The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #16

16. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado by Elliott West

“This book will change the way the history of the West is taught and understood forever.” —Publishers Weekly

In his 1998 book, Elliot West tells the history of Native Americans and their battles with the incoming white settlers. West highlights the environmental, social, military, and political ramifications of these events in our history, weaving together the threads of society at that time. West discusses the California Gold Rush as a key event in American history, Native American history, and the reformation of the Great Plains. In the 1800’s, thousands of people rushed to California in search of gold, which drastically changed the course of the tribes of people living there and the environment itself.

Through his storytelling and integration of facts and history, West weaves together an important part of this countries past. His book has received high praise across the board. Glenda Riley from the American Historical Review writes, “In a way, Elliot West tells a familiar tale: that of Indians, goldseekers, and the ensuing conflict. But in this case, West is the first to assess the cataclysmic changes that the Colorado gold rush brought to the Great Plains. In addition, rather than casting the story in the usual terms of heartless aggressors and hapless victims, West supplies a large and insightful interpretation that at once softens and increases our understanding of the Anglo disruption of Plains Indian cultures. To understand where western history is now, and is likely to go in the future, one must read this book.”

Exciting and enormously engaging, The Contested Plains is the first book to examine the Colorado gold rush as the key event in the modern transformation of the central great plains. It also exemplifies a kind of history that respects more fully our rich and ambiguous past—a past in which there are many actors but no simple lessons.

The Contested Plains by Elliot West won the Caroline Bancroft Prize, Caughey Award, PEN Center USA West Literary Award in Research Nonfiction, Francis Parkman Prize, and the Ray Allen Billington Prize Choice Outstanding Title.

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #17

17. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas by David Dary

A continuation of his previous book, True Tales of Old-Time Kansas, David Dary delivers more stories, tales, and legends of Kansas’s history. Published in 1987, More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas tells entertaining stories from Kansas’s past, from adventures to natural disasters to tales of outlaws and legends. Dary is able to pull together accounts and facts with carefully skilled penmanship that makes history feel like a story.

Spread throughout the stories are illustrations to help propel the reader further into the exciting history of Kansas. More True Tales of Old-Time Kansas brings to life the excitement and adventure of the Old West: the revenge and vengeance of Bloody Bill Anderson and Dutch Henry, the exploits of bank and train robber Bill Doolen, and mayhem in the state’s most violent town. Colorful hermits and trappers, traders and town builders join historical characters such as William Becknell, father of the Santa Fe Trail—whose expedition turned a 2,000 percent profit—and Lizzie Johnson Williams, the first woman to follow the Western Trail.

“Dary is a popularizer, a skilled writer who takes historic facts and legends and weaves them together for the interested general reader. His easy, journalistic style, and determination to tell a good story introduce history to an audience that may not have discovered the fascinating heritage of our remarkable state.—Wichita Eagle-Beacon

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish

18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

The Top 20 Best-Selling Titles… #18

#18. Haunted Kansas: Ghost Stories and Other Eerie Tales by Lisa Hefner Heitz

Published in 1997, Heitz’s spine-tingling collection of stories raps and taps and moans and groans through a wealth of descriptions of infamous Kansas phantoms, as well as disconcerting personal experiences related by former skeptics. Haunted Kansas pulls together a various collection of accounts chronicling Kansas folklore and eerie stories. Kansas’s deep history paves way for some complicated and unsettling accounts. Heitz tells the haunting stories of Kansas as she travels from location to location, uncovering the secrets that Kansas has had buried.

Set in various locations across the Sunflower State, the book aims to relay the haunting stories through Kansas’s history, while also giving a bit of knowledge of each location. Most locations are historical sites and important geological markers, adding more to the eerie quality these tales hold. From the haunted Teddy Bear in Fort Riley to the plethora of spirits walking alongside tombstones in the cemetery to the haunted town of Atchison, Heitz covers a lot of ground in telling the haunted tales of Kansas.

“Prior to the publication of the book, I spent a year researching Kansas legend and lore, traveling around the state to many communities, small and large, visiting museums and libraries for materials on local ghost stories, and interviewing residents,” Heitz explains. “During my travels throughout the state, I not only collected hundreds of stories, but I learned that my home state of Kansas is an endlessly varied, beautiful, and fascinating place. Oh, and spooky—very spooky!”

“My favorite part of writing the book,” Heitz explains, “was piecing together what I like to think of as an interwoven tapestry or quilt of folklore and legend. Each story was compelling and colorful on its own, but woven together into a book, the stories overlay a map of the state with a blanket of intersecting local legends and oral histories.”

Heitz says methods of researching the paranormal have developed in the twenty-five years since working on Haunted Kansas.

“Research in this field, as in all fields, has been radically changed by the internet in the years since the publication of my book,” Heitz says. “My method of research in the early and mid-1990s seems practically antiquated now; very ‘boots-on-the-ground’ and reliant on physical travel, hours spent in libraries and museums, and face-to-face interviews.”

Heitz continues, “I recently have been working on updating some of my research from that time and now, of course, much of the work can be done sitting in front of a computer. It is certainly easier and less time-consuming, and the resources online seem endless and are often invaluable. But there are fewer in-person encounters and interactions, and less physical travel to locations is required, which seems like something of a loss to me. My time spent researching around Kansas allowed me to meet many fascinating people and explore numerous locales, giving me a deep appreciation of Kansans and all things Kansas.”

Researching and writing a book about haunted places isn’t for the weak. Heitz says stories from the book still haunt her.

“From the stories collected in the book, and the numerous additional stories still haunting my files, my favorite tale is undeniably the one I grew up with, in my hometown of Topeka: the legend of the Albino Woman,” Heitz says. “This unusually complex, intergenerational, local legend—the ever-changing, always-morphing tale of a terrifying white-haired, white-robed wraith with glowing red eyes—has haunted the folkloric landscape of Topeka for seventy-five years or more. This shape-shifting figure has stepped out of stories and frightened multiple generations of Topekans, including my young self. And today, sometimes in the guise of one of her most recent iterations—the zombie cannibal known as the Blue Albino Woman—she is still scaring the bejeebers out of avid storytellers and their rapt listeners or readers. And that’s why I love her!”

Heitz continues, “The last paragraph of my story of the Albino Woman is still true more than twenty years later: ‘The Albino Woman legend is quite a bit like the infamous Lady herself: flying through the generations; constantly being re-created out of each individual teller and listener’s fears, sense of evil, and sense of mischief; and wandering the cultural landscape of Topeka as well as the physical landscape of cemetery, creek, woods, roads, and river that she calls home.’”

20. The Philippine War, 1899-1902 by Brian McAllister Linn

19. The Sable Arm by Dudley Cornish