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Ghosts Are Everywhere In Oklahoma

Clouds crawl across a full moon as thrill seekers file into an old building. Upstairs, they form a circle by the light of lanterns. A group leader raps on the wall and asks the spirits to knock back. "Negative on the knock test," the paranormal researcher says.

Although this ghost tour turned up no "ectoplasmic mist" or other essence of the departed in the officers' quarters at Fort Reno, ghosts, spirits or whatever they might be can be found across Oklahoma, many people say. The elusive souls wander homes, buildings, several "crybaby" bridges where babies or mothers who lost babies are said to be heard, and other spots. Those include a 1928 school building in Moore that has been converted to a business center. "There are all kinds of things happening since we've been here," said a woman who runs a clothing boutique there.

Some tales involve reports of voices or other noises, lights or doors that move on their own, and other strange things. A woman who works at a mental health clinic in Henryetta said the first few times she saw the doctor "plainly walking by the door" where she works, she was shocked. There is no doctor in the building, which once was a hospital, she said. For a location for a spirit or tale, about any place with a past will do. "You've got a lot of old places that certainly collect a lot of stories," said David Farris of Edmond, author of "Mysterious Oklahoma."

Farris doesn't say ghosts exist. He's just fascinated with "genuine mysteries," and Oklahoma has lots of them, he said. For instance, the state has an extensive "UFO history," a growing "Bigfoot" following and even a tradition of big cat sightings, such as black panthers, he said. And, of course, enough ghost tales to keep several ghost-hunting groups busy.

Jessica Wells guides ghost tours at Fort Reno, a place she says is haunted by, among others, the spirit of a Union soldier, a young girl and Major Konat, a veterinarian who shot himself in 1940 after his wife left him. Ghosts are everywhere in Oklahoma. A spirit of a murdered woman haunts a bridge near Weatherford. The ghost of an 8-year-old girl wanders the halls of the Stone Lion Inn in Guthrie. Cowboy crooners still can be heard on the wind at the 101 Ranch near Ponca City. Or so they say.

Whether you believe is your choice

The stories in "" illustrate Oklahoma's distinct times of prosperity, periods of decline and some of its darker days. Many of those dark times led to the stories and legends of the supernatural that Mike Ricksecker writes about in his book. Whether you believe is your choice.

Guthrie has its own Boot Hill. Guthrie's Boot Hill cemetery is near what was called the Black Jail. Like its name, it's a place where dark shadows of its former occupants of notorious gangs and outlaws can supposedly be seen by some, still lurking its corridors.

Guthrie also has some bawdy locales such as the Blue Belle Saloon, which once included a bordello. The building has changed names and owners many times, and rumor has it that's because of all the supernatural activity there including apparitions, objects moving on their own and disembodied voices.

Santa Fe Depot and the Harvey House also are fascinating haunts in Guthrie. One of the haunted locations is the Logan County Memorial Hospital. Legend has it you can see the apparition of someone walking around on the third floor.

The Stone Lion Inn allegedly has an unusual amount of supernatural activity, captured not only by Ricksecker's team, Society of the Haunted, but also by a team from the TV show "Ghost Hunters." It's been called the most haunted place in Oklahoma. Listen for the ghost of the little girl who still walks the halls and asks people to play with her.

In Oklahoma City at the Overholser Mansion, it's said Anna Overholser can occasionally be seen wandering the 11,000-square-foot dwelling. Perhaps she is the one who is said to open and close curtains, leave impressions in the bed and make people feel as if they are being watched.

The ghost of a young woman also reportedly haunts the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. A young woman named Effie committed suicide by leaping from the one of the windows. Whoever the Skirvin's ghostly guests may be, many of its living guests, including pro basketball players, have reported seeing apparitions, being touched by something they couldn't see and hearing a crying baby.

Elsewhere in the state there are stories about people feeling someone or something touching them at the 101 Ranch; a ghostly gunshot; a female apparition at the Constantine Theater in Pawhuska; mysterious equipment failures at the Brady Theater in Tulsa; objects moving at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa; and voices asking "Who are you?" at the Belvidere Mansion in Claremore.

People reportedly have seen an apparition of "Aunt Jane" and lights dancing around Fort Washita near Durant.

Some say you might catch a glimpse of the shadow of a long-lost lover at the Ritz Theater in Shawnee, see mannequins move on their own in the dressing room in the Eskridge Hotel in Wynnewood and hear the ghost of a young boy say he's thirsty at a shop in Shawnee.

There are stories of a ghost hanging from a noose at Fort Sill and the apparition of a bruised little boy who appears to some at the Riverside Indian School in Anadarko.

The legend of the former Missionary Baptist Church in Eldorado will remind you of the "The Amityville Horror." In this church, which was later used as a family home, there were reports of pets barking at something unseen in the kitchen, people attacked by flies that appeared and then disappeared into thin air, people felt a presence that caused their hair to fall out and others heard menacing growls throughout the house and voices saying "Get Out!"

Spook lights still dance the hills of Miami. A damp, foggy night is the best time to catch the lights, which have been seen on a country road near the Missouri-Oklahoma state line since the 1950s, said a woman who works at the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department. You can drive toward a light until you think you're going to run into it, she said, "then you look back and it's behind you." The light might split in two, sometimes one on top of the other, sometimes spreading wide apart, said the woman, who would not give her name. No one has figured out what the lights are, she said. Just another Oklahoma mystery.

Like Maxine McWethy's home in Centrahoma. For 15 years, the house has been pelted, inside and out, McWethy says. "That's Michael," McWethy said. "He still throws rocks and everything else." The McWethy case, what Farris called "the most thoroughly witnessed, researched and documented haunting in Oklahoma history," was the subject of a network TV show a decade ago. The tale still draws people to the tiny Coal County hamlet. "Most of the time it's pranksters and sightseers during Halloween season," Sheriff Roy Deck said.

Strange stories often come with strange legends. Many attribute hauntings to dead soldiers, jilted lovers, crime victims or other events or characters from history or legend. A Henryetta woman figures ghosts that have accosted her at home are there because the land "used to be an old Indian graveyard."

Bryan Farha has watched all this for years, or at least he has watched those watching this. As a psychologist and coordinator of applied behavioral graduate studies at Oklahoma City University, Farha is more interested in the people than the spirits they're chasing. "I'm looking at how people fool themselves and allow themselves to be fooled," he said. "When it comes to the paranormal, we seem to abandon our critical thinking." Sometimes collaborating with James Randi, a magician who specializes in the supernatural buzz-kill, Farha has challenged soothsayers, psychics and ghost hunters.

Experts in the past had predicted technological and scientific advances would eliminate paranormal beliefs. But today, those beliefs seem stronger than ever, Farha said, as shown by popularity of "Medium" and other TV programs and talk shows. A survey conducted by Farha and Gary Steward, a sociologist at the University of Central Oklahoma, found 40 percent of college students believe in hauntings. And as education level increases, so does belief in ghosts. "We were very shocked to find that," Farha said.

Experts wonder why. Maybe people see spirits and such as evidence of an afterlife, a "very comforting thought," Farha said. Or just the source of a scary thrill. Perhaps belief in ghosts helps answer existential questions of life, Steward said. Then maybe it's just entertainment. "It spices things up," he said. "It makes human existence interesting."

The legend of Effie, her crying baby and the woman's nude apparition have been associated with the Skirvin Hotel for decades now. According to legend, William Balser Skirvin, the owner of the original Skirvin Hotel, had a mistress, named Effie, who became pregnant with his illegitimate child some time in the early 1930s during Prohibition. To avoid public detection, Skirvin kept Effie, who had worked as a maid in the hotel, on the top floor of the building as her pregnancy advanced. After the birth of the child, Skirvin continued to imprison Effie and the infant on the top floor, never allowing them to leave. According to local lore, Effie became so stir crazy that she leapt -€" with the baby in her arms -€" from the hotel's highest point, killing them both.

Legend has it that Effie's baby could be heard crying throughout the hotel, so much so that many guests complained about losing sleep due to the constant sobbing. Some male guests also reported hearing a woman's voice propositioning them, as Effie was known for her loose morals and promiscuity. Other men reported seeing the image of a naked woman while in their rooms.

There are several haunted places in Oklahoma, the Overholser Mansion being one of the most popular ones. This was the home that was created for the man by the name of Henry Overholser in the year of 1903. Many have referred to Henry as the actual "father" of the state. Unfortunately, Mr. Overholser passed away in the year of 1915. Today, the "Oklahoma Historical Society" has taken this mansion into ownership. While this home is considered to be a large part of the early history of Oklahoma, it is also considered to be a hot spot when it comes to haunted places in Oklahoma.

There are many reports of strange, unexplained phenomenon and paranormal activity in this haunted mansion. These reports have been documented several times in the past one hundred years, and tend to occur in specific areas throughout the structure, as well as on the grounds of the structure. Many individuals who have been subjected to the activity that has no known physical cause have accounted to feeling as if they are going to be sick. These individuals have felt extreme bouts of nausea, and some have found themselves actually vomiting. There are others who simply feel extremely frightened and anxious.

Many different individuals have experienced a visual apparition in the mansion. This apparition appears to be a young lady who always seems to leave the area of the music room and walk across the hall. Many paranormal investigators claim that this is actually a residual type haunting, or a recording of energy from when this young lady lived in the mansion. There are several individuals who have been subjected to noises that have no logical explanation. Upon investigating the noises, many find that pieces of furniture and other structures inside the mansion have been moved, such as the small bathtub in the nursery area.

Mick Ross. Ghosts and Legends of Oklahoma. The Oklahoman. October 27, 2011.
David Zizzo. Believers seek ghostly truth. The Oklahoman. Sunday, October 30, 2005.

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