Certainly an odd choice for a final Kansas City tour doodlewash, but this is the Twelfth Street Bridge in the Historic West Bottoms District, and one of the more interesting ways to exit the city. This time of year, it’s a sort of nerve center for commercial haunted houses and just on the other side you’ll find, the Edge of Hell which opened in 1975, and is cited as the first, large-scale haunted house in America!
For years Kansas City, Missouri, sought solutions to connect the commercial and business district on the edge of the bluffs with the industrial district 200 feet below where wholesale houses, rail yards, and stockyards are located on the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. The bridge was built to realize that dream, but most of my life it’s always reminded me of haunted houses.
The first time I was actually able to go to one was in high school and I was really excited and more than a little terrified to go. One of the first rules when attending a haunted house is to be sure that you’re going with close friends. By this I mean friends that won’t look at you strange the next day when you’ve just spent an entire evening frantically feeling them up in the dark.
The first stop was the legendary Edge of Hell and I was immediately impressed by the elaborate sets, makeup and costumes. Though it’s less like entering a haunted house than unwittingly winning a walk-on role in the next big teen slasher movie only to realize you weren’t given a script. By the time you survive your way to the 3-story circular slide at the end, you’re both exhausted and exhilarated. It was a blast!
Years later, I would finally get my chance for payback when I was cast as a ghoul in a new haunted house to be staged in the catacombs of the downtown Midland Theatre, built in 1927. I was what they called a “floater” which is someone who isn’t in a single scene, but allowed to roam freely scaring people as they wander through.
The tour began through a door in the men’s restroom, just to the left of a urinal which had been disturbingly transformed into a crime scene. This alone should have been my first clue to the real horrors that lay ahead with this job, but I took it in stride and was determined to do my best. I donned my black cape and skeleton face makeup and set out to hide in the labyrinth ahead.
I won’t got into the gory details of the night, but it was a long evening that held little satisfaction for my budding acting dreams. The only other ghoul who was nice to me was the singing headless girl who had become my “friend” for the evening. She had an amazing singing voice until she would suddenly stop and scream in your face, something which she never did to me, which was why I liked her. Shame I never saw her face.
But as we bid farewell to the official Kansas City tour, I have to admit that it’s been a learning experience for me as well. I didn’t know many of these facts before reporting them here and the stories these doodlewashes inspired were memories I’d almost forgotten. I love this city. Whether it’s awesome barbeque or headless singing women, there’s always something new to discover, and love!