On a lonely corner lot on a brick street in Hays, Boot Hill Cemetery is marked with a statue of The Visitor and names on a plaque. So-named because the dead were purportedly buried with boots on, the cemetery recalls the former Hays City days of Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane.
This year, one might feel a chilly hand on the shoulder at the Haunted Boot Hill paranormal investigation at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Boot Hill Cemetery, 18th and Fort. The event is free, and treats will be offered.
Changing things up at an annual event, the Ellis County Historical Society has teamed with Old School Paranormal of Hays to discover any activity outside normal awareness.
Participants will look for evidence of the departed desperadoes still haunting the place, said Don Westfall, executive director of ECHS.
Boot Hill Cemetery in Hays City ceased operation in 1874, and most of those buried were moved to Mount Allen Cemetery.
Those buried at Boot Hill during the 19th century only had wood markers that disappeared. So, all of the exhumed remains at Mount Allen are unmarked, Westfall said.
“We don’t know where they are,” he said.
Westfall said he hasn’t heard of any ghosts inhabiting the cemetery, but that might change after Wednesday night.
“We don’t really know what we’ll find,” he said.
“There were various cutthroats, characters and dance-hall girls,” including a sheriff, “Rattlesnake Pete” Lanahan, Westfall said. “The most famous dance hall girl, Lou Sherwood, committed suicide, so there’s a lot a legend surrounding her.”
Some of local notoriety buried at Boot Hill included two killed by Hickok when he was sheriff — shot by the time he had been in office only five weeks.
Old School Paranormal is a group of five friends that research the unexplained. Although the business just formed about a year ago, they have investigated paranormal locations in central and western Kansas and Iowa.
They all have full-time jobs and do the investigating on their own time.
“It’s just a fun hobby,” said Neal Dreher, investigator.
With equipment such as a night video camera, a thermometer, a voice recorder, a meter measuring the electro-magnetic field surrounding spirits, a laser grid, a camera and other such equipment, the group will search for things that go bump in the night.
“We’ll give them a (demonstration) of what we do and how we do an investigation,” said Steve Stults, OSP co-founder. “We’re really excited to do a public investigation there and see what we come away with.
“It’s kind of an intriguing situation.”
Other members of the team include John Kreutzer, Scott Stults, Kevin Sauer and Dreher.
The public will have an opportunity to watch something they might have only seen on television, Stults said.
The park does have the potential to have plenty of leftover angst, but it is in a public location with lots of traffic on the brick street and outside activities.
There’s a lot of environmental contamination making investigating difficult, he said.
OSP will have a question-and-answer period after the search.