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Legends of Buck Creek Valley

Sounds like a podcast doesn’t it? A spin on ancient mysteries wrapped up in tales of Southern silence. But these stores aren’t ancient and the location in question is a real place in Eastern Kansas.

Buck Creek was once a tiny town, a station post for the Union Pacific Railroad as it crossed into Douglas Co. Prior to actual settlement, a stone school house was built in 1878. It briefly had a post office, but the nearby towns of Perry and Williamstown always had more population, so eventually the settlement was abandoned.

It was named for the perennial stream that ran/runs near the settlement and waters a small hidden valley which remains largely unchanged to this day. The old railway station and school are still standing.

From late 1992 to the beginning of 1994, about 18 months, my partner and I rented a small bungalow style house on two acres of land in this hidden valley. I was finishing up coursework for a M.A. in Religion and both of us hoped that getting a place in the country would help us find a way to experiment with things like gardening and getting in tune with nature that we’d both talked about.

Little did we know that Buck Creek Valley would tear us apart—as individuals and as a couple.

It is also the scariest place I’ve ever lived.

The weird started with voices; disembodied voices that could be heard wandering around the outside of the house, generally in broad daylight. To my ears it sounded like 2-3 men talking just below the threshold of understanding, their voices rising and falling in regular conversation.

They would start behind the shed that doubled as a garage near the old chicken coop and slowly meander, over the course of at least 20-30 minutes, up toward the house, where they would almost always first go around the back of the house and and up then toward the front porch when they would suddenly “end.”

There were some variations in this pattern, but this is usually what I heard. The first time I thought the landlord had come over to talk to a painter that he had told us might be coming by to redo the porch and shutters (the new aluminum siding didn’t need painting). I heard the voices and expected to see two men rounding the porch at any time.

When that didn’t happen (I could still hear the voices), I stepped out onto the front porch to greet them, but no one was there. I walked all the way around the house and no one was there—there were no extra cars in the driveway, no people anywhere around—I was alone.

This happened several times until finally I asked my partner if she had ever heard anything outside the house when I was gone teaching during the day before she went into work. She looked at me and affirmed that she had heard men’s voices several times moving through the yard and when she looked to see, no one was there.

We compared notes and found that both of us had heard essentially the same thing.

We thought that perhaps we were hearing echoes of people talking from other parts of the valley, but honestly, I’m not sure that would explain why the voices would seem to move around the yard and house, very distinctly, as if a normal conversation between 2-3 people was going on.

It also doesn’t explain why the voices seemed to stop during the same time period that she and I had our conversation about them. It was like they faded into other phenomena.

We had heard a few strange stories about the house and the larger location from our landlord. According to him, the present house we were renting was the third house built by one of the original settler families in that part of the valley. The other two had been built further in, towards the interior woods, away from the watercourse that gave the valley its name.

However, both of those houses had burned down under rather mysterious circumstances, the second one before it was even completed. All that was left of either were the foundation stones which had been used in both attempts, but now lay abandoned in what remained of the initial homestead. At one point both of us hiked into the woods our landlord indicated and found them.

It had become a rumor, according to the landlord, that there was a power, perhaps an entity, in the valley that didn’t want humans settling in certain places. That rumor was used to explain why so few families lived in the Buck Creek area (part of the Delaware River watershed as it feeds into the Kansas River, locally called The Kaw).

That first spring, not long after moving in, we hosted a May Day celebration on the property, inviting friends in from KCMO. We put up a May Pole, everyone brought food and it was a pretty good time. Toward evening we had a little bit of ceremony, built a bonfire and settled around it to talk and tell stories.

Earlier in the day, one of our guests, after we had shared our landlord’s rumors about the valley, had decided to go for a little hike by himself through the woods in the back, where it was said this “entity” resided.

He was gone for about 45 minutes when we saw him jogging pretty quickly through the adjacent soybean field towards a group of us that had decided to go for a little walk before setting the bonfire.

He drew near, paused for a couple of minutes to catch his breath as we slowed to let him walk beside us.

According to him, he’d gotten to the woods and was following a deer path. Nothing really special happened, so after about 20 minutes he decided to turn around and start back. That’s when things got a little strange.

He started hearing this odd shuffling sound. At first he thought he was just hearing an echo of his own footsteps through the brush, but then realized that the noise was coming from about 100 feet away from him, moving parallel with him as he walked. It wasn’t copying his footsteps, but rather was something tracking him with its own gait. The gait seemed to be bipedal.

He said he was suddenly stricken with an odd pervasive fright and without thinking began to run (which is not a good idea if it was a bear or cougar–both of which we have to some degree in Kansas). As he burst through the boundary of the woods into an open meadow which opened up right before the soybean field, he could hear footsteps behind him; they seemed to stop right at the woods’ edge.

Once he made it to the soybean field he glanced back to determine if he could see anything in the woods. He saw nothing. And seeing us walking along the road ahead of him, he ran to us.

Obviously, this could have been a human messing with him, but who and why?

Later that night we all heard voices.

It was about 11p and the bonfire had burned down significantly. Conversation easily flowed among the 8 or so guests that remained. A little bit of beer and mead had been imbibed by some in the party, but no one was drunk; most of them were planning on driving all the way back to KC that night–a 60-90 minute hike depending on their locations.

Memory doesn’t record who first noticed, but gradually the group, as whole, began to be aware that there was another set of voices rising and falling within our hearing. Those voices seemed to be coming from just beyond the fence that divided our property from a small copse of trees that sheltered a wetland area between two other fields.

Just as with the voices my partner and I had heard moving around the house, these also were just below the threshold of understanding, although the cadence suggested a non-English language.

There were also more voices; eventually we were able to detect almost 20 distinctly, women, men, children as well as muffled laughter and other vocalizations.

We listened, and quietly confirmed and discussed what we were all hearing between us. Was there another group of people just across the way from us even though we couldn’t see fires or any lights? Were these voices echoes coming to us from another part of the valley?

We decided that several of us would spread out and approach the fence line that bordered the copse of trees.

As we approached the fence line ( I was one of them), the voices suddenly stopped in unison and shortly resumed further from us into the trees, like a light blinking off and on as if nothing had happened.

Astonished, we stopped and tried to reposition ourselves. We tried this several times, but each time the voices ceased in unison and moved away. I noticed that none of us were eager to climb the fence and actually wander into the trees.

We returned to the circle and sat quietly, listening to the voices return. We could hear what sounded like singing and laughter and easy familiar chatter, but could understand none of it.

At another point all of us realized that every other sound in nature, insects, nightbirds, frogs, etc had gone completely silent. It was as if we heard this other group living and being while we sat together in a soundproofed bubble.

Then suddenly, as if we all came out of a trance at once, the night noises started up again, almost as if in a fury–they seemed very loud and the night voices were gone. It was extremely eerie, particularly since we had all experienced this together.

After that, a few more guests decided to leave, leaving four of us in total. It was about 1a and the bonfire had burned down low. Our friends were trying to decide whether to drive back or just crash at our place overnight.

My partner had just picked up some dishes to take back inside to the kitchen when one of our guests poked me: “Hey, do you see that?”

I followed her pointed finger and saw, across the valley behind us, on top of the ridge which ran above the steep west side of the creek, a distinct bluish white light bobbing gently at tree-top level.

At first I thought that it was a flashlight as it seemed initially to be moving through the branches of the trees, but abruptly it rose above them and hovered. It wasn’t a reflection.

My friend and I watched silently as the light moved up and dipped down into the trees several times until it seemed to pause and suddenly just shot off into the sky disappearing rapidly.

We sat there silently and she finally asked, “Have you ever seen anything like that here before?” I shook my head and just said, “Nope, nothing like that.”

Our friends decided the events of the evening had creeped them out enough that they were going to head home. Somehow my partner and I got to sleep that night–we generally felt safe in the house, at least right up until the time when we decided to move.

I would be remiss if I claimed that all of the difficult things that happened in Buck Creek Valley were of a paranormal nature. In fact, most of them were not. At the same time, in retrospect, it seems like an inordinate number of unfortunate occurrences took place during the mere 18 months that we lived there.

For example, I was almost killed by electrocution due to the ancient wiring in the house. The outlet for the fridge and electric stove had never been properly grounded and this produced a short in two of the burners which manifested unfortunately through me one day as I tried to cook some pasta.

All I did was put my fork in the boiling water to test said pasta and the current entered my body, picked me up and flung me 10 feet horizontally and 5 feet vertically into the upper cabinets across the kitchen. We were able to determine this because the handles of those cabinets left distinctive bruises in my back.

What I first remember is the sensation of the electricity entering me and being completely aware of what was happening; it felt like my scalp was being peeled away from my skull. My next memory was coming out of an apparent seizure–I was instantly aware of what had happened and began screaming uncontrollably because it was so frightening.

I didn’t go to the hospital as there was no 911 service where we were and once I calmed down and called, the ER said that if I was conscious there wasn’t much they could do. Later tests indicated my heart was ok but I lost all the work I’d been doing reading for my M.A. exams and ended up six months behind in my program.

My memory has not ever been quite the same. I suffered from micro-seizures for some years afterwards and developed a little stutter which has remained with me, especially when I’m under stress.

In the spring of 1993, my partner and I were caught in two separate tornadoes within a 24 hour period.

I was at the house following a morning class watching a storm bearing down on radar until the electricity went out at which point I was reduced to a transistor radio.

There were no sirens out there. The hail was terrible, baseball size (good thing I’d thought to put my car in the shed), when it suddenly cut out and knowing what that meant I grabbed my cats and we jumped into an interior closet.

The wave front of the funnel hit the house along the north side like a giant 2x4, many of the north windows burst out, the whole structure heaved–and the funnel was suddenly gone. The damn thing had lifted up over the house, raking off some shingles and taking the tops of the trees on the other side of the yard.

Then came the rains, and within 10 minutes the house was surrounded on all sides by a flash flood. I was completely trapped, isolated. I went out to the front porch and sat, wondering if the house and I were going to be completely swept away, especially after being roundly shaken by a tornado.

But the house held firm, still attached to its foundation, even though the basement flooded and the hot water heater had to be replaced.

My partner, who had been at work through all of this, was later that evening, forced to drive through a tornadic storm that blew up around her during her commute home at 12a. She told me she just ‘sorta ducked' and kept going as debris flew around her because there was no place to pull off on the county highway she generally took.

A far less dramatic funnel passed overhead one day when I was out mowing the front lawn. I wouldn’t have even noticed it because it didn’t seem too stormy at the time, except I felt something cold fall on my head, and upon investigation realized that I was being pelted by tiny hail pellets. I looked up and saw a funnel rather lazily floating off to the South (it was coming from the North which is kind of weird anyway).

That winter there was a massive snow storm which dumped 2 ft of snow and stranded us for almost 3 days in the house. We didn’t lose electricity that time, but my partner did run out of cigarettes, which for her was a major disaster. Her car was stuck down the road about 3/4s of a mile from the house and a neighbor had to help us get it out.

On an odder and more sinister note, this was the only time (and place) in my life when I actually experienced anything that could be construed as “highly strange” with regard to my area of research interest, UFOs.

As mentioned before, I was studying for and completing the requirements for my M.A in Religious Studies. My emphasis was looking at the transformational components, both negative and positive, of reported UFO and Alien encounters.

How much of this had anything to do with the following is anyone’s guess. However, the fact that I was studying this material made these experiences tremendously creepy.

During our sojourn in Buck Creek Valley, I became aware of and personally witnessed/experienced:

a. The house being surveilled by someone, to the extent that odd unmarked helicopters would buzz the house at night. At one point I actually watched this surveillance from afar–I was coming home from a night class I taught, came over the ridge to descend into the valley and watched as a low flying brightly lit helicopter flew low and repeatedly over the house, floodlights everywhere, even though it was clear no one was at home. Maybe they thought we were cooking Meth–but the coincidence was just too odd;

b. This surveillance extended to someone tampering with our mail, something that I didn’t know was happening until our mail carrier alerted me to the fact; she had witnessed an individual in a dark car get out and rifle through our mailbox (she had also noticed some of what I was receiving in the mail). After that, our mail was hand delivered to us through the back porch or we went and picked it up at the post office.

c. A possible attempted home invasion by at least two individuals while my partner and I were at home preparing to go out to a Halloween party. For a period of about 2 weeks prior to this, while home during the day, I had heard cars slowly creeping up to our house (the gravel road always gave people away).

On the evening in question, I heard the same sound and then 2-3 men came up to the front door and asked to be let in to make a phone call as their vehicle had broken down. We said no very firmly, and the guys argued with us a little bit, but then, strangely, just stopped and left. We heard them drive away.

d. Two weeks after this event, my partner returned home from an overnight working engagement to find that the house had been violently broken into, vandalized and some things stolen. This had happened at some point in mid morning. I was teaching and was unaware of what had happened until I got home. Remember there were no cell phones then.

However, the stolen items were not the most valuable things in the house, In fact, most of them had more personal than monetary significance and furthermore, whoever had done it had to have known the significance of the objects, and/ or specifically where they were ( had to be someone we knew who had been in the house). Computers, guitars, audio-visual equipment, though all readily transportable and at that time valuable, were left untouched.

Even the sheriff opined that it looked like the break in was personally motivated, given the specific nature of the items taken and the style of the vandalism. “Do you know anyone that would have done this?” he asked me. At the time I didn’t. He also believed we had to have been surveilled given the irregular nature of our schedules. Someone had to have known when we would not be around.

Whether item d was connected to item c above is really anyone’s guess. Many years later, I was able to put two and two together and realize that this last item (d) probably had something to do with the actions of my teaching supervisor at the time, who’d become obsessed with me and stalked me for many years after I refused to become romantically involved with her (I wrote about this in another blog).

At the same time, Buck Creek Valley wasn’t just weird and scary. It was also/is also a stunningly beautiful place, tucked away between two ridges and because of its geography and I believe perhaps because of its history, has been far more sparsely populated than the rest of Jefferson Co.

As a result of its relative isolation, the Valley has been a refuge for birds, animals and plants that used to be common throughout Eastern Kansas, but which have now largely disappeared due to the plow and settlement. In fact, in 2014, much of Buck Creek Valley was purchased by the Kansas Land Trust and is now administered as a Wildlife Area.

When I close my eyes I can clearly see the rosy sunrises and deep orange sunsets that illuminated first one ridge and then the other. Sitting quietly in the house or working around the property, it was very easy to mark the slow passage of time as different birds and insects took up their stations moving from dawn to high noon through to late afternoon, dusk and night.

One of my most vivid memories of the place occurred the night after the aforementioned snow storm. The sky was clear and there was going to be a full lunar eclipse that night. I went outside at the appointed time, stood in the empty wheat field next to the house and watched as the snow covered fields and hills turned an eerie reddish orange under the muted light of the moon. It was freezing and absolutely still.

I saw a movement at the other end of the field and to my amazement a buck deer, a stag, full rack of antlers raised high, walked out into the strange moonlight, through the field toward me. In the middle of the field, he stopped and just stood there bathed in the same reddish orange light, seemingly looking up at the sky.

I didn’t move despite the fact I was thigh deep in snow and really, really cold. Very suddenly, as if on signal, he sprang into the air and was off, sprinting across the deep snowy field as only a stag might be able to. Did I see The Buck of Buck Creek Valley? Was he a spirit animal? You tell me.

According to one of our neighbors, an Indigenous woman who lived with her extended family about a half mile from us, the only neighbor really that we got to know in any degree, the Valley was a resting place and sanctuary ceremonial center for various nomadic indigenous groups, including the Kansa, the Shawnee and occasionally Osage, and then later groups, such as the Delaware (aka Munsee) who had been driven to Kansas as Indian territory by expanding white settlement in the East.

She told us that legend had it the Valley was tended by a guardian spirit that fiercely opposed human settlement (even permanent settlement by Indigenous bands) and that It had been the reason for why the first construction attempts by the settlers who’d built our house were destroyed by fire. She basically told the same story as the landlord.

Anything human that tried to venture past certain boundaries that were present in the woods was pursued and destroyed if it tried to persist.. “Do not go out into the woods alone at night,” she said, echoing what I’ve been told about the Hudson Valley forests here, where I currently live. She asked if we’d observed anything unusual in the Valley and we told her about the voices and the light. She nodded and smiled.

I also remember the many encounters with animals in the Valley, skunks and snakes, barn owls, the great horned owl that would often keep us from using the back door, innumerable varieties of wasps, spiders, butterflies.

The deafening cicadas (they get their own sentence).

The whippoorwill that kept us up on summer nights, the turkeys, the blue herons, raccoons, the golden eagles, the alligator snapper, the vultures and red tailed hawks, the coyotes, the cougar my mother saw, the abandoned stray dogs we saved, the hummingbirds and finches, so many free beings in this tiny hamlet of a wild place.

The first Christmas my partner and I decided to have a Yule kind of Holiday at the house. We found a lone red cedar that was tangled in a fence and was going to die a slow death anyway, and so liberated it for our tree. It cleaned up nicely and we were able to create the fiction of a happy life.

But we were not happy it turned out.

That was the year my own spirituality began to take a turn, but that is another story.

We tried to keep a garden and some of it worked, some of it didn’t. The racoons drove us crazy. The second year the rains (500 year floods) washed it all away. We lost electricity on a regular basis and when that happened we didn’t have water, so we took to spending money on bottled water that was shipped in every week or so.

There was no cable, just network TV and weather from WIBW (some of you will be familiar). There was no regular phone service, so we had to invest in an early kind of mobile phone that was very unreliable and was stolen during the break in.

It was a beautiful, unpredictable, isolated place that produced wonder and fear in equal measure.

The most terrifying and yet amazing experience to me, occurred on a late August evening, the second and last summer of our sojourn in the Valley. My partner had gone to work and I decided to mow the grass as the day had been a bit cooler than is usually the case during August in Kansas.

I’d gotten about half of the back acre lot finished and was moving around to the front of the house when I very suddenly, like a brick hitting me, felt like something/one was watching me. It was a heavy feeling and the pleasant early evening took on a sinister edge.

Then I clearly heard a voice, I still don’t know if it was just in my head or if I heard it normally, but it said, “Put your machine away and go inside.

I stopped for a moment and shook my head as if to clear something away. I started to mow again, and this time the voice was more clear, commanding, urgent: “Put your machine away and go inside!” I felt this pressure up against me, there was no arguing with it.

So, I stopped, put the mower away and went inside. Right before stepping into the house I got a further directive from the “Voice” to close the windows and pull all the shades down.

I remember going around the house and simply following the directive.

Problem was, it was summer in Kansas, and even though it was a cool evening, relatively speaking, it was still warm and muggy.

I decided to leave one of the living room windows cracked a little to let in some air and only pulled down the blind enough to accommodate that. The cats were very confused that I’d deprived them of their window sills.

Once done, I sat down in the living room and waited–for what I didn’t know, but I knew I was supposed to wait. I didn’t turn on any lights in the house, although I hadn’t received any “instruction” about that. It was like I didn’t want to be seen.

As the sun set behind the ridge and darkness quickly gathered, I noticed that the yard light which illuminated the driveway and which normally popped right on, didn’t this time. I tried to remember if we’d paid the bill (it was on a separate circuit from the house).

I also noticed that it was unnaturally silent outside: no crickets, no frogs, no nightbirds, not even the dueling owls who almost daily challenged each other’s territorial claims at this time of evening. Twilight was always the noisiest time of day. Nothing but stillness, as if before a storm.

I’ve not openly ever spoken about what finally shattered that prescient quiet because it’s just too weird. I wouldn’t believe it myself except that whatever it was terrified the cats as much as it did me.

The bone rattling howl scream seemed to come from the sky itself. I say bone rattling because something about the sound penetrated right through me. It echoed through the valley, I could hear it bouncing off the ridges. It was so loud it made my ears ring and my teeth automatically clench.

I’ve heard all manner of coyote and mountain lion–and this was nothing remotely like it. The sound penetrated into the very ground. I had been walking across the living room from the bathroom when it started and instinctively sat back down on the couch, clutched my knees with my head down and became absolutely still.

The cats sprang straight up in the air and flew to hide in the closet with every hair on their bodies erect–tails puffed like scrubbing brushes..

After the cry came the sound of tremendous footsteps, rapidly coming toward the house from the forbidden woods at the center of the valley. They were bipedal and the strides seemed massive, each step made the house shake as if an earthquake was systematically coming toward me.

I remember glancing up at the window I’d left ajar, contrary to the internal instructions I’d received, and wondering if I was going to regret this disobedience. I was literally petrified with fear–not daring to move–it was as if I didn’t want to do anything to signal my presence. For a moment I knew what it felt like to be prey.

Then, with relief, I realized that the footsteps were passing through the field just south of the trees on the property line. I listened to them go by and travel over the creek and up the ridge directly west of the house. As it passed over the ridge, whatever it was uttered another one of those howling cries and I could hear it echoing beyond.

I remember thinking: “Oh, the people on the other side [of the ridge] are going to hear this now.” I wondered if they’d been warned as I had, or if what I was experiencing was a “normal” event.

I continued to sit absolutely still on the couch, not bothering to reach over and turn on any more lights. It was as if I didn’t want to be seen.

Suddenly, the outside yard light popped on and as if on cue, all the night noises seemed to “come on” too. It was as if nothing had happened.

My cats slowly came out of the closet and Lugh ventured to prod the shade covering the cracked window. He was more curious than I was.

Eventually, I was able to get myself to stand up, turn on more lights and open the windows more than a crack to cool the house down.

I have no idea what I experienced that evening. And in truth, I don’t really want to know.

What I do know is that not long after the previously mentioned break in, my partner and I moved out of the house and into my mother’s basement until something else could be figured out.

Not long after that, she decided she didn’t want to continue–and has never really given me a reason why. Something about living in that situation changed both of us and I believe it scared her. She claimed she wanted a more “normal” life, although she ended up going off and getting pretty screwed up for a long time. But all of that is her business.

I returned to Buck Creek Valley twice after that in later years, mostly just to see how the Valley has changed. Honestly, it hasn’t much and even fewer people live there, which made conserving much of it a no brainer. It’s still a beautiful, fascinating and creepy place. And you can visit it yourself.

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1 commento

Steve berg
Steve berg
15 dic 2023

This is an absolutely amazing account of your time in that area. I lived in Lawrence for five wonderful years - that entire area is very special. I'm feeling very inspired to go check out this area very soon. Any tips?

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