Oklahoma’s Most Haunted City: Ghost Stories From Guthrie
Guthrie, Oklahoma has always had one of the most unusual stories of any state in the nation. It was essentially born on April 22, 1889, on the day of Oklahoma’s famous land run. By nightfall, a town of less than 10 people became a bustling city of over 10,000. Early on, it was selected as one of the Federal Land Offices, and for those wanting to quickly stake a claim in the newly opened territory, being close to the land office was essential. What began as a massive tent city soon developed into a true Wild West town. As it grew more “civilized,” beautiful redbrick and sandstone buildings were erected.
The town became the Territorial Capital after 1880, then the state capital until 1913. On June 11, 1910, Oklahoma City was selected as the new state’s capital, but it took a couple years before it was officially moved. Still, it remains one of Oklahoma’s oldest cities. With that much history, hauntings are sure to occur. Today, the town of Guthrie is known for being Oklahoma’s most haunted city.
The Stone Lion Inn
Stone Lion Inn in Guthrie may be Oklahoma’s most haunted destination.
This majestic mansion was built in 1907 by wealthy businessman F.E. Houghton. Mr. Houghton had amassed a fortune by operating general mercantile stores in several small towns. The four-level home was one of the most expensive ever built in Guthrie, consisting of over eight thousand square foot and costing at around twelve thousand dollars to build. This replaced a smaller home that the family originally lived in nearby.
Not sparing any expense, the home was constructed in the Greek Revival Victorian fashion. There was a large ballroom on the third floor, along with a playroom and closet. The home could also boast of oak paneling in the dining room, a large neoclassical staircase, three grand fireplaces, and a servant’s staircase. The Houghton family had two hired servants, one male and one female. The male was a coachman, named Asbury C. Cooper. The cook was Lucinda Cooper, who also worked as the maid.
At the time it was built, he was 53 years old. By this time, he already had a large family, including his wife Beitha and twelve children.
According to old legends, one of the Houghton’s daughters died sometime around 1910 at the age of 8. The story states that the child, Augusta Houghton, was contracted the whooping cough that left her bed ridden. In the early 1900s, medicine was still to a large degree, primitive. The story relates how the child’s nurse had given her a dose of medicine, most likely containing opium or codeine, which led to an overdose and her death. It is said that Augusta still haunts the back staircase and the children’s play rooms.
At night, small footsteps of a small child can be heard moving up and down the back stairways. This is especially frequent around ten at night. Shortly afterwards, the sound of a door opening and closing can be heard. The following day, toys would be found strung out over the play room floor. Occasionally, guests of the Stone Lion Inn report strange occurrences around the same time, coming in to find their beds mussed, feeling a child’s hand on their face while sleeping, or even someone tugging at their feet.
Paranormal investigations of the Stone Lion Inn have recorded similar evidence. Was this the young Augusta that haunts the third floor? Sadly, this is simply not the case.
Augusta was born in 1893. In 1900, she would have been seven years old. Census records show that she was still alive in 1910, and then was married in 1914 at the age of 21 to Wilburn Waller Houser. Following her marriage, it is believed that Augusta began going by the name "Coralee" or "Cora" later in life.
It is uncertain where the story began, however, it is believed by researchers that the entity most likely originates when the home was turned into a boarding house in the 1920s or the funeral home later on. Another theory is that the family could have had another daughter who died early on. Although the story of the haunting may never be solved, many are convinced that the Stone Lion Inn is haunted.
After the home was converted into a boarding house, it was later again converted into a funeral home. The majority of the ghostly apparitions can be attributed to this time period.
Many people have reported seeing a male apparition in the basement area. Most likely, this was where the funeral home did their embalming and other bodily preparations. It is believed that the male apparition is simply someone who did not wish to cross to the other side.
Maids at the Stone Lion Inn have reported seeing a male dressed in an old-fashioned black suit and wearing a top hat. Occasionally, the bittersweet smell of a good cigar can be caught, even though the Inn has a strict no smoking policy.
Other strange occurrences have been reported at the inn over its many years existence; with the number increasing after the Luker family purchased it in 1986. After purchasing the run down building, the family painstakingly restored it to its former glory and opened it as the Stone Lion Inn.
Today, the mansion offers luxurious accommodations and fine dining, much in the style of the early 1900s. They also offer murder mystery weekends, which further to the appeal that the Stone Lion Inn is one of Oklahoma’s most haunted attractions.
The Blue Bell Saloon
Straight out of an old western novel, the Blue Belle Saloon sprang up almost overnight following the Oklahoma Land run. Once located at Harrison Avenue and Second Street, John Selstrom and Jack Tearney established one of the most disreputable businesses in the newly formed Oklahoma Territory.
The brothel, aptly named “Miss Lizzie’s Girls”, sprang up in 1889 during one of the many Oklahoma land rush’s. Miss Lizzie and her frontier prostitutes quickly became some of the star attractions in town. Although considered disreputable by today’s standards, during the late 1800s, almost every town had at least one brothel. It is said that even the famed silent film star Tom Mix was a bartender there before entering the movie business.
Miss Lizzie was a highly intelligent business lady and a devout Christian. Still, as it was during those times, she was known to take on very young girls. Old stories say that families in dire situations and in need of quick cash would sell their daughters to Miss Lizzie.
The business was so successful that by the early 1890s it had evolved into a large wood frame structure. In 1901, the wood frame structure was tore down and a new brick and mortar building was constructed. This building was constructed by Ned Cheadle’s men of the Freemont Land and Improvement Company.
The new building now had 17 rooms on the second floor, and also contained a gambling den in addition to the brothel. Being such a “high class” establishment, entry was restricted to those deemed worthy. Among those who climbed to the second floor included both outlaws and lawmen. One of the more unique features was the iron catwalk that ran from the brothel to the hotel across the road. The hotel was known to be a favorite place for local politicians and affluent visitors. The iron catwalk provided easy, and semi-private, access to the young ladies working at the brothel.
Downstairs, locals and visitors could relax in the fancy saloon. During prohibition, it was transformed into a restaurant, but it is believed that whiskey and other spirits were still sold there. When Prohibition was lifted in Oklahoma in 1959, the building once again reverted back to a bar.
While no longer a brothel, many of the original architectural elements still exist. The building is known today as the Blue Bell Grill House.
With such a disreputable history, it is easy to see how the building became haunted. Ghosts of Miss Lizzie and two of her ladies, Claudia and Estelle can occasionally be seen throughout the building. According to local sources, Claudia was beaten to death one dark night and then buried under the floorboards of the saloon, near the old coal chute.
At night, loud rumblings can be heard coming from the upstairs area where the brothel once was. Even though it is now closed off to the public, many claim that they can hear people moving around upstairs. Shadows can be seen moving about behind the upstairs window curtains. Crying and wailing, along with faint feminine voices and singing are occasionally heard, especially towards the evenings.
It is claimed that a man was murdered near the bar of the old saloon. Many people claim to get a very uneasy feeling when venturing near the restrooms, and others have claimed to have seen his apparition wandering throughout the area.
Others claim to have witnessed the ghost of an unhappy man wearing a brown derby hat and having a long handlebar mustache in the basement.
Another legend that rings of truth is of the alleged tunnels that existed under Guthrie. Many towns in Oklahoma, between the late 1800s and the 1940s, had constructed a series of tunnels under their towns. The famous Tulsa tunnels and the ones under Oklahoma City are good examples. The legend claims that one of the main entrances to Guthrie’s underground tunnels was near the bar inside the saloon. This would allow for patrons to visit without it being publically known. Following the murder of Claudia, the murderer could have escaped through this tunnel.
While it may be haunted, the Blue Bell Grill House remains one of the most popular destination spots in Guthrie, for both the living and the dead.
The Santa Fe Depot
Through the years, hundreds of people have passed through the old Santa Fe Depot. First constructed in 1903, the depot served as the central point in Guthrie until 1979. At 403 West Oklahoma Avenue, it still stands as a testament of the railroad age of Oklahoma.
The building measures 185 feet long by 85 feet wide and covers an area of 9,000 square feet, enough to easily handle the passenger activity of Guthrie during the early days. Unusual about this depot is that it is constructed out of red brick. Other railroad depots of this time were usually constructed from a concrete slurry mix. The building is striking, featuring a two story section in the center with one story wings on either end. The lobby was originally located on the first floor, with entrances from both sides of the wings. During the early days, as many as 40 trains would stop at the depot daily. Sadly, as of January 2013, the building is no longer open to the public and sits vacant waiting for a buyer.
Most of the haunting for Guthrie’s depot revolve around early day passengers. The most famous of which is a lady in Victorian garb. She can often be seen peering out of the second story windows, as if watching for an unknown passenger train to arrive. Legend claims that she is Ms. Pearl Harvey. She was the husband of Fred Harvey, who ran the Harvey House Restaurant that was located downstairs. Old documents recall how she enjoyed spending time at the Guthrie Depot. The family had living quarters upstairs and it is believed that the room where she can be seen was once her bedroom.
The Pollard Theater
Like many of the buildings in Guthrie, the Pollard Theater can trace its roots back to the Oklahoma Land Runs of 1889. Following the land run, a massive tent city sprang to life. On the site of what would become the Pollard Theater was a large tent that housed a dry goods store. Soon afterwards, a wood frame building was erected, which later became a furniture store and funeral parlor. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, this was common. Because furniture makers worked so much in wood products, they were also responsible for making coffins. Since the coffins were located at the furniture store, it made sense to have the funeral parlor at the same location.
A new building was constructed in 1901 of native stone and brick. It remained a funeral parlor and furniture store until 1919 when George Pollard purchased the building. He immediately set about transforming the building into the Pollard Theater. Once finished, the theater began entertaining the area through vaudeville acts. “Talkies”, or silent movies began to replace the vaudeville acts shortly after 1929. Seeing that silent movies were the future, Pollard hired A. R. Powell to renovate the building once again. Powell had the stage area reduced and put in a larger screen and sound system. The new theater was renamed the Melba Theater, which would remain in existence until 1984. Following the closure of the Melba, the Guthrie Arts and Humanities Council purchased the building and returned it to a live entertainment venue. Once again, it was renamed the Pollard Theater, in honor of George Pollard.
A great number of residents and visitors have reported strange things happening at the Pollard. In several instances, people have reported seeing someone walking along the catwalk in the auditorium, while others have felt the unseen presence of a male figure there.
Another frequent occurrence centers on a large mirror. During intermission, visitors reported seeing the face of an irate older gentleman peering back at them. It is believed that this was a disgruntled cast member returning from the old vaudeville theater days.
Guthrie Chamber of Commerce
Oklahoma Historical Society
National Register of Historic Places
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© 2018 Eric Standridge