Speakin’ of Ghosts

It’s late and just as you’re drifting off to sleep, you hear something.  What was it?  There’s no one else at home.  The cat’s asleep at the end of the bed.  “It must have been the wind,” you tell yourself.  It always makes you feel better to believe it’s just the wind.  Until you feel that cool breeze float across your bed and realize there is no wind…

People have been telling ghost stories since the beginning of time – the Greeks and Romans had ghost stories, and even the Bible mentions one in the story of Samuel and the Witch of Endor.  The oldest documented ghost story in Oklahoma dates back before statehood in 1896.  What’s more, it was printed in the Guthrie Daily Leader, a newspaper!  The story began on April 9, 1896 with an article about a prostitute receiving a hasty pauper’s burial.  A week later another article appeared declaring a haunting:

“The shack on the Santa Fe right of way in which the Cyprian Lula Myers recently died is haunted.  Horrible groans issue from the shack every night and passerby assert that weird and ghastly incantations take place within the building which was vacated shortly after the unfortunate girl’s death.  Last night a well-known sport called at the house and tried the front door.  It failed to give way.  He tried the back door with the same result, and returning to the front door it suddenly flew open and a blood-red hand holding a vial appeared in the room.  Much excitement prevails among the neighbors residing in the vicinity of the haunted house.”

News stories of this nature continue over the next several days until finally, the body is exhumed to make sure it was not face down or had been buried alive according to some of the rumors that began to float around the community.  There was no more mention of ghosts by the Santa Fe right of way after that April.

Nowadays, newspapers would not declare hauntings as truthful news.  With the progression of technology and science people have become more skeptical of such things.  Non-believers will maintain that the existence of ghosts cannot be proven; believers maintain the non-existence of ghosts has not been proven, either.  However, there are some things that are simply unexplainable, even by science.

So whether you are a believer in things that go bump in the night or not, you have to admit a good old ghost story is always fun.  Some are made up as cautionary tales, some are just for fun, and some are eye witness accounts.  I have been fascinated with ghost stories and tales of the supernatural since I was a small child, but as an adult, my interest turned to the history behind these stories.  It made sense to me that a place might only be haunted if there were sufficient history related to the location to make it so.  If there is a location with reported ghostly activity and no reason for it, then it becomes more an urban legend than a haunting, but if you have several unrelated people telling the same stories over a number of years, well, there might be something to it.

In the early 1970’s my mother and I lived in a house on Cherokee Street in Enid, Oklahoma with our St. Bernard, Buffy.

My mother said strange things would happen at this house on a regular basis such as the cupboard doors and drawers would open and close and the lights would go on and off randomly.  Things would be moved.  She had a ceramic Trojan horse that sat on top of the TV but sometimes she would come home to find it sitting on the mantle across the room from the TV.  The recliner would sometimes be turned facing the corner.

She remembered when she moved in that the windows were all covered in tinfoil and there had been some old bits and pieces of photography equipment laying around.  She always had a creepy feeling that some bad things may have happened there.

One night she was asleep on her bed and she was awakened to find herself half way off of the bed as if she had been dragged.  All the lights were on, the shades were up, the cupboard doors and drawers were all hanging open and Buffy was trembling and whimpering underneath the dining room table.  My mother was terrified and had a very bad feeling as if something evil was lurking there.  She took me out of my crib and immediately left the house.  She proceeded to move us out the next day.

About 20 years later she was working at a local agency when a man came in and sat down at her desk.  She was taking his information and helping him fill out his papers and she noticed that his address was that same house on Cherokee Street.

“I used to live in that house,” she told the man at her desk.

“Really?”  He hesitated.  “Did you ever have anything… weird… happen there?”

They exchanged stories about the house and she found that he had been having the same strange things going on there 20 years later.

I thought this was a great example of a haunted house since two completely unrelated people had things happen there, so I frequently relayed it to friends during ghost story sessions.  One evening I was telling the story to my friend that worked at a local pharmacy and when I mentioned the address, he became white as a ghost himself and started pacing around the room, muttering frantically.  I asked him what was wrong with him.

He said to me, “We used to deliver medicine to a lady that lived there and we always thought she was crazy because she was always going on about how the devil lived in her house!”

Three people, completely unrelated, several years apart – same stories.  No one knows the reason behind the activity there, but it is indisputable that it’s there.

The oldest bar in town, open since 1948, is the Frisco Bar.  It was originally down the street from its current location but that building is no longer there.  The current building was a machine shop downstairs with a brothel upstairs.  The Frisco is famous for its ice cold beer, but there are chilly spirits of another kind there, too.

A massive collection of beer bottles and cans lines the upper walls of the bar.  One evening, the owner was standing behind the bar visiting with one of the customers when one beer can came flying several feet away from the shelf and nearly hit the customer at the bar.  Now, keep in mind that these cans and bottles are nestled quite closely together on these shelves in tiers, but not one of them was disturbed by this one that seemingly propelled itself off the shelf.  A picture has also fallen off the wall and to the floor, and again, not one can or bottle was disturbed.  The owner and other employees have witnessed the water faucet at the sink behind the bar coming on by itself as well.

They say the Frisco ghost is to blame for the flying objects and random water running.  In the early morning hours one day the owner and another man were in the bar.  The owner had just returned from picking up the newspaper from the front sidewalk when his friend asked, “Didn’t you lock that back door?”  The owner assured him he had.

The man told him he had heard it open and said, “Someone just walked up that ramp to the men’s room.”

The pwner wasn’t too worried about it.  “That just the ghost,” he told him.  He reported that people often hear the back door open and when they look to see who’s coming, they witness a black figure walking up the ramp toward the men’s room.  The owner and some of the others are used to the ghost by now while some won’t readily admit to it, but will certainly clean up as quickly as they can when they’re there alone.

Another historic building in Enid is the Surety Abstract Building.  Most of my generation remember it as Lambert’s, a high end dress shop, but before it was Lambert’s, it was a department store called Herzberg’s.

The owner of Surety Abstract jokingly made a comment to a long time Enid attorney that they thought the building might be haunted.  They had witnessed several strange occurrences and were unable to explain them any other way.  The attorney thought for a moment and stated he didn’t really know why it would be haunted.  They finished their business and he returned to his office only to return a short time later with an old newspaper article and declared, “You know, it just might be haunted.”

The 1956 newspaper article relayed the story of a woman that worked in the Herzberg Department Store.  Her estranged ex-husband came into the store one afternoon as she worked demanding she give him $70 for a dentist visit.  She refused and he gunned her down and turned the gun on himself, right there in the store.  The owner had not been aware of this story until she saw the article.

The employees at Surety have seen stacks of things knocked off the counter, heard noises, seen people walk by and when they look, there’s no one there.

I interviewed the children of the previous owner of the building.  They state as children they found every possible nook and cranny of the old building to play hide and seek in and never had any ghostly encounters, but got spooked by the mannequins more than once!

One of the sons is of the opinion it could be the jolly spirit of their dad who is by far the most interesting character to have ever possessed the building.

“This is the large building to the south that Lambert’s occupied in its last years of existence where Dad held an auction one week prior to his passing to ‘get all his affairs in order.’  This was not the building with the mannequins.  The air conditioner and the elevator always had a squeak, which could explain the noises heard from the first floor.  The ‘haunting’ that could be going on could be all the elder ladies hitting on the handsome gentleman in the better place that they all now share.”

Oddly enough, another obscure piece of Enid’s bizarre history rests right outside the Surety Abstract Building.  In the one hundred years of Enid’s history, only three police officers have ever died in the line of duty.  The first took place June 26, 1895 when Enid City Marshal, E.C. Williams, was shot while attempting to break up a fight between the owner of the newspaper and the local Land Office man.  Nearly eleven years later, Marshal Thomas Radford was murdered by a man that was angry with him for closing his rooming house.  The third officer to lose his life was Officer Cal Palmer in 1936 while attempting to arrest a would-be robber.  It’s not all that unusual for police officers to be killed in the line of duty and luckily Enid has only lost three, but the twist to this story is that they all three died on the same corner several years apart – the corner of Grand and Broadway. The corner has since become a bit of a superstition amongst the Enid Police Department and it might be wise for you, too, to take a little extra care traveling that route.

This is just a glimpse into my hometown’s haunted history.  Whether you’re interested in ghost stories or not, most town’s have a lot of interesting history and the stories make learning about it entertaining.  Take some time to learn your community’s haunted history – I bet you’ll be surprised at how many stories you find.