Kansas City, MO

The historical Epperson House in Kansas City, Missouri is a remarkable mansion in need of repairs, haunted or not

CJ Coombs

Epperson House, on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.User:BlueGold73, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The historic Epperson House is located in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a part of the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC). This amazing house was designed by French architect, Horace LaPierre. It's also nearly 100 years old if you count from the year the home was completed.

The construction

The construction of this home lasted from 1919 until 1923. Interestingly, it cost $500,000 then but if it were built today, it would be around $8 million.

The house is a four-story Tudor-Gothic home containing 54 rooms. It has six bathrooms and for convenience, it has elevators. There used to be a swimming pool in the basement along with a billiards room. There was also a barbershop, formal entryway, and ballroom. It's been said there's a tunnel to get between the east and west wings.

When it was completed four years later, it had 56 rooms, a basement swimming pool, marble fireplaces, ornately carved staircases, and an octagonal turret that overlooks campus. Today, no student orientation is complete without a ghost story and a backward glance at one of the house’s darkened windows. (Source.)

Uriah Spray Epperson

Epperson was born on December 22, 1861, in Indiana. When he was six, he moved to Kansas City. He grew up to become a banker and industrialist. He was also a philanthropist who made a lot of money through insurance and meat-packing industries.

Unfortunately, four years after the house was completed in 1927, Epperson died, leaving the house to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Weaver Epperson (b. 1855, d. 1939). After Mrs. Epperson died of cancer in 1939, the house was donated to UMKC by Epperson's business associate in 1942.

Epperson's personal paperwork such as records, news clippings, photographs, and other items associated with his finances are kept at the State Historical Society of Missouri.

In 2020, UMKC was looking for a partner to help restore the house

The house was used as a men's dormitory--first for Navy air cadets during World War II and then for UMKC in 1949, and the school of education in 1957. It was also used by the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning, and Design.

The large empty house has been closed to the public for a little over a decade now. The annual upkeep for a large mansion has to be costly.

Renovations are expected to cost $12 to $15 million. A minor fire in recent years activated the sprinklers, damaging the plasterwork. The stained-glass windows are deteriorating. And the house was also converted into classroom and meeting spaces, so there’s wear and tear. (Source.)

Epperson House is in need of a lot of repairs that need to come from donors because the work is likely to cost millions. It’s a part of local history worthy of restoration and renovation. Hopefully, UMKC will receive the help it needs to preserve this historical house.

The stories of hauntings are interesting if nothing else

One could imagine there might be stories of hauntings with a home that could have secret passageways. Just staring at the house, I know it's not a place I would want to enter alone. It's been written that the television series, Unsolved Mysteries, covered the hauntings of this house which must have been several years ago. At the time, it supposedly made the show's list of being one of the top five haunted houses in the country.

The ghost legend of Harriet Evelyn Barse who lived from 1875 to 1922 is one of the stories. She was a student at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music.

When the Eppersons moved into the house, they brought Barse with them referring to her as their adopted daughter even though she was not legally adopted. She was also older than Mrs. Epperson. Not long after they moved into the home, Barse had an infected gallbladder and died during surgery. She died before the construction of an organ was completed. The organ was going to rest in a loft inside the home.

It was the Navy air cadets who first reported the sightings of the ghostly woman wearing a white gown and walking the hallways.

During the 1970s, students from UMKC were reporting they saw Barse in an evening gown, and security guards on campus reported seeing strange lights and hearing the sounds of organ music at night.

In 1978, there were guards who heard footsteps in the empty house. In May 1979, there was an even stranger activity security guards documented. A patrol officer who had parked near the house felt another car rear-end him and heard the sound of glass shattering. Interestingly, when he got out of his car to see what happened, there was no damage or glass because there also wasn't another car. However, allegedly, his car had been moved which was verified by some skid marks. Strange.

Also in 1978, an officer for the campus reported seeing something materialize and turn off a light. It was an arm in a blue suit coat. On another night around 2:00 a.m., two officers were patrolling the home. They would go in and out of areas turning lights on and off. One light wouldn't go off and one of the officers also saw an arm dressed in a blue suit reach out and move at the switch. It disappeared and then the light went off. So, some believe that Epperson walks the halls.

In my research, I found no information regarding any formal investigation of paranormal activity performed on this house. All the stories about hauntings are either real or fall under urban legends.

The below video is narrated by a young boy named Carter called The Epperson House: A Kansas City Ghost Story. Surprisingly, the 2014 video including interviews is well-made.

Epperson House has great potential. A collaboration among philanthropic, state, and local officials, developers, and preservationists will be necessary for a full restoration and 21st-century adaptive reuse of this local landmark. (Source.)

Thank you much for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and author/publisher with a BA in Eng Journalism/Creative Writing. I worked in law firms for 30+ years and retired early to pursue writing. I was born into the Air Force, so you could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, research, history, true crime, reading, art, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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