The Legend Of The Sallie House (The Heartland Ghost)

The Sallie House is a small, two-story brick house on the bluffs of the Missouri River, widely considered to be one of the most haunted houses in the United States. Reportedly the house is haunted by a demonic spirit which disguises itself as a young girl called Sallie.

The Sallie House was built for the Finney family in 1867, who occupied the house until the last descendant, Dr Charles Finney, died in 1947.  At least four members of the Finney family are known to have died in the Sallie House. Other reported deaths on the property include Michael Finney in 1872, Richard “Edwin” Finney in 1874, William True in 1918 and Agnes Finney True in 1939. After the death of Agnes Finney True, the line of the Finney family living in the house ended and after her brother living in Topeka past away the house was rented out.

Another story of a death in the house is that of a young girl named Sallie. One story is that Dr Charles Finney was home one evening when a neighbor began frantically banging on his door while holding her young daughter Sallie, screaming in pain. Dr Finney took the mother and Sallie in and laid her on a tabletop. He believed that Sallie’s appendix had ruptured and would need to be operated on immediately. Dr Finney sedated Sallie and then began to operate, not realizing that she was still awake. Despite Sallie still being conscious, the doctor did not stop operating and she reportedly died on the table from blood loss and shock.

Another story claims that Sallie was a young girl who lived in the house with her family and also died of a botched appendicitis surgery when she was six years old. A different story claims that she was taken to Dr Finney due to experiencing respiratory issues, however, the doctor did not recognize the seriousness of her condition and she later died of pneumonia. 

After the death of Charles Finney, the house was let out and many families and residents came into the house and left. Many of them not wanting to stay long, due to unusual and paranormal happenings in the house, until Tony and Debra Pickman moved into the house in 1993.

It was not long before Sallie began to make her presence known to the Pickman family. The Pickman’s had reportedly decorated one room as a nursery and filled it with teddy bears for their newborn son when Sallie began to play with the bears herself. Sallie would take the bears off of their shelves and arrange them in neat circles in the middle of the floor, sometimes within minutes of them having been put away by the new parents. The Pickman’s would put the teddy bears away again only to come back and find the nursery room light on and the teddies arranged in a circle on the floor again.

After this event, Tony’s brother Greg picked up a camera and ‘snapped a few pictures’ of the teddy bear sitting next to the Pickman’s TV. Reportedly, as he focused on the bear he asked ‘if your here, do you want to have your picture taken’ and then, as he ‘clicked the shutter the bear spun around right before their eyes’.

Tony Pickman’s sister in law, during a visit to the house, would also report an‘ overwhelming, unsettled feeling’ in the nursery and the family dog would bark incessantly at the entrance to the nursery and their cats would stare at something the Pickman’s couldn’t see. Their newborn baby would also wake up every hour ‘as if someone was playing with him’. The Pickman’s also claimed that their neighbor would ask them why they kept the nursery light on all night, which Debra stated she always turned off at night. 

The Pickman’s decided to leave the house for a time with their son and go stay with Tony’s parents. Tony was reportedly scratched on the back by an unseen force as they were leaving the house.

Another report stated that the first attack occurred on an occasion when Tony Pickman walked into the room that was reportedly once used as a surgery room by Dr Charles Finney. Tony claimed to experience a feeling of inexplicable cold and then ‘long bloody scratches’ appearing on his arm.

Psychic Barbara Connor visited the house and claimed to have spoken with a child spirit there and reported that the spirits name was Sallie and that she was a ‘seven-year-old girl who had discomfort in her abdomen, a pain in her hand and a toothache’. Barbara also told Debra that the spirit found her to be ‘bossy’ at times and that she ‘bugged her’. Barbara apparently recommended that when the Pickman’s walked around the house that they gently remind Sallie of the rules of the house and that they give Sallie a few toys of her own to play with. 

Another of Debra Pickman’s stories of Sallie involved a toy baby doll they had gotten as a gift for Sallie and had left the box wrapped up as a present in the nursery. Debra claimed that one day she walked into the nursery to find the baby doll in the crib and the wrapping and box where it had been left and found that one of the box flaps had been ‘bent awkwardly outward’ but that the wrapping had not been removed.

The couple also reported taking numerous photographs around the house which appear show unexplained streaks and shapes. They also reportedly took photos showing a ‘bluish swirling sort of mass’ which Barbara Conner stated was a good sign and signified positive energy, ‘love and happiness’. Debra Pickman claimed to have taken a photo showing a dark mass with a ‘marbleized appearance’ in the nursery room doorway. They also took a picture from the bottom of the stairs which showed a ‘wispy looking’ area at the bottom and another taken from the top showed ‘an area of significant blackness’ at the bottom. Most of these pictures are unfortunately no longer on the official Sallie House website.

The Pickman’s also began to see apparitions of a young girl in early 1900’s period clothing and believed this the be the spirit named Sallie that Barbara Connor had communicated with.

Tony Pickman first saw Sallie early one morning when he was getting a drink from the kitchen sink and she was standing in the doorway. Tony dropped the glass that he was holding and when he looked up again the little girl was gone. He quickly sketched a picture of the girl that he had seen.

They also began to experience objects being thrown across the room and on one occasion a lamp was thrown at Tony Pickman’s mother, lights and their radio turning on by themselves, timers in the kitchen going off on their own, candles in the bathroom lighting on their own, disembodied and unexplained voices, finger marks appearing on burning candles and unused candles melted down and pictures on the wall turning upside down on their own. Debra Pickman also reported that fires would start on their own in the room that would become the nursery.

The family decided to invite over a friend of theirs who was also a psychic, Renae Leiker, to ask for help. Renae reportedly witnessed a shadow of a tall man sitting by the window, who got up and walked in the direction of the kitchen, when she arrived at the house. The house was reportedly empty at the time.

Leiker also reported feeling many spirits within the house as well as a strong presence of evil as she walked around. She instructed the Pickman’s to burn sage in each room to cleanse the house and help rid it of the evils spirit residing there. 

When Debra Pickman began to cleanse the master bedroom, Tony Pickman, who was also present, was violently attacked. He was scratched and thrown through the air, across the room into the bedroom wall and was forcibly held down by an unseen force when Debra tried to help him up. Renae is reported to have repeatedly demanded the spirit release Tony until the entity eventually released him. He also reported one occasion on which Sallie appeared next to him when he was lying in bed, grabbed his wrist and left burns in the shape of fingerprints.

After this event, Tony reported that he would often feel the presence of something evil around him and was often physically attacked by some unseen force. He reported that scratched, burns and cuts would often appear on his body out of nowhere and from no visible source. 

Many paranormal investigators have visited the house and many have reported seeing objects flying through the air, full and half-bodied apparitions of the girl claiming to be Sallie as well as other men women and children. 

Other reported phenomena include unexplained smells, temperature fluctuations, electronic equipment malfunction, light phenomena, furniture moving on its own, floating shadows and items have reportedly moved on their own or vanished and then reappear in another part of the house. The Pickman’s also reported that they would find ‘strange mould’ on objects in the kitchen, some of which had been used very recently, on several occasions.

Further physical attacks by unseens entities, also including hair-pulling and being pushed, have also been reported by visitors to the house although the majority of the violent attacks are reported to have been focused on Tony Pickman.

The wounds from these attacks would reportedly manifest on his arms, back, chest and stomach. He also reported that there would always be a noticeable drop in the temperature of the room before an attack started. On one occasion a team of paranormal investigators reportedly witnessed Tony Pickman being possessed by an evil spirit which wanted to kill his wife Debra Pickman. The team then witnessed scratches appear all over Tony Pickman’s body.

Tony also stated that when he was in the house he was not able to think any happy thoughts, that he felt like he was a different person and he often felt that he wanted to hurt his wife Debbie and that he had ‘planned on slitting her throat’.

A resident who lived in the house before the Pickman family reported that on one occasion she had woken up in her bed in the middle of the night and found herself facing a ‘grotesque and gaunt dead-looking individual’ lying down and facing her in the bed.

A visitor to the Sallie House, who identifies as an empath, reported seeing a dark shadow in an upstairs window of the house and, upon entering the house, feeling an energy ‘akin to static electricity, but constantly moving static electricity’. The visitor stated that they began to quickly feel ‘jumpy, nervous, fearful, shivering cold, foggy’.

Another family who lived in the house before the Pickman family reported that her young daughter had an imaginary friend named Sallie. Her daughter would apparently often tell her that things she had gotten in trouble for had been the work of Sallie, or that Sallie has told her to do it. The young girl also identified Tony Pickman’s drawing of the spirit named Sallie as her imaginary friend from her childhood.

Numerous recordings of EVP have been made at the Sallie house. These include recordings of the voices of unseen men, women, children and even sounds of animals. Unseen furniture has also been heard moving, or being moved around as well as thumps, thuds, knocks, scratching in the walls. Some of these voices and sounds are even reported to have been heard by the naked ear.

The Pickman’s also reportedly captured EVP on their videotaping of their son’s first birthday. The suspected spirit EVP can apparently be heard saying ‘birthday boy’, ‘that’s all she gets?’, ‘catfish gut’ and other indiscernible but recognizable voices speaking.

Another visitor to the house reported EVP of a young girls voice saying ‘stay put’ after they moved some toys left for Sallie to a different room. They also claimed to record the voice of a man who they believe may be a father figure, EVP of an older woman addressing Sallie by name and asking her a question and an EVP of a spirit saying ‘Tom needs to hold her hand’. Their EVP seemed to have what sounded like the voices of two women, a spirit with an English accent and a conversation between a man and a woman named Agnes in which the man says ‘Agnes I am about the same age as you’. They also claimed to hear EVP of the spirit they believed to be Agnes (possibly Agnes Finney True who reportedly died in the house) making growling sounds as well as a young child’s spirit calling her ‘mommy’.

A list of the names of the people heard or referenced to in EVP interactions at the Sallie house can be found on the official website. Some theorize however that some of these voices may be a demonic entity disguising itself as human.

Other paranormal investigative equipment used at the Sallie House includes digital and analogue voice recorders, infrared and heat-sensitive video cameras and electromagnetic meters. Investigative groups visiting the house have also attempted to communicate with and detect it’s spirits with dowsing rods, crystals, pendulums and ESP.

The other reported spirits residing in the house, that of a middle-aged woman, is said to be behind the more violent attacks on the Pickman family and visitors to the home while the spirit of the young girl names Sallie is reported to be more mischievous than malevolent and is responsible for the more benign activity going on in the house.

One reported investigation done at the house involved ‘tuning forks’ being used in the basement to ‘bring up human spirits out of the ground beneath us’ and that a ‘dark and negative’ entity or force was angered by this action. Many of those present reported feeling physically sick, fearful or a heaviness in their chest and difficulty breathing as well as disturbing nightmares for several days after.

Other investigators have reportedly suffered from misfortune in their lives following a visit to the house including ‘financial distress, damaged or failing relationships, ailments and medical issues, auto accidents and deaths of family members and pets’.

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