Theorosa's Bridge


Image Credit Beth Golay / KMUW


One of the most common themes among ghost stories, is that the hauntings are usually tied to some traumatic experience. Unable to escape this experience, the spirit stays behind, trapped in this moment. Some might frame it as emotional energy left behind which affects anyone stumbles into it. Others still might suggest that it’s not really humans at all, but mysterious and evil things our bad experiences draw in like moths to a light in the darkness. 


Since it is October, and we’re approaching Halloween,  I want to tell another ghost story. This one also from my home state of Kansas. But before we get there, allow me to set the stage.

This podcast was Sponsored by:


"Creepin It Real" Podcast

"Destiny Echoes" Podcast


Kansas is named after the Kansas River, which is in turn named after the Kansa people, more widely known today as the Kaw. And was first explored by the western powers in the mid 1500s by Spanish Conquistador Francisco Coronado as he set out in search of treasure. They observed that the region was home to many tribes of Native Americans, Including the Wichita and the Pawnee. It be nearly 100 years later that the French would establish trade relationships with some of the Plains Indians as they traveled the rivers, and in 1804 the region was explored by Meriweather Lewis and William Clark. Only a short time later in 1830 the US Government would pass the Indian Removal Act, and would forcibly relocate tribes from the north to the Kansas area. Around this same time, the Santa Fe Trail, cutting through Kansas became a major trade and immigration route through the Midwest. 

Some seeds of the eventual American Civil war were also planted about this time, with Thomas Jefferson ending of the overseas slave trade in 1807, and then the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which admitted neighboring Missouri to the union as a slave state, and Maine as a free state. The Missouri compromise was undone in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which established that the status of slavery in each territory would be determined by the residents. This along with an ongoing expansion westwards opened the floodgates to new settlers seeking to determine the fate of the new territories. Kansas became known as “Bleeding-Kansas”.

A Brief History of the State of Kansas

Indian Removal Act of 1830

Naturally as more and more settlers came to the area, there was ever increasing tension with the Native Americans as well. And at this point, many of the Natives in the area were no longer in their historical lands to boot. Skirmishes between Natives, and the ever encroaching tradesmen and settlers in the Kansas Territory increased, many of the engagements were small raids along trails like the Santa Fe, some battles involved 100s of men. 


Eventually though, those seeds of the American civil war would sprout. And it was after the civil war, with the new nation less institutionally divided, that its gaze on the Native American populations became much more focused.


Clashes between American Settlers and Native Americans became more and more common, more reported, and of more concern. Treaties would be made, and disregarded and famous or infamous Generals like Custer, And Sheridan would become household names. The Native Americans were methodically driven from their homelands.

The Plains Wars


The end of the civil war also saw the beginnings of the massive cattle drives from Texas and Mexico to reach railroads that could transport beef to the more populated east coast. One famous route that cut through central Kansas was the Chisholm Trail. 

Chisholm Trail

Santa Fe Trail

Racial and cultural tensions were high as they could possibly be and resulting in actual wars and indiscriminate violence. A good depiction of this is the American Bison, a staple of Native American life whose numbers were estimated at around 15million in the wild about the time of the civil war in the 1860s, but would plummet to the low thousands in merely 30 years, as their leather was consumed for commercial products, and the Military viewed the slaughter as a way to drive out the Natives. 

Slaughter of the Bison


The latter part of the 1800s would only speed things up. The railroads began arriving, bringing with them even more people, both settlers and spanish speaking laborers. Legendary figures of the Wild West like Wyatt Earp, developed his reputation in the cities of Wichita and Dodge City in the 1870s, in 1878 a Cheyenne Chief named Dull Knife tried unsuccessfully to lead his people back to their ancestral land by fighting through Kansas, and the Infamous Dalton Gang robbing banks in Coffeyville in 1892. 

Wyatt Earp

Dull Knife 

Dalton Gang

My point in mentioning all of this history, is that Kansas was a significant hot spot in an incredibly hot time period in American history. And that sets up the atmosphere for the haunting known as Theorosas Bridge.


In South Central Kansas lies the town Valley Center, which was first established in 1885, and is not far from the Historic Chisholm Trail, the Arkansas River, and the City of Wichita. A few miles North is Jester Creek, and that is where this story takes place.


No one knows the precise date or origin of the story, but one day a family of settlors was in their wagon. And came up to the creek.  A Woman in the wagon named Theorosa, was caring for her infant when a band of Native Americans attacked. In the midst of the struggle, the baby was stolen from Theorosa and the captors set off near the creek. Theorosa ran after them, desperate to recover her child, but was killed in the fighting. And to this day, still wanders the creek near the crossing that is now referred to as Theorosa’s Bridge, forever in search of her missing child. The legend also says, that if one goes to the bridge to this day, and taunts the ghost by claiming to have the baby she will appear to angrily charge at the individual only to then disappear…


In 1974, and again in 1976 “Theorosa’s Bridge” would catch fire, and ultimately be destroyed. The current cement bridge was opened in 1991 and you can go there today. Naturally the sides of this bridge of urban legend are covered in graffiti which one way or another mark its prominence as it stands in what is still rural Kansas. 

                                                        Theorosa's Bridge Variants


There are of course many variations of this story which you can follow up on by clicking the links above, some are as simple as Theorosa being the name of the missing child and not the mother. And some are a sort of role reversal, that have Theorosa being a Native American Woman. Others tell of an angry husband who drowns his wife’s child of an affair, or have the mother drowning the baby herself only to feel intense regret and then drown herself as well. 


There is even an interesting idea that the Theorosa story originated with the Spanish speaking railroad workers who came to the area from Mexico, and that it’s a version of a story called La Llarona or “The Weeping Woman”. The story, and its variants are definitely similar in some ways:


A woman named Maria one day saw her husband having an affair. Overwhelmed by rage, she grabbed up her two small children by him and drowned them that very night. But as the rage subsided she was overtaken by grief and drowned herself alongside them. Because of her crimes, her spirit is trapped in this world and she appears at night weeping for her lost children….

La Llarona


But if the “Theorosa” is La Llarona take is true, then how did it get associated with small, relatively unimpressive creek crossing in rural Kansas? The original certainly lends itself to an era of high tension between natives and settlers. 


So what do you think? High Plains Original, or a knockoff of Latin stories? Either way, does the spirit or emotion of a distraught mother haunt the bridge over Jester Creek outside Valley Center Kansas? Do you believe in ghosts?

If you liked this episode or this post consider tipping by clicking the button below! And if you would, subscribe to the podcast, leave me a good review wherever you listen and share it with your friends!