The House on Paulen Road: The Truth Behind the Ghost Story

Posted: July 10, 2017 in history, mysteries

Paulen Road House

South of Topeka, Kansas there once stood a three story limestone house on the corner of 93rd and Paulen Road. As many ghost hunting enthusiasts know there are scary stories surrounding the old house that was the target of vandals and wanna-be Satanists. When I was there with my best friend years ago we took pictures, but were unable to gain entrance as it was boarded up. The cellar steps were caving in, so we could not check out the supposed cistern rumored to be connected by tunnel to Stull Cemetery near Lawrence. The outside of the limestone house built between 1870-1890 was covered with graffiti. The creek out back was dried up, the bridge collapsed. The carriage house was long gone.

As the ghost story goes, there was a fourteen year old girl living there with her parents around the turn of the twentieth century who wanted more excitement out of life than her religious parents would allow. One night during a rain storm she took her father’s white stallion to town and met up with a secret boyfriend or rapist. The story varies regarding the sexual encounter being voluntary. The story also implies the man was either Mexican or Indian. When it was apparent that the girl was pregnant her parents locked her in the attic (where a pentacle would be painted years later) until the baby was born. The mother was disgusted when the infant appeared to be a half-breed and she took it down to the creek and drowned it. The girl then hung herself in the attic. People in the area have claimed to see the ghostly images of the girl riding to town on the white horse on stormy nights for decades.

I was curious to know if the ghost story had any basis in truth, so I researched the family that has owned the property for over a hundred years. Mr. William H. Coultis and his wife, Mercy (Buckman) lived on the property at least since 1892 and were very high profile with two children, Will and Lilly. Will Coultis moved to Richland where he raised his family. Lilly never married and she is the focus of my research since she was the only daughter, born April 6, 1893.

The Coultis family was very active in the community being members of the Highland Park Grange and Highland Park Methodist Episcopal Church. Lilly would also belong to the Berryton Grange. The Coultis family had frequent visitors to their farm that stayed for days, young men, women and couples. People camped near the creek and picnicked on the property or stayed as house guests. As an interesting sideline, W.H. Coultis had a ghostly encounter as recorded in the Topeka State Journal December 4, 1895:

A Gloomy Prairie

W.H. Coultis encountered a stranger near where a young man was murdered, Edward Illston. Last at night coming home from Topeka. He lived near Richland/Berryton. Believed due to his community standing

Every lifestyle aspect of the Coultis family was chronicled in the Topeka State Journal. At no time did Lilly leave the area long enough to have a child. Mercy and Lilly spent two months in Ohio and Indiana visiting relatives as mentioned in the newspaper of June 30, 1917. This was the longest period that Lilly was not in the area. The photographs of the Coultis family indicate the women in the family were slender and could hardly have hid an unwanted pregnancy.

Lilly Coultis was extremely active in church and community activities as were her parents who were always in the spotlight. Her father ran for the state senate in 1896. By 1916 Lilly was living at 2514 Maryland Avenue in Topeka with her parents. It is not certain who was living on the Paulen Road farm at this time.

The 1905 Census for Monmouth Township, Shawnee County KS also named.  Frances Burgert, age sixteen as living in the household who could possibly be a servant and might be a candidate for the rebellious girl of legend. Another candidate might be, Christina E. Prinslow, age 18 listed in the 1900 Census.

The closest towns at the turn of the century were Berryton and Richland where the girl could have ridden for a night of excitement. Again, with the constant houseguests and church groups camping on the property it is difficult imaging that no one would notice a young woman held captive in the attic or screaming as her mother drowned a newborn in the nearby creek. Whoever the ghost story is based on it could not be the Coultis family that owned the property.

The Topeka State Journal on December 28, 1906 ran a story about two men from the area being caught sexually assaulting their daughters.

Charles Ryder, of Berryton, and Jas. Morris, two brutes who were convicted of assault upon their little daughters, will be kept from further crimes for a period of from five to twenty-one years. Morris’ crime was such a shock to his wife, who at that time was ill at the hospital that she has since gone Insane.

Most legends are stimulated by some true event and I am sure the Paulen Road ghost is no exception. The above article demonstrates that shady characters were indeed in the area and someone could easily have assaulted a young girl who had gone to town without supervision. I could find no mention of servants or staff at the Coultis farm, but more than likely the Coultis family had employees with children at some point. We will probably never know the reality behind the old ghost story, but the answers are awaiting discovery somewhere.

Coultis family 1894. Lilly is the child on the chair.  Mercy is the second woman standing from the left. William H. is the man just right of the carriage house doorway.

Coultis family 1894 2



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s