St. Jacob's Well – Ashland, Kansas - Atlas Obscura

St. Jacob's Well

Ashland, Kansas

Stories of sightless fish and ghostly cowboys are only a fraction of the legends surrounding this Kansas sinkhole. 


St. Jacob’s Well is a water-filled sinkhole in the Big Basin Prairie Reserve just south of Minneola, Kansas. According to legend, it has never been empty, even in the driest seasons. But that’s just one of the many tall tales about this mysterious body of water.

One local story that has been whispered through the ages is that the well is actually bottomless, or maybe even connected to an underground spring that constantly feeds it. Another tale speaks of bodies located somewhere down within its depths, doomed to float in the dark abyss.

One particularly campfire-ready story about St. Jacob’s Well is that sometime in the 1890s, a “spectral cowboy,” appeared and, according to witnesses, let out “the most blood-curdlingest sound ever made on this here earth.” Yet another strange story is that the well’s water is full of blind fish. 

As it turns out, there isn’t any truth behind the various legends. The sinkhole isn’t bottomless, nor does it connect to a secret underground stream or contain sightless fish. So what about that cowboy? Well, he hasn’t made a peep since the sight of his now-infamous haunting.

Even if the watery wonder can’t be explained by a series of spooky theories, it’s still a lovely spot to visit. You can find the well within the Little Basin part of the Big Basin Prairie Reserve, which received its signature bowl-like shape after the sediments underlying the ground’s surface dissolved and collapsed.

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