Author explores paranormal in “Ghosts of Kansas”

Beth Cooper, proprietor of Ghost Tours of Kansas and author of 'Ghosts of Kansas', speaks at the Lawrence Public Library last week. Cooper told stories of ghost sightings in Lawrence and signed copies of her book for the many attendees of the public event.

It's a chair rocking with no one in it. It's a mysterious glow with no source. It's ghoulish trickery. It's how Beth Cooper makes a living.

Cooper, author of "Ghosts of Kansas," held a book signing at the Lawrence Public Lawrence Library July 6. The crowd consisted of children captivated by their own fantasies and adults whose experiences had changed those fantasies to reality.

But the presentation didn't glorify the paranormal. It was the stories that made these phantasms come to fruition.

"Without the history, there are no ghosts," Cooper said.

"Ghosts of Kansas" covers several haunted cities, such as Atchison, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Manhattan and Lawrence.

Lawrence's most notable ghastly infestations include Haskell School, where Native American children were "educated" - stripped of their culture and language in order to be integrated into white society. Many died from disease while living at the school, which is now Haskell Indian Nations University.

The most haunted place on campus is Stubbs Mansion, now home to Sigma Nu fraternity. A long-haired woman is often seen walking down the halls of the fraternity.

But perhaps the most haunted place in all of Lawrence, Cooper said, is at the Eldridge Hotel on 7th and Massachusetts. The most documented ghost, the "elevator ghost," will sometimes take elevator users to the fifth floor when they intended to go to another.

Room 506 has a piece of the original building, which burned down when William Quantrill and his pro-slavery forces from Missouri raided the city in 1865. Some believe there is a spirit gateway on the fifth floor.

Cooper grew up in Topeka, where hearing local folklore prepared her for her current paranormal lifestyle.

In 1990, while hosting a radio show in Holton, a group of ghost hunters came on Cooper's show. She joined them visiting local haunted areas. That adventure motivated her to find out more about paranormal activity.

"Cocktails were involved," she said. "Everybody had a great time."

Now Cooper and her sister are in their eighth year of hosting tours covering haunted parts of Kansas and Missouri.

Her experiences make her an expert on dealing with the paranormal. For instance, if you encounter a ghost, you can simply ask it to leave. They don't belong here, Cooper said. We do.

Though she said most spirits are harmless, ghosts cause the negativity you feel when you walk into a room. They feed off human energy - and you could be that source.

"I have enough trouble keeping my own energy," she said.

Of course, not everyone believes in ghosts and Cooper has seen this plenty of times. She said she's not here to change anyone's mind, but they should try a tour and see for themselves.

As far as other myths you might see in The National Enquirer, Cooper is skeptical. No one can prove the power of ESP, and UFOs could be made on Earth for all we know. Even Einstein's theory of quantum physics is just a theory.

But Cooper's felt and seen the power of ghosts. She has seen the inexplicable enough times to believe it.

"We can't prove any of this," she said. "But people have had enough weird experiences that I listen to it."