A typical Joplin residential neighborhood
Some Victorian Americans participated in palmistry, séances, hypnotism, and several strains of spiritualism. Despite this predilection for the occult, one rarely finds stories of ghosts or haunted houses in the early Joplin newspapers, although palmists and psychics would occasionally set up shop in town. The morning after Halloween, the newspapers often mentioned pranks that had taken place, such as taking someone’s gate off its hinges and hiding it. Perhaps Joplin was still too young to have ghost stories.
One of the few stories we have read in the papers is the story of a house that stood at the southeast corner of D and Wall streets. Numerous former residents alleged that they heard “sounds weird and strange, which could only have been made by inhabitants of the spirit returning to earth.” Its reputation had left it neglected and forlorn. The house sat the center of a fifty foot lot and stretched “from within about ten feet of the front walk to the rear fence, and is constructed in such a manner as to appear winding, the rooms being set in and out from a line connecting the center of the two ends of the building.” A front porch post had fallen. Grass and weeds surrounded the house.
Neighboring residents used the house as a threat when faced with an unruly child. When threatened with spending a night in the house, most neighborhood children “ready and willing to do most any task imposed on them or to comply with any request of their parents.”
Some people insisted the noise came from a large family of rats that had taken up residence in the house. A reporter from the Joplin News-Herald spent the night in the house. He reported that, “When all was still and quiet a sound as of a body falling to the floor caused a dull thud that sent the blood coursing through the arteries of all those sleeping in the house.” A search of the house turned up nothing. Doors were heard to squeak as if they were being opened, but upon checking, the reporter and his cohorts found the doors were still securely looked.
Neighbors remarked that “there have been tow to five tenants each month, and most them have left with tales of hair raising experiences.” A woman interested in living there, however, told the reporter, “If the ghosts are real ones, the gun will not hurt them and if they belong to this earth, the gun will soon put a stop to them.”
Source: News-Herald, 1906