- Missouri -

One of the Strangest Tales of Ghosts & Hauntings on a Military Post -- Do You Believe in the Ghosts of Bloodland?

In December 2002, I was transferred from Jefferson Barracks to Fort Leonard Wood located in central Missouri. From the start, my reputation as ghost investigator and author proceeded me to my new unit. Almost immediately after my arrival, I started hearing ghost stories about Fort Leonard Wood itself. One of the most humorous, yet interesting stories I heard is undeniably questionable at best. I think you will see what I mean as you read on. But I think that you will also agree that the second story about a haunted preschool has some rather chilling elements. I will let you decide which story is evidence of a haunting or hoax.

The history of one of the Nation’s largest military reservations began with a modest ground breaking ceremony in December 1940. Constructed as part of the Army’s Expansion Program in 1940, the 71,000 acre fort was named in honor of Major General Leonard Wood. Major General Wood was a graduate of Harvard Medical School and later the commander of the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War. Wood later served with distinction as the Governor of Cuba and as the Chief of Staff of the Army from 1910 until 1914.

Between December 1940 and the spring of 1941, new construction at the fort continued at a hurried pace. Before long, enough buildings had been erected to house the new Engineer Replacement Training Center but when the United States entered the Second World War on December 7, 1941, the post was thrust into the lime light.

Between 1941 and 1946, over 300,000 soldiers trained at Fort Leonard Wood. At its peek, the post housed over 50,000 soldiers at one time. In addition to Fort Leonard Wood being a premiere basic training facility, it was also a Prisoner of War (POW) camp for captured German and Italian POW’s.

In general, the conditions that captured Axis Soldiers endured at the Fort Leonard Wood were far better than the standard of living the soldiers faced in their own armies. Private Fritz Ensslin, a former member of Rommel’s Afrika Corps, who was incarcerated at Fort Leonard Wood said that his barracks at the fort was comparable to a Hilton Hotel and that the food was of a quality that a reputable hotel could not have cooked better.

All Axis prisoners received a daily wage of 10 cents whether they worked or not. Prisoners could receive as much as 80 cents a day, or the equivalent of an Army privates pay in 1941, if they volunteered for additional work. Axis officers were not expected to do manual labor. Instead, they were given a monthly stipend based on rank. Junior officers received $20 dollars a month while senior officers received as much as $40 dollars a month.

There were several Axis POW camps located in Missouri in addition to the one at Fort Leonard Wood. In general, escape attempts were few and far between. This statistic was exemplified nationwide. Of the 425,871 prisoners incarcerated in the United States during the Second World War only 2,222 Axis prisoners attempted to escape. Those prisoners who were successful were quickly recaptured. The most notable escape from Fort Leonard Wood involved Rudolf Krause. On September 10, 1945, Krause escaped from Fort Leonard Wood while on a trash detail. Three months later, he was captured in Orlando Florida. Krause later said that he had made his way to the East Coast port in order to get a job as a sailor on a neutral merchant ship.

Much like Jefferson Barracks, Fort Leonard Wood was deactivated in 1946 after the end of the Second World War. A small contingent of civilians and army officers remained on site to safeguard the post, but for the next four years, the post lay dormant and over that time the buildings started to fall into a state of disrepair.

The military training demands brought about by the Korean conflict caused Fort Leonard Wood to spring back to life in August 1950. Once reactivated, the post became a replacement training center for the 6th Armored Division and in1956, Fort Leonard Wood officially became the home of the United States Army Engineer Training Center.

Again, during the Vietnam War, Fort Leonard Wood became a virtual fulcrum of activity. Basic Trainees from around the country arrived at Fort Leonard Wood for Basic and One Station Unit Training (OSUT) prior to shipping out to South East Asia. This tradition of training the finest enlisted soldiers and officers in the U.S. Army continues at Fort Leonard Wood even to this day.

It is no wonder that with all of the soldiers (over three million men and women) who have passed through the gates of Fort Leonard Wood in the past 63 years, a few ghost stories were bound to surface.

One of the most far-fetched ghost stories I have ever heard deals with spectral residents of the small town of Bloodland. It is a little known, but established fact, that the U.S. Government used the right of immanent domain to acquire much of the 71,000 acres to build Fort Leonard Wood. The history of the post may have started with a modest ground breaking ceremony but the fact remained that the residents of many small towns and villages were forced to move from their homes to make way for the new post.

Bloodland was a town of about 40 buildings which were occupied by approximately 100 people. Bloodland was a very old settlement, a town where established, hard working people, mainly of German decent, lived and worked. On the night of October 31, 1940, (Halloween) the residents of Bloodland had gathered for an annual community celebration.

It was at this grand party that it was unceremoniously announced that the town, to include all buildings and land, were being taken over by the government to make way for the future construction of the new fort. The citizens of Bloodland were rightfully outraged by this news. It was later reported in a local newspaper that this venom towards the government, spurred on by a day of drinking, resulted in a small riot breaking out in Bloodland. Later it became apparent that the former citizens of Bloodland were destined to get the last laugh at the U.S. Government’s expense.

According to authentic local newspaper stories, a soldier named James Klown was court-martialed and imprisoned for a year in 1942 after he was found intoxicated and unconscious while on guard duty. Klown had been assigned to patrol a part of Fort Leonard Wood which had been the previous location of Bloodland. Klown stated that while he was on sentry duty, he heard several strange noises near his post. Klown claimed that when he went to investigate the source of the eerie noises, he was taken captive by riotous ghosts, who language he did not understand, and that the band of ghosts forced him to drink hard cider through a straw until he passed out as a result of his inebriated state.

Again, in 1943, the riotous ghosts of Bloodland struck with a vengeance. This time, a young soldier named Randall Ellsworth suffered the same fate as Klown. Rather than court-martialing Ellsworth, military commanders allegedly placed that part of Fort Leonard Wood where the haunted town of Bloodland was once located off limits to all military personnel.

Thirty one years later, in 1974, the ghosts of Bloodland struck for the last time. This time, as in the previous two “attacks” the ghost’s victims were three soldiers from the post. Each soldier later claimed to have been taken hostage by a bizarre group of ghosts and forced to drink hard cider through a straw until they were so drunk they collapsed.

In an article printed by the Gateway Guide on October 30, 1975, an unidentified reporter recounted the experiences of Klown, Ellsworth and the three unfortunate soldiers in 1975. When author Joan Gilbert researched the story for her book Missouri Ghosts, she contacted the newspaper but found that who ever had written the article in 1975 was no longer on staff. Gilbert also learned that no one at the paper remembered the article, the incidents that it portrayed or if the whole thing was just a hoax. The only thing in the article that Gilbert could verify were the facts surrounding the demise of Bloodland at the hands of the U.S. Government and that the story of the riotous ghosts did appear to exist outside of an anonymous writer’s fanciful imagination.

What became of Bloodland you ask? The site of the former town became a small arms firing range. According to the unnamed author, all that remained of the little town in 1975 were the foundations of an old school and the boarded up remains of the Methodist church. Today, two reminders that Bloodland ever existed can be seen along west bound Iowa Avenue within just a few miles of the main post.

The Bloodland Cemetery is located near Range #11. This tiny historical burial ground predates the creation of the fort and it is the only remaining evidence that the little town had once thrived nearby. The only other testament to the former presence of Bloodland is the fact that the fort’s command and control building for the various ranges on post is aptly titled “Bloodland Range Control” in the town’s honor.

In reviewing the story about the riotous ghosts of Bloodland, there is no doubt that the citizens of the small town were outraged by the way the U.S. government treated them. It is quite possible that the anger of the town’s folk could have spawned an untold amount of supernatural energy in the area. That aside, what I think this story really shows is how a bits and pieces of information from a practical joke can be woven into the tapestry of folklore for generations to come. Being the kind of person who errors on the side of caution, I would be cautious if you are out wandering Fort Leonard Wood at night and someone offers you a sip of hard cider.

The second ghost story directly associated with Fort Leonard Wood is definitely more traditional fare. Located in the heart of the fort is the Partridge Preschool. Allegedly, a four year old girl was killed at the school. To this day, the spirit of the small child refuses to pass on. People have observed the child’s favorite swing, swinging for no reason by itself on the playground. Each time this is observed, witnesses report that the air is deathly still and that none of the other swings appear to move. Other visitors to the school have reported that if you rattle the door knobs inside the building and sit back and wait, the ghost of the little girl will rattle the door knobs almost like she is acknowledging your presence. Workers in the building late at night have heard the sound of music emanating from a classroom closest to the little girl’s favorite swing. Sometime the music stops abruptly or it is played as loud as possible depending on the little girl’s mood. Another one of the little girl’s pet peeves is the placement of her favorite playground toys. Observers have commented that she likes “HER” toys to be put in “HER” special spots and it is not uncommon to find them moved back to their original places if you leave for a little while.

I was unable to find any concrete evidence that a girl was killed at the preschool. While it is sad enough to think that such a young life may have come to an end at the Partridge Preschool, what I find more puzzling is the fact that if the spirit of the little girl is not causing the paranormal activity there, who or what is?

Today, Fort Leonard Wood is the headquarters for the Maneuver Support Center (MANSCEN). Here, soldiers and officers from the Chemical, Engineer, Military Police, and Transportation Corps, are taught the combat skills needed to survive on the modern battlefield. Annually, over 16,000 young men and women receive their basic combat training at Fort Leonard Wood.

Training the total force is the goal of Fort Leonard Wood. The Engineer, Chemical, and Military Police schools located at the fort, train not only army personnel but also soldiers from the Marines, Navy, Air Force, and students from military organizations from around the world. In addition, MANSCEN hosts Primary leadership Development Courses and advanced Noncommissioned Officer Courses at the post.

Fort Leonard Wood is also the home of one of the countries finest military museums. The John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex, formerly known as the U.S. Army Engineer Museum, features informative exhibits on the history of the fort, and detailed historical information about the Engineer, Chemical, and Military Police Corps.

As part of its designation as a World War II Commemorative Community, a 25 acre portion of museum complex allows visitors to glimpse life at Fort Leonard Wood during the Second World War. In 1981, 12 World War II buildings, which include four barracks, two mess halls, three day rooms, two orderly rooms and a regimental commanders quarters were set aside as part of the fort’s museum. The buildings have been completely restored and today they serve as the only interpreted World War II community in the Army.

Several of the spares wooden buildings dramatically interpret life at Fort Leonard Wood in 1943 while others chronicle the Life of Major General Wood, and the Axis prisoner of war camp that operated at the fort between 1943 and 1946.

Annually, over 100,000 people visit the Walker Museum and its historically restored WWII company area. As the popularity of the museum continues to grow, it has been commended for it value as a time capsule for generations to come.

The John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex
South Dakota Ave and Nebraska Ave
Fort Leonard Wood, MO

(C) Copyright 2003 by Dave Goodwin. All Rights Reserved.

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