Belvidere

With Halloween finally upon us, little ghosts and goblins are readying for a much-anticipated night of fun trick-or-treating, not so little ghosts and goblins will be enjoying get-togethers with their friends, and others still will be spending the night handing out treats.

But there’s one thing on which most people can agree: Everyone loves a good ghost story.

Before we move the calendar from Halloween to November, and All Hallow’s Eve 2017 becomes a thing of the past, the Progress encourages its readers to turn down the lights and enjoy some of these actual home grown spooky stories. Happy Halloween!

Belvidere Mansion (Claremore)

Where better to start that Claremore? The historic mansion was built by John M. Bayless starting in 1902. Bayless, who was instrumental in building the Cassville and Western (C&W ) Railroad, as well as the Arkansas & Oklahoma Railroad, moved his family to Indian Territory from Cassville, Missouri in 1901. The next year, he began to build the castle-like mansion for his wife, Mary Melissa Bayless, and his seven children. Belvidere was not only successful in the railroad business, but also in banking and land development.

The gothic style brick home, complete with tile roof and four towers, provided for a portico on the north side for the guest carriages, as well as a large covered porch at the front entrance with a matching balcony directly above it. Inside, the floors were covered in tile, with wainscoted marble walls and pressed tin ceilings. Sliding pocket doors were used in several rooms and many had fireplaces. Much of the trim and woodwork used were brought from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The third floor of the mansion was dedicated to a 2,400 square foot ballroom.

Due to its immaculate details, the mansion took several years to build. At the same time, Bayless was also building a three-story Opera House, the Sequoyah Hotel, and an athletic building with an indoor swimming pool. However, Mr. Bayless would never see the completion of his grand mansion. In 1907, just six months before it was completed, Bayless died following an operation for appendicitis. He was president of the Bank of Claremore at the time of his death.

Mary Bayless and her six surviving children finished the mansion after his death and continued to reside there until 1919. All of her children resided in Claymore, with her older sons becoming involved in the Bank of Claremore. Another became the local postmaster, and yet another went on to become a State Supreme Judge.

The building then changed hands several times and in the 1930’s was sold to an investor who turned it into apartments. Like other historic structures that become rentals, the mansion deteriorated over the years until it was purchased by the Rogers County Historical Society in 1991. Today, the beautiful old building has been restored to its former glory and is fitted with period furnishings.

Of the buildings that Belvidere built, only the mansion remains.

Over the years, numerous people have reported that John Bayless and other members of his family; however, still continue to “reside” in the beautiful old home. These reports tell of unexplained noises, actual sightings of hazy figures, toilets that flush by themselves, hot and cold spots, and feelings of being touched by someone when no one is there.

On several occasions paranormal groups have investigated the old mansion, seeming to find the most paranormal activity on the second floor. There, psychics have “seen” children playing, as well as “meeting” a distressed John Bayless, and a distraught young woman who allegedly committed suicide when she lived in the building as a tenant in the 1940’s.

Cry Baby Bridge (Catoosa)

Often cited as happening elsewhere, according to local legend, a Catoosa woman raced across old Boggy Creek Bridge on Friday June 13, 1924. A fierce storm had broken out and the woman was trying to hurry home – the only other passenger: her newborn baby, which rested in the seat beside her. As mother and child crossed the bridge, a crackle of lightning frightened the horses that were pulling her carriage. They bucked wildly and tipped the carriage over.

During the chaos, the mother lost hold of her infant. As she frantically searched the bridge yelling for help in the pouring rain, she heard her baby let out a cry from the river below. She leaned over the edge of the damaged bridge, and in doing so, lost her footing and fell into the river. The mother and child were never seen again.

It is said that if you go out to old Boggy Creek Bridge on Friday the 13th, you can still hear the baby crying. Each year following the accident, roses were placed at two unmarked graves near the bridge, but ceased after “Bessie” and “Clissie” were written on the headstones decades later. The bridge was bypassed in 2001 and is not open the public, but is still clearly visible from Keetonville Road.

Numerous local legends have tried to explain the phenomenon.

Elmer McCurdy the Sideshow Mummy (Guthrie)

Elmer McCurdy is more famous for what happened after his death than anything he did in life. Most people believe he was an outlaw, a drunk and part of a notoriously incompetent gang that roamed Oklahoma and the surrounding states during the turn of the century. By all accounts, Elmer should have been forgotten after he was killed during a shootout in 1911.

Instead, Elmer’s corpse was taken to a funeral home in Pawhuska, Oklahoma where an undertaker decided to embalm the unclaimed remains. He charged visitors a nickel to see the “mummy” for several years before a circus man, claiming he was McCurdy’s relative, swindled the funeral home into selling him McCurdy’s corpse. Afterwards, the body was bought and sold numerous times as part of a variety of freak shows, carnivals and traveling acts for decades.

In the 1970s, his remains made their way to Long Beach, where they were put on display at an amusement park. The popular television show “The Six Million Dollar Man” was filming at the park in 1976 when a crew member moved what he thought was a mannequin and broke one of the arms off, proving without a doubt that it was an actual man. After some research, the body was identified as Elmer McCurdy and finally buried in the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie on April 22, 1977 after more than 60 years on the road. The local medical examiner ordered that two cubic yards of concrete be poured on top of Elmer’s grave, ensuring that his remains will never be disturbed again. Murder Mystery Weekends at the Stone Lion Inn sometimes include a visit to the grave.

Magnetic Hill (Springer)

Witness a roadside attraction that seems to defy the forces of gravity by driving to Springer’s famous Magnetic Hill. If you park your car at the bottom of the hill on Pioneer Road and put it in neutral, you’ll feel your car being pulled uphill as you let off the brake. Many explanations are given for this fun mystery. Locals think that the ghosts of car crashes past are the ones moving your car away from where they died. There are also tales of a magnetic force in the area strong enough to crash a plane. Located just off I-35 between Ardmore and Davis, Pioneer Road is in a rural area and it is advised that someone look out for traffic on the side of the road while attempting to be “pulled” up Magnetic Hill.

Bigfoot (Talihina)

Bigfoot stories have been a staple of southeast Oklahoma for decades. In fact, the heavily forested area is said to be one of the most active for Bigfoot sightings in the country. One of the first sightings occurred in 1970, when a group of local high school kids decided to cruise the foggy back roads near Talihina after an evening pep rally. They pulled over and one of the teenage boys wandered away from the group and into the edge of the surrounding forest. It was here that he caught a glimpse of what the locals later dubbed the “Green Hill Monster” of southeastern Oklahoma – a hideous creature several feet taller than a human and covered in long, matted hair.

The boy ran back to the car in fright and the group quickly sped away down the road that lead back to town. After they reported the sighting to the police, the local sheriff investigated the area. He found several dead deer in the vicinity and immediately forbid anyone from going into the woods at night for fear of an attack. The creature was never caught. You can hear more terrifying encounters and personal accounts of the mysterious Green Hill Monster at the Honobia Bigfoot Festival & Conference that takes place near Beavers Bend State Park each year.

Spook Light (Peoria)

Located near the Missouri border in the northeastern part of the state, the small town of Peoria is home to a big legend. Reports of the mysterious “Spook Light” have plagued the area for hundreds of years without any concrete explanation despite numerous investigations. Some credit the flickering orbs seen at night to gas and mineral deposits and refracted headlight beams, but all have been discredited upon further examination.

Numerous local legends have tried to explain the phenomenon. Everything from star-crossed lovers who leapt to their deaths to a Civil War soldier who was struck in the head by a cannonball are credited as possible paranormal sources for the anomaly. One of the more popular theories is that a local miner, who tragically lost his head in a mining accident, is now wandering the area by lamp light searching for the lost appendage. The only thing known for certain is that the Army Corps of Engineers described the Spook Light as a “mysterious light of unknown origin” in 1946 and it has remained the best explanation ever since.

Hex House (Tulsa)

The famous Tulsa Hex House lives on in the city’s annual Hex House haunted attraction, one of the scariest Halloween haunts in the state. The original legend begins with Carol Ann Smith, a woman who went by several names in the Tulsa area in 1944. After noticing some suspicious behavior, the police searched Carol’s house at 10 E 21st St and found two women living there as “religious slaves” in the dark and unheated basement. Supposedly under hypnosis or some kind of hex, Carol forced them to live in cages with barely any food for over seven years. They were only allowed outside to go to work and even gave Smith their paychecks at the promise of great rewards.

Smith lived off several life insurance policies she had been collecting under suspicious circumstances. It is widely believed she planned on taking out insurance on the two women as well. Smith was never charged with murder, but did jail time after the investigation. Upon her release, she fled the state. The house was a popular spooky site visited by teenagers until it was torn down in 1975. The basement is supposedly still intact under a paved parking lot, and the story lives on as the inspiration for Tulsa’s Hex House haunted attraction.

Shaman’s Portal (Beaver)

Beaver Dunes Park in Oklahoma’s panhandle is known as a great place for ATV riding with over 300 acres of sand dunes. It is also notoriously called “Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle” for strange occurrences dating back to the times of the Spanish explorer Coronado. Native Americans tried to warn Coronado of the perils of the dunes, but he didn’t listen. Three of his men disappeared into paranormal flashes of green light while exploring the area without any sign (according to Coronado’s journal). Ever since, there have been accounts of other people who have simply vanished into a mysterious alternate dimension in the same way. No definitive explanation has even been given, but it is often thought that the poor souls are unfortunate victims of what has since been named Shaman’s Portal.

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