By Kjersti McDonald
Galena, Kansas is a tiny old mining town in the southeast corner of Kansas. Once a hopping hub for miners looking to make a living unearthing the zinc (also called “galena”), its heyday boasted a population of 20,000 and a “Red Light District” with saloons and bordellos which many miners frequented. It was the perfect time and place for insidious crimes, and the Staffleback family took advantage of it.
Around 1894, the Staffleback family moved onto some land near old mine shafts in Galena. Nancy Staffleback, also known as Galena’s “Murder Mistress,” is rumored to have run a bordello with her children: Ed, Mike, Emma, Louisa, George and George’s wife, Cora. The family apparently had a reputation of criminal activity, with many of them serving time in prison for a variety of crimes.
The first known murders committed by any of the Stafflebacks in Galena were those of two girls, one being Ed’s girlfriend. After a heated argument, Mike beat one of the girls to death, and to keep her from outing them, Ed then did the same to his girlfriend. The brothers wrapped the girls in sheets and tossed them into one of the nearby shafts.
Possibly the most famous of these crimes relates to the family-run bordello. It’s said that Nancy and her family made a habit of murdering miners who frequented their bordello, subsequently stealing their money, and dumping the bodies into their mine shaft graveyards.
In 1987, the crime that finally alerted the town to the family’s murder spree was the death of miner Frank Galbraith. He was invited back to the bordello by Emma, who supposedly refused his advances. Old Nancy then got into an argument with him as she tried to get him to leave, and grabbed her corn knife to drive him off of their property. Charles Wilson, who had joined the Staffleback gang and apparently passed as Nancy’s husband, grabbed his gun, as did Ed, and they proceeded to shoot at Frank. Frank was hit once, continued to run, then was hit again. Ed and Charles then took Nancy’s knife, slit Frank’s throat, and tossed him into a mine shaft.
To their demise, Frank’s body was discovered floating in water in one of the mine shafts a month later and an investigation begun. Ed, George and Nancy were arrested, but Charles Wilson left town and evaded authorities. With the fear that they lived under now eased, Cora Staffleback and Rosa Bayne, who lived with the Stafflebacks, disclosed the many murderous crimes committed by the Stafflebacks. The family and their accomplices reportedly killed anywhere from 30 to 50 victims. Nancy Staffleback died in prison in Kansas in 1909.
An old home on north Main St. in Galena was long rumored to be the remains of the Staffelback bordello, being perfectly located near old mine shafts in the town. There are some arguments about whether or not this is true, and whether the rumors of its being haunted are legitimate. Nevertheless, the home was once restored as Galena’s Murder Bordello off old Route 66, where visitors could participate in ghost tours and learn the history and legends of the old town. It has since been closed.