This is a true story from my childhood as best I can remember it. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and shroud me from the responsibility of fact checking.
I grew up in a small town in Kansas near an old army fort called Fort Hays. Now, that likely won’t ring a bell to you, but if you’ve seen “Dances with Wolves,” Kevin Costner makes a stop at Fort Hays. Kevin Costner never actually came to my town, but a meaningful point of reference IMO.
Anyway, all small town residents tell ghost stories. (Big city residents would tell ghost stories too, but typically stories of ACTUAL crime dwarf ghost stories, so…) The story everyone in my hometown knows is about Fort Hays…and the Blue Light Lady…
“Pwaaaaaaa!” [candles flicker, owl’s head turns around]
The short version of the Blue Light Lady is that in the 1860’s a lovely nurse lived at Fort Hays. When she died, she didn’t get buried where she wanted to, so now she forever roams the plains of Kansas (feminist me suggests that probably her husband “thought it best otherwise,” and again, a man’s decision dooms a woman for eternity). The whole story is chronicled in this “Ghosts of the Prairie” page…link below…
Plus I really love their summary as to why she roams the plains, “No one really knows…” which OF COURSE THEY DON’T!!! Are we still confused about how death works?! Moving on…
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about the Blue Light Lady…just like I can’t remember a time I didn’t know about Oreos. We used her to try to scare each other, “You better call your grandpa, otherwise the Blue Light Lady will get you!” That kind of thing. So, my childhood friends and I knew this story our whole lives, but we couldn’t execute a plan until we finally had the two key tools for a ghost hunt: boredom and a really shitty car.
It’s Saturday night in Ellis, KS, 15 miles away from Blue Light Lady Ground Zero. Us high school kids sat and slumped around in the parking lot of the town’s gas station, savoring our Dr. Peppers and Sprites because a $5 weekly allowance bought less than a bottle of pop a night.
“Tonight’s the kind of night the Blue Light Lady would be out,” says Chris. “My dad told me that she only comes out on summer nights like tonight.”
“Your dad just made that up,” Kelly C. laughed. She had the best chance of going to an actual state university, so her logic trumped Chris’s logic. Plus, Chris’s dad introduced his refrigerator filled with Keystone light beer as his “best friend.”
“No, my grandpa said the same thing!” Aaron defended. Aaron and Chris has been best friends since they were five, so Aaron didn’t lie…he backed up his bestie.
“We should go look for her!” shouted Chris, standing up straight.
Kelly C. stood up now too, “Go out into the country at night? That’s a stupid idea!”
“There’re coyotes!” Kelly P. protested. There weren’t that many people in our small town, but for some reason a lot of us still had the same name.
“When was the last time you actually knew someone who died from a coyote?” Aaron asked, again backing Chris.
Suddenly, Jake, who appeared to not be listening, stood up which drew our attention. We all listened when Jake talked. “We might actually see her if we go now. I’ll drive,” Jake stoically walked to his Ford Courier and his girlfriend Kelly P. dutifully followed.
“Me too!” shouted Chris as he pulled out the keys to his Pontiac. “Fit in as many as you can!”
“Shotgun!” Aaron yelled, and a slew of boys dove into the backseat of Chris’s car.
“Fun…I’ll drive us to our death too,” Kelly C. said with sarcasm, yet we all knew that she would die if she missed out. The females were the ones left, so we gave her pats of encouragement because we really wanted her to drive…she had a station wagon!
The three cars formed a caravan, and we rode out to the country Kansas style which means approximately no one had seat belts. In Kelly C.’s car we hugged the curves of the old highway and retold old stories the Blue Light Lady.
“A Vietnam Vet saw her in 1979, and afterwards he regained feeling in his busted leg!”
“My grandma said once a cattle dog saw Blue Light Lady, and she made the dog’s fur turn from black to white!’
The cars slowed and turned onto a dirt road about 13 miles outside of town. Jake said he knew how to get there, and who were we to question someone whose name rhymed with “mistake?”
Now, I know this sounds very simpleton, but the country is really dark at night. The last street light had faded away, so only seven-year old headlights illuminated the road ahead. “Well, the darker it is, the better chance we have of seeing her!” Kelly C. joked.
As we drove, a large hill got bigger and bigger as we got closer and closer. Jake’s car slowed, so all the cars slowed and stopped at the base of the hill. We filed out of the cars, tripping slightly as we regained circulation in our legs.
“This is her hill,” Jake assured us. All of us took in the gravity of the moment. We stood in front of the very hill the Blue Light Lady haunted, not for one second consiering that this hill was miles from Fort Hays, so for her to have taken an evening walk here, she’d have chalked up 10 miles each way. People were tough in the olden days.
“Uh, what do we do now?” stammered Chris, feeling the full effects of an entire bottle of Mountain Dew.
“We’ve gotta climb to the top!” Jake began hiking up the hill, and Chris followed. One by one we all started to make our way up the hill because if this was the way we were gonna die, we were gloriously going down in flames.
The group reached the summit, and the wind blew up Kelly P.’s shirt, heightening the drama of the moment. We hadn’t really thought about what should happen at the top of the hill; however, we’d all seen the 1996 film “The Craft,” so we knew to perform a ritual of some sort. We all looked to Jake.
Jake in true Jake fashion, planted his feet and raised his arms, “Blue Light Lady, Daughter of the Plains…show yourself!” This really freaked us out because not only was it pitch-black out, but who knew Jake could come up with such great writing right on the spot?!
Seconds went by that felt like hours. We stole glances from each other because nothing happened. Surely someone should have levitated or given birth to a messiah by now…
“Blue Light Lady, Noble Carer of the Sick, show yourself!” Jake really should submit these lines to the county poetry contest!
Our eyes scoured the dark plains, looking for the blue light of our patron spirit. “Does anyone see anything?” Chris asked. We confirmed that we couldn’t see anything, but began to tilt our noses and shut one eye because maybe you could only see her if you looked a certain way…
We stood atop our throne of disappointment for a good 20 minutes before Kelly C. doused out the fire of hope with, “Uh, sorry, but I gotta get home now.” It meant curtains for all of us who rode out with her.
“Me too,” said Chris. Two for three at that point…
We again looked to Jake. He didn’t say a word, just started down the hill, over-exaggerating his swagger to hide his disappointment. We followed him down, and circled for one last pow-wow beside the cars.
“Let’s just tell everyone we saw her,” Chris suggested.
“If you lie about seeing a ghost, then your curse is to be a ghost yourself when you die,” Jake replied. That made total sense and gave us confirmation that all the ghost stories we’d ever heard were true. That Jake!
We piled back into the three cars, and followed our leader Jake back into town…never again to return to the grave of the Blue Light Lady.
The night we chased the Blue Light Lady taught me a valuable lesson: Believing in and chasing fake ghosts makes a much better story than telling people you spent every night of your teen years sitting at a gas station drinking Dr. Pepper.