The Sallie House’s history is a little muddled, it’s a little hard to determine what is fact and what is fiction. But we do know that it sits on a quiet street at 508 N 2nd St in Atchison, Kansas.
According to legend, this house was the site of a botched appendectomy of 6-year-old Sallie. While accounts of what happened differ, there have been reported hauntings from residents of the home.
Join The Lady Dicks as they dick-tect the haunting at the Sallie House in Atchison, Kansas.
- Listen to the Episode
- Visiting the Sallie House
- Stories From The Sallie House
- The Pickman Family
Listen to the Episode
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Visiting the Sallie House
The Sallie House is number 14 out of 24 of the “things to do” in Atchison with a 3 out of 4 on Trip Advisor overall. For the bargain price of $249 USD you can take an “Exclusive VIP” Ghost Hunts USA tour of the Sallie House. 41% of the reviews are exceptional but 26% of reviews are less than… let’s take a look at some of those reviews:
An October 2017 visitor said: I had visited 2 years prior and wrote a review on here. Awesome experience the first time. Not so much this time. I was astonished that they allowed 150 people to go through a tiny house within 2 hours. We had to wait 20-30 minutes to be allowed in. In years past there were maybe 20 people coming through over the course of 2 hours. This year people were in an out. It was not fun to investigate with people packed in rooms staring at you like you are crazy as you ask questions. They also don’t allow you to go into the basement like they had prior deeming it unsafe. Which is a fun part and I feel like they should’ve disclosed this when purchasing tickets. Yet you can go in the basement but only on the guided tour with a paranormal team because only then is it “Safe”. They have a medium at the door talking with people outside. She kept insisting we shouldn’t listen to other people and their stories of the Sallie House to keep an open clear mind yet I heard her talking to people in line about the DR that lived there, the previous owners along with the spirits she has encountered. Very contradicting. She kept referencing she was a medium and if you asked her a questions she spoke to you in a very condescending way like you didn’t know anything. Maybe that is why she had trouble packing in her dinner with a medium event she was hosting for the evening for $60 a person. I heard her ask so many people if they were the ones that had asked about the dinner with a medium event as they were leaving. I have no idea if she is legit but she wasn’t welcoming. Overall, don’t bother with touring unless you know for sure there won’t be 150 people going through. Very disappointed Atchison, KS Chamber of Commerce.
And a second visitor from July of 2017 had a similarly not good experience: We spent a lot of money and did the overnight event. I have participated in several overnight “ghost hunts”, slept in another house that was supposedly haunted and have been to numerous castles and overnights in Europe. The Sallie House was a huge disappointment. Your main concern will be people coming up and knocking on the doors and windows asking to come inside, or just popping up in a window and taking photos. There are not many blinds or curtains in the house. The house is on a busy street so all you see are car lights going around the rooms. In summer you will have the old AC unit making noise. Did not get any sense of anything out of place, was not scared nor had any strange feelings anywhere in the house. I honestly would recommend you NOT to waste your money. The history of this house does not show at any time there being a “Sallie” in the house yet alone dying in the house.
But someone who visited in March 2018 seemingly had an exceptional experience saying: Every time I visited this house, I have captured evp’s that are class A. I personally have never felt any evil or negativity in this home. If you enjoy paranormal, then this is a must visit place.
Stories From The Sallie House
The Sallie House’s history is a little muddled, it’s a little hard to determine what is fact and what is fiction. But we do know that it sits on a quiet street at 508 N 2nd St in Atchison, Kansas.
According to legend, this house was the site of a botched appendectomy of 6-year-old Sallie. While accounts of what happened differ, there have been reported hauntings from residents of the home. And there are two main versions of the story:
Version 1 | In the upstairs of the house lived Sallie and her mother across the hall from Dr. Finney who owned the clinic downstairs. In the wee hours of the morning in 1906, Dr. Finney was woken up by a knocking at the door Sallie was ill. When he examined her, Dr. Finney noticed an infected growth in her abdomen and insisted on operating, it ended up that she was suffering from acute appendicitis. Young Sallie was up all night with a stomach ache that suddenly took a massive turn for the worse when her mother called for the nearby doctor. When she saw the surgical tools the 6 year old girl panicked and Dr. Finney was forced to hold her down while she was given ether. Sallie fought him, and was not all the way under the gas when the first incision was made, but Dr. Finney was afraid to stop fearing that her appendix would burst. Sallie ended up dying on the operating table from a combination of blood loss and shock, and the last memories she had was of a man, Dr. Finney, whom she believed was torturing her.
Version 2 | The second version of the story says that sometime in 1905 or 1906, Sallie came to Dr. Finney with severe respiratory problems. But when she was brought in Dr. Finney was negligent and overlooked how serious the condition she was and a short time later she died from pneumonia. Dr. Finney moved away from the building months after her death.
Regardless of the scenario that caused the ill-fated and untimely death of young Sallie, the legend says that she believe she died at the hands of and would seek revenge on men who entered the house.
History of the Sallie House
The Sallie House sits on a quiet street in the northeast side of the small town of Atchison Kansas. It is a modest two story brick home with 3 bedrooms and 1 and a half baths. According to our research it’s currently owned by Leslie Smith, Jr., and Carol and Jeff Smith and was assessed in the early 2000s for $30,810.
But that hasn’t always been the case. In 1866, Dr. Michel C. Finney acquired the property that the Sallie House sits and lived there with his family until his death on September 27, 1872.
It is believed that during 1867 and 1871 while the building was being built the family lived in the basement of the first home (two were constructed: 504 and 508 N. Second Street). For nearly a century Finney has either lived in the house or owned the property.
The Pickman Family
The Pickmans, newlyweds Tony and Debra moved into the Sallie House on December 31, 1992, and lived there until sometime in 1994. It was their first house as a married couple and was perfect for them and their new addition to the family due in June 1993.
Both Tony and Debra were raised as devout Catholics. Tony had grown up in the Atchinson area and Debra, born in Buffalo, NY, had lived in the area for about 2 years before marrying Tony. Prior to the Pickman’s moving into the house, there were no known paranormal stories and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.
Unfortunately, after living in the “extremely haunted” house where they were physically and mentally brutalized by an unseen force they became experienced paranormal investigators applying their knowledge to other locations. Since living in the house the Pickman’s have continued to speak at events, conferences and radio shows around the world.
The Beginning of Strange Ocurrances
Their first few weeks in the house were quiet and normal. But in mid-January small things began to happen. Between January and July of 1993, a host of strange experiences occurred.
The first one occurred in early January and lasted about 10 days. A normally friendly and quite dog began barking fiercely at the entrance to the nursery. Then cat eyes would follow something that seemingly flew over the Pickman’s heads, but they couldn’t see anything.
The other “activities” occurred intermittently over a period of weeks, with some days having activities witnessed several times within a given day—these included “electrically-based” moments like the timer on the microwave and stove going off.
When they brought their son home, Debra said it was as if someone was constantly waking him up. Other strange things would happen in the home, including:
- Electrical items would turn themselves off or on
- Sometimes this would happen immediately after being turned on or off and sometimes Debra and/or Tony would be halfway up the stairs when it happened
- This happened throughout the entire time that the Pickman’s lived in the house
- The neighbours, Don and Carol questioned Debra about why the light in the nursery could be seen at all hours of the night
- Strange mould was found on odd items throughout the house, including: Tupperware containers in the cupboards, fresh dog food in its bowl, pots and pans, magnets on the refrigerator, and various other items…
Strange Things in the Nursery
After a while of their son waking up at odd hours, Karen, Debra’s sister offered to come out and stay with them for 5 days allowing them to catch up on sleep. But it was during Karen’s last night in town that the “infamous event” occurred.
At one point in the evening Tony’s sister-in-law, Jeanie showed up to confess something she had felt guilty about. She said she had stopped by earlier that day to drop off a high chair—no one was home as the couple and Karen had been visiting with Tony’s parents that day—and she went to see whether the nursery was done. Tony assured her that it was OK.
That evening sometime after 10 pm, Tony went upstairs to use the bathroom and discovered all of their son Taylor’s toys in the middle of the nursery floor. He asked Debra if she had moved the toys but she had not.
Debra, Karen and Tony went up to look, discovering that all the stuffed animals had been moved from various shelves and the baby’s crib to a circular display in the middle of the nursery floor. As they rarely locked their front door, they were almost certain that somebody had played a prank on them such as Tony’s brother Tom or another family member.
They figured it was very unlikely that this had been done by Jeanie because she had specifically sought them out to confess her feelings of guilt for entering their home when they were not there. They checked for magnets, transparent strings and fishing lines attached to the stuffed animals, but found nothing of the sort.
After going through a list of any possible trick that this could have been the result of, they decided to call Jeanie to confirm that she had not been behind this “prank.”
When he asked, Jeanie confirmed that nothing had been out of the ordinary when she looked nor had she moved the toys around. However, she did tell Debra that she felt that something was really wrong and how she had gotten a strange cold feeling when she went upstairs.
Upon entering the nursery, she was overwhelmed with an unsettling strange, uneasy feeling that would not let her go and made her leave the house very quickly. The Pickman’s decided this left them two possible explanations:
- Someone had entered the house after Jeanie had left and the time they had returned from their parents’ house (this was no more than 20 minutes)
- There was a ghost
They ended up putting the toys away and went back downstairs, once at the bottom Karen looked back up to see the light was on. She asked Tony if he had turned it on but he said no.
They went back up to the nursery and found a scruffy teddy bear, laying flat on his back in the middle of the floor—Debra had placed the bear back on his wicker chair, just inside the nursery to the left of the doorway. She again checked the bear for any hidden strings or magnets and again found nothing, Tony placed the bear back on the chair and turned out the light when they went back downstairs.
At around 10:50 pm, Debra said she was going to use the washroom upstairs, and Tony and Karen offered to wait for her at the bottom of the stairs.
While she was upstairs she decided to look into the nursery again and found the bear was back on the floor positioned exactly the same way it had been the last time they found it. They inspected the bear again but nothing, and no one had entered the house since. They decided it was a ghost.
Investigating the Strange Happenings
That night they decided to all sleep in the same room. They moved the TV and VCR upstairs to the bedroom so that they could watch the scary movies they had rented earlier that day. When they checked the nursery again, everything was in order.
Debra began arranging places to sleep while Karen and Tony ran back downstairs all was well when Debra heard “oh shit”—apparently Tony had seen a bean bear on the TV stand spin around. Debra promptly tossed the teddy bear that was in the room out in the hallway and the three went on with their night.
The next day Karen went back to New York and Tony’s brother Greg stopped by. Tony shared the stories from last night and the two men laughed about it thinking that there had to be some sort of rational explanation for everything.
Greg picked up the 35 mm camera and started taking photos, he focused on the TV and said: “if you’re here, do you want to have your picture taken?” When he clicked on the button the bear spun around again. The two men called Debra down and they decided to leave the house, they grabbed baby Taylor and headed to Tony and Greg’s parent’s house.
While Tony was putting Taylor into his car seat, he suddenly bolted upright in pain and thinking maybe he had been bitten by a bug, after arriving at Tony’s parents’ house, Debra examined his back where she found three long scratched down the centre of his back—nobody had been near him at the time of the incident.
Calling in Psychic Backup
They decided to call upon psychic Barbara Connor to come visit their home. Barbara had grown up in town but moved to California, and she was the sister of one of Tony’s brother’s co-workers and was coming to town for a visit.
During her visit, she was accompanied by her sister who sat quietly for the majority of their 1.5-hour visit. Barbara spoke of a little girl that she could pick up on and found it easy to communicate with who liked to be called “Sally” (S-A-L-L-Y was an assumed spelling and was used in all early references including a drawing Tony did in 1993).
Barbara discovered that Sallie was a 7-year-old girl who had discomfort in her abdomen, a pain in her hand and a toothache; according to Barbara, Debra did a lot of things that “bugged” Sallie. She thought that she was too bossy and had too many rules to remember
When addressing Sallie’s negative behaviour, such as scratching Tony’s back or constantly waking the baby, Barbara reassured them that even ghostly children needed discipline. In response, Barbara suggested they remind Sallie of the rules and be patient but firm with her.
The Pickman’s found this a little difficult to accept, as up until this point they had been major doubters of paranormal activity and of psychic abilities. Barbara advised them to offer Sallie a few things of her own so she left Taylor alone, when they offered her a doll, Barbara reiterated her response and said “Well, alright.”
There was one corner of the nursery where Barbara determined that Sallie spent a lot of time and the Pickman’s placed a box there filled with items that Sallie could call her own, they also left a box of crayons and pad of paper in an effort to entice young Sallie to communicate.
Barbara told the Pickman’s that Sallie felt she had suffered somehow at the hands of a man and that Sallie was baby Taylor’s guardian range. This made Debra believe that perhaps Taylor had been born a SIDS baby and that Sallie’s constantly waking him had actually saved his life.
They were also told not to leave Taylor alone in a swing, as Sallie may unintentionally harm him just like a human child and that they should treat Sallie as such. And it was unlikely that Sallie would leave the house as she felt safe and secure there with the Pickman’s.
Barbara reminded them to remain very firm with her with the rules and that if Sallie did not obey she would have to be punished. She suggested sending her to her room, removing a toy from her box, or sending or removing her from the house. However, Debra did not want to just send her away believing that Sallie really might be their son’s guardian angel.
After a candle in the bathroom had been mysteriously lit on one occasion, it was established that Sallie had the ability to light fires. The Pickman’s had to set a rule of no fires in the house.
Barbara explained that the cold spots and strange smells that they had previously experienced were all a part of how Sallie made her presence known to them.
Sallie would bring them the smells of things she liked such as Cherry Kool-Aid, broccoli and perfume as a way of trying to tell the Pickman’s about herself. When asked if Sallie would do things with others in the house, she replied through Barbara that “I will show off for your friends if you want me to”.
Barbara told Tony he would also have to make friends with Sallie, which Tony later told Debra that he had no intent of doing so and that he found the whole idea of talking to the dead creepy.
When Tony pulled out a picture he had drawn of a young girl with chestnut hair that had come to him in a dream, Barbara said that it was a very good likeness of Sallie and that she could communicate with them through their dreams and to pay close attention to them.
When they visited the nursery Sallie became agitated and said there were too many people in there and to get out! Barbara also discovered and shared that Sallie often ran up and down the stairs with Debra which explained the cold air that she often felt on her left leg.
Sometime during the visit, Tony took a picture with his 35 mm camera which later showed a significant, unusual mass on the stairs. Barbara said this was Sallie standing guard on the stairs, not wanting anyone to go back; she interpreted the colour of the mass as protective.
Toward the end of Barbara’s visit, which took about an hour and a half, the lights in the living room, dining room and kitchen all turned on and off. Everybody smiled and thanked Sallie.
Shortly after Barbara and her sister left, their neighbour came over with two dolls that their own children had played with. The dolls were taken upstairs where a teddy bear was found lying in the middle of the floor and placed in Sallie’s designated corner where the paper and crayons had been left earlier.
Debra had written on the paper “Hello Sally, how old are you?” Upon taking a second look, Debra’s heart nearly stopped, what looked like the number “7” and the word “like” was written in a childlike manner across the page, which they believed to be Sallie telling them that she liked what happened that evening.
Living with Sallie
For many weeks after Barbara’s visit there was no activity in the house leading the Pickman’s to wonder if everything had been in their imagination.
But then strange things began to happen like: the television or stereo would turn back on after it had been off, timers on electrical appliances in the kitchen would ring or the tealight candles in the bathroom would be unexplainably lit.
Other times the activity was very subtle, and they could go several days without recognizing it. Things such as a strangely melted candle on a shelf in the living room and another burnt candle which had set in a sconce on the living room wall had what looked to be burnt finger marks at the base of the candle. Pictures that had hung on the wall were inexplicably found upside-down and photos developed days or weeks after taking them would suggest paranormal activity.
In the days, weeks and months to follow several significant photos were taken by the Pickman’s, including one where the crayon that they thought was lying down on the pad of paper in the nursery was seen to be stood up on its pointed end.
Another set of photos showed a bluish swirl and a bluish mass looking more blob-like around the doll they had given Sallie as a gift. Barbara had explained that the colour blue depicted love and this was Sallie’s way of saying that she loved the doll.
There were other photos where there was a mass with a marbleized appearance taken in the nursery and at Christmas 1993. There were also some anomalies in photos taken in the area of the stairs, including one taken from the bottom that looked like a male figure in uniform holding some type of bayonet and another taken from the top showing significant blackness in the lower staircase area.
On Oct 31, 1993, when Tony arrived home from a night shift he turned around to see a little girl standing in the kitchen. She was not just any little girl as she was not dressed in modern clothing.
Startled, he dropped his glass which shattered on the floor before racing upstairs and telling Debra “I saw her, I saw her.” Tony described Sallie as very real looking and saying, “she had shorter brown hair pulled up with a bow that sat on top of her head, a round face and big eyes. She was in a fancy dress of lace and which made it apparent that she was well to do or at least well taken care of.”
Tony who is about 5’5” described Sallie as being about his chest height, however, he could not tell if her feet were on the floor. She had disappeared when the glass broke.
After an elaborate Christmas party, the Pickman’s hosted at their home in 1993, one of Tony’s brothers found a mop-head doll burning on the carpeted stairs. The doll was quickly doused in the sink and it was suspected that it was a reaction from Sallie being upset because she did not receive a gift from Santa.
Debra chastised Sallie telling her that she could burn down their home or kill their entire family by setting fires. Tony and Debra suggested that she put fire in an oil lamp located on a living room end table if she wanted to get their attention through fire allowing her to light a fire in a controlled setting.
They then arranged for Santa to return the next day to bring gifts for both Taylor and Sallie. The day after the party, Debra’s mother-in-law told her of her husband seeing the bear on the TV table move at the party the night prior.
They tried to explain it logically, but Debra knew these explanations were wrong. When Santa visited later that day, his eyes became very wide and he looked right past Debra at thick black billowing smoke coming from the oil lamp behind her. Sallie was obeying the rules looking to get attention in a safe way.
In two photos taken on Christmas morning of 1993, there were two separate anomalies with a distinct difference in how they looked—one a brownish mass, the second described as having a marbleized look. The entities were different in the two photos, suggesting that they might have moved between taking the photos.
The Pickman’s were confident this could not be attributed to a faulty camera or a smudge on the lens. The photos were sent to Barbara who reported: “that one of the spirits was happy or excited (the marbleized presence) and the other was protective or angry (similar to the presence that had photographed on the stairs months earlier).”
On one occasion, Tony (who would usually not acknowledge Sallie) was bitten on his thigh while lying on the couch. While the skin was not broken, there were teeth marks left with that in accordance of a young child. Taylor had no teeth at the time and Tony would have had to have been a contortionist to leave those marks.
Upon an EVP review of a videotape of Taylor’s first birthday party, several spirit voices were detected; a few spirit children seem to be present while the young human guests looked through their goodie bags.
One little spirit voice is heard saying, “birthday boy”, and another is heard asking, “that’s all she gets?” There is one EVP that is depictive of a spirit’s ability to manipulate human voice as Tony is heard telling one of the children what one of the items from the bag is; ”rabbit’s foot.”
Afterwards, you can hear clearly hear his voice again, but cannot determine what he says. In fact, it doesn’t sound like a word at all but in reversing this same indiscernible section, you can clearly hear the words “a can snake” (in paranormal circles this is called of reverse EVP).
In the same video there is also an unidentified voice saying, ”catfish gut” that voice does not sound like any of the human guests that were present.
Other strange things occurred, after they installed a ceiling fan with a set of lights in the living room, lights would dim very low. Considering the light switch was on the other side of the room from where the Pickman’s sat and more strange that it was not a dimmer switch.
Both the light and electricity were checked to rule out bad wiring—no problem was found. It continued but no other lights or electronics seemed to be affected by whatever it was causing it. Cold spots were detected in the stairs near the front door.
In the new nursery, the portable phone would often cut out but return as soon as you exited into the hallway. Walking around the house Debra would have phone conversations the portable phone would cut in and out, one time so much that she had to cut the call short.
They would happen in all weather, and type of phone calls, even when the battery was fully charged or completely replaced. Debra would vacuum a wind-up musical mobile that sat above the crib and it would turn and play music on its own. Electronic musical toys would often emit sounds, hums and distant sounding voices without being turned on.
Other Ghost Stories in the Sallie House
It appears that it was only once the Pickman’s moved into the house that any intensive investigations into the hauntings began and there seem to be conflicting stories about what happened since they left.
But others who have owned or visited the home claim there’s a demonic presence as well, in addition to a long list of other ghostly residents. Though it’s important to note, there are also conflicting reports that after the Pickman’s moved out, Sallie failed to make an appearance.
In 2016 the 1200 square foot home was listed for $499,000 USD; we saw conflicing reports that it was actually listed for $1,000,000. It continues to be used as an attraction for ghost tours and those who want to brave spending the night.
The home was featured in the show Sightings in the early 1990’s back when it was inhabited by Debra and Tony Pickman. Due to the impression it made upon the crew, they made a 2002 movie titled Sightings: Heartland Ghost.
One of the most famous haunted experiences in the house involved a prolonged episode of physical harm, which possibly involved the presumed “ghost” returning a misplaced remote control to Tony Pickman—we did not read about this on their website. And another instance we were unable to find involved Tony being dragged from bed by a little girl.
It was also reported that a little girl who lived in the house supposedly had an imaginary friend named Sallie. This could mean that the imaginary friend was the ghost of the ill-fated Sallie from years back… neither of these stories are well documented.
Sallie isn’t the only person who might have died in the house, it has seen its fair share, including:
Other peeps that died in the house:
- Michael C. Finney (1872) acquired lots 9 and 10 (504/508 N. Second Street) in 1866, and it’s believed that he lived there with his family until his death on September 27, 1872. He left behind a wife, two sons, a daughter, and one baby boy on the way.
- Richard Edwin Finney (1874) was born on May 25, 1873, and died on September 29, 1874.
- Charles James Kathrens (1874) was the father of Michael’s wife Kate and lived with the Finney’s until his death on July 14, 1874.
- William True (1918), husband of Agnes Finney suffered a stroke in December of 1916. Then on May 4, 1918, he died at 508 at age 56.
- Kate Finney (1918) died at 9:30 pm on June 14 in 504, the house next to 508. She had been ill for several months.
- Agnes Finney True (1939) lived in the house after her mother and husband passed away. She died at midnight on November 28 at the house at 79. She had been ill for three years prior.
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for The Sallie House Haunting themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- 10 scary, legendary ghost tales of Disneyland haunts, The Orange County Register.
- Which Walt Disney World ride might actually be haunted? | Paranormal Corner, NJ.com.
- The Ghosts of Disney World, Mady and Kelsi.
- Ghosts at Disney World, TripAdvisor.
- The Most Horrifying Accidents and Deaths in Disney Theme Park History, Showbiz Cheatsheet.
- Disneyland Deaths, Snopes.com.
- Disneyland’s Most Famous Deaths, Wander Wisdom.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “The Sallie House Haunting” was researched by Andrea, Nikki and Tae, and written, edited and produced by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.
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