Area Rich in Tales of Things That Go Bump in the Night
Do you believe in ghosts and spirits and other things that go bump in the night?
Even the most diehard skeptics nevertheless enjoy a scary story from time to time, especially this time of year, as Halloween approaches and dry leaves propelled by chilly autumn winds make thin scraping sounds like skeletal fingers scampering across the ground seeking reunion with their missing host.
For those brave of heart, one need not travel far to discover great local ghost stories, and possibly witness a haunting!
Shortly after accepting a position as an adjunct professor at OU, science fiction/fantasy writer Jeff Provine learned that the OU Norman campus was rich in ghost stories. After numerous interviews and conducting extensive research, in October 2009 he began leading regular walking ghost tours across campus focusing on the “mysterious and macabre” goings-on at the university.
During the tours, which last about 75 minutes, participants are given the scoop on the “strange sounds, secret societies and specters … all just a part of the darker side of OU.”
In addition to the well-known Ellison Hall story involving a mysterious roller-skating ghost boy, tour-goers learn about the old Tri-Delta House, where an exorcism was performed in 1973; Holmberg Hall, home of the organ-playing ghost Professor Mildred Andrews Boggess, “eternally displeased with renovations”; Cate Center, where a beheaded ghost is said to haunt the basement; and Huston Huffman Physical Fitness Center, where a basketball-loving ghost is said to make his home court, among many others.
The tours are open to the public; visit ou.edu/ content/visit/tours.html for more information and to register. A volunteer contribution is requested, with proceeds benefiting Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma.
A friend and former colleague of mine who is now a librarian at the OU Health Sciences Center is especially fascinated with the alleged hauntings in Bizzell Memorial Library’s “stacks,” across from the Great Reading Room on the second floor. As the story goes, as someone is walking across one of the square pieces of glass while looking for a book, he falls through, breaks his neck and dies. The ghost of this man supposedly still roams the second floor. To add to the haunting effect, it’s said that people on the first floor looking up can at times see footprints move across above them; however, no shadow of a human figure accompanies the footprints.
Downtown Norman also has its share of spine-tingling stories of the supernatural. Provine also has conducted extensive research on these spectral encounters and offers walking tours of these environs as well. Among those stories: a barber still working the shop despite his grisly death 85 years ago; Al Capone’s lieutenant, who is buried near his hideout just east of town; and the monsters of Lake Thunderbird. For more information and to register for these tours, visit jeffprovine.com.
Ghostly sightings also have been reported in the vicinity of what is now Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler Express. The land on the southwest corner of Main Street and Berry Road once served as Norman’s first graveyard. Although most of the graves were relocated to IOOF cemetery when it opened in 1891, several markers were seen there as late as the 1920s, indicating not all had been moved. A plaque noting the cemetery’s location is located in the back of the restaurant’s parking lot.
Of course, no story on famous hauntings in Cleveland County would be complete without mentioning Kendall’s Restaurant in Noble. Staff and diners to the restaurant have reported sighting at least four ghosts in the more than 100-year-old former grocery store. A girl in an old-fashioned dress, a woman in black known as “Margaret,” and two men known as Theodore and Henry are mainly considered for various accounts of poltergeist activity. In addition, alarms sometimes go off for no apparent reason in the middle of the night, and wait staff and others commonly report doors inexplicably flying open, server trays being mysteriously upturned and other mysterious happenings.
As Hamlet once pointed out, there are more things in heaven and earth than are generally dreamt of. October is a great month to open up our minds, and our imaginations, and to delve into the numerous and colorful stories of the supernatural that permeate our community.