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Route 66 Theater may be haunted October 31, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Ghosts and Mysteries, Theaters.
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Art deco on the Mother Road

If we are to believe a paranormal team sent to investigate, the historic Route 66 Movie Theater in downtown Webb City, Missouri, is haunted by a spirit named Zach.

Here’s the story posted on KOAM-TV:


The team that did the investigation was Four States Paranormal, which does work in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

I tried once to narrow down the five most haunted places on Route 66, which you can read here. However, since the list was made, the Spook Light near Quapaw, Oklahoma, has been nearly completely debunked by a prominent author as a paranormal phenomenon and exists as a natural one instead — namely, the bouncing light is caused by car headlights from a distant Route 66.

Another thread about ghost stories on the Mother Road can be read here. The Legends of America site also keeps a ghost listing here.

Not to besmirch the paranormal group’s motivations, but I remain highly skeptical of such ghost stories or attempts to communicate or detect with them — presuming these ghosts exist at all.

The theater, formerly the Newland Hotel, opened in 1945. It closed for a while, then reopened in 2005 when Scott and Nancy Hutson bought the property. It shows first-run films.

(Image of the Route 66 Movie Theater in Webb City by jawsawthat via Flickr)

Tri-County Truck Stop will host ‘ghost hunt’ March 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Ghosts and Mysteries, History, Restaurants.
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The long-closed Tri-County Truck Stop along Route 66 in Villa Ridge, Mo., will host a “ghost hunt” by the Paranormal Task Force on Saturday night.

According to a report in the Washington Missourian, the interactive event begins at 6 p.m. and lasts until 4 a.m. The cost is $50. Tickets may be bought here.

Tri-County Truck Stop has been featured on SyFy’s “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” segment “Truck Stop Terror,” in The Missourian, and on television news programs and in several books. […]

The current building, built in 1950 after the previous building burnt to the ground in the late 1940s, became the Tri-County Restaurant and Truck Stop in 1970 after The Diamonds relocated to be nearer to the newly opened Interstate 44.

When the Tri-County still ran, we posted a story or two about its alleged paranormal past. A mysterious presence, nicknamed George by its staff, apparently got a little too fresh with the female help. The restaurant also was known for serving country ham.

The Tri-County Truck Stop closed in 2006, and the boarded-up structure looks a bit worse each time we go by. However, according to its Facebook page, the Paranormal Task Force spent time in recent weeks cleaning up the restaurant’s interior — good to see.

The task force also appears to be maintaining a Facebook page for the Tri-County Truck Stop as well. So it’s nice to see the restaurant get a little care. Hope springs eternal someone can buy and revive it.

(Image of the Tri-County Truck Stop in 2005 by Alan Berning via Flickr)

“Shadows on 66″ trailer August 24, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Ghosts and Mysteries, History, Preservation, Television.
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A few days ago, the folks who produced the upcoming “Shadows on 66″ paranormal series posted this trailer for the first episode, which features Galena’s Murder Bordello.

The episode will be available Sept. 13 via download or DVD from iTunes or the “Shadows on 66″ website. Other Route 66-related episodes reportedly are coming in the future.

If you eventually watch the episode, just remember the long-told tale that Galena’s Murder Bordello was the home of serial-killing madam Ma Staffleback in the 1890s doesn’t square with the known facts. But the folks behind the site still should be commended for dramatically improving the historic home’s condition and converting it into a tourist attraction.

Galena’s “Murder Bordello” being resurrected February 8, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Ghosts and Mysteries, History, Preservation.

Renovations have progressed rapidly on the former Staffleback bordello in Galena, Kan., since it started in January. (Photo courtesy of Russ Keeler)

A long-abandoned former bordello on Route 66 in Galena, Kan., owned by a serial-killer madam is being restored and will reopen next month as a site for guided tours.

Russ Keeler, who operates After Midnight Paranormal Investigations, or AMPI, in Siloam Springs, Ark., persuaded the home’s co-owners in January to spend thousands of dollars to restore the circa-1890 structure and install period furniture and landscaping.

Keeler plans to hold regular guided tours of gothic-looking house for $10 a head, starting with a special grand opening of what he calls Galena’s Murder Bordello on March 16-17 that includes a dinner and tours of other ghostly sites in the region.

In addition to being a house of prostitution, it was where its madam, Ma Staffleback, and three accomplices killed and robbed perhaps dozens of clients during the 1890s. Staffleback died in a Kansas prison in 1909.

The house’s burst of new life occurs just months after the City of Galena condemned it. However, after a public outcry and the mayor expressing a desire to preserve it, the home at Main and Front streets was spared from the wrecking ball.

Keeler thinks he can take advantage of Route 66 tourists who stop across the street at 4 Women on the Route. But first, the bordello must be shored up. After talking to locals, Keeler estimates the home was abandoned since the 1970s. Only its stout construction kept it from collapsing years ago, he said.

“The whole interior is made of rough-cut 2-by-4 oak wood, or else it’d be on the ground.”

The former Staffleback bordello in Galena, Kan., before renovation work began.

Workers recently put on a new roof, and are making replicas of the 3-inch siding and windows. A stained-glass window will be installed in the second-floor front archway.

Contractors already are putting in 12-hour days, and Keeler says a night crew will be hired to make sure it’s in tour-worthy condition by March 16.

Keeler declined to name the home’s current owners. He said they prefer to stay out of the spotlight.

City records of the home’s origins are sketchy or nonexistent, so it remains unknown who designed or built the structure. However, Keeler said date stamps on the pocket doors show the home was built in 1890. Contractors also found letters from the family that imported the home’s ornate wooden staircase from Germany.

Keeler also said he’s “in talks” to use the home’s backyard as a site for weddings.

Keeler, who makes his living in the overhead door business in Siloam Springs, said he began AMPI as a hobby and doesn’t charge for checking a site’s paranormal activity. He’s reluctant to call a place “haunted”; he instead calls it “active.” Because of the home’s reputation for paranormal activity, Keeler thinks tours will attract such fans as well as Route 66 enthusiasts and history buffs.

Years ago, 4 Women on the Route talked of buying the home and turning it into a bed-and-breakfast. Keeler says it’s an enticing idea, but not possible for now.

“It would take a lot more maintenance, work, and permits to make it habitable, than just opening it for tours,” he said.

Ma Staffleback was the longtime owner of the bordello and became known as “Galena’s Bloody Madam.” She, two sons, and her husband were charged in 1897 with murdering Frank Galbraith, a miner and bordello client, and dumping his body into a mine shaft. All were convicted of various charges stemming from the killing.

Staffleback and her cohorts reputedly ran a rob-and-murder scheme that involved up to 50 victims, although the number was never verified. Finding a mark, Staffleback would drug them or get them drunk, and an accomplice would kill the victim with a blow to the head with an ax. After removing the valuables from the body, they dumped it down one of the town’s many lead-mine shafts.

Some of the details can be read with this scan of a Chicago Tribune article.

CLARIFICATION: In a Facebook message, Keeler said tickets for daytime house tours can be purchased from 4 Women on the Route. He also said Renee Charles of 4 Women on the Route  was instrumental in introducing him to the owners and getting the ball rolling on the home’s renovation.

“Mater and the Ghost Light” commentary October 9, 2012

Posted by Ron Warnick in Ghosts and Mysteries, Movies, Restaurants.
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This is fascinating. John Lasseter and Dan Scanlon provide director’s commentary audio about the Pixar animated short, “Mater and the Ghost Light,” which came out during the DVD release of the 2006 Disney-Pixar film “Cars.”

They prominently mention Eisler Bros. Store (aka Old Riverton Store) in Riverton, Kan., on Route 66, and “Route 66: The Mother Road” author Michael Wallis during their remarks.

“Mater and the Ghost Light,” as Lasseter mentions, is inspired by the Spook Light phenomenon just off Route 66 near the Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri state lines.

Waylan’s Ku-Ku restaurant in Miami, Okla., still provides maps to customers if they want to check out the Spook Light for themselves.

A closer look at Lincoln’s Ghost Bridge November 2, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Ghosts and Mysteries, Preservation, Restaurants.
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Alas, the Decatur (Ill.) Herald & Review didn’t post this until after the event. But this video shows the legendary Ghost Bridge of Route 66 in Lincoln, Ill., and the Ghost Bridge Walk that became a fundraiser for The Mill in Lincoln.

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