As legend has it, Sallie died from a botched appendectomy around 1905. She apparently never forgave the doctor and has repeatedly attacked males—only males—who enter the house.
Apart from the ghost of a little girl attacking males and leaving scratch and burn marks on them, the following paranormal phenomena have also been observed at Sallie House:
- The sounds of animals, girls, boys, men, and women. Many mysterious voices, speaking audibly and in English, have been captured in the house using EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) recording technology.
- Unexplainable thumps, knocks, thuds, and the sounds of nonexistent furniture moving.
- Lights turning on and off by themselves.
- Bricks flying at people’s heads out of nowhere when they venture down into the basement.
- Dogs barking at unseen objects.
- Areas in rooms that are strangely cold.
- Fires erupting out of nowhere.
- Picture frames turned upside down.
- “Extreme smells” such as the odor of burning sulfur.
- Objects moving and levitating.
- Weirdly shaped and colored orbs appearing in photographs taken at the house.
- Stuffed animals—teddy bears, specifically—rearranging themselves in an upstairs bedroom.
Although Sallie House was built in the 1870s, nearly all of the paranormal activity at what is now known as “Sallie House” started in the 1990s when a young married couple moved into this unassuming little white stone house on N. Second Street in Atchison, KS.
The Pickman Family’s Two Years of Horror
Tony and Debra Pickman moved into the house while newly married and Debra was pregnant with her son Taylor.
On the morning of October 31, 1993 after getting home from work, Tony says he went into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of milk when he was startled by the sight of a young girl staring at him—and she seemed startled at the sight of him, too. He dropped his glass to the floor, where it shattered into pieces, and ran up terrified the stairs to contact Debra. It was only later that he recalled that the girl was wearing a little white dress that looked like it came from the 1800s.
According to Debra, Tony ran into their bedroom out of breath and said, “I saw her, I saw her.” When she asked who he saw, he said, “Sallie”:
She looked just as real as you and I; innocent looking and sweet. She had a surprised look on her face as if she was just as curious. She wasn’t scary looking at all.
Over the next two years—and sometimes on camera as film crews were taping—Tony would suddenly become covered in bloody scratches and burn marks. A few times he was knocked backward onto the floor and pinned down as if an invisible force was restraining him.
Debra says that in an attempt to appease Sallie’s spirit, they brought her gifts such as toy dolls. But the attacks on Tony didn’t stop:
Now, Tony would usually not acknowledge her, and on one occasion, after I left the room, leaving him lying on the couch, she bit him on the back of his thigh. The bite did not break the skin but did leave teeth marks, in accordance of that of a young child. I don’t remember why we didn’t take photos of this. I should also mention that [our baby] Taylor was only a few months old and had no teeth. In addition, the locations of the teeth marks were such that Tony would have had to have been a contortionist to have made them.
After two years, the Pickmans had enough and moved elsewhere. They returned about a decade later with psychic investigators. The first few visits proceeded without incident.
But after a few safe visits, Debra says Tony was assaulted again:
Tony was brutally attacked only minutes later, being lifted and thrown four feet backwards into a door and unable to get up because a force was holding him down….It was only the words, “In the name of God let him go”, that enabled him to get back on his feet to flee the house and its grip. We fled the house so fast that we didn’t notice the damage that the door hitting the wall had done, but contacted the owner to let him know what had happened.
Other Ghosts Besides Sallie
According to Debra Pickman, several other spirits besides Sallie also infest the house:
- Agnes Finney—daughter of the couple who owned the house longer than anyone else.
- Brandon—an easily irritated “dominant adult male” with a good sense of humor who pranks adults in order to make children laugh.
- Charles Finney—an older male with an effeminate vocal affect who decades ago competed as an ice skater while dressed as a female.
- Edith—a senile older woman whom everyone seems to love.
- Frank Jr.—a man who died in Kansas City a year after Sallie died when his mom botched a suicide attempt that killed him but that she survived.
- Joanna Barnes—a “dominant female” who lived next door to Sallie House until 1906 and whose ghostly voice was allegedly captured on audio.
- Paul—a young slave boy who was lynched. It’s unclear what his relation is to the house, since slavery was over long before the house was built.
- Ryan—a relative of Sallie’s who speaks with a “slight accent.”
- Tom Byrnes—a former Civil War soldier who sometimes appears in the house dressed in his military uniform.
Just about every possible kind of paranormal investigator has visited Sallie House to determine what’s happening.
- The equipment they use includes:
- Digital and analog voice recorders
- Electromagnetic meters
- Environmental meters
- Dousing rods
According to Debra Pickman, the consensus among psychics was this:
It has been said that the negative entity within the house seems to reside in hole in the back of the basement is older than the house, that it is attached to the land. It is surmised that it fears certain strong living energies and attacks them or that it draws them closer to use the available energy….A psychic once said, regarding a more recent group investigation, that the experiment we were doing in the basement with the tuning forks was bring up human spirits out of the ground beneath us and that this dark and negative force was significantly angered by this action.
Sallie House In Popular Culture
The Sallie House has been featured on the following TV programs and movies:
- Heartland Ghost, a made-for-TV film by Paramount Pictures.
- Unexplained Mysteries
- The Travel Channel’s Most Haunted Town
- Biography Channel
- Discovery Channel
- Channel 2 News (St. Joseph, MO)
- Channel 4 News (Kansas City, KS)