “During my travels throughout the state, I not only collected hundreds of stories, but I learned that my home state of Kansas is an endlessly varied, beautiful, and fascinating place. Oh, and spooky—very spooky!”

“My favorite part of writing the book,” Heitz explains, “was piecing together what I like to think of as an interwoven tapestry or quilt of folklore and legend. Each story was compelling and colorful on its own, but woven together into a book, the stories overlay a map of the state with a blanket of intersecting local legends and oral histories.”

Heitz says methods of researching the paranormal have developed in the twenty-five years since working on Haunted Kansas.

“Research in this field, as in all fields, has been radically changed by the internet in the years since the publication of my book,” Heitz says. “My method of research in the early and mid-1990s seems practically antiquated now; very ‘boots-on-the-ground’ and reliant on physical travel, hours spent in libraries and museums, and face-to-face interviews.”

Heitz continues, “I recently have been working on updating some of my research from that time and now, of course, much of the work can be done sitting in front of a computer. It is certainly easier and less time-consuming, and the resources online seem endless and are often invaluable. But there are fewer in-person encounters and interactions, and less physical travel to locations is required, which seems like something of a loss to me. My time spent researching around Kansas allowed me to meet many fascinating people and explore numerous locales, giving me a deep appreciation of Kansans and all things Kansas.”

Researching and writing a book about haunted places isn’t for the weak. Heitz says stories from the book still haunt her.

“From the stories collected in the book, and the numerous additional stories still haunting my files, my favorite tale is undeniably the one I grew up with, in my hometown of Topeka: the legend of the Albino Woman,” Heitz says. “This unusually complex, intergenerational, local legend—the ever-changing, always-morphing tale of a terrifying white-haired, white-robed wraith with glowing red eyes—has haunted the folkloric landscape of Topeka for seventy-five years or more. This shape-shifting figure has stepped out of stories and frightened multiple generations of Topekans, including my young self. And today, sometimes in the guise of one of her most recent iterations—the zombie cannibal known as the Blue Albino Woman—she is still scaring the bejeebers out of avid storytellers and their rapt listeners or readers. And that’s why I love her!”

Heitz continues, “The last paragraph of my story of the Albino Woman is still true more than twenty years later: ‘The Albino Woman legend is quite a bit like the infamous Lady herself: flying through the generations; constantly being re-created out of each individual teller and listener’s fears, sense of evil, and sense of mischief; and wandering the cultural landscape of Topeka as well as the physical landscape of cemetery, creek, woods, roads, and river that she calls home.’”

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish