Thursday, April 25, 2013

Haunted Enough: Building the Foundation of a Haunted House

What is a haunted house? A place where spirits supposedly reside. But what does that mean for someone who has never seen a ghost? It means a haunted house is nothing more than a spooky structure with a creepy history. So, I will not base this examination of a real haunted house on secondhand testimonies from men and women I don't know or trust. I will base it off the vibe and past of one of the most interesting houses I’ve ever been inside. The Frank House in Kearney, NE, is not known for its ghosts, but by my definition, it is very haunted.

The Frank House can be found in a state of restoration on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). It’s red sandstone facade matches the red tile roof, which causes it to take an almost uniform color of a large brick. A juggernaut standing guard in the vast corn fields of the state, the structure stands solid and looks over the school from the edge of the city. Numerous chimneys reach out of it, as if it were a factory, not a homestead. A wall of more stone wraps around the porch at the front of the house and gives the sense the building serves as a fortress, protecting the souls trapped under its roof.

According to UNK’s website, the house was constructed by the George William Frank, Jr. and was very advanced for its day--“[i]t was the first house west of the Mississippi to be wired for electricity during its construction.” The inside, which has been remodeled several times over the years, impresses guests as much as the outside. The Victorian Preservation Association claims the house also “contains one of the largest stained glass windows Tiffany designed for a residence.” Oak seems to cover everything, and visitors feel as if they have stepped back in time, especially when they visit for a holiday event like the Victorian Christmas tours held every year. Being so connected with the past, it’s no wonder it’s easy to feel as though someone or something is watching over your shoulder when you visit.

If you visit the house or the website, you will learn the family that built it lost a good chunk of their fortune and ended up selling the house. After being sold, a portion of the house became a private hospital/sanitarium before eventually becoming part of the Nebraska State Tuberculosis Hospital and served as a residence for staff ("Frank House"). If you’re ever lucky enough to tour the house, you may still be able to see leftover signs of where the house used to be sectioned off for private quarters. With a history of owners falling into financial ruin, patients being houses under its roof, and connections being made with a nearby TB hospital, the Frank House gains its own life. Histories like these bear haunted houses.

The only thing this structure does not have is the eyewitness accounts to back up sightings. Still, I bet if you talk to the right people or stick around long enough, you’ll hear a bump or two in the night. Maybe you’ll notice a figure disappear around the veranda. Possibly you’ll catch a glimpse of strange light coming from a window late at night. Anything is possible. A house with this stature is sure to keep past residents around, even after death.

Works Cited

"Frank House." The University of Nebraska at Kearney. Web. 25 Apr 2013.

"Historic House Museums in Nebraska." Victorian Preservation Association, 04 Feb 2013. Web. 25 Apr 2013.


  1. Interesting take on the assignment. I like how you stripped away the ghosts and took us to the basic qualities of a haunted house -- the creepiness factor. That's how it all gets started.

  2. While the Frank House in Kearney, Nebraska, is not known for its ghosts,
    it is, by my definition, very haunted.

    Since there are many, many ways to be haunted, your definition is certainly valid. I’ve looked at that house, via internet pictures, and while gorgeous I felt a sense of unease. Something bothers that house, unless my lasagna dinner is fighting back, so I’m not surprised to read you, “will base its [haunted statues] off vibe.” That’s exactly what I felt when I looked at it. A vibe that felt “disturbing.”

    Something to remember is that Victorians often used the attic to “contain” the emotionally or behaviorally challenged family members when, for whatever reason, the choice to institutionalize said member was not taken. This family member often spent their lives doing exactly what can cause a weird vibe: watching. As their life ends, it’s no doubt that they might continue this habit, especially with the changes that happened to that house in its history. Shoot, things like that—incoming and outgoing patients, family, and drama—were probably the most interesting thing a shut-in person viewed in a long, long while.

    Maybe some day an interested person will check the birth and death records of the family. See if something interesting comes up.

  3. I really like the fact that you looked at this from the perspective of defining what a haunted house might be rather than simply writing about a haunted house. I'm still not sure how you can witness certain phenomena and not believe in ghosts, or at the very least, spiritual impressions. We should talk about this over drinks in June. I'm fascinated.