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The Spooky History of the Castle on Campus

Legends of the Epperson House plague UMKC, but what’s the truth?
The+Epperson+House+is+closed+to+visitors%2C+but+can+be+seen+from+the+distance+around+campus.
Aurora Wilson
The Epperson House is closed to visitors, but can be seen from the distance around campus.

  Located at the corner of Cherry and 52 St., the Epperson House looms over UMKC’s campus, haunting students who dare to walk past it. 

  Construction on the 54-room mansion started in 1919 and cost over $450,000 to build to completion–over $13 million in today’s currency value. 

  Uriah Epperson, the original owner of the house, lived in the mansion with his wife, Mary, and a UMKC Conservatory student, Harriet Barse. After the death of Uriah in 1942, the house was donated to UMKC.

  The gothic home served as a dormitory, a classroom space, an event space and a performance hall up until 2010. Haunting tales have floated around for decades, each taking on a new life every year.

The gothic home approximately 24,000 gross square feet. (Aurora Wilson)

  Chris Wolff, UMKC’s bookstore manager, unofficial campus historian and author of the UMKC history book “A Pearl of Great Value,” shared some of the outlandish stories he has heard about the mansion. 

  Harriet Barse, commonly referred to as the Epperson’s adopted daughter, played the organ and was set to have the instrument installed in the house. However, she died before it could ever be placed, yet students have reported hearing the low note of organ echo. 

  “Those kinds of stories, the scary ones, just abound out of Epperson’s House history,” Wolff said. 

  People have reported a light flickering on the tower at the top of the home, despite the tower being boarded up decades ago. 

  Police officers have supposedly been hit by ghost cars and haunted by the spirits that roam the grounds.

  “We had one police officer who was so scared to go inside that he hired a psychic to cleanse the house, not once, but twice,” Wolff said. 

  Eerie myths surround the home, but it has real-life issues that could impact the future of its usage. 

  Sitting empty for years, the house has serious damage due to weather-related issues, break-ins and general deterioration. 

  The cost of renovating the historic hom exceeds $15 million. In 2020, UMKC offered to partner with anyone who fronts the repair costs but has yet to see any interest. 

  “One of our responsibilities as a public university is to be proper stewards of our legacy,”  said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal in an article in 2020. “Epperson House is a treasure for not just our campus, but for the Kansas City community.”

  Wolff expressed worries about the home and how it could continue to crumble if no one steps up. 

  “What it needs more than anything is some sort of amazing idea,” Wolff said. “Some out-of-the box idea that would rally the university and KC community.”

 The Epperson House may sit empty up on the hill, but Wolff makes sure to keep its history alive by taking people on Haunted Walking Tours that explore the spooky lore of the campus. 

  To register for a tour, click here and to read more, click here

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