Tonight is Halloween, and along with trick-or-treaters come stories of hauntings and things that go “bump” in the night.
Tahlequah’s roots sprouted long before statehood, and many buildings in the area have historical value and ghost stories to go with them.
Beth Herrington, local historian and retired teacher, said she’s far too pragmatic to believe in ghosts, but she remembered a story about a caregiver getting spooked in her home, which is historically significant in Tahlequah.
“When my father was elderly, I hired someone to stay with him,” said Herrington. “I remember it was way in the middle of the night, and of course, it was storming. The young man who was staying with us was downstairs and rushed upstairs, scared to death and breathless. He swore someone was whacking and banging on the window in the living room. Well, when I looked, it was just the storm, whipping a tree limb against the house.”
Olga Hoenes works at Northeastern State University’s College of Optometry, housed in the original W.W. Hastings Hospital. She has heard stories about the building’s being haunted.
“I’ve always heard there’s a little girl who walks the halls here in the old Indian hospital at night,” said Hoenes.
“She scared one of our new doctors out of the building one night. I’ve never seen the little girl, but our doctor was scared enough to yell at me when I laughed, because she was honestly scared. She said the elevator also threw her around one night.”
Larry Clark, manager of the Dream Theater, has heard noises when he’s been alone in the building, but he has never given much thought to its being haunted.
“Of course, when you’re in a big, old empty building like The Dream by yourself, you hear all kinds of creepy noises, and sometimes things don’t work right or turn themselves on or off,” said Clark.
“I really don’t look for such, but I have had numerous people, especially the paranormal film makers, tell me there are ‘things’ there. The film makers are fond of the place.”
Donna Leahey spent several years in the theater program at NSU, and has heard the theater is haunted.
“Or so they say,” said Leahey. “One of the men who built it supposedly fell and died,” said Leahey. “I do know sometimes the lights would flicker for no reason.”
Former Daily Press staff writers Eddie Glenn and Sarah Hart spent time at the McSpadden House on Bluff Avenue during their younger days. The home was torn down several years ago, but the stories linger.
“I had a lot of friends who lived in that house during the ‘90s,” said Glenn.
“All my friends who lived there were musicians of the typical Tahlequah type, and so drank a lot more than I did – having a regular job tends to keep you mostly sober. I’ve noticed a correlation between alcohol consumption and ghost sightings.”
Glenn said some of the residents or guests saw ghosts so often they named them.
“There was some old guy – I think they called him Walter – that several of those guys said they saw sitting in a rocking chair in the top story, looking westward out the window, out over the bluff,” said Glenn.
Glenn said the common story about the McSpadden House involved death by fire.
“The typical story about that house was that a girl had caught fire standing in front of the fireplace and burned to death, but I interviewed some of the ‘kids’ in the McSpadden family (they were in their 80s at that point) and they said they’d never heard of such a thing, and their grandfather built the house,” said Glenn.
“One of the McSpadden kids told me that, with the exception of Jeremy Darris, who committed suicide in the front room in 1997, only one other person had ever died there, and that was an uncle or friend of the family who’d come to stay with them when she was little (1920s or ‘30s) because of his failing health, which eventually failed terminally while he was staying with them.”
Glenn never experienced a ghost sighting, but he often heard weird noises while he was making music.
“But it was always rather cool,” he said. “I think one of the big losses due to Tahlequah’s ‘progress’ was the destruction of that house, because some of the rooms resonated with sound in ways that new houses just don’t. That might have something to do with its ‘haunted’ reputation, too, I’m thinking.”
Not all “paranormal” activities are frightening. Local resident Cathy Cott had such an experience.
“My dad passed away suddenly in his sleep Aug. 9, 1982,” said Cott.
“I wasn’t ready to say good-bye. About two weeks after his funeral, I woke up one night out of a sound sleep. I sat up and was re-situating myself when I heard and then saw my dad. He was there to tell me he was OK and that he didn’t want me to worry or be sad, that he had lived a good life and was there for me always.”
Cott and her son had a second experience several months later.
“I was sitting at a red light with my then-little boy in the car with me,” she said.
“I looked over casually at the car next to me in traffic, and the man in the car was my dad. He smiled and waved and looked back ahead. I was shocked, of course! I kept looking at the man and he looked at me again; it wasn’t my dad that time. It was just a man in a car.”
For details on the history of Halloween and its traditions, go to www.tahlequahTDP.com