Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Haunted History of Infamous 'Sallie House' Retold

Several people pass by a little two-story house on North Second Street in Atchison, Kansas every day. What’s surprising is how few people know about all of the bizarre things that have allegedly happened there.

Those who are aware of the freaky events know it as The Sallie House. As legend has it, the house is haunted by a little girl named Sallie who died during a botched appendectomy inside. For years, tenants who have lived in the house have reported harmless happenings like electrical appliances switching on and off and pictures turning upside down as well as violent attacks that left victims with welts and bloody scratches. The latter was even documented on the ‘90s TV show “Sightings.”

After watching some amateur videos filmed in the house on the Internet, Atchison Media Services owner Scott Unruh felt the story of The Sallie House was not only worth telling, but putting on film.

“It’s hard to get a spook to act on cue,” Mr. Unruh explains, “but with The Sallie House, the more cameras come in there, the more these weird things occur.”

Mr. Unruh set out to produce a documentary film simply titled “The Sallie House.” The hour-long film has three parts: a re-enactment of Sallie’s appendectomy, interviews with former victims and a paranormal investigation of the house.

The paranormal investigation was headed by acclaimed Canadian psychic, Robbie Thomas (who’s famous for finding dead bodies for law enforcement agencies) and Michael Esposito, a specialist in EVP (electronic voice phenomena), a recording process that captures hidden voices riding ambient noise. Mr. Unruh joined the duo during their investigation and says the results are somewhat unsettling.

“I didn’t feel anything (when I was in the house), but Michael got some incredible EVPs,” he says. “There were some fantastic ones that he pulled out and they do kind of creep me out.”

Chuck Pulliam, Jennifer Stammers and Faith Nagel are the three local actors who took part in the surgery re-enactment. Mr. Pulliam says everyone who was involved takes a great deal of pride in being a part of the film.

“This is a local event,” Mr. Pulliam says. “Not only are the house and the hauntings local, but it’s a local production company with local people and local actors.”

“The Sallie House” premiered June 11 at Theater Atchison. Mr. Unruh also will hold a screening of the movie in Topeka this summer and is trying to find a venue in St. Joseph to hold a screening. For more information or to order a DVD copy, visit


Brief History of 'The Sallie House'

The Sallie House haunting is in a class by itself. There have been full-bodied apparitions and objects flying through the air. Items have moved, been misplaced or lost only to reappear or show up later or at another location. Phantom furniture has been heard along with thumps, thuds, knocks, scratching and the sound of animals and human voices. Although some voices have been heard with the naked ear, there have been an amazing amount of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) captured, further depicting the voices of men, women and children. Many have experienced extreme smells. Lastly, and most famously, there has been physical harm to the occupants and investigators in the form of scratches, burns and cuts. Although the majority of these attacks have often been centered on Tony Pickman, there have been a few others who have also been the focus of the physical harassment.

Investigations into this house continue, but it was initially investigated by the television show Sightings back when Tony and Debra Pickman lived there with their newborn son. Numerous psychics have entered the picture in order to help us along the way, including Barbara Conner and the world-renowned Peter James who has worked on the haunting of the Queen Mary for many years. Paramount Pictures, the Travel Channel, KQ2 News out of St. Joseph, Missouri, Channel 4 News out of Kansas City, Kansas, and the Discovery Channel have all been involved in documenting this story over the last 12 years.

Some believe that what exists in the house is evil. Some believe that the entities within the house are reaching out and in need of our help. Some believe that Tony is doing it all himself (which doesn't seem like a viable assessment when the activity continues without his presence). Some believe there is much more going on there than we can imagine, and yet others think its all been a hoax.

A multitude of monitoring equipment has been utilized to help determine what is causing the strange occurrences in this small little house on the bluffs of the Missouri River. The equipment includes, but is in no way limited to digital and analog voice recorders, infrared and heat sensitive video cameras, and electromagnetic meters. Many investigative groups have used dousing rods, crystals, and pendulums. Some have tried to set up controlled ESP situations to experiment with more possibilities. Since the activity seems to be constant, some groups dedicated to learning more about the paranormal have used the house as an experimental laboratory. They have obtained some remarkable evidence, not only expanding on the history of the house but also furthering the study of paranormal.

What started out as the simple haunting of one little girl named Sallie has developed into a growing list. Some think that over the years more entities have come to resided with the walls of this houses. Do they just visit, do they call the place home, or has it become a doorway to the other side where the spirits we encounter move on after their visit?

The commonality, or lack of commonality, of all the investigations and investigators involved or associated with this house is that we are all curious about the who, what, and why of the house and its occupants. Who is there, when did they live, what do they want, why have they stayed behind, is there something they need to share with us, and what would that be? How is it that spirits or ghosts are able to move objects, show us their likenesses, and speak to us? These are just some of the questions that come to mind and to which we all seek answers.

Most of the human race has an innate human curiosity about events we cannot explain. The scientific and logical principles we currently employee have not yet been able to explain many of the nuance's attached to hauntings, and paranormal investigators have an overwhelming desire to do just that. We study them to understand these events. Each investigation gets us closer to the truth and its in the sharing evidence and theories of all those who are interested or involved, that we learn more about this and other hauntings.



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