Tag Archives: lexington mo

2015 Year in Review, Plus the Funny Search Terms that Bring People to BigSeance.com – The Big Séance Podcast: My Paranormal World #51

What has been your favorite Big Séance Podcast episode so far? What do you think is the most popular episode? Plus, the interesting and hilarious search terms that bring people to BigSeance.com. Also learn to most popular blog posts were, the all-time biggest commenters, some listener feedback, my goals for 2016, and the latest audio issue of The Spectral Edition from Tim Prasil!

 

Pssst… Are you looking for the SpeakPipe Link?

The Big Séance Podcast with Patrick Keller - Paranormal, paranerd

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The Anderson House and the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site

 

This mansion, known as the Oliver Anderson house, was built in 1853, and is such a familiar landmark to me. After all, I was born in a hospital just a few hundred feet away from the road behind it. The house and the battlefield are now one of many Missouri State Historic Sites.

 

 

The battle, sometimes known as “The Battle of the Hemp Bales”, lasted 3 September days in 1861. The Anderson family was thrown out of their home by Federal troops, though the house changed hands several times over the three days. For the most part it was used as a field hospital for the wounded.

 

 

There are several ghost stories and legends attached to this home, yet whether the mansion is haunted or not is something the state is tight-lipped about. Over the years lots of people have worked in and around the house though, and it isn’t hard to find someone ready to share their experiences. I have childhood friends who grew up in this neighborhood, and between the house and the battlefield, they say strange things happened all the time. Obviously I’ve requested access to conduct a paranormal investigation, but Missouri State Historic Sites doesn’t go for things like that.

When I was growing up, a local Kansas City news station would often come to Lexington around Halloween to reenact ghost stories for segments on the news. In 1989, one of them was filmed here at the Anderson House. I was able to find the 1989 KMBC 9 News segment, and it is embedded below.

 

 

 

For most of us that grew up in Lexington, the back of the house is actually the view that you see first, since the front of the house faces the river bluff. The back yard leading to the battlefield looks a lot different now then it did back then. They used to hold the battle reenactments right on site every couple of years. They’d even use the Anderson house as a backdrop and sometimes a character in the drama. Fortunately, though it bugs some, they’ve redesigned the yard surrounding the house to look the way it would have originally, including prairie and a wooded area surrounding it, so it can no longer be seen from the road. I think it’s a really cool decision that has taken time and effort to achieve. However, it disturbs me that in my lifetime a whole stretch of wooded area has had the opportunity to grow and block the view of the Anderson House. I guess that means I’m old. One thing that does disappoint me is the fact that they no longer do the battle reenactments on site. They have them nearby on the riverfront. It is simply not the same.

 

 

Imagine it being the 1800s and this being your front yard. In those days, the river down the hill would have had major steamboat traffic. I love this shot. At the time I took this picture, there was actually a couple napping just over the hill.

 

 

I found these wildflowers growing in between the battlefield and the house. Unfortunately, my photo of the battlefield didn’t turn out, but you’re likely to find photos on one of the links I’ve included below.

 

 

Below is the cover of the brand new book about the Battle of Lexington, written by Larry Wood. I haven’t seen it yet, but Larry asked my permission to include one of my older photos in the book, a photo from the Machpelah Cemetery in town.  Click on the cover below for more information on its Amazon page.

 

 

 

For more information, including many other fascinating photos, visit The Battle of Lexington Historic Site on the web.

 

You might also like these Big Séance posts related to Lexington:

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri 
Verna Marie Owen (1859-1986), a Lexington Missouri Teacher 
Do Spirits Reside at Papa Jack’s Pizza in Lexington, Missouri? 
Dr. Silkini’s Ghost Show: Do the Dead Return? Spooks Sit Beside You! 
Return to the Old Catholic Cemetery in Lexington, Missouri 
The Iron Fence and the Family Plot

 

 

 


Return to the Old Catholic Cemetery in Lexington, Missouri

 

It hasn’t changed a bit, this old cemetery. Until two years ago when I visited it last, it had been over 20 years since I’d seen it. I remembered several of the individual headstones like I had just been there the day before. It’s weird, the things our brains choose to remember and hold on to. Growing up, I spent quite a bit of time here as my grandparents lived nearby. In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is of an uncle of mine giving me a ride through this cemetery on a four-wheeler, and coming back with a collection of pine cones. I’m sure it wasn’t very deep back then, but I remember strolling through this grass and over the hill… and pondering life… and probably death. I don’t remember my reasons for enjoying my time there so much, but I do recall having general conversations with any spirit wanting to listen. I also recall my Bama (grandma) packing a lunch for me on a few occasions. One thing is for sure. When I think about a cemetery, or when I’m reading of a fictional graveyard, it is always this beautiful place that ends up being the setting in my mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other recent cemetery photography posts:

The Iron Fence and the Family Plot

Cemetery of Immaculate Conception of Dardenne, Missouri

Francis Howell Cemetery, St. Charles, Missouri

Perfectly Lonely and Snowy City of Souls – Return to Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis

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Dr. Silkini’s Ghost Show: Do the Dead Return? Spooks Sit Beside You!

 

Do the dead return? Spooks sit beside you? Wow, a Ghost Show! I’d love to go! It’s even from a theatre in my home town! The only problem is that I’m several decades too late… and a McDonalds sits where the theatre once was. I did, however, get to see a few movies there as a kid though. Annie and Goonies are the ones I remember the most. 

The above poster, which Joe and I discovered in a very cool new antique store in Lexington, led me to reading and learning about a part of history I knew very little about. Should I be embarrassed about this? I’m now fascinated! I’ve not been able to find a similar version of this poster from another theatre, which may also be why this was marked at $145. I didn’t buy it, of course… oh but I wanted it really badly. If I had to make a guess, I’d say it was from the 1950s, but I’m not entirely sure. The piece of tape above “Thursday”, is covering what I assume is probably the word “MIDNIGHT”. The store, The Country Peddler, has so many similar posters and banners, including lots of oil painted canvas advertisements (not sure what else to call them) from as early as the 1800s , plus lots of large nostalgic items, like jukeboxes, for example. Check it out if you make it to Lexington.

 

The Midnight Ghost Show…

The concept of the ghost show was apparently started by Elwin-Charles Peck in 1929. Really it was a stage magic show inspired by the popularity of spiritualism, and the tricks were the same ones used by the charlatans and fraudulent mediums of the time. People (mainly kids and teens) went for the séances, conjuring, flying ghosts that glowed in the dark, terrifying stunts, and audience participation. Often there were staged blackouts, where tricks would then be played on audience members, making them believe there was a “spook” near them.

In the 1930s and 40s these traveling “midnight ghost shows” were very popular in small towns around the country. Peck inspired a generation of copycats, all known as “ghost masters”, that took the ghost show to an all new level in the 40s and the 50s. The most successful of these would be Jack Baker, whose stage name was Dr. Silkini. It is said that humor is what Baker added to the already popular ghost show formula to make it so wildly successful. The concept struggled to keep the attention of an audience through the 60s and 70s, mainly due to the popularity of television. Jack Baker died in 1980.  

I’m really bummed that I missed this craze. I bet it was really fun. Were any of my readers fortunate enough to have witnessed any of these shows from the time period? I’d love to hear from you!  

 

Want more info? 

The main sources I used for this blog post come from two wonderful articles: Matt Novak’s The Rise and Fall of the Midnight Ghost Shows and Jim Knipfel’s Dr. Silkini’s Asylum of Horrors.  I urge you to check these sites out if you want to learn more. 

 

You might also like…

Shop Home for the Holidays (Big Séance)

Shop Home for the Holidays (Big Séance)

Spirit Trumpets (Big Séance)

Spirit Trumpets (Big Séance)

Old School Locker (Big Séance)

Old School Locker (Big Séance)

 

 

 

 

 


The Iron Fence and the Family Plot

Is it the ornate designs? Is it the worn and aged look? Maybe it’s the lichen that seems to glow in the sunset? Or maybe it’s the fact that fencing a family plot so beautifully is a thing of the past? Whatever it is, I couldn’t stop photographing them this last weekend. 


 

 

All above photos are from a recent return visit to Machpelah Cemetery in my hometown of Lexington, Missouri. For more photos from this shoot, please visit the Machpelah album on my Flickr page

 

Other recent cemetery photography posts:

Cemetery of Immaculate Conception of Dardenne, Missouri

Francis Howell Cemetery, St. Charles, Missouri

Perfectly Lonely and Snowy City of Souls – Return to Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis

 

 


My Favorite Historic Architectural Styles: A Field Trip

Would you like to see what a music teacher does on a snow day when he has a lot on his mind and puts important things off to the last minute when he really shouldn’t because there’s a musical to direct this week? You would?! Oh goody! Follow me through my crazy labyrinth of net surfing today! 

A home in Lexington, Missouri. Photo courtesy of midwesternmantra.com

A home in Lexington, Missouri. Photo courtesy of midwesternmantra.com

So whether I’m watching a television show or just out on the road, sometimes I find a home and get obsessed with the overall look of it. I then get sucked into Googling the structure or the style (if I know what it is). Most of the time the place ends up being from the same Victorian time period that I’d love to be able to visit in a time machine! It could be that I grew up in a historical civil war battle town with lots of Victorian and antebellum homes and buildings.

 

The Lafayette County Courthouse in Lexington, Missouri.

Lafayette County Courthouse in Lexington, MO, completed in 1849

I always decide that one day I’ll live in an old home just like what I saw… then I remind myself of how very OCD I tend to be. I’m not sure I could live in a home with decades or centuries of other people’s “funk”, and so I devise a plan of recreating a historically accurate wing of a future brand new home. I’m not entirely sure my beau would want to move into this strangely bi-century home, but I’ll continue to dream.  Until now I haven’t really pictured the outside. Hmmm… maybe it looks like Meet Me in St. Louis on one side and modern suburbia on the other? 

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Here’s an example of things that get me started:

It was featured on an episode of This Old House a few weeks ago, where they work on refurbishing an Italianate house. The Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine, was built in Victorian Villa style between 1858 and 1860. If you just Google the place, you’ll see some amazing interior photos.

 

Victoria Mansion, Portland, Maine

Victoria Mansion, Portland, Maine

 

Interior of the Victoria Mansion, Portland, Maine

Interior of the Victoria Mansion, Portland, Maine

 

Or how about the Woodruff-Fontaine House, a French Victorian mansion that was built in 1870 in Memphis, Tennessee. I saw this one on a recent episode of Ghost Hunters

 

Woodruff-Fontaine House, Memphis, Tennessee

Woodruff-Fontaine House, Memphis, Tennessee

 

Is it the mansard roof?

Sometimes I think I’m just drawn to a home with a beautiful (or creepy) mansard roof. “Mansard Roof”–that’s another fun one to Google! You can also check out this article, The Heyday of Mansard Roofs from the New York Times. 

Speaking of mansard roofs! Here’s one that caught my attention a year ago on a road trip with my buddy Matt. The Bourbon Hotel in Bourbon, Missouri.

 

The Bourbon Hotel in Bourbon, Missouri

 

A famous big city version of a mansard roof belongs to the Grand Hotel in New York City, built in Second Empire Style in 1868.  

 

The Grand Hotel (on the left) in New York City

The Grand Hotel (on the left) in New York City

 

We interrupt this exciting program on mansard roofs to bring you this important Public Service Announcement! 

Public Service Announcement! I decided to head downstairs to take a break from my web-surfing field trip. I highly discourage you from missing the bottom four steps on the way down! Uuugh! After a check to make sure all of my appendages still worked, and as I picked ice melt out of my hair from landing next to the front door where we’ve been tracking winter in on our shoes, I decided dinner sounded good.

 

 

Program on mansard roofs still in progress…

So now I’m back. I’m fed. I’m sore… but a pain pill and a healthy dose of ibuprofen should take care of things. 

Where were we? That’s right… the beautiful Grand Hotel! Looking that one up reminded me of another NYC landmark–The Dakota Building in Manhattan, which was featured, through external shots, in the movie Rosemary’s Baby (1968). The interior shots, though filmed on a sound stage, were apparently modeled after The Dakota as well. It was built between 1880 and 1884, and according to Wikipedia, “The building’s high gables and deep roofs with a profusion of dormers, terracotta spandrels and panels, niches, balconies, and balustrades give it a North German Renaissance character, an echo of a Hanseatic townhall. Nevertheless, its layout and floor plan betray a strong influence of French architectural trends in housing design that had become known in New York in the 1870s.”

 

The Dakota Building in Manhattan.

The Dakota Building in Manhattan

 

A snowy aerial view of The Dakota Building. Photo courtesy of http://blog.daum.net/jun1234/78.

A snowy aerial view of The Dakota Building. Photo courtesy of http://blog.daum.net/jun1234/78

 

Could the Psycho house possibly be the most famous mansard roof?? Here’s the painting “House by the Railroad” by Edward Hopper, which was apparently used as inspiration for the Psycho house.

 

 

"House by the Railroad" by Edward Hopper

“House by the Railroad” by Edward Hopper

 

What’s that? You’re tired? Oh alright. I suppose I’ve held you captive long enough. I’ll let you off the bus.

Till the next field trip.

 

You Might Also Like: 

15 Reasons to Befriend a Paranormal Nerd Today! (Big Séance)

A Song of Spirits (My 300th Post!) (Big Séance)

 

 

 

 

 


Christmas Eve at Machpelah Cemetery, Lexington, Missouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might also like…

Oak Grove Cemetery, St. Charles, Missouri(Big Séance.com)

A Lonely Old Country Cemetery at Magic Hour – Bellflower, Missouri (Big Séance.com)

Walnut Grove Cemetery, Boonville Missouri(Big Séance.com)

Machpelah Cemetery, Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance.com)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance.com)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance.com)

 

 


Shop Home for the Holidays

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been absent for most of this holiday season. I hope to be back to my normal routine soon. 

One thing that has become traditional for us, is our home for the holidays “shop local” day. It’s a chance for us to check out many of the shops and antique stores in my home town of Lexington, Missouri, including Missouri River Antique Company, and the River Reader. You may remember my exciting school locker find from last year. Here are some of our finds from yesterday. 

A collection of old hymnals and song books that date back to the late 1800s and very early 1900s. I found these at Lexington Mercantile Antiques & Fabrics

 

This next one is a music book used in the “Lexington, MO. Public Schools”. Though I don’t know when they were actually used, the copyright is 1924, which would probably put it in use during the time period of several of the old yearbooks from Lexington that I own. I was very excited about this one. I found this one at Missouri River Antique Company. It’s perfect for my collection. 

 

 

 

This old carrom game board is one of Joe’s finds, also from Missouri River Antique Company. He also found some cool padlocks and keys. 

 

 

Then I returned to Grandma’s house to look for more photos of Miss Owen. I found two, both from 1953. 

 

 

This one is of Miss Owen posing with her pen pal group. For more on Miss Owen, click HERE

 

 

 

I had to include a photo of one of Mom’s candy cane coffee cakes. This is a thirty-plus-year holiday tradition for her. 

 

 

Happy Holidays!!!

 

 


Well I Asked For It: A Special Visitor At School

 

Me at work in the classroom... about a decade ago.

Me at work in the classroom… about a decade ago.

My sixth grade choir students were in their performance spots on the risers. With me on the floor in front of them, they were focused and listening to my instructions. With our concert coming up next week, we’ve recently been doing our best to be in a serious and focused place during rehearsals. In plain English… we’re seriously cramming! 

Now push pause and briefly travel back in time with me. Let’s travel back three blog posts ago, as I shared both my frustration with the lack of paranormal experiences lately, and my thankfulness for the “completely normal” things in my life. I suppose that was a little whiny request thrown out into the ether. Again in plain English… I asked for it. 

Now back to my kiddos on the risers. They really were focused… and so was I. Midway through one of my sentences, I felt someone right behind me waiting to get my attention. I heard something (I don’t remember exactly what it was) very close to my left ear, as if someone was interrupting me (rudely) or needed something. It’s middle school. Rude interruptions and chaos happens all the time. I didn’t think anything of it and turned around, probably a little frustrated, and said “Yes?” I ended up doing a double take and made a complete turn, checking to make sure a choir nerd wasn’t hiding behind me or playing a prank. Absolutely no one was there. I was a bit embarrassed and turned back around to find my choir staring at me in silence. Old Mr. Keller is just losing his mind. I wish I could have captured the looks on their faces for eternity. We all had quite a giggle. I said something like “Well, I guess we have a ghost today.” Many of my students know I’m also a paranormal nerd, and so they giggled and we moved on. 

As soon as that class left and I was eating lunch, it all hit me. The evening before this event was when I blogged about my research on Miss Verna Owen in my previous post. She was a teacher in my hometown who taught for 50 years and died in 1986 at the age of 90. The connection started when I realized I own two of her high school yearbooks from the 1920s. She had been on my mind a lot in the last few days. Just that morning at school, I kept relating all of the days activities to how it would have been for her in the 1920s… or the 30s… or the 40s (and gosh, she taught all the way into the 60s). During my morning drive I thought, Miss Owen would have walked to school in those early days. While helping students with typical middle school “issues”, I thought, I wonder how similar these issues are to those in Miss Owens’ class? And what would she have done? 

So after that goose bumpy moment, and after some thought, I’ve decided that I just may have had a visit from Miss Owen. Who knows? The very next day, I told the story to my kids. They were fascinated, and now, of course, we’ve had several Miss Owen moments. Not really, but it sure lightens the mood when Mr. Keller is more likely to be cranky and stressed before concert time. Thanks, Miss Owen! Stop by any time… 

 

 

 


Verna Marie Owen (1895-1986), a Lexington Missouri Teacher

This post includes **Updated Information** below. 

Over my Thanksgiving break, I visited my Grandmother at her home for a while. Very often I get sucked into her many books on the history of Lexington, Missouri (my hometown), or even just the high school yearbooks of both her and my late Grandfather. Naturally, that is precisely what happened during this visit.

I was super excited to find a photo of Ms. Verna Marie Owen in both the 1954 and 1956 Lexington High School yearbooks (the same photo in both, and included below on the right.) You may remember me mentioning and including a photo of her several months back, in a post titled “Collecting Someone Else’s Memories”, where I shared many of the photos and pages from the five 1920s era Lexington High School yearbooks that I have collected. It is just one of my nerdy hobbies, even though I can’t seem to find any other yearbooks from that era. I believe that Verna Owen began teaching in Lexington for the 1927-1928 school year (see updated information below) (see the below left photo). I have the yearbook from that year as well as for the 1928-1929 school year. Both of these yearbooks were originally owned by Verna herself. Obviously, me now owning two of her yearbooks, along with my Lexington roots, and the fact that I am a teacher, has made me feel connected to her in some way. 

 

Verna Marie Owen
(1895 – 1986)

 

**Updated Information as of 12/2/13**

To prepare for this post, I did some genealogy research using FindAGrave and Ancestry. It made me a little sad to find very little information on this woman. Fortunately, Cathy Wallace, who is a great friend and Lexington resident who shares many of the same nerdy interests, went out of her way to fill in several blanks for us, including finding the obituary below. I told her I was going to have to give her the title of “senior reporter for BigSéance.com”. Thank you for the time and effort you put into helping us learn about and remember Miss Owen. Even though we’re unable to find an exact year of when she retired, she clearly had a long career in Lexington and touched many lives. I now have evidence of this, as people have left comments here and on the two Lexington community Facebook pages.  

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Her obituary from the July 30, 1986 issue of The Lexington News:

Verna Marie Owen, 90, of Lexington, died Friday, July 25 in the Urbana, MO Nursing Home. 

She was born September 18, 1895 in Lexington to John Martin Owen and Carolyn Sellman Owen. 

She was a member of the United Methodist Church, the Lafayette-Lexington DAR and past matron of the Eastern Star. She attended school at Missouri University, Central Missouri State College and the University of Boldar [sic], CO. She taught school in Lexington for 47 years. She was a member of the Missouri State Teachers Association and the National Retired Teachers Association. She was a lifelong resident of Lexington. 

Survivors include four nieces and eight nephews.

Services were held Tuesday, July 29 at the Walker-Nadler-Graff Chapel with Rev. Dan Sullivan officiating; burial was in Machpelah Cemetery. 

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Some other information we’ve been able to gather:

Both her and her parents (John Martin Owen and Caroline “Carrie” Whelan Owen) were born and raised in Lexington, and are all buried in Machpela cemetery, a Lexington cemetery that I’ve blogged about.

It blows my mind to learn that as early as the fall of 1915, at the age of 19 or 20, Miss Owen was teaching 34 pupils at the Elm Park country school outside of Lexington. Again, it’s unclear when exactly she retired from the Lexington School District, but in recent days, former students have recalled having her as a teacher as late as 1965. That is simply amazing. I can’t imagine being there to witness all of the growth and change that public education went through during those five decades!

During her long career in Lexington, she taught at least English and Social Studies to probably several junior/senior high grade levels, and for many years sponsored a “pen pals” program. According to the 1940 US census, at age 44 she was making a yearly teacher salary of $855.   

In recent days, former students have described her as being quiet, gentle, soft-spoken, sweet, and “one of my favorite teachers”. Alan talked of being paid to “porch” her newspaper for a few years in the 1970s each time it was delivered.  Lucia sent me the cutest story (I’m adding it to the comments below) of how she would leave Miss Owen flowers on her doorstep on May Day. 

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At the time of her death I was eight years old. I wonder if I ever knew her or if our paths ever crossed. Looking into her eyes, I just know she made a huge difference and was loved and respected by many. If anyone has more information, or if you’d like to add your memories of Miss Owen, or if you’re a family member, I’d love for you to contact me, or simply leave a comment.

 

You might also like: 

More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)

More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

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