Flickr/Damian Siwiaszczyk
The agribusiness giant is taking over the former home of a Wichita newspaper where reporters encountered strange sounds, sudden drops in temperature, and a mysterious man in a trench coat.

Going Rogue

Who you gonna call? The imaginary headline reads like a twenty-first century Mad Lib: Chicken giant takes over local newspaper building in Wichita, Kansas. Paranormal activity remains unconfirmed.

But the story behind it is actually true: The Wichita Eagle is moving out of its longtime home, which housed a printing press and newspaper assembly machinery, into a “sleek, modern, high-tech office building,” according to Eagle reporter Dan Voorhis. And if the story was made into a scary movie, it could start with a montage of the “journalism is shrinking” and “corporations are growing” narratives we’ve seen over and over again for the past fifteen years, plus. That’s because the Eagle building’s buyer was Cargill, the giant agribusiness that collected $107 billion in revenue in 2016.

The Eagle, which employed 735 people in 1980, shrunk to 450 by 2000; now, about a hundred staff members are moving out of the old building and into the new. Voorhis writes that the paper’s readership is higher than ever. It’s the revenue side of the equation that’s the problem.

Eagle journalists have noticed strange sounds, weird smells, and the occasional appearance of a phantom man in a trench coat for years.

But as local publications continue to struggle to make ends meet, business is booming for Big Food. As the paper was looking to downsize, Cargill was on the market for more office space. The old Eagle offices will be expanded into the new, $60-million headquarters for the the company’s North American Protein division. And to construct its headquarters, Cargill will have to tear down the existing building.

But here’s where the story gets all weird and paranormal (like, really): WattAgNet reports that, for years, Eagle journalists noticed strange sounds, weird smells, and the occasional encounter with a phantom man in a trench coat and fedora, headed for the newsroom. Beccy Tanner writes that before they left the building for good, Eagle staff invited real-life ghostbusters, KS White Noise Paranormal, to check out the building.

A preliminary visit from the investigators had shown promising results on a K-2 meter, a device that is supposed to detect spooky energy. There was a little crackle of feedback right in the southeast corner of the library, where a former assistant managing editor who matched the man in the trench coat’s description would’ve worked. An instrument called the Ovilus III, which has a Dictionary Mode ghosts are supposed to manipulate, spat out three words: “reporter,” and, later, “go home.”

But the spirits were otherwise mostly silent on the day the team conducted its full investigation.

Eagle staff are still waiting for Paranormal’s full report, even as 825 Douglas Street officially changes hands. Roy Graber at WattAgNet likes the theory that any phantoms will follow the Eagle to its new offices, leaving Cargill to “without disturbance continue to provide animal protein to consumers around the world.” But we here at New Food Economy kinda hope they stick around. The country’s largest privately held corporation might just benefit from a little spectral supervision.

H. Claire Brown

Claire Brown joins The New Food Economy after working on the editorial team at Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn. She won the New York Press Club's Nellie Bly Cub Reporter award in 2017. Follow her at @hclaire_brown.