Blue Light Lady: Revealing the Mystery in Hays, Kansas

Illustration of the Blue Light Lady from 1850s Hays, Kansas with a blue lantern

By Larry Billinger

During my college days at Fort Hays State University, my friends and I often swapped stories about the “Blue Light Lady.” Rumors circulated of a mysterious woman with a blue lantern wandering the campus. Moreover, some students claimed the campus police had seen her after sunset. So, eager to unravel this mystery, we decided to find the grave of this elusive figure, who many believed to be Elizabeth Polly.

Our Night of Exploration

On a moonless night, we set our course for the hills south of Hays. In separate cars, with each mile we traveled, anticipation bubbled within us. Drawing closer, it felt like we were about to unlock an age-old mystery. Reaching our spot, we parked and trusted our feet to guide us forward. The pitch-black surroundings challenged our sight, but we leaned into our other senses to move ahead. The possibility of facing an irate farmer with a weapon weighed on our minds. Unexpected sounds rustled nearby. Could it be danger? No, just a herd of cattle going about their night. As we continued, an unexpected sight emerged—a grave. Was this Elizabeth Polly’s final resting place? With a sense of achievement, we knew it was time to return.

The Tale of Elizabeth Polly

Elizabeth Polly, originally named Elizabeth Decker, was born in the mid-1800s. She married a man named Ephraim Polly, who was transferred to Fort Hays to be the steward for the hospital. The couple had one child together. As the hospital steward’s wife, Elizabeth volunteered her time at the hospital, providing care and comfort to patients suffering from a devastating cholera outbreak.

Tragically, Elizabeth herself fell victim to the deadly disease. On her deathbed, she made a poignant request—to be buried at Sentinel Hill, her favorite place for quiet evening walks. However, her wish presented a challenge as the hill was mostly bedrock, making it impossible to dig a proper grave.

In 1867, Elizabeth Polly passed away, and her burial took place at the base of the bluffs, a compromise due to the bedrock. Her final resting place was a poignant reminder of her selfless dedication to caring for the cholera-stricken soldiers. She was laid to rest in her blue dress and white bonnet, the uniform she wore while providing solace to those in their final hours.

Separating Fact from Fiction

Most Fort Hays students have at least heard of the Blue Light Lady legend. However, the true origins of her spooky story remain clouded in mystery. Some theorize her spirit roams because her last wish went unfulfilled, while others, like me, just enjoy the allure of the tale.

The Legend Lives On

The story of the Blue Light Lady has captured the imaginations of many. Some speculate she wanders in search of the soldiers she once comforted. Others believe she yearns for her chosen resting place atop Sentinel Hill. Regardless of the truth, her legacy continues to inspire and intrigue. Therefore, if you find yourself in Hays, keep a lookout. You might just catch a glimpse of her in the moonlight.

Image credentials: Generated with AI ∙ October 11, 2023 at 12:08 AM woman nurse from 185027s carrying a blue lantern wi – Image Creator from Microsoft Bing

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