The Haunted Epperson House in UMKC

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 49
Occupation: N/A
Residence: Kansas City, MO
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main piece:

“So this house used to be owned by a rich family that, I think, made their money in organs like the instrument and it was the Epperson family. They had a bit of tragic life, there’s a million tales of their trials and tribulations and I honestly don’t remember all of them but I know there are a couple of legends that- one that there did actually use to be a swimming pool in the basement of this big mansion and at some point it got cemented over unexpectedly around the time someone went missing and there was a theory that one of the Epperson lovers is buried in concrete in the pool. There also was a daughter of the family who, I don’t remember if it was from a broken love affair or what it was, they had a big beautiful ballroom with an organ loft and she hanged herself from the organ loft which is a bit of a statement because since they made their money in organs. So anyway, this house has a long, long history in Kansas City of being associated with hauntings and ghost stories, people see lights and movements inside the house even though its been locked up and not used for years and years and years”

Background:

My informant is a 49 year old woman living in Kansas City, Missouri. While originally from Joplin, Missouri, she moved to Kansas City about 18 years ago. The Epperson House is located on the campus grounds of the University of Kansas City, Missouri which is near her home. The house has a series of legends tied to it, with one of the most common practices involving teens interacting with the house for seances and the sort. The informant has friends who grew up in Kansas City and have participated in this tradition. While the house is generally closed to the public, a security guard offered her a tour which led to her fascination with the house and it’s legends. 

Context:

This piece was brought to my attention through research into legends from Missouri which I used to approach my informant. She has told me about this phenomenon several times but this specific conversation occurred in the living room of her house in Kansas City when I asked her about using the story for the archives.

Thoughts:

The Epperson House is a classic haunted house legend. Much like previous iterations, the house represents several different things for the surrounding community. First, the house serves the function of uniting the community with a common legend. Kansas City is a relatively big city, so while the whole city might not have nearly as much folklore about this structure, knowledge of the legend places one within the know of a community. This is also present for the teen culture of Kansas City, who use the structure as a right of passage in order to be considered part of the group. Another interesting aspect of the legend is the indirect tie between wealth and tragedy. Despite having near endless wealth, the Epperson family could not avoid their tragic fate, almost making the legend a cautionary tale of sorts against the massive accumulation of wealth. This is especially interesting because the house is adjacent to a relatively wealthy neighborhood, making the moral of the story also a reminder for the nearby families. Another way of interpreting this legend is that the Epperson House represents old money. The house is ancient, and by making it seem scary and tragic, the overall perspective of the community is placed on the future. In this interpretation, money is not bad per say, but one should not worry about the past but look to the future, because all that remains of the past are ghosts and abandoned structures.