'Ghost hunt' offends family of slain Kan. officer

One of the ghosts believed to haunt the hunt location is a policeman who was shot to death by a burglar on the roof

By Beccy Tanner
The Wichita Eagle

TOPEKA, Kan. — Topekan Joey Little doesn’t have a problem with ghost stories.

Instead, his predicament lies with people who chase and hunt ghosts while capitalizing on his grandfather’s legacy.

His grandfather is Clarence “Boots” Shields, a Topeka police officer who was fatally shot on April 11, 1955, after surprising two burglars who were on the roof of the Moose Lodge in North Topeka. Shields is listed on the Kansas Law Enforcement Officers Memorial website as well as the Officer Down Memorial Page, a national website for fallen officers.

Not long ago, Little’s ire was raised when he found out Ghost Tours of Kansas was hosting a benefit ghost hunt at Topeka’s Moose Lodge.

“My family has no problem with ghost ‘hunters’ going to the Moose Lodge for entertainment but what we do have a problem with is when companies like this charge admission to participants,” Little wrote in an e-mail to The Wichita Eagle. “This is tasteless and horrible. We view charging money to ‘hunt’ our father and grandfather – a fallen Topeka Police Officer – absolutely wrong.”

Cathy Ramirez, owner of Ghost Tours of Kansas, offers 11 ghost tours in nine cities. Most of her tours are in eastern Kansas in cities such as Topeka, Kansas City, Lawrence, Atchison, Leavenworth, Shawnee, Holton and Wichita, although she does not have a tour in Wichita this year.

She offers tours nine months out of the year and takes a break from mid-November through February.

But the popularity of shows such as “Ghost Adventures” on the Travel Channel, “Paranormal State” on the Arts & Entertainment channel and “Ghost Hunters” on Syfy has created an interest in things that go bump in the night.

Ramirez said she abides by her own set of ethics and guidelines.

“I don’t believe in antagonizing a spirit to get action or activity,” she said. “I am not antagonizing ghosts when I go ghost hunting.”

And, she said, she doesn’t believe in trespassing.

“I always get permission” from the current living property owner, she said.

Ramirez said she did charge admission on Oct. 9, the night she conducted a hunt at the Topeka Moose Lodge. She said she charged $20 a person for 22 people to go through the building. Three quarters of the proceeds went to the Moose Lodge for the building’s maintenance fund, she said; the rest went to Ramirez and her team. She charges admission for all her tours.

Little’s mother was 2 years old when her father was killed. Little grew up hearing stories about his grandfather’s bravery and dedication.

On the night of the hunt, he went to the Moose Lodge to protest.

“I told people wanting me to leave to call the Topeka Police Department if they wanted me off the property and kept repeating how this ‘hunt’ was distasteful especially since money was being charged, making the scene of my grandfather’s murder basically now an amusement park,” Little said.

Ramirez’s website “Ghost Tours of Kansas” posted this on Facebook after the Moose Lodge event:

“Just to clarify to any family and friends of the Fallen Officer Clarence ‘Boots’ Shields who was shot and killed at the Moose Lodge many years ago, there is no evidence that he haunts the Moose Lodge. The ghosts that do haunt there include Charlie in the Kitchen, the little old lady in daycare and very happy dancing ghosts in the Bingo Room. As in any investigation performed by GTK, all factors are taken into consideration. Rest assured that no ill regards are implied to your ancestors.”

Ramirez said she does mention Shields in the tour because there is a plaque and a ballroom at the Moose Lodge dedicated to him.

“He is part of the history aspect of the building,” she said. “During my tours, I would like to think that if Clarence ‘Boots’ Shields is there, he is a man of integrity, honor and respect. I would think he is in his career mode, protecting and still serving this community.

“As to his family, with all their hate emails, threats, I wonder what he would think about their behavior. It is not his proudest moment, I am sure.”

Bill Miskell, chairman of the Kansas Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Committee, said he didn’t know how the event at the Moose Lodge was marketed.

“At this time of year, you have these kinds of seasonal activities where people are thinking we can make everybody aware of local history,” Miskell said. “We can throw some of the Halloween aspect into it and everything is right with the world.

“What we may lose track of is the fact that there is still a family surviving from an event that occurred 60 years ago – living relatives for whom this is still a very real event.”

And while there may not be any malicious intent by a group of people participating in a ghost hunt, Miskell said, the event can still have an impact and unintended consequences.

“From the perspective of the state law enforcement group, we owe everyone who has served this state and paid with the ultimate sacrifice our fullest respect throughout the year,” Miskell said.

Copyright 2015 The Wichita Eagle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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