Burnett’s Mound and the Tornado of 1966
Native Topekans are well aware of some of the spooky stories that drift around the town. For instance, long ago (in the 1800s) a tornado ravaged the land that is now Topeka. Chief Abram B. Burnett, of the Potawatomi tribe, said the mound should never be disturbed because it was sacred land watched over by the Great Spirit and to respect those who lost their lives during the tornado. In 1960 construction began for the interstate bypass at the base of the hill. The top of the mound was cut off to hold a 5 million gallon water tank. Following the construction on the mound, housing developments began to pop up around the base of the mound. In June of 1966 an F5 tornado, a half-mile wide ripped through Topeka, killing 16 people, injuring 500 and left 3,500 homeless.
The Albino Woman
Around Halloween, kids often like to hear the story about the Albino Woman, who supposedly roams around the Rochester Cemetery in North Topeka. Cathy Ramirez with Ghost Tours of Kansas filled me in on the information she gathered about the ghost.
Old timers Cathy interviewed recalled the woman was a maid in a two story house near Rochester Cemetery. One gentleman Cathy interviewed said he remembered his dad giving her rides to the grocery store every once in awhile. The man said the woman was very nice but he never knew her name. He described her as having stark white skin, white wiry hair and blazing pink eyes. The man believed the woman died around 1965.
An elderly woman remembers seeing the Albino lady when she was a young girl. On the way to school the woman remembered seeing the Albino walking through Rochester Cemetery, but she never spoke to the Albino.
To this day her name remains unknown. The closest Cathy came to uncovering the woman’s name was from the son of the lawyer who handled her death, the papers were disposed of before he got to them. Shortly after 1965 the sheriff’s office began receiving reports of a ghostly woman in white with pink eyes. One of Cathy’s former junior high teachers actually spoke to the ghost who asked him and his friend what they were doing in the cemetery. When they replied, to see you, she said they had better get going because she had to go. Cathy said more than 100 people on her tours have reported seeing the ghost, sometimes with a white German Shepherd and some folklore says she is seen with poodles. The last reported sighting was three years ago by a man driving to Goodyear on Menninger Road. Cathy said her stomping ground is close to Highway 24, 35th Street, Rochester Road and Menninger Road.
Sam Radges, from England, came to the United States following his brother's lead. He spent time in New York, Ohio and North Carolina before coming to Kansas. He served as the postmaster in Dodge City before making his home in Topeka. In 1869 he began publishing the Topeka Directory, which was like a phone book, and did so until his death. When he died in 1921 Radges contracted with the paper to deliver the paper to his grave for 20 years after his death. He also installed a light in his tomb so he could see to read the paper. It is unclear if the papers were actually delivered for 20 years as the papers littered the cemetery.
Thank you to Cathy Ramiez of Ghost Tours of Kansas and the Topeka History Geeks for helping me tell these stories.
Photo by Megan Rogers