Ghostbusters: The Spooky Side of Central Oklahoma - 405 Magazine

Ghostbusters: The Spooky Side of Central Oklahoma

As the year begins to wane, the nights are growing longer and colder … and perhaps a trifle spookier. From an inn in Guthrie to a restaurant in Noble to secluded spots in between, there are plenty of places where you may find things that go bump in the metro.


The Investigation Took Place On A Warm, Moonlit August Night. As I Pulled Into The Parking Lot, A Sudden Wisp Of Wind Caught The Trees And Tall Grass – Then It Was Gone As Quickly As It Had Come. The Hum Of The Distant Interstate Was The Only Noise. No Crickets Or Other Sounds Of Summer Could Be Heard … Just An Eerie, Deafening Silence.

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Inside the restaurant, the remaining customers were being handed their tabs. The waitstaff scurried to clear tables and mop the floors, eager to call it a night. Down a flight of stairs was another group, busily setting up cameras and tripods and all sorts of strange-looking electronic equipment.

“Hi, I’m so glad you could come!” exclaimed the group’s leader. “We’re getting ready to start putting our cameras into position as soon as the last customers leave,” she said.

For Lindsey Miles and her “Midnight Paranormal” crew, this was just another night on the job. But the restaurant they were investigating is anything but ordinary.

Gabriella’s is one of Oklahoma City’s best-loved Italian eateries. It occupies the building known for years as the “County Line BBQ” at Northeast 63rd and Kelly. It’s also known for its spooky past and the unearthly guests who are rumored to still roam the corridors.

“We have done several investigations here,” Miles said. “Each time we have found something not-of-this-world. This is just a very active building in terms of paranormal activity.

Ron Cross agrees. He has his own team called “P.R.O.S. Investigations,” specializing in hauntings and paranormal research. On this particular night he joined Miles and her group as a mentor and spiritual advisor, so to speak.

Ron Cross

“I have been doing this since 1981,” Cross said. “I have conducted my own investigations here through the years and I can definitely tell you this place is haunted.”

Built in 1938, the restaurant has a past as checkered as the table cloths. The original occupant, the Kentucky Club, was a well-known speakeasy where the most prominent members of society could go during Prohibition days to drink and gamble. The club gained a notorious reputation due to numerous raids by local law enforcement. Rumors also abound that a bordello operated out of the club.

“One report we found is the story of a man who was shot and killed here,” Cross said. “The murder allegedly happened over by the fireplace. So during one of our own studies, we set up our recorders and began asking questions. First, we asked the man’s name.

“We captured an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) in which a male voice clearly says ‘Russell.’ We asked him to provide us more information on what had happened to him. The audio tape recorded a series of labored breaths. Then the voice says ‘Why am I swaying?’ followed by the word ‘bullets.’

“Finally we asked ‘what can we do to help?’” Cross said. “The answer was an emphatic ‘stay out!’”

On this August night as Miles and her crew were getting ready to dim the lights and get to work, Gabriella’s owner, Chef Vicki Muhs, shared some of her own stories.

“We had just been open a few days when we invited our family to join us for dinner one evening after we closed. We were sitting here in the back, and from our vantage point you can see all the way to the front door and the hostess station. I had asked my husband, Duane, to lock the door when the last customer left.

“As we sat down to eat, I saw a man in a fedora leaning against the hostess station. I mentioned it to Duane, and told him I had asked him to lock the door. He said, ‘I did.’ We both started toward the front to greet the man and let him know we were closed. As we approached, the man disappeared. He was gone, into thin air, right in front of us,” Vicki said.

But that’s not the only strange occurrence.

“As we were remodeling and turning the old County Line into Gabriella’s, we had a contractor come out to do some work in the basement. He came running upstairs in a panic, leaving his equipment behind. He said he would not go back down there, and he didn’t. He sent a crew to pick up his tools and he never returned.

“I don’t know what is in that basement, but I will not go there,” Vicki said. “I get an overwhelming feeling of sadness down there and it is one part of the restaurant where I will not go.”

The final customers and employees left, and the lights inside Gabriella’s went out just past midnight. It was time for Miles, Cross and the rest of the crew to get to work.

Earlier, the scent of simmering garlic had enveloped the restaurant as guests dined on delicious homemade pasta.

Now, a strange scent appeared.

“What is that odor? Do you smell that?” Cross asked as a strong smell of sulfur drifted across the room, then suddenly evaporated. There was no logical explanation.

A few moments later a crew member sat at a table all alone – or so she thought. She was seated near the dark kitchen, intently watching the video monitors when she heard someone – or something – whisper in her ear. 

“Get out!” the voice demanded.

And so it went all through the witching hours: a ghostly orb floating across the room and disappearing down a black corridor; the slight touch of an icy hand on the shoulder. A number of ghostly occurrences showed the restaurant is just as active at night as it is during the day. The only difference is these guests cannot be seen. 

“I know some people will be skeptical, and that’s okay,” Miles said. “I used to be one of those skeptics until I saw it first-hand. There are some things in this world that simply cannot be explained.”

When the first rays of morning sun began to filter through the windows, Miles and her crew called it a night. 

And for the restless spirits who seem to be embedded within those walls, the place was theirs once again, at least for a while.

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Haunted Cleveland County

Norman Often Seems To Be An Unassuming Town … A Commuter Suburb; A College Town Bustling With students And Alumni; A Great Place To Stop Off For A Bite To Eat When Traveling I-35. Like Most Unassuming Towns, It Holds Deep Shadows Of Secret Histories Just Beneath The Surface. Downtown And The University Campus Date Back To Soon After The Land Run Of 1889, And Norman Continues To Grow Faster And Faster Thanks To Transportation And Civil Projects Like Griffin Memorial Hospital, The Max Westheimer Airport (once Oklahoma’s Navy base, 400 miles inland) And Man-Made Lake Thunderbird. Along With New Residents, Old Ones Love The Town So Much They Stick Around – Not Even Letting The Grave Keep Them Away.

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Completed in 1965, a mile-and-a-half-long dam stopped up the Little River to create Lake Thunderbird, one of Oklahoma’s many artificial lakes. It soon became a popular place for swimming, fishing and boating, but a terrible rash of drownings in the 1980s prompted visitors to suspect there was something sinister about the lake. Rumors began to spread that an ancient Indian burial ground had been covered up, although there has never been archeological evidence showing Native American settlement in the Norman area. Others suggested it was the ghosts of Dave and Jim Blue, defending their stash of gold said to be hidden under a rock outcropping on what was once Little River. They supposedly died in a shootout with a posse that raided their hilltop outpost south of town, and a skull with a large caliber bullet hole found in the lake in 2006 may very well have been one of theirs.

When another series of drownings happened in the early 2000s, a new culprit was blamed: the Oklahoma Red Octopus. Scientists doubt that such a creature could exist since octopi are salt-water creatures and rarely grow to monstrous size, but several eyewitnesses have stepped up to claim seeing leathery red-brown tentacles sticking off a body the size of a horse, hiding deep in the water near the dam. State park rangers say it is most likely some red algae while cryptozoologists hunt for more data.

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Every campus tour stops in the famous Cherokee Gothic library, which was named a National Historical Landmark in 2001 due to the University of Oklahoma’s participation in desegregating higher education. Hand-carved wooden stairs lead up to the Great Reading Room, where each rafter features an angel with a unique expression. The library has been added to and remodeled many times over the years, creating a labyrinth with hallways that turn only to end abruptly and half-doorways occasionally leading from the fifth floor to the third, depending on where in the library guests are willing to venture. The red brick and white stone façade is well known for its gargoyles, which are to keep away malevolent spirits according to myth. Others believe that they are keeping something in.

The “Library Ghost” is OU’s most famous departed resident. It is said to haunt the Decks, a secluded area with narrow staircases connecting six floors of bookshelves resting on tiles of frosted glass – supposedly designed as a cost-saving measure to allow natural light from skylights above or the original gas lamps to filter through the floors. According to campus legend, a glass tile broke as a student walked over it, causing him to fall through and break his neck, leaving his restless spirit to roam the shelves for all eternity. The story varies wildly depending on who is telling it: sometimes the ghost is male, sometimes female, with the deadly fall happening in the 1940s, ’50s or ’60s. While no concrete records name a student who perished that way, a number of students have claimed eerie experiences. People routinely get the sensation of being watched, and some hear footsteps only to find no one there. Others claim to have seen books jump off shelves. One student even declared that the book he had searched the whole library over for suddenly fell at his feet, delivered by a surprisingly helpful spirit.

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The most haunted building on campus is routinely agreed to be Ellison Hall, the first infirmary built for the university. Originally Hygeia Hall and completed in 1928, it was soon renamed after Dr. Gayfree Ellison, the first Dean of Student Health. The infirmary served as the medical center at OU for four decades until it was converted into offices for use by student government and then Arts & Sciences, the largest college. In its heyday, Ellison Hall featured four operating theaters, doctor’s offices, a live-in cook and a large recovery ward that was used as quarantine for children during the polio epidemic.

Ellison’s favorite ghost is the Little Boy. The story goes that a little boy was roller-skating on Elm Avenue when he was struck by a car (or maybe he had an asthma attack, it depends on the storyteller). He was rushed to Ellison Hall, but did not survive. Instead, he is said to roam up and down the hall of the third floor, the sound of squeaking wheels beginning at the north end, going south and then coming back. Motion-sensor lights turn themselves on even when no mortal is around. The elevator is famous for starting itself up and going to different floors, just as if a little boy were playing with the buttons.

The boy ghost is said to have company in the old infirmary. Several groups of paranormal investigators have spent evenings in Ellison trying to gather evidence of the afterlife. Teams have collected EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) of voices asking for keys, and knocking sounds have come from rooms with no one in them. Among the ghosts are believed to be at least two nurses, a trickster spirit and several other patients. Dr. Ellison himself is said to stop in from time to time to keep an eye on his building.

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Just down Highway 77 lies the country town of Noble, famous for its rose rocks and chicken fried steak. Sitting at the corner of Main and Chestnut, which was once the road leading to the only bridge in the area across the Canadian River, Kendall’s has a growing fame for its down-home cooking as well as a host of ghostly characters that haunt the back rooms.

The main building began as Stufflebean’s Grocery, a business that would last more than sixty years. An alley separated it from a livery stable to the west, which is said to have also served as an undertaker’s office. Recent remodeling has turned the alley into a hallway and the former stable into spacious dining rooms, one including a play area where several children have claimed to see an “imaginary friend” … a little girl ghost. Other specters include the “woman in black,” believed to be a former Noble resident named Margaret who committed suicide by eating white oleander leaves. She has interacted with paranormal investigators on a number of occasions, brushing up against them and flicking flashlights on and off.

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In historic downtown Norman, a barbershop claims to be among the oldest businesses in central Oklahoma still running to this day. Midway Barber Shop dates back to 1893, when brothers Rufus Sherman Davis and Otho Eugene Davis moved off their family’s farm northeast of Norman to the quickly growing frontier town. The brothers were savvy businessmen who inundated the Norman Transcript with advertisements as “The place to go for a neat hair cut or quick shave.” They came across a stroke of luck (and misfortune for a quarter of Norman’s downtown) when a whole block of the south side of Main Street burned in 1902, including the competing Wheeler’s Barber Shop. Rufus went on to be elected and reelected county treasurer, but Otho fell on hard times as his business ventures went sour.

Although praised in his wedding announcement as one of the county’s most ambitious young men, he came into the company of secret societies and, according to whispered legend, strange religion. His bad luck resulted in his family, including five children, moving into the small apartment above the barbershop, where he worked long hours trying to make ends meet. One morning Otho’s wife came down to the shop and told him that she was pregnant again. Otho, who was with a customer, barely replied. He wrapped up the customer in a hot towel for a shave and then excused himself to the restroom. They found him there later, his throat slit with his own straight razor.

To this day, strange things happen in the barbershop. Small items like clips disappear for weeks at a time only to reappear in spots where people had been looking for them time and again. Cabinet doors open themselves, and items tumble from shelves. Sometimes folks drive by in the early hours of the morning to find the lights on and, some claim, a phantom barber still at work.

Even as a young state, Oklahoma is filled with spooky legends and ghostly lore. Oklahomans are practical folk who rarely volunteer a story out of the blue. Once people begin swapping tales, though, it’s uncanny to hear how many of us share paranormal experiences.

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A Territorial Haunting

A Few Miles North Of Oklahoma City Sits The Quaint Little Village Of Guthrie. It’s Noted For Being Oklahoma’s First Capital And For The Charming Victorian Homes And Businesses That Dot The Landscape. Visitors Can Still Drive Over Streets Made Of Brick And See What Life Was Like At The Turn Of The 20th Century. 

Guthrie is also reported to be one of Oklahoma’s most haunted cities. Supernatural activity seems to ooze out of every old building in this Logan County community.

As the shadows of autumn grow darker and Halloween approaches, take a short drive to Guthrie and visit some of its well-known haunts – if you dare.

This elegant Victorian mansion was built by entrepreneur Fred Houghton in 1907. Located at 1016 West Warner, the home has been painstakingly restored to its original grandeur. Current owner Rebecca Luker bought the property in 1986 and moved into it with her sons, Grant and Ral. Today it is a charming bed and breakfast.

“The Houghtons had a large family,” Luker said. “Their daughter Irene was still a child when she developed whooping cough and died in the home. Several years later, in the 1930s, the Houghtons moved out and leased the mansion to Smith Funeral Home. It is our understanding the Smith family lived on the second floor and did the embalming on the first floor in the kitchen. In fact, when we bought the house there was a large porcelain table which I thought was used for baking. As it turns out, it was an embalming table.”

The Stone Lion Inn has received national attention and was featured on the TV show “Ghost Hunters.” Luker’s sons have also seen first-hand some of the other-worldly visitors.

“The Houghtons used the third floor as a playroom for their children,” Luker explains. “They kept their toys in one of the closets there. Shortly after moving into the house, my youngest son, Ral, put his toys in the same closet the Houghton children had used.

“Ral came down for breakfast one morning and announced ‘I am not going back upstairs until she is gone. I asked him who he was talking about; he said, ‘the little girl in my toy closet.’ It was then I began to think the house had issues.”

Through the years, guests at the Inn have reported seeing a little girl playing in the back hallway. Personal items have been moved inside the rooms, and a woman wearing a white dress has been spotted floating up the stairs.

“One of our employees, Michelle, says she has seen the ghost of Mr. Houghton in the basement and she can smell the odor of his cigar. One funeral director visited us and speculates the Inn is haunted because it was once a funeral home, and that is the place where the deceased finally realizes he or she is actually dead.”

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This infamous former den of iniquity is located at 224 West Harrison in the heart of downtown Guthrie. Built in 1901, the downstairs saloon catered to thirsty customers, while the upstairs was home to Miss Lizzie’s Bordello and catered to customers in search of a different kind of service.

“The [paranormal] activity at the Blue Belle is tremendous,” said Cross. “There have been rumors of apparitions of men and bordello girls, thought to be Miss Lizzie and two of her girls.

“One of her ‘employees’ was allegedly beaten to death and buried inside the saloon. People have experienced cold spots, and seen ghostly figures around the bar and restrooms.

“Our team investigated a few years ago. We placed our voice recorders, motion sensors and digital cameras in the downstairs bar area. A low voice could be heard whispering ‘I’m here.’

“Throughout the investigation we heard an angry male voice follow us saying ‘Don’t take that picture!’ And at the end of the night, a female voice comes through and in a very sweet tone says ‘I’d like to kiss you,’” Cross said.

Today the Blue Belle is back in business, and the current owners will not discuss any supernatural happenings. But if the rumors and investigations are accurate, there may be more than one kind of “spirit” in the old saloon.

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Located a block off of Highway 33, the old hospital sits abandoned at the intersection of 19th Street and Warner. A strong feeling of despair and loneliness emanates from the many darkened windows, most of which have broken shards of glass due to years of neglect.

Construction began in 1925, and in 1946 the Order of the Sisters of Benedict bought the property and named it “Benedictine Heights.” A generation of Baby Boomers was born in the hospital.

It closed in the late ’70s and has sat vacant ever since. Plans to redevelop the property have not materialized.

“I have been there many times investigating,” said Ron Cross, paranormal expert with P.R.O.S Investigations. “We have seen unexplained shadows, apparitions and lights that will come on by themselves. Strange footsteps and disembodied voices permeate throughout the dark hallways.

“Once, several of us heard what sounded like something being scraped across a metal counter top. It is just a very eerie place with an overall feeling of doom and terror,” Cross said.

Longtime Guthrie resident Matt Cowden agrees.

“I still remember when the hospital was in operation,” Cowden said. “It was beautiful and historic and I could see it down the street from Cotteral School.

“But slowly the building has deteriorated. The façade is weathered, the windows shattered. It has become a dreary and gloomy site and really an unnerving place.” 

Local law enforcement set up cameras inside the building and warn trespassers to stay out. Besides being structurally unsafe, whatever else is residing inside those walls does not want company.

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Before the state adopted its new system of foster care families, many kids were placed in facilities like the Masonic Children’s Home. Beginning in the 1920s, the complex at 602 East College provided a warm bed and a residence for many kids who didn’t have a family.

The home was large, and even had an indoor swimming pool. Eventually it was abandoned and sat vacant for decades.

Local legend in Guthrie says apparitions appear and disappear. Others reported hearing unexplained footsteps and the feeling of being watched. Sounds of children screaming have also been heard.

“I remember hanging around there some when I was a kid,” says Pam Ekiss, curator of Guthrie’s Frontier Drug Store Museum. “It was very dark and eerie. We played on some dilapidated playground equipment outside. Looking back, it was very dangerous.

“Going inside was creepy. I remember seeing a huge swimming pool in the basement. It was so deep and not covered at all. The whole place was in such a state of disrepair, much like our old hospital is now.”

The property was rescued and rehabilitated in 2000, and today it is a private home.

“I went to a wedding there last summer and it was so beautiful,” Ekiss said. “There are those who believe it is haunted. I don’t know for certain about that, but back when I was young it was definitely one spooky place.”

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The two-story brick depot was built in 1903. One end of the depot was home to the Harvey House Restaurant, and the upstairs rooms above were where founder Fred Harvey and his family stayed.

“We have done several haunting investigations at the old train station,” said Lindsey Miles from Midnight Paranormal. “Rumor has it that upstairs is the ghost of Fred’s wife, Pearl. She has been seen looking longingly out of one of the windows.

“The first night we were there we snapped a picture of a woman in the window. Sometime later we were at a conference where paranormal investigators come together to share their stories and evidence. A gentleman asked to see the picture; he then asked us to hang around for a bit. He came back with an old photo album and a picture of the same young lady.

“He said her name was Pearl and she was a relative of his,” Miles said. “The man said she had lived above the old depot when she was young, and on her deathbed the woman said she always wanted to go back home. I guess she did.”

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Don’t Close Your Eyes

On the surface Guthrie is a wonderful place, full of antique shops, restaurants and cozy bed and breakfasts. But underneath hides the uneasy feeling something may just be lurking inside those old Victorian buildings. 

“The paranormal can be dangerous if not handled correctly,” said Lindsey Miles. “But not everything is dark and demonic. Treat those who have passed on to another dimension as humans, and show them respect. Be safe and smart, and know when to leave them alone.”