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Even during my early spring trip, I found as many fellow visitors there to explore the haunted sites in this Missouri River town as were there to explore the legend of the first woman to fly the Atlantic and Atchison’s most famous daughter.
Some visitors, like me, trek to the northeast Kansas community to explore the convergence of history and mystery. The folks at the Atchison Chamber of Commerce have capitalized on this combination that attracts year-round interest, appealing not just at Halloween to travelers who consider themselves paranormal investigators, but also to the casual tourist interested in seeing architecture and history while learning more about haunted sites and one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century, Earhart’s 1937 disappearance while attempting to fly around the world.
The best way to see one of Atchison’s Earhart attractions is from the air on your way to Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport. The Amelia Earhart Earthwork is about one acre of permanent plantings, stone, and other natural materials that crop artist Stan Herd formed into a portrait of the aviator in her flight gear. While it’s built on a hillside and has a viewing deck, it’s easiest to see from above.
The earthwork is on the outskirts of Atchison, near the International Forest of Friendship. The forest is a memorial to the world history of aviation and aerospace and has trees from every state and more than 35 countries, including one from Earhart’s grandfather’s farm and the Moon Tree, an American Sycamore grown from a seed taken to the moon on Apollo 14.
The forest is a five-mile drive from the airport, but before you set out to explore the community you’ll want to arrange to see Muriel. One of only 14 made and the last known surviving 1935 Lockheed Electra L–10E airplane, Muriel is identical to the airplane flown by Earhart when she disappeared over the South Pacific. The airplane (named in honor of Earhart’s sister) was rescued from destruction and restored with the goal of using it to re-create Earhart’s around-the-globe flight.
When that plan was abandoned, the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation adopted Muriel and built the airplane a permanent home. The art deco-style hangar was completed in early 2020 and houses the airport’s FBO as well as the historic aircraft. The museum section is still in the fundraising stage, and the foundation hopes to open October
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