This ecclesiastical building stands in a recently urbanized area as a ghostly reminder of Kansas City’s haunted history. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is home to one of Kansas City’s most sordid spirits, that of the controversial priest Father Henry D. Jardine.
Henry D. Jardine was labeled a criminal and a sexual deviant due to his affinity towards the Roman Catholic Church. While these accusations were seeped in some truth, they were vastly exaggerated, a fact that many believe led to his untimely death.
The deadly poison chloroform took the controversial priest’s life. Whether it was at the hands of his enemies or his own is still up for debate. What is not in question, however, is the fact that his spirit still haunts the old St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
Many feel that they are being watched late at night here. Footsteps and strange noises have been heard alongside phantom smells of incense. There is no doubt that Father Jardine remains here, his spirit eternally in torment.
Let us look into this fascinating story, and the next time you find yourself in Kansas City, be sure to take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures.
Kansas City was a fledgling city when St Mary’s, then known as St. Luke’s, was created. A rising need for a congregation among Episcopalians was realized when St. Luke’s Mission first gathered near the River Market area in 1857. By 1867, the congregation had become large and wealthy enough to find a permanent home on Eighth and Walnut.
There was an influx of Irish and Catholic immigrants to America during this time of the country’s history. The result was a backlash of monumental proportions from the Anglo-Protestant. These “Natives” formed groups such as the Know Nothings and the American Protective Association to deal with this perceived foreign threat.
Kansas City saw many Catholic invaders due to its emerging livestock trade and the expanding railroad.
Father Henry D. Jardine of Canada walked into this politically charged atmosphere in 1879 when he became the rector of St. Luke’s Mission, now called St. Mary’s. He had spent his youth troubled, finding religion after two years in jail. Jardine was amongst a sect of Episcopalians that sought to realign the Protestant offshoot with its Catholic roots. His tendency towards involving larger rituals, altar boys, confession, candles, and incense immediately made him enemies.
Jardine was popular among the female congregation of the future St. Mary’s. Kansas City Times editor John C. Shea found this fact most tantalizing and used it against him. He printed a scandalous article titled “Jail-Bird Jardine,” criticizing the priest for his former life.
Jardine spoke openly about this childhood chapter and rebuked his youthful indiscretions. Shea struck back with another article, “Jardine’s Jollities,” several days later. This one struck the priest closer to home.
Shea claimed that Jardine had been caught performing immoral acts on congregation members during confession, including the spanking of one young woman with a slipper as a form of penance. The priest filed for libel against Shea, but his charges were dismissed on a lack of evidence that he did not commit these accusations.
The ecclesiastical court got involved soon after and found Jardine guilty of inappropriate behavior with his female congregation and for the repeated use of the drug chloroform. This secret had been well-kept until this point, and while his use of the drug was to treat a painful nerve condition, it was still seen as sinful by the church.
On January 5th, 1886, Jardine traveled to St. Louis to appeal his trial in front of the Diocese of Missouri. The next morning, he was found dead in the sacristy, a priest’s preparation room, of Trinity Church. Chloroform poisoning was the culprit, and many believe to this day that it was a suicide.
His body was moved to St. Luke’s Burial Ground in 192, as more and more evidence came forward that his death was an accidental overdose. The priest finally found his final resting place, or so it was believed.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church went on without Father Jardine, eventually constructing the Neogothic building we see today in 1887. It stood in the bustling old downtown area for many years, but building around it began to change and modernize.
The church, however, stayed frozen in time, as did Father Jardine’s spirit. It appears the trauma experienced from his trial, and very likely the love he felt for his congregation, sexual or otherwise, has kept him here.
Throughout the years, many have smelled incense and candles burning into the night when none are lit. The figure of a priest with a candle has been seen floating in the second-story window late at night. One churchgoer investigated the matter, finding it odd that a priest would be hanging around so late at night. He was unable to enter, as the first floor was locked, and heard strange noises coming from the other side.
The spirit of Father Jardine surely walks to the consecrated grounds of his old church. His story tells us a tale of a divided city, a topic all too common in the history of Kansas City. There is much more to learn about this city split by two states, haunted by as many spirits as there are stories to tell.
Read our blog to find out more about Kansas City’s most haunted locations! And when you are ready, take a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures.