A Haunted Kansas Classic…
The material below appeared on the now-defunct Haunted Kansas Web site.
(See here for its original format via archive.org).
Little Carrie: Mount Hope's Enduring Mystery
by Rob Amo and Paul Fecteau
Little Carrie Frances Kiene was but five years old when she died in 1885. The statue that stands on her grave in Mount Hope Cemetery in Topeka would, no doubt, have towered over her. Why such a big monument for a small child? Was there something mysterious about her death? If there wasn't then, there is now.
Drive down 17th Street, and that monument will come into view. The first thing you'll probably notice is a hat or bonnet on the statue's head and flowers placed in her arms. The accessories change depending on the season and have been doing so as long as anyone can recall, yet nobody has ever caught someone making the switch.
Capital-Journal reporter Scott R. Greenberg researched the strange events for a November 1999 article. He found out that Mount Hope did not become a cemetery until 1906, twenty-one years after Carrie's death. In fact, records indicate that she was moved to the cemetery from Valencia on August 30, 1920 (see Greenberg, Scott R. "Mystery Will Be Left Unsolved." The Topeka Capital-Journal. 14 Nov. 1999).
He also found that, though no cemetery employee has ever been able to figure out how the changes get made, they find them a pleasant gesture. At least one of Carrie's descendants, however, remains offended by the activity, terming it disrespectful.
The questions linger . . . When Carrie's Easter bonnet gives way to a sun hat and eventually to a stocking cap will the change come as a lasting tribute a little girl's innocence? Or is it done with mocking laughter? Is the prankster of this world? Or the next?
As little Carrie sports her Easter hat for April of 2002, we may now have answers to a few of those questions. For if you take a closer look at that hat, you find penned on the band the initials of your humble Haunted Kansas correspondent.
An individual claiming to personally know the woman responsible for Little Carrie's seasonal wardrobe changes contacted Haunted Kansas on March 17. This contact wanted to prove her authenticity and has since sent us pictures of Carrie's hat, stocking cap, and bonnet. She also had the initials added to the hat prior to its placement on the statue on March 23, 2002.
This image was sent to Haunted Kansas via e-mail by our anonymous contact.
So what more do we know of the motives behind the secret? Most importantly, the woman stresses that it is not done out of disrespect but out of reverence. The following comments are reported by our contact to come directly from the woman herself:
"It's been something I've had such fun doing for a long time and I think a good part of the enjoyment comes from having 'my own little secret.' Only Carrie and I knew for sure for a long period of time who would give her a hat and when. Now a third person entered into this and made you aware of some of the circumstances, which is fine with both Carrie and I, because she will never identify the source of Carrie's hats."
So some of the mystery remains. We don't know who actually slips under darkness among the tombstones to Little Carrie's grave.
But we do have her final words which indicate the tradition will continue:
"I love doing this, and Carrie loves wearing the hats. I think it's pretty neat that you are taking the time to care about Carrie and her hats."
A brief Flash News article from 2008 appears to be the only attention given to Little Carrie since Rob and I posted the Haunted Kansas page in 2002: http://www.flashnews.com/news/wfn5080908J26068.html