Today, this mansion sits empty and in disrepair, an echo of its past with haunting organ music said to emanate from the home in the night. Once, it was an opulent home for a couple with a love for supporting charities and various causes, but a tragedy in the family swiftly erased the happiness that was once palpable within its walls. Today, we’re exploring the famous haunting of the Epperson House in Kansas City, Missouri.
Designed as a mix between gothic architectural style and a Tudor mansion, the Epperson House was originally built between 1919 and 1923, being finished at a cost of $500,000, approximately $11 million in today’s money. At four stories, the home included a swimming pool, barber shop, 54 rooms, 6 bathrooms, a state-of-the-art elevator, and a custom organ. It even includes tunnels linking the two wings of the home, providing comfort and protection during Missouri winters. The owner, Uriah Epperson, was a prominent banker, entrepreneur, and amassed a vast fortune from his ventures into the meat-packing business.
Uriah and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, were prominent members of the Kansas City community, supporting many charitable organizations, with most of them focusing on music and the arts. It was through this love for music that the Eppersons met Harriet Barse. Never having any children of their own, the couple was said to have called the young girl their “adopted daughter,” and invited her to live with them in their opulent (and empty) home. Harriet was a student at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and the Eppersons paid to have a custom-built organ installed in the home for her. Harriet designed the organ to fit in the loft of the living room and was excited about the prospect of playing it for guests during high-society parties the Eppersons would host in their home.
Tragedy would strike only a few months after Harriet moved into the mansion, as she was rushed to the hospital with a perforated gallbladder and died during the surgery attempting to repair it. The Eppersons were devastated. The organ was not completed before her passing, but was finished in her honor the following year. The haunting legends of the Epperson home began after Harriet’s untimely death at the age of 47, with ghostly organ music and the apparition of a girl in an evening gown, as if dressed for a recital.
Only four years after the completion of the home, Uriah Epperson would pass away due to a stroke in 1927. Mary Elizabeth would survive her husband and pass away in 1939, when her estate donated the home to the University of Missouri- Kansas City. Rumors that float around in regards to the haunted home have said that Uriah went mad after Harriet’s death, killing his wife and commiting suicide in the home, but that story is obviously false. Still, the spirits of the Eppersons have been sighted in the home in the decades following their passing.
The University used the home from 1942 to 1956 as a men’s dormitory for Navy air cadets during WWII and male students after the war. Since the 1950s, the home has sat vacant and in need of repair. In the 1970s, the home was used as a spare practice space for students at the music conservatory, the very same institution at which Harriet was a student. The University of Missouri spends approximately $60,000 a year to maintain the house, but has been searching for philanthropists to help fund the renovation of the mansion for use by the college.
The haunting stories of the home began with students from the conservatory, who reported seeing Harriet walking the halls and inspecting her prized organ. Cold spots, footsteps, and strange sounds were also observed in the home. A light in the tower, which has been sealed off for decades, is said to turn on randomly in the night, adding an eerie glow to the home with an unexplained source. On another occasion, a chandelier fell suddenly from the ceiling- narrowly missing the custodian working in the Epperson House at the time.
Those who experienced the most paranormal activity seem to be the guards for the University, many of whom have reported strange happenings and investigations of the home for potential burglars, only to find no one in the mansion. One story tells of night guards entering the home after reports of organ music emanating from it and turning on all of the lights as they searched for the source. To their surprise, the lights began to turn off, one-by-one, on their own. It’s said they saw the arm of a man in a blue suit appear from nowhere and claw at the light stitch in one of the upper story rooms. After the light went out, the hand disappeared into the darkness. It’s believed this spirit was that of Uriah Epperson.
One particularly strange experience was again seen by a night guard of the University who was parked in his patrol car outside the home. Suddenly, he felt his car being struck from behind, hearing the shattering glass and sound of the accident. However, when he got out of his car, there was no damage and no car had hit him. However, there were skid marks on the road showing his vehicle being pushed about 8 inches. No explanation has been offered about the event, the students and faculty chalking it up to the haunted reputation of the mansion and its reported ghostly residents.
While students spread stories of the haunted mansion, the University of Missouri hopes to one day renovate the mansion into a functional part of the campus. Renovations are estimated to cost somewhere in the range of 12-18 million dollars in order to repair damage from a fire, restore the hand-carved oak carvings throughout the house, and bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Two of the proposed uses for the Epperson House include turning it into a branch of the Kansas City museum, or renovating it into a boutique hotel for visiting parents.
Students at the university continue to report eerie organ music in the night, but access to the home is now strictly forbidden. The legends of the haunting of Epperson House continue to this day with the home’s future still in the air. Whatever the Epperson House becomes in the future, it’s certain that some ghostly residents may still make their presence known and continue the legend of the haunted house of the University of Missouri.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.