Workers Claim A Ghost In Kansas Courthouse

(from LJWorld.com) - As the story goes, inexplicable activity springs from the fifth floor of the Reno County Courthouse when the sun goes down.

Lights turn off by themselves. Candles burn in an empty room inspected just minutes before. Sounds of crying and clanking echo, but no one else is there.

And there’s just a sense someone is watching — a feeling that causes the hair on the back of the neck to lift and a cold chill to trickle down the spine.

The fifth floor is where Lily lives, late at night after most employees have gone home for the day.

Why she is spooking the courthouse is anyone’s guess, but theory is she died while a prisoner in the jail, once housed on the upper story of the nearly 80-year-old structure.

The tales are numerous — of little things that seem unexplainable when the staff works after hours.

Take Jamie Bontrager, for instance, a file clerk in the district attorney’s office. She was working alone at the courthouse around 10:30 one night when the copy machine began making copies.

“I left really quick,” she said.

And Charona Owens, who works on the second-shift maintenance crew until 12:30 a.m. each night, says nowadays she won’t clean the floor after 8 p.m.

Around 11 one night, she was mopping the fifth-floor men’s bathroom when she heard crying. At first, she thought it was a bird. But unmistakably, it was a woman.

“It sounded like it was coming from the vent,” she said. “And it’s constantly No. 5 where I feel like someone is watching me — every one of my arm hairs stand up.”

Maintenance director Harlen Depew said one employee told him he had left a fifth-floor office only briefly, to return to find candles lit.

“The wax wasn’t even melted,” Depew said.

Built in 1929, the fifth floor of the courthouse lodged prisoners until a new law enforcement facility was constructed in 1971.

At that time, the floor was altered to accommodate public works, and in 2005 — when that department moved to South Hutchinson — the district attorney’s office.

Yet, evidence of the jail lingers: a rear prisoner gate in one of the elevators and two jail cells now used as storage — one still containing a toilet.

While several suicides probably occurred on the fifth floor during its jail days — this ghost’s story is unknown. Employees, however, dubbed her Lily, believing she is a woman who killed herself while in jail.

Some believe strongly in Lily’s existence, said District Judge Richard Rome, who works on the courthouse’s third floor.

However, in his more than 45 years at the courthouse, “I’ve never had an experience,” he said. “I’ve never seen her, just heard about her.”

The same goes for District Attorney Keith Schroeder, who said he spent more than 60 nights working at the courthouse in 2006 and never encountered Lily.

“I’ve never seen any evidence,” Schroeder said. “I’ve heard the stories, but as far as I know, they are just stories.”

Despite the tales trickling in through the years, Schroeder and others say the ghostly oddities are all explainable. A wind current blowing up through the door could rattle shutters or shuffle papers.

Depew said Hutchinson Community College students camped out one night trying to capture Lily’s presence. They failed to do so.

Either way, the courthouse ghost tale is part of Hutchinson folklore passed down from generation to generation.

Marlys Bernard, who retired from the district attorney’s office last spring, said her light would be shut off when everyone else’s light in the office was on. Books would move locations and finally, Bernard told Lily to calm down.

“We have to work together on this floor,” Bernard said she told her. “You get it at night.

“From then on, we didn’t have a problem with the light,” she said.

While Larry Thode never experienced Lily while serving as assistant public works director until 1998, he heard the stories from fellow co-workers.

“I had a real concern,” Thode said. “I told every county engineer I worked under — ‘I don’t make the ladies work here after dark by themselves, there is something up here on the fifth floor.”’

And Owens, who still gets a little frightened cleaning the fifth floor despite it being an everyday occurrence, said she believes in ghosts.

“I always have,” she said.


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