Real estate agents rarely lead with the line “Soooo, the house is haunted.” In fact, unless every horror movie ever made got it entirely wrong, homeowners tend to get a bit peeved once they find out their dream home is also occupied by some form of the undead — who doesn’t pay rent.
But then there’s the Sallie House, which is currently for sale by owner in Atchison, KS and defying all scary movie rules by openly advertising the rich — and haunted — history of the property to any and all comers.
“The value of the home is as an attraction,” says the current owner of the Sallie House, which isn’t owner-occupied but instead rented by the hour or, for the bravest, overnight.
Not a bad business, since, far from staying away, “people come from all over come to stay and investigate the home.” And that’s what the current owners are selling it as — not necessarily a tidy little home to move into (though, like many haunted houses, the Sallie House looks deceptively innocent — even charming!), but as an attraction to rent out.
Which shouldn’t be a problem, since the Sallie House has gained and kept a national spotlight after it was featured on the show Sightings, which investigated the home in the early 1990s in response to a series of inexplicably odd, and even dangerous, events. The Sallie House actually made such an impression on the crew that they made a movie about their visit.
The home’s history
Before the hairs on the back of your neck stand up any further, we’ll satisfy the burning question: What’s actually wrong with the home? Or who is knocking around inside it?
Well, that’s where it gets a little confusing. Not that the home hasn’t shown a definite propensity for … expressing itself. There have been full-bodied ghost sightings, framed pictures turned upside down, even (and most famously) a prolonged episode of physical harm (which at one possibly contrite juncture, did involve the presumed “ghost” returning a misplaced remote control).
But the real Sallie House story starts far more quietly, with the building of a modest two-story brick home at 508 North 2nd Street in 1871. Nobody named Sallie exists in its origins; a family called Finney actually commissioned the building. Over the years, the home was rented out, and while one tenant did have a daughter named Sallie, nothing nefarious happened to her.
There are only two stories that connect a Sallie to the house. In one story, a girl named Sallie is brought to the house with acute appendicitis. The doctor, Charles Finney, is said to have forgotten to anesthetize Sallie; she woke up during surgery and died of shock.
The other story involves a later tenant of the house, a little girl who claimed to have an imaginary friend named, you guessed it, Sallie. Putting two and two together, basically Haunted House 101, you might infer that the imaginary friend was the ghost of the ill-fated Sallie from years back. But again, that story isn’t well-documented.
It wasn’t until Debra and Tony Pickman moved into the house in 1992 that intense investigation began — and with good reason. Things were getting … aggressive.
Whatever energy was pointed in the Pickmans’ direction, Tony seemed to be the focus of it. He was the one a ghost presumably returned the remote control to, although most of his encounters were much more antagonistic, including Tony getting three scratches on his arm while filming with Sightings.
Quite possibly the chiller-of-all-chillers, Tony remembers dreaming about being pulled from his bed by a little girl (remember the imaginary friend Sallie?). When he woke up the next day, there were fingerprint-like burn marks on his arm.
Maybe no surprise, the Pickmans moved out of the home in 1994, and nothing of that much significance has happened since. The current owners report having “felt a cold spot, and a few other odd occurrences,” but generally things remain quiet.
Still, the Sallie House has remained a focus of ghost hunters and paranormal investigators for years, ranking on lists of America’s most haunted places — and not entirely without cause. Check out 1:27:44 in this four-hour clip from Real Demon Hunting, and you’ll hear a voice saying “put it right there, put your hand right there.”
Whether you’re a believer or not, that clip will give you some chills. And depending on your ghost preferences, it might just entice you to make an offer.