Special to The Gardner News
With its rich history including settlers on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails and its part in settling the Wild West hundreds of years ago, many of the older buildings in Gardner are known for their paranormal activity.
The most well-known haunted location in the Gardner area is the old Navy Base, now New Century AirCenter. The A&E Channel included this location on its “Haunted America” Series 12 years ago.
The airplane hangar, which also supports the traffic control tower, has been the site of many paranormal experiences. The hangar was built in the 1940s during World War II.
In the 1950s on a very dark cloudy day, the tower controllers were trying to guide in a pilot. They made a grave error in judgment and the plane crashed within feet of the hangar. There are rumors that several witnesses at the time saw the pilot walk out of the wreckage with his briefcase in hand. However, the pilot’s charred remains were discovered later at the crash site.
Tom Losh, Gardner, said his father George was stationed at the Olathe Naval Air Base in the 1950s. George shared his memorable experiences with his son.
George and other naval officers were on duty late one evening sitting in the offices on the west side of the building. They heard someone walking across the hanger floor making his way towards them. Thinking it was their commander, they stood up to greet him. But no one ever came into the office.
The men stepped out into the hangar, still hearing the sound of footsteps walking with the distinct sound of military boots. The men shined flashlights throughout the hangar, but the source of the footsteps was never discovered.
Through the years, others have detailed strange occurrences on the base.
People are said to sometimes hear someone walking up the steps to the tower, but no one ever appears at the top. Also, lights are turned on and off, and doors are locked and unlocked, shadowy figures appear, and furniture is moved with no explanation.
Bill and Jen Wagner of Gardner are members of Ghost Vigil Investigations of Kansas City.
They investigated the hangar in the winter of 2007. Mark Stinson, lead investigator, said, they did not have any hard proof of paranormal activity during the four hours they spent in the old hangar, but many of them felt a presence with them in one particular room.
This paranormal team of investigators has investigated many locations around the Kansas City area, and team members have experienced hearing children laughing, seeing dark figures, and much more during their investigations.
Stinson believes 95 to 99 percent of hauntings are residual. His theory is that impressions of emotions of everyday activity have been recorded on the environment.
He explains, “This is why you will hear something walking up or down stairs in an older location, because it has been done time and time again. Some say it is almost a blurb in time. But they’re all just theories, and no one really knows.”
The haunted hanger isn’t the only location in town known for paranormal activity.
The Downtowner Café has been a restaurant for more than 30 years, and its waitresses have long complained of the hot tea machine turning on by itself. Out of the corner of their eyes, dishwashers and cooks have seen people walk into the back room, but upon further investigation, no one is there.
On several occasions, employees have complained of witnessing items flying off of the shelves like someone had pushed them. The owners will close for the day and come back the next morning to find the coffee containers have moved to the other side of the room where they are never stored.
Another downtown building in Gardner rumored to be haunted is the old Baptist Church building built in 1879. It was sold in the 1950s and turned into apartments. Residents have complained of hearing foot steps, as if someone was walking on a hardwood floor, though most if not all of the apartments are carpeted.
Both Nancy Bickley and Jeff Bardwell remember an old run down farm house off of 159th Street and Moonlight Road where the Copper Springs subdivision sits today.
The house was rumored to be haunted and satanic rituals were said to have been practiced at this sight. Satanic graffiti was painted on the walls throughout the inside of the house.
Jesse Rankin worked on tractors and other farm equipment late at night in the barn at his grandparent’s farm off of Four Corners Road and 159th Street.
The Rankin family purchased this farm in the 1930s, during the Depression.
On more than one occasion, Rankin and his friends have seen a man wearing a yellowish shirt walk by the outside of the open barn doors. Yet when they walk out to see who it is, no one can be found.
Clint Freund, Gardner, was helping Jesse one night and went outside to retrieve some tools. He noticed one of the lights in an enclosed tractor cab had been left on. He mentioned it to Jesse, but the two became busy and forgot about it. The next day, Freund went to see if the light was still on, and discovered the cab did not even have a dome light or any light source.
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the Gardner News in 2010.