The Haunted Castle in chalk by Leta (Berry) Brewer
The picture above is an abstract drawing done in chalk, by my sister Leta, somewhere around 1963-1964. This piece was on display at an art fair given by the art department, headed by Mrs. Mary Glenn, at Argentine High School, in Kansas City, Kansas. The picture is of a true structure, known as The Sauer Castle.
This 3 story mansion has been described as being Victorian in style, Italian Villa in design, and /or German Gothic inspired! According to the National Register of Historic Places, the castle is located near the crest of the bluffs that overlook the Kaw River Valley.
Anton Sauer was born in Germany in 1823. Having been a merchant and trader in Paris and Europe throughout his early adulthood, he later arrived in New York City in 1853. He set up a business importing European goods to the country and had moved his wife and 5 children to New York in the late 1850's. He had occasion to pass through Kansas and eventually saw it as a good business opportunity for buying and shipping goods. After his wife died in 1868, he moved his children to Kansas City and opened a fur trading house near the river. It is also said that he started one of the first tannerys. Within a year, he married a widow with two children, whose name was Maria. Anton was already suffering from tuberculosis, but had become very successful in his import business. He acquired 63 acres on Shawnee Drive in Kansas City and had this magnificent home built for Maria and their family. Eventually, Anton and Maria had 5 more children together-all girls!
I cannot begin to describe this 3-story castle with a 4-story tower somehow attached. We'll just have to view the various photos that I have managed to acquire. However, the tower was always of interest to most people. Some say it was a lookout tower to keep watch over the property, since it was close to the old Santa Fe Trail. It seems that many travelers would pass by on their way West, and some were not so pleasant. It has also been called a bell tower-I don't know if there was ever a bell up there. And, lastly, it was called a widow's walk because Maria Sauer would sometimes go to the tower and walk around just to get some fresh air after Anton passed away. The story we always heard was that a distraught wife hung herself in that tower after hearing that her husband had perished during the war. And the HAUNT begins!
Actually, Anton Sauer loses his battle with tuberculosis in 1879 leaving his wife and children very well off. And, I should mention, that by the time Maria was widowed she was just 38 years old. She was mother to Anton's 5 children from his first marriage, her 2 children from her first marriage, and the additional 5 children acquired in their marriage! One of their daughters did get married in the castle. I think some of their children did remain for some years with Maria in the home after Anton passed. One of their daughters, Eve, had married twice and her second husband, having been older, did commit suicide in 1930 by hanging, in a 2nd floor bedroom. He was in bad health and very depressed. And it is reported that Eve's young granddaughter did drown in the swimming pool on the property before Anton passed away. The child was buried on the property and then buried again in a cemetary when Anton was buried. Maria Sauer continued to live in the Mansion until she died in 1919. And daughter Eve resided in the home with her children until she passed in 1955.
I don't know exactly how old I was when I first knew of "The Haunted Castle" as we called it. But I'm pretty sure it was in the late 1950's when I was 9 or 10 years old. Some of our school friends lived very near to that property-we lived about 3-5 miles from it. I can't remember the exact distance, but I could still take you there! We did actually walk over to look at it from time to time as we got older. When I was in Junior High School, we would always threaten to go to the castle on Halloween night because there were such rumors of the woman walking around in the tower at night, and screaming and howling throughout the castle. Also, the lions at the front entrance would come alive and prowl the property looking for something to eat. And, of course, there were bets on who would actually get into the castle. Well, we never did get in. It would have been easier then, because the massive wrought iron fence did not encase the property those years ago. I walked to the Castle with some girlfriend's one dark Halloween nite, and we heard noises alright! And you could see movement on the property-just shadows, tho, scurrying about-AND THEN DOGS BARKING!!! YAAGGHH! So, it wasn't the Lions coming alive afterall...they were guard dogs, and they weren't happy! We never got past the sidewalk in front of the property, and then we were walking backwards-fast!
Well, time goes on and I moved away from that part of the city years ago. But it's not that I ever forgot the Haunted Castle. And, of course, there's my sister's drawing to remember it's story by. During my research on this Castle, I came across a review written by a young lady who grew up in another part of Kansas City, in the Miege district. It seems that this girl and her friends took a serious interest in the Castle, and decided one nite to pay a visit themselves. There were 5 girls- two stayed in the "getaway car", and the other 3 approached the property. The young lady goes on to say that she and her friends were not aware of the 3 guard dogs stationed around the Castle. They only came across one dog out front of the property and were able to "steer clear" of him and make their way to the old slave quarters behind the property. It was then that she saw a small window opening to the basement of the Castle. This writer then exclaims "STUPID, STUPID ME"...and in they went through the window! She said that what they saw was no different than the last scene of the "Blair Witch Project", "an empty stone basement with nothing but an actual STONE WELL in the very center...creepy as all hell!" Had enough? Well, lo and behold, a light is coming toward the girls, and it's the caretaker, also wielding a rifle. The author's "two dear friends" climbed out of the basement leaving her with no "cell phone light", and no knee to climb on. This leads me to believe that the event occurred somewhere in the early to middle 1990's, as we didn't have cell phones in the 1960's! She does not mention if any words were exchanged between the caretaker and herself or the other girls-but they did come back for her. She says, "I had to scratch my way up with them pulling on my arms, as I had been entirely alone in Sauer Castle! Finally, the three of us hauled ass to the car and sped off before we were caught as trespassers and prosecuted!!!" Her closing comments went like this:
"Oh, what a night...something I will NEVER do again and a story I will NEVER forget. Is Sauer Castle HAUNTED? From the fright of feeling trapped in the stone basement with nothing beside me but an old well...I would say YES!"
Now, I have questioned my sister at length about her thoughts and feelings while she was sketching that old Castle. She comes across as having no fear or strange feelings one way or the other about the experience. I mean, I HOUNDED her for some sign of fear or spookiness! I thought she wanted to sit on the high concrete wall that held the property up off the street to do her sketch? She says "No, I didn't get on the wall...I stood on the sidewalk out front at first and worked, but I ended up on the sidewalk across the street and stood up the whole time while I finished the sketch." Do you think my sister is holding out on us? I DO!
I always liked my sister's drawing of the Haunted Castle, but she never hung it in her homes that I know of-maybe it didn't compliment her decor. My sister has never bragged about her work and asked why I liked the picture so much. I like abstract art-and she did it! It has been carefully cared for between Leta and mom, and they gave it to me after my begging and pleading around 1987 or 1988. It hung above my piano in a former house, and now it hangs in my small entryway at my current home. I have a gothic looking sconce hanging next to it with a chubby burgundy candle and some small burgundy and brown weeds placed around the candle and hanging from the sconce. When the candle is lit, it projects an eerie glow to the picture and the entryway. A perfect place for it.
This was a tough story to write. First of all, it was my mother's idea to write about it since I do own the drawing. Originally, I had mentioned to my mother that I wished Leta would take up drawing again. I loved her stuff-very contemporary work, and I would like to see more! And that's when mom said I should do a story on the Haunted Castle. I didn't know if I could do it, but finally started jotting down some notes, and then it took off for me. So, thank you Leta for providing me with a great subject for an interesting and historic story. A piece of our own history, too, no doubt. And thank you mom for the idea and the old articles that you saved from years ago that contained additional information I could not find elsewhere.
I also want to mention that I acquired some of my information from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory, hauntedhouses.com, and an article my mom had kept in a notebook since 1978. The Haunted Castle still stands today. It has had several owners in the past 40 years, but, so far, there haven't been many renovations. It has been said that the current owner would like to open it as a Bed and Breakfast-SURE! I'd be HAPPY to stay the nite there! Wouldn't YOU?
"If a man harbours any sort of fear, it makes him landlord to a ghost"