By Melissa Bower, Fort Leavenworth LampOctober 15, 2009
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Oct. 15, 2009) -- When the MuAfA+-oz family moved to the Rookery at 14 Sumner Place last February, they knew it was an unusual house.
At first, things began to disappear. Anne was moving in with her four boys when she thought she misplaced her cellphone. Then the remote control to their digital video recorder was gone. Then the family's wireless phone disappeared.
On a Friday night, the family went out to eat and Lt. Col. Carlos MuAfA+-oz remembers looking through his wife's purse. The next morning, the cellphone, the remote control and the telephone were all mysteriously stacked neatly in Anne's purse.
The two homes that make up the Rookery, 12 and 14 Sumner, are not only the oldest homes in Kansas, built in 1827, but are also said to be one of many Fort Leavenworth's haunted buildings. Dozens of homes and buildings throughout post have been reported as having ghosts or other unexplained phenomena.
The Friends of the Frontier Army Museum organizes a Haunted Walking Tour of post each year around Halloween as a fundraiser for the museum.
Anne MuAfA+-oz said she was pleased to make her home at the Rookery one of the haunted tour stops this year. She said there would be a storyteller in her furnace room, where tourists would see the home's historic hand-hewn logs that form floor joists. Historians estimate the trees were cut in 1827, which means they could have been growing during the Revolutionary War era.
However, Anne said she wouldn't be surprised if tourists experienced some type of unexplained event in her house. They've had so many occurrences they can't even remember them all, she said. There are sounds of a door opening and footsteps going up the stairs, sounds of furniture moving across the floor upstairs, doors that are locked open by themselves and lights turn on by themselves.
One night, Anne noticed the light had been left on in the basement after she had told her son to turn it off. They went down a second time to turn off the light, but when they reached the top floor, it was on again.
Whatever presence is in her house doesn't seem to mind people, but doesn't seem to appreciate the MuAfA+-oz family pets - especially the cats. The family has noticed their pets being let outside when no one is in the house. When their small cat, Lucy, tried to sleep on the bed one night they heard loud banging for hours.
Once, Anne noticed her large cat, Missy, at the top of the stairs not moving, as though she were being held down by something. The cat's hair stood on end except for one spot on her back about the size of a hand.
Anne said at first they weren't sure what to believe. They came up with excuses, such as the furnace making noise, the wind blowing against the house or the foundation settling. But there were some things they couldn't explain.
"We're trying to debunk it instead of, you know, just saying 'Oh, it's a ghost.' We just haven't been able to explain it," she said. "So that's why we're just saying it's something abnormal."
The youngest son, Ryan, 9, is always trying to come up with debunking theories, Anne said, and Ryan said he hasn't experienced anything unusual.
The MuAfA+-oz family isn't the first occupant of 14 Sumner to report unexplained events. People have reported hearing noises from an old woman, a man and an angry girl. Some speculate the old woman is Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur, the mother of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who lived in the house with her son for a short time. An addition on the north side of the house is where she lived, and indeed that is where the family reported hearing noises.
Around Memorial Day, Anne was cleaning house to get ready for visiting relatives. She had received a notice from Frontier Heritage Communities that maintenance workers would be coming to her house. She opened the door that led downstairs to the furnace room to grab some cleaning supplies. A man's face appeared near the bottom of the staircase in the doorway that leads to the furnace room.
Assuming he was part of the maintenance crew, Anne said, "Oh, hey," grabbed her cleaning supplies and closed the door. The man smiled at her. The next day, the real maintenance crew showed up. They didn't know anyone matching Anne's description - a pointy face, moustache and salt-and-pepper hair. Anne was worried that one of the tourists interested in the Rookery had come in unannounced or that someone may have broken into her house.
It wasn't until she was looking through the book "Fort Leavenworth: Gateway to the West," by J. Patrick Hughes that she realized the man she saw might have been a ghost. She recognized his picture almost immediately - Maj. Edmund Ogden, quartermaster of Fort Leavenworth in the mid-1800s.
Sons Adam, and Erin have learned to sleep with music on so they don't have to listen to noisy footsteps in each other's bedrooms at night. Anne said each boy hears footsteps in his brother's room, but not his own. The footsteps continue through both rooms when the door adjoining their rooms is open, but stop when the door is shut.
Carlos said this isn't his first experience with a haunted house. His family's ancestral home in Mexico is known to be haunted and one of his homes growing up in El Paso, Texas, was also haunted.
He said he wouldn't have moved his family into the house if he were worried about their safety. The first day he came to visit, sunlight was pouring in all the windows and the house was warm and inviting.
"If the house was not a nice house, it wouldn't have survived," he said.
One ghostly presence seems to care about the family's well being. It's a MuAfA+-oz family joke that if someone "gets mouthy" to mom, a ghost might punish them.
One of the boys had received new track shoes and was arguing with his mom the night before a meet. The next morning, his shoes were gone. They were missing for days until a relative found them in a corner in the furnace room. Another one of the boys was arguing with his mom one night and the next morning couldn't find his boots. He left his boots in the living room on the main floor and they were missing moments later. The boy apologized to the ghost, saying he would be late for church if he didn't find the boots. He turned the corner, and the boots were underneath the dining room table.
The oldest son, Ian, was getting ready to leave for college and arguing with his mom. When she warned him about the ghost, he thought it was funny. He placed his wallet and keys next to the computer and in the morning, his debit card was missing from inside his wallet. They know he used it that night, because he bought books online. The debit card still has not been found.
The MuAfA+-oz' love their historic home, even with its haunted quirks. They plan to stay at least until the end of their assignment in January 2011. They enjoy sharing their home with others, and like to have visitors who were previous occupants in the home - especially if they're still living.
This year's tours begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 23, 24 and 30, and at 8 p.m. Oct. 31 at Zais Park. Tickets are $10 cash or check and are sold in advance at the museum gift shop. Children under 12 should be accompanied by an adult.
Janine Johnson, volunteer for FFAM, said children under age 7 were free, but parents should be cautious about bringing young ones who might be easily frightened. The tour is about two hours and covers about two miles of walking. Participants should dress warmly, wear good shoes and bring a flashlight.
Johnson said the group would have storytellers at about 10 different locations. FFAM needs volunteer tour guides to escort groups.