Young lovers. Men and women, flirting, stepping into dark shadows entwined and stealing long, sweet kisses. Scandalized citizens, outraged public, and dutiful police officers keeping the streets safe from public displays of affection. Hip-hop couple? Juvenile delinquents from the be-bop generation? Flaming youth of the wild 1920's?

In 1909, Oklahoma City police were called out to complain of the 10-12 couples who almost nightly were taking up residence on the church porch, lawn, and other corners, of the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 217 West 7th. "They bill and coo for hours" was the disgruntled -and envious? - charge of one citizen. Since the front rooms of the church were being occupied by people trying to sleep, such "spooning" was a problem.


Hexes, spells, weird pagan incantations....these were very real things in 1902. Fortune-tellers, seers, mediums, made the circuits of communities just like the patent medicine wagon and the traveling sales man. A clairvoyant going by the name of "Professor William Clements", who sported a black suit and a Prince Albert hat, was in Clay Center, Kansas were he bilked people out of their hard-earned cash through fortune-telling, hypnotism, and acting as medium to the spirit world. He apparently did a booming business among the female population while in town. The fifteen year old daughter of a local farmer went to see the "Professor" several times, then withdrew $500 from the bank, and disappeared. A couple resembling the girl and the man bought train tickets......but were they the same couple? The father was certain the girl had eloped to Wichita and headed there to investigate. He was sure that his daughter would only have done such a thing because she had been cruelly mesmerized by the travelin' man...."a voo-doo man."


HATCHET HOUSE: Anatomy of an Urban Legend?
In the early 1990's accounts of a "Hatchet House" with accompanying awful murder and porch painted red to hide "all the blood", began to appear in local OKC newspapers. Soon tales of swings moving in the moonlight.....and ghostly voices of children playing..... began to flesh out the vague and lurid premise. Now, every Halloween local haunters flock to the historic district of the Gatewood Neighborhood to find the notorious house with hatchet cutouts...or the red painted porch....or the driveway where 'they found the body.' This seemed like an easy find....track down the dastardly crime....solve the mystery...provide some background for this legend. So far...however, no such crime has come to light. The area only dates back to the 1920's when it boomed along with various other areas of the city. Its classic hometown feel and its historic homes kept it a special place for many decades. There was tragedy as children, go to and coming from the local elementary school (Gatewood Elementary) were struck by automobiles...a few random crimes....and some natural deaths. Findng a grim and ghastly crime worthy of such a horrific legend....has so far drawn a blank. It is similar to the tale in the Don Knotts comedy, "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" with its tale of murder, blood stained organ keys ("and they used Bon-Ami!"), and generally bad reputation. Unless, and until, something definite is discovered this is no doubt another OKC Urban Legend. So, drive through the area and enjoy the neighborhood that is on the national history registry.....but give the folks there a rest because there is really nothing else to see there.


In Oklahoma, near Weatherford, is a spooky area known locally as "Dead Woman's Crossing." Is it related to a famous murder case or something else?

Conflicting stories exist that have suggested that the germ of a real event, the kidnapping and murder of Mrs. Katie James in 1905, and a later tall tale/urban myth from local university students merged to create a jumble of ghostly tales related to this general area. [For more information: Dead Woman’s Crossing: http://www.ghost-investigators.com/Stories/view_story.php?story_num=15 ]

Dead Woman’s Bridge is located on the famous Route 66.

Prairie Ghosts has a pretty good account of it, except he misnames the detective who helped in the search. Sam Bartell was a well known early US Marshall and local Oklahoma City police officer and at the time was with the Oklahoma Detective Agency. I will load my profile of this man soon.

As for "Dead Woman's Crossing"? Well, a look at places in Oklahoma reveals several "dead man" or "dead woman" or "skeleton" locales. In fact just to the east is a "Dead Woman Creek" and the southeast "Dead Woman Mound" and to the south "Ghost Mound." If this was a "Dead Woman's Crossing" - it may be much older than the James crime and not have anything strange about it at all. Early maps of the region should reveal much. The terrain has changed by farming and road constructions.


Today the area between Santa Fe and Broadway and Sheridan to Reno is largely known as the area of the Cox Convention Center (the old Myriad Convention Center), a hotel, and the turn off into Bricktown.

"Back in the day" this was the wildest place in the newly opened "Oklahoma Town" or "Oklahoma Station" ("City" did not come about formally til nearly forty years after the 1889 land run). It was so wild it earned - through blood, sweet, and tears - the nickname "Hell's Half Acre."

If you stand on the platform of the Amtrack station and look west and slightly north that is where this wild town within in a town was located.

If you walked west on Sheridan (called Grand back then), just past Santa Fe (called Front then) on the north would be "Bunco Street" with its gambling halls and con men. Look south and there would be "Hop Boulevard", perfect if you were thirsty. And just behind that, "Alabaster Row" was located on California, featuring brothels, gambling halls, and other businesses for the African-American population in those days.

Walk up Santa Fe (Front) to Main and turn west and you would see a bit finer offerings with The Arlington and, in 1900, the Lee Hotel at the corner of Main and Broadway. Turn east and across the tracks were the depot and just beyond to the northeast"Old Zulu's" original establishment in current bricktown. Travel south to 312 E. Grand and you would have seen the spot of "Big Annie" Wynn's original land run tent brothel. It had grown into a two story building by statehood.

From at least 1902, a walk up Broadway (into the 100 to 300 blocks) would have found "fortune-tellers', "crystal ball gazers", "clairvoyants", "mediums", and "pyschics". All world traveled and well known, or so they said as they advertized their stay in the parlors of local hotels and boarding house along the street.
See an excellent map here.



Kicking back on a rocky outcrop by a stream, a collection of young people enjoy a summer romp in the outdoors. Photo appears dated to around 1900.

EFFIE: Courtesan and Ghost?

For long years there has been a legend of a maid who committed suicide at the Skirvin but lingers on. She is thought to pinch men as they come out of the shower and otherwise let her presence be known to men who occupy a room.

Yet, searches for deaths matching this hotel maid Effie have always come up short. Knowing what I do about the nature of folklore, urban legends, and people's memory's, I have suspected the woman is real but the place may be off.

Recently the case of EFFIE FISHER came to light. She was a 'courtesan' - code word for you know what - who was murdered by bullets fired into her dressing room from by an unknown assailant. Strangely, she had been to the police just that day telling them if she died it would this particular man who would be responsible.

The man went on trail but was acquitted of the murder of the woman. Her resort, and places she went frequently, were all in the area surrounding the present day Skirvin.

I suspect she may be the "Effie" because really guys, if a woman is going to be peeking and prodding you, doesn't it make more sense for it to be a 'courtesan' than a chamber maid?


In the Victorian and Edwardian eras some things simply were not said. Victorians were known to use table coverings so the 'limbs" of tables were not seen so you can image the heady furor over an exposed....arm or leg or anything else. Thus, houses of ill repute, brothels, and dens of iniquity were also sometimes called "sporting houses" or "resorts."
Sometimes, and in some locations, even such mundane terms as "rooming house" or "boarding house" was code for such a liaison locale where assignations (paid and otherwise) might occur.
Some girls and women fell into the life because it offered a better financial structure than making hats or sewing dresses. Some women chose the life because they liked sex and drinking. Some women were forced into it by being "ruined" or taken advantage of in a society that was unforgiving of such bad choices. Despite some claims to the opposite, there were "white slave trade" as well. Much like the "Barbary Coast Pirates" who kidnapped men to sail their ships, men and women were also kidnapping, raping, and selling women into prositution.
This was known as "white slave trade." Unfortunately, selling people (of all color, sexes and ages) for sex continues into the 21st century.

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H. P. Lovecraft

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