Archive for the ‘mysteries’ Category

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

 

 

Children have been hearing about the Pied Piper for 725 years, but who was he and where did the children go? Historians agree that some event did happen in Hamelin, Germany in 1284 that involved the disappearance of the town’s children. What is not clear is what actually happened.

The typical story states that a man dressed in colorful clothing showed up in the rat infested town of Hamelin and offered to rid the town of rats for a fee. The town was desperate and hired him. The man played a flute and the vermin followed him out of Hamelin into the Weser River where they drowned. The story would have ended there if the townsmen had just paid him; however, they backed out and in retaliation the Pied Piper again played his flute and the children followed him doing strange jerky movements out of town. There was a deaf child and a crippled child left behind.

A nanny followed the group and stated that one half went into the woods and the other to the right into a cave in the Weser Mountains. The townspeople went to investigate and found body parts hung from the trees in the forest. There was no sign of the children in the cave, which did not have an exit.

The earliest known reference to the story was a stained glass window in the local Market church depicting the Pied Piper that was created in 1300 and was destroyed by fire in 1600. The original tale did not mention rats, but was added in the sixteenth century. So what really occurred in Hamelin, Germany in 1284?

The Pied Piper’s name suggests two theories. One he was poor and wore patched clothes or he was a King’s representative dressed in official garb. In either case he could have been recruiting for either a crusade or trying to convince people to settle Eastern Europe. The term, “children” could refer to people in general and not just minors. Some believe that people from Hamelin settled in Romania and may be the origin of the gypsy (Roma) clans. Others think if the Piper was gathering children for a crusade to the Holy Land the children did not make it back home. This is quite possible as crusades took years and cost many lives before ever arriving in the Holy Land.

One of the disturbing aspects of the tale is the strange, jerky movements the children did as they walked out of town. Disease or nervous disorders have been suggested, but how could all the children experience it at once?  Did they display such odd behavior before the Piper showed up? Or did the sound of the flute actually trigger that response? Few details of the incident actually survive, so any ideas are pure speculation. It could be that the Piper taught the children a dance of sorts prior to leading them out of town, but to what end?

Another suggestion is that a pedophile kidnapped the children and murdered them in the woods, dismembering them and decorating the trees with body parts. More than likely there were serial killers in medieval Germany, so that cannot be ruled out on the face of it. If that is true, then who lead the other group to the cave? If the music kept the children hypnotized, then why did the cave group not wake up and run back to town? Does this indicate the Piper had a partner?

Throughout history there are stories of caves or openings in mountains that seal up once people enter, such as in the French Pyrenees. The Nazis had many hidden bases in mountains that have not been discovered like the money train in Poland recently revealed. It makes no sense that children could enter a cave and just disappear. There must have been a secret exit in existence at that time that the townspeople did not find.

Or the nanny was not telling the truth about a second group climbing up to the cave. What reason did she have to lie? Could she have known the Piper before he arrived in Hamelin or become acquainted with him while he was there? A young woman with a bleak future might well be infatuated with an intriguing stranger spinning who knows what yarns to impress the locals. She might have been talked into doing anything, including kidnapping and murder.

If the Pied Piper were a King’s messenger recruiting volunteers to settle Eastern Europe, then there is no big mystery to the story. Some villagers simply decided to pick up and immigrate to Romania or Hungry for a better life or more land. Family members remaining behind may have started the story describing the smooth talk of the man who lured loved ones away. The same could be said for a Children’s Crusade.

Two issues remain: the strange jerky movements of the children as they followed the man playing a flute. Such a detail is not likely to be invented, but something actually witnessed. One theory suggests that the townspeople paid the man to get rid of diseased and disabled children, which is plausible with the plague and other contagious diseases running rampant. The colorful clothes the Piper wore might have been patches because he was poverty stricken and desperate to make money however necessary. He might have had some disability of his own as medieval minstrels often were blind or crippled and had no other way to earn a living aPied_piperside from music. The jerky movements could have been the way the Piper moved and the children simply copied him.

The second issue is the body parts hung from the trees. If this really occurred then the Piper may well have been a sadistic serial killer that preyed on unwanted or orphaned children. There are not many other explanations for this situation, if true.

The picture depicts a painting copied from the Market Church stained glass window  before its destruction in 1600 AD.  Clearly, both the forest and cave are illustrated. The stained glass window was created just sixteen years after the incident and thus should be based on memory. The story of the Pied Piper is a fascinating one that mostly likely will never be fully explained unless some hidden diary comes to light.