EDGERTON, Mo. — The scene is deceptively quiet, as one might expect from a rural graveyard in late October, but according to some local residents, the denizens of the Ridgely Cemetery may not be at their eternal rest.
Stories of ghosts on the property, located off Highway B about three miles south of Edgerton, have persisted for decades. Edgerton native Bev Slocombe grew up visiting relatives who lived adjacent to the cemetery and first spotted its famous White Lady while camping at a nearby farm pond as a child.
Slocombe’s uncle still serves as the cemetery’s caretaker.
Over the years, her sometimes-scary experiences at Ridgely Cemetery have even garnered the attention of a Missouri author. Northwest Missouri State University instructor Jason Offutt has made a side career of looking into things that go bump in the night in Missouri. The author of several books on the paranormal, Offutt put the Ridgely Cemetery in his book, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard.”
“I went to the cemetery with some local ghost hunters,” Offutt said. “It was nice and quiet; nothing happened when we were there.”
But things aren’t always so peaceful.
Just two weeks ago, during the October super moon for extra creepiness, Slocombe and a small team of ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts paid Ridgely Cemetery a nighttime visit. They employed a method familiar to any who have seen the myriad of ghost hunting shows on television, unscrewing a flashlight until the softest touch makes the light blink.
The flashlight was placed on several grave markers with little success, until they found a live one.
“We asked questions for a while — probably 10-15 questions — and the light would keep blinking off and on in response,” Slocombe said.
Finally, the activity slowed and Slocombe threatened to pick the light up unless the spirits answered. Several times, she moved close to the light and started to pick it up and the light blinked before she could touch it. Finally, she moved to retrieve the light and received an unexpected surprise — a sudden pain in her back.
Debbie Phan, also of Edgerton, witnessed the experience.
“She bent over to pick up the flashlight and made this noise, and at first I thought she was laughing,” Phan said.
Soon the team realized that it was no laughing matter, when Slocombe complained of a burning sensation on her back. Thinking she’d been bitten by an insect or had a stick inside her shirt, the team instead discovered Slocombe had several long scratches down her back and side.
“It was kind of a surprise because the tone had been really playful before that,” Slocombe said.
This isn’t the first negative experience Slocombe has had in the cemetery, and one of her more intense encounters ended up in Offutt’s book.
In the story entitled The White Lady of Hell Town, which is also featured on Offutt’s From the Shadows blog, Slocombe’s car was attacked by an unseen presence that forced down the vehicle’s rear power window. Slocombe said her husband still won’t let her take that car back to the cemetery.
“Although I’ve written about a few negative hauntings, they’re not the majority,” Offutt said of Slocombe’s experience. “Most hauntings I’ve found are of the residual kind. Hauntings like the one in Ridgely Cemetery are the exception. It seems to me that most ghosts are content to simply ‘hang around’ and not interact with people.”
And that has been Slocombe’s general experience with the paranormal as well, especially in her role as case manager for Heartland Paranormal Investigative, a Kansas City-based group.
“They’re just people – good or bad; they’re just people,” Slocombe said. “Normally, I’m really comfortable in this cemetery. It is one of the calmest places you can get activity.”
For Phan, the experiences are eye-opening a newcomer to investigating the paranormal. Earlier this year, she visited the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Ark. — a Civil-War era building, formerly a hospital, now made famous as one of the most haunted places in the Midwest. There, she was touched by an unseen presence in the old morgue.
“I was a skeptic, but that made a believer out of me,” Phan said.
Phan’s newfound belief was further solidified by an investigation at the Villisca (Iowa) Axe Murder House made famous by the unsolved and brutal crime in 1912 which claimed the lives of an entire family plus a pair of neighbor children staying the night.
There, Phan recorded a phantom voice responding to her farewell when the group left a room.
It was enough for Phan to file her application to join Heartland Paranormal Investigative with Slocombe.
“We live in a time where people believe,” Phan said. “When we were growing up, it wasn’t talked about. Now, there are all these shows on television and people really want to know the answers to these questions.”