A Rare Look Inside UMKC Epperson House

The historic building is said to have a haunted past
Epperson House on a sunny, clear day with trees turning for fall and a burst of sun behind the home.

For decades, UMKC faculty, students, staff, even police officers, have shared history and folklore of the mysterious Epperson House.

In November 2023, the university issued a request for proposal for a potential public-private partnership to restore and repurpose the home.

While its haunted past is a topic for debate, one thing is for sure, it’s a storied tribute to Kansas City’s history, but few have had a look inside its walls.

Below are details of the home’s origin and owners, campus legend and a rare look inside one of the most captivating buildings on campus.

 Epperson House 1922- sepia photograph of the exterior of Epperson house made of bricks and with extravagant architecture

Built in 1920, Epperson House was the home of Kansas City insurance tycoon Uriah Epperson and his wife, Mary. The 54-room mansion cost $500,000 and was a blend of a castle and Tudor-style home. 

A tudor style ballroom with dark wood. The room is empty and dusty

The Eppersons were patrons of music and the arts. Among the charities they supported was the Kansas City Conservatory, now-known as the UMKC Conservatory. Their grand home included a Great Hall, where they would host friends and included a stage, where they would arrange for performances.

A close up of an organ loft with dark wood panels

Above the Great Hall, sits a custom organ loft. Though childless, the Eppersons befriended Harriet Barse, an organ instructor from the Conservatory whom they regarded as their adopted daughter. Barse even moved into Epperson home. She commissioned the organ and intended to entertain guests, but she fell ill and died before the organ was installed. While she never played the organ during her lifetime, it is the topic of strange encounters reported in the home, with reports of organ music coming from the basement.

A wide shot of a room with a black chalkboard across the back wall. In the corners there are built in black bookshelves. An ornate green wall paper lines the walls

Following the death of Uriah and Mary Epperson, the home was donated to the university. Its first use was as a dormitory for Navy air cadets during WWII. The cadets reported seeing a ghostly woman in a white gown walking the halls of the home.

A close up of an ornate staircase newel carved in a tudor style

Throughout the decades following the war, the home was used as a residence hall and in the 70s, a practice space for the UMKC Conservatory. It was during this time that stories of strange phenomena inside Epperson House increased.

A corner of a room lined with large windows on each side. The sun is beaming in and there are lush trees outside the window.

Students reported hearing footsteps in empty parts of the home. And the light at the top of the home’s tower would turn on by itself even though the tower had been sealed off decades before.

An upward view of a chandelier that is hanging from the ceiling

A custodian had a close call when a chandelier came loose in the living room, narrowly missing the staffer. And a police officer reported being at Epperson House when his patrol car was hit. He got out to find skid marks, but not another car in sight.

A stone, exterior courtyard shaded by trees

These days, there is no access to Epperson House and the building is in need of repair. However, the university is hopeful about potential for Epperson House’s reuse. 

Learn more about Conservatory

Published: Oct 31, 2023

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