WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) —Once you step foot inside this Victoria-style home on the corner of 900 Bluff St., you immediately travel back to the horse and buggy days of 1909. The history and memories at The Kell House Museum are still alive and well, even still to this day, but something else may be “alive” inside as well, something maybe a little bit more— paranormal.
The Kell House was first built during the birth of Wichita Falls by Mr. And Mrs. Frank Kell. They would go on to become pioneers in the growth of the city and have several children who carried on the family name. Then in 1980, the house was bought from the last remaining resident, Willie Mae Kell and turned into a museum by the Wichita Falls Heritage Society.
“Close to 90-95% of what’s in the Kell House is original,” says Kell House’s set director, Nadine McKown. “We have a lot of original furnishings and that’s a high percentage, for a house museum that’s fairly unusual, a lot of times you don’t get quite that much.”
Many of the items that are frozen in time within the house are of limits to visitors, out of respect to their fragile nature and the spirits that may still be living inside the Kell House.
“One of the questions that we get from a lot of visitors, is this place haunted? Have things happened in here? And we only tell those stories once a year, we only do that during haunted tours,” says Nadine.
Every year on Halloween night, the lights inside the Kell House dim and the stage is set for any passed members of the Kell family to come out and communicate with the living.
“We have a casket in the house and we talk a little bit about funerary customs, and a lot of the sometimes little strange things that have happened in the house,” says Nadine. “People have maybe seen some things or heard some voices, things have moved, we have I think at least one audio recording that we use during the haunted tours that was captured in the gardens actually.”
However, this ghostly galavant may look different this year due to something much scarier: COVID-19.
“We’re going to be on for Friday night [October 30th], we’re hoping for Saturday the night of Halloween as well, we’re going to have smaller groups, we’re going to do advanced registration, we’ll have masks, we’ll have gloves for our visitors because it’s really difficult to actually sanitize anything in the house, we’ll have our traffic flow adjusted so that people and groups don’t overlap, so hopefully we’ll make it all work,” says Nadine.
Whether you’re a paranormal enthusiast or a Texas history buff, there’s something for everyone at the Kell House. Each room holds a significant piece of the past, like Mama Kell’s sewing room, Brother Kell’s wartime photos and personal effects, and an early 20th century elevator that still works.
In order to keep this century old home standing, the Heritage Society is moving forward with plans to restore the Kell House.
“We started our restoration/rehabilitation program I think four years ago, one phase of the project was finished several years ago, but we’re actually getting ready to do major work on the house and this will actually start at the very beginning of the year,” says Nadine.
She adds, “It’s one of those places that tells our local history, it’s not something that you learn in school, there are a lot of local people that have lived here for years and years and have never come by the Kell House and hey…. you need to.”
For more on The Kell House Museum and to sign up for a tour, click here.