OLD FORT HAYS AND THE GHOST OF SENTINEL HILL
For well over a century, residents of Hays, Kansas have had an encounter with a ghost. She is normally seen as a woman wearing a blue dress and bonnet and walking along a hill known nearby as Sentinel Hill. It was said that she longed to be buried on the rocky summit of this hill when she died and because of the stones there, she was buried on the side of the hill instead... and she has walked ever since....
The legend of Elizabeth Polly is one that has been around Ellis County for decades. There is a park in honoring her death at old Fort Hays in 1867 and monument stands for her at the summit of Sentinel Hill. According to the legends, Elizabeth came to Fort Hays with her husband in the middle 1860's. A short time later, the fort was struck with a cholera epidemic and it was then that Elizabeth won her place in local history. During the epidemic, she became known as the angel of the fort , comforting and tending to the soldiers in their illness. Then, in the summer of 1867, Elizabeth herself contracted the horrible disease and died. She had only one request... that after her death, she be buried on the top of Sentinel Hill, a place where she loved to walk in the quiet of the evening.
But it was found that the hill was too rocky for a grave and after a full military funeral, Elizabeth was buried at the base of the bluffs.
Many of the soldiers from the fort were also buried nearby in a military cemetery. Then, in 1905, the bodies were exhumed and moved to Fort Leavenworth. Elizabeth's grave was left alone until 1941, when her body was reportedly moved to the summit of the hill and a stone monument was placed in her memory.
Many wonder why Elizabeth still haunts the area.... is it because she did not receive her dying wish? Or could she be searching for the souls of the soldiers who were once buried close by?
No one really knows, although according to local tales and newspaper reports, people can and do still encounter her haunting the farms and prairie near the hill.
She has become known over the years as the Blue Light Lady and it is said that she still wanders near her lonely grave on the summit of Sentinel Hill.
While the legend of Elizabeth Polly endures, there have been other incidents which suggest that the spirits of old Fort Hays still live on in the town of Hays itself, which replaced the fort many years ago. One of the haunted places seemed to be the old officer's quarters, which were moved from the fort site into town in 1902 and turned into apartments. A number of strange incidents were reported in the building from phantom footsteps to strange sounds. Oddly enough, the old officer's quarters were moved back to the fort site in May of 1987 and since then, there have been no paranormal incidents reported....
It's as though the spirits of the old soldiers just wanted to go home again.
Hays, Kansas is located at the junction of Interstate 70 and US Highway 183 in central Kansas. Fort Hays is now a state historic site southwest of town. A limestone monument for Elizabeth Polly can be found on top of Sentinel Hill.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
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