By Kevin McClintock
From staff reports
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Written by a local woman who knows a thing or two about things that go bump in the night, a new book detailing area Civil War ghosts is part Southwest Missouri history lesson and part spine-tingling shivers.
Many folks may recognize Lisa Livingston-Martin as a Webb City-based attorney. Others may know her as co-team leader of one of the area’s premier paranormal investigation groups, the Paranormal Science Lab.
She can now add “author” to her resume, with the June publication of her first book, “Civil War Ghosts of Southwest Missouri,” published by Haunted America, a division of History Press.
Writing has always been a first love for this mother of three.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I ended up going to law school and it’s funny because my pre-law adviser, after college, said, ‘You need to write.’ He could see that. And then in college I had an English professor at (Missouri State University) who would follow me around in the student union at different times, begging me to switch my major.”
So to see her name on the cover of her own book, she said, has been a dream come true. Even better, the book’s contents are close to her heart Ñ the American Civil War and ghosts.
Which is why Carthage’s Kendrick House has been so important in her life. It’s long been the centerpiece of Jasper County’s existing participation in the Civil War.
The two-story brick building, the oldest standing structure found in the county, hosted soldiers wearing both the blue and gray. On top of that, the house has long been recognized as one of the most haunted places found in the Joplin area.
The concept of the book grew out of her interaction at the Kendrick House.
“I’ve always been a fan of history,” she said. To try to explain some of the paranormal activities she and other group members had recorded over the years, “we ended up doing so much in-depth research.”
They’ve captured “shadow people” on film, disembodied voices on audio recorders and other unexplained and strange phenomenon.
Because of the violence, sheer size and naked hatred expressed between the two fighting sides, the Civil War and the paranormal have always been comfortable bedfellows.
“They mesh together and provide a compelling story,” Livingston-Martin said of the two subjects. “So often ghost stories are convoluted; we don’t know where they come from or how they happen.”
In her book, however, she takes some of these very old ghost tales and places them into context that makes it interesting to the reader.
“We have a very rich (Civil War) history here,” she said. “We give a lot of tours at the Kendrick House and people will always say, ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I didn’t know that.’”
For example, the Battle of Carthage was the first land battle of the Civil War where both sides knew they were going to meet and used strategy. Missouri was also home to some of the most bloody and nasty fighting seen anywhere in the country during the war.
“Lots of violence,” Livingston-Martin said with a nod. “This is a paraphrase, but (Abraham) Lincoln once said he feared what actually happened in the rural, wooded depths of Missouri could have occurred nationwide.”
During the war, Missouri was known as the “burnt district,” she said, because both sides used a scorched-earth policy. That helped depopulate Jasper County from a pre-war count of 6,000 residents to less than 100 at its end, she said.
It’s this violence, this great sadness, the never-ceasing anxiety experienced by soldier and citizen alike, that may have helped “haunt” locations such as the Kendrick House. She believes those “extreme emotions” somehow imprints itself on an object or location.
For example, it’s like walking into a room “and you can feel it, somehow, just that something happened here, even if you don’t really know” what or why or how. “Most people have had that kind of experience at times, and that is what it seems to be.”
So Ñ does she believe in ghosts?
“I do believe there is something there, but I don’t know exactly what it is,” she said. “I’ve seen enough to know there’s something going on, something that isn’t normal and happens in (only) certain places.”
And it seems to happen where there is a lot of emotion, whether it’s happy, sad, terror or anger, she said.
“So many people have experiences and so many things are documented repeatedly that we know something is going on,” Livingston-Martin said. “We just have to figure out why.”
More on the way
It took Livingston-Martin 95 days to write the 128-page book. She received the official go-ahead on Christmas Eve last year and mailed off the completed manuscript on March 31. The book was published June 21.
Aside from the Kendrick House and the battle around Carthage, chapters cover Wilson’s Creek, about the infamous bushwhacker, the Rothanbarger House, guerrilla warfare, and battles fought in nearby Newton County. The final chapter dwells on some of the recorded paranormal activity Paranormal Science Lab members have recorded over the years inside the Carthage house.
Currently, Livingston-Martin is working on a second historical book detailing the tri-state mining district as well as Southwest Missouri folklore and unexplained creatures of the Ozarks.
She’s also two-thirds of the way through a fiction novel Ñ a paranormal mystery, which is partly based on what she’s seen and experienced at Kendrick.
Want to read?
Lisa Livingston-Martin’s “Civil War Ghosts of Southwest Missouri,” published by Haunted America, can be purchased for $19.99 at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com or by visiting www.historypress.net.