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By NPI, Inc.


NPI Marketing Team
NPI Marketing Team

    

Haunted Places: The Vaile Mansion

Location: Independence, Missouri
Architectural Style: Second Empire
Built: 1871-1881

The Vaile Mansion has stood for nearly 140 years at 1500 North Liberty Street in Independence, Missouri. Its history has been fraught with scandal, tragedy and more than a few reported hauntings. This makes the beautiful yet foreboding Vaile Mansion perfect for our Haunted Places series! Read on as we uncover the fascinating history of this haunted home-turned-sanitarium.

 

Meet the Vailes
Colonel Harvey Merrick Vaile was born in 1831 in Bennington, Vermont. After building his fortune carefully for years as a lawyer, journalist and business investor, he became part owner of Star Mail Routes, a U.S. postal contractor that would run mail from St. Louis to points west in the frontier. As budding socialites in Independence, Missouri, he and his wife, Cecilia Sophia Vaile, set out to build a home reflective of their wealth and status in the community.

The Vaile Mansion
The Vailes’ new home was designed by renowned Kansas City architect Asa Beebe Cross in the Second Empire style, borrowing popular stylistic embellishments from French Baroque Revival architecture. Breaking ground in 1871, the Vaile Mansion was constructed over the course of 10 years and cost an astounding $150,000 ($4,000,000 in today’s dollars).

The 31-room mansion was built with nine marble fireplaces, intricately painted ceilings and a 48,000 gallon wine cellar. It also incorporates features that we take for granted today but were rare at the time, such as flushing toilets and a built-in 6,000 gallon water tank. The Vaile Mansion served as a gathering place for many important people of the day, including U.S. senators and other travelling dignitaries.

 

The Mail Scandal and Tragedy to Follow
Shortly after Colonel Vaile and his wife moved into the mansion, the Vaile household became mired in scandal. Vaile, in his position as a postal contractor, was accused of defrauding the U.S. government by participating in a scheme in which postal authorities awarded lucrative contracts for new mail routes in the Southwest to high-bidding contractors, then split the profits.

Vaile was summoned to Washington, D.C. to stand trial twice, in 1882 and 1883, and while he was eventually acquitted of the charges against him, he spent more than $100,000 defending himself. The ongoing trials did irreparable damage to the Vailes’ reputation in Independence, leaving them embarrassed and isolated in a community that had once welcomed them with open arms.

To make matters worse, Sophia was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the midst of Vaile’s second trial. While he was in Washington, she committed suicide by an overdose of morphine on Valentine’s Day, 1883. Colonel Vaile returned to an empty home, and lived the rest of his days in the house alone as a recluse. According to one legend, he was said to have been so distraught at the death of his wife that he buried her on the front lawn in a glass-topped coffin set flush with the ground, so he could see her whenever he wanted. After many years alone in the house, Vaile died of a stroke in 1895.

After the Vailes
After the death of Harvey Vaile, the mansion was appropriated for a number of other uses, serving as an inn, a sanitarium and, eventually, a museum.

Many visitors to the Vaile Mansion over the years have reported spotting a woman in white, commonly thought to be the ghost of Sophia Vaile, wandering the halls of the property. She often looks out the windows at visitors on the grounds. She’s seen most often on the second floor, the site of her untimely death.

Sightings of a young man who many believe to be a patient of the sanitarium have also been documented—this spirit stalks the rooms of the third floor where he lived most of his life.

The Vaile Mansion is also overrun with other ghostly activity, from disembodied voices to shadowy figures ascending and descending the dark mahogany staircases.

Visiting the Vaile Mansion
If you want to try catching a glimpse of these spirits yourself, the Vaile Mansion is open to visitors from April to December, with many nighttime paranormal tours, as well. If you spot a ghost, let us know!

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