Depending on your level of superstition, a black cat crossing your path might not hold much significance.
But when a black feline crossed Sixth Street in front of Fat Matt’s Vortex bar in Kansas City, Kan., on a Friday night this month, it quickly drew the attention of people gathering for a bus tour — some who felt it was eerily appropriate.
The tour wasn’t your typical historical jaunt through the northeast part of Wyandotte County. This outing was all about ghosts.
“We did not stage that,” said one of the tour guides, Jennifer Tarwater, who chuckled at the “bad omen” of the black cat.
Tarwater and Janet Reed, tour guides for Ghost Tours of Kansas, were preparing to take about 40 people on a school bus to tell them some ghost stories about what the company touts as “the most haunted city in Kansas.”
A common question bantered about: “Do you believe in ghosts?”
Put Richard Ubert of Roeland Park down as a yes.
When Ubert found out about the ghost tour, he knew he had to go, partly because it included areas where he grew up.
“It was definitely something different and something I wasn’t aware of,” he said.
His daughter, Maureen Ubert, 19, accompanied him, but he said he didn’t think she believed in ghosts as much as he did.
As the tour got under way, Reed and Tarwater took turns telling stories, including ones about a person who shot himself in a booth of a club, and the people who would later report seeing the ghost of a young man there with a gun across his lap; and about a man killed after he fell into a printing press, his ghost later seen “torn and shredded.”
When the tour neared the Kansas City, Kan., public library, the group got off the bus and made its way up to Huron Indian Cemetery. There they were told about the Conley sisters and their fight to defend the cemetery against intruders, including the curse that Helena Conley placed on those who “molest their graves.”
The group fanned out, and some members took pictures of the cemetery and its headstones.
It was then back on the bus for stops at Wyandotte High School, a park across from the Strawberry Hill Museum, and Kaw Point.
Two sisters, Beth Cooper and Cathy Ramirez, started the Topeka-based Ghost Tours of Kansas about four years ago.
“The plan was that if it was not working or we were not making money after five years, we would not do it anymore,” Cooper said. “It ends up we are expanding it. It has been going really great.”
The history, in part, is what has attracted Cooper. “There are no hauntings without history — something has had to happen.”
The company now offers three tours in Topeka and tours in Manhattan, Lawrence and Holton. The company is looking to expand to three other cities next year.
This is the first year the company has offered tours in Kansas City, Kan., which the sisters claim is the most haunted in Kansas.
“It is basically a statement we made based on paranormal investigations that have been done,” Cooper said.
The company has more than 60 documented locations in Kansas City, Kan.
“It’s more than someone saying, ‘We have a ghost in our house,’ ” Cooper said.
It is the city’s history, including being on the Kansas frontier and the border war with Missouri, that makes it so haunted, Cooper said. The confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers also attracts hauntings, she said.
The company is participating in ghost investigations to try to collect more evidence to substantiate stories.
That is what the company was doing in late September and early October at St. Mary’s, a limestone Catholic church built in the 1890s at Fifth Street and Ann Avenue. The company would like to add it to the tour.
Matt Tomasic, who bought the church about four years ago, never really thought much about it being haunted, but he agreed to let them investigate.
“If I was a ghost, where would I be?” he said. “A church is as good of a place as any.”
In late September, the company, along with Nick Spantgos and Keith Ross of Paranormal Research Investigators in Topeka, went in to investigate.
Back on the tour, Stephanie Roberts of Kansas City, Kan., was with a handful of friends and family she had persuaded to go along with her. She said she was disappointed, though, that there was so much history and not enough chances to get out and do some ghost hunting.
“I actually would have liked to get to go into some of the buildings,” she said.
Such a ghost investigation at a Kansas City, Kan., location is in the works, Cooper said.
It was the history and the possibility of hauntings that appealed to Wendi Dunnuck of Kansas City, Kan., who said she thought people had to go somewhere when they died — they were not “just here and gone.” When she learned about the tours, she just had to go.
“It sounded interesting,” Dunnuck said. “And it’s October, so why not?”
To learn more about the tours, go to www.ghosttourtopeka.com
or call Beth Cooper at 785-383-2925.