The state shaped like a frying pan in the sweltering southern half of The United States is infested with historic landmarks. A large wardrobe stuffed to the brim with skeletons. From the major economic literal desert of The Dust Bowl, to the reapers scythe of the Native American Reservations developed after the 2,200 mile trek, The Trail of Tears. The wind that “sweeps down the plains” the passing of haunting memory. You could say the ground we built upon is a mass grave. The tall buildings of downtown Tulsa the headstones of the casualties of The Tulsa Race Riots that gutted the famous Black Wallstreet. Still today there are movements to reestablish the city to move away from the grotesque past for a brighter future. However, the past never forgets.
In 2003, Teri French founded Tulsa Spirit Tours. The group visits multiple haunts such as The Brady Theater. (Now named The Tulsa Theater after proclaimations to separate from its ties to the Klu Klux Klan.) The bustling concert hall the spirit of Enrico Caruso calls home. [halloweenhead.com] This energy always seems to be at the back of your neck in Tulsa. The gusty air always seems to swirl restlessly over the surrounding flatland like a circle dance. Lightning stabs violently at the dirt, the vast clouds turn a sickly green, and occasionally the sky takes away... everything.
Thirty minutes north from Tulsa is a small community; rumored to be named Skiatook from the destructive tendencies of tornadoes, hence “sky-took”. The locals claim its true, however, there isn’t any proof. Skiatook is a secluded town. Unattractive to visitors due to the lack of activities despite the eighty four churches that everyone passes while making their way to the Skiatook Lake. Regardless, nobody seems to want to change the town, every constructive project is met with backlash. A sparkling Cox Saver grocery store was built on the edge of town once. Within months it was closed from absence of customers. It stands clean, new, abandoned. A testimony to the strict conservative bubble Skiatook is, and its willingness to force out what it doesn’t approve. Including Black people. The year was 1995 when my Osage butt came out of my mother; it was also the year Skiatook finally took down the ‘Turn Back Blacks’ sign that lead into town.
I’m now twenty five. Ive tried my best to get away from this drab city. They changed the status to “City of Skiatook” because of the population spike. As I mentioned before the town has no activities besides picking up meth, go to church, or reproduce. Most do all three. Since my grandparents passed away in 2019 I’m now living in their old home. Back into the dilapidated Osage reservation, and back into what I tell my out-of-town friends is ‘The Hick Twilight Zone’. There is plenty of supernatural occcurances and urban legends that locals will swear on The Bible actually happened. Though why they are afraid of paranormal specters while claiming to be protected by God Themself, I can’t tell you. I remember working the night shift at Wal-Mart with one older Native woman; somehow the conversation turned to cryptic. Her eyes got wide as she rambled off her several encounters she’s had with Skinwalkers.
“Passed the railroad track. Everything happens around the railroad track.” She spent the rest of the shift oddly quiet and frequently scrubbed down her register’s conveyor belt.
This isn’t the only activity surrounding the old railroad that was once the main artery of the town. Just this month the local newsletter retold the story of “The Witch’s Grave” a poorly named creepy tale. The legend goes that a woman was possessed by an evil on the rail road track. Her husband hadn’t come home after his shift ended so she went out, only to find out later he passed. Story said she tried to revive him with her new devil magic. The reality of the situation was a local woman was so struck by grief she persistently dug up her husband’s grave. The townspeople finally placed him in a stone crypt so the poor woman wouldn’t attempt anymore. To call her a witch is unfair. The old rail road is no longer that but, ironically, a walking trail. Parts of the trail has heavy foliage. If you’re walking by yourself at night, which I did several times as a teen, you can’t help but look at every shadow in the bushes. Not expecting to see the “witch”, but the rumored evil itself. Of course, details change from person to person. Urban legends all seem to grow like moss on a rotting stump. All attempting to cover something ugly in the past. Making people think its just a fun scary story is the sugar taken with hard medicine. Except for this one.
It was 2012 and I was junior at Skiatook High School. I was friends with the only black girl in the school. I wont mention her name for obvious reasons, and also that we’ve fallen out since then. Regardless, I remember one October evening when we both got our first cars. We were sitting on the steel picnic tables outside the Sonic on Main Street. It was especially busy that evening, everyone seemed to have had the hive mind to get corn dogs at 7pm. My friend and I talked about anything and everything. During the spooky season of October loose conversation always end in superstitions. She told me about how her sister came home eager to tell her about how she finally saw The Klan House. I was dumbfounded, a new story I never knew about. At my inquisitive face she mistook it as adventurous.
“Lets go!” She said hopping from the table and into her car.
Don’t let the late night walks fool you. I was a yellow bellied coward. But if my black female friend was going to drive out on a chilly October night to see a Klan house, I might as well go with her.
“So where is it?” I hesitantly clicked in the seat belt.
“Behind the walmart.” She started the car and backed out of our space.
I exhaled and shook my head. Behind the walmart is dense woods, no street lamps, and the narrowest roads. About a minutes in that direction is my aunts house, protected by a steep hill. I never went passed her house, i didnt really want to either. We were both new to driving and I knew it’d be difficult. But the excitement in my friends voice told me there was no changing her mind.
We made our way down the Main Street and turned passed the walmart. And kept going. The dark seemed to swallow the small blips of light from the scarse lamps. She turned off the radio as we slipped out from the last beam. The road was now completely dark.
“Turn on your brights, i cant see anything.” She did, suddenly exposing a pair of reflective eyes that stared at us. Was just a cow.
The ash fault began to get more withered and we had to swerve to dodge larger pot holes. All sunlight was gone, as we made the last curve into the down hill plunge of thick trees. Leaves fell in front of the car like a blizzard. I leaned over to see if the brights were still turned on, they were, the darkness just seemed to be closing in on us. I thought about the evil that possessed the woman. The notion of such an entity becoming more and more plausible.
“How do we know which house it is?” In the dark I could make out the outline of a burnt down trailer, its planks blackened and stabbed out wildly as if defending itself from the dark.
“My sister said you’ll know when you see it. She said if they’re having a meeting, there is a candle in the window.”
“What?! You mean they are still there?! Oh god.” I gripped the arm rest.
The only light in the car was the radio clock. It felt like we were driving for hours, though it had only been minutes. Suddenly we hit a clearing, we both gasped.
The house was two stories high, and had chipped white paint. The yard was kept but riddled with tree roots. The trees themselves were twisted and their branches mangled and gave the impression of extreme age. The whole was gated and in some spots had thorny vines growing roughly up the fencing. We slowed down to take it in, without getting too close.
“Do you see a candle?” She asked, craning her neck to see through my side.
The windows on the house were horizontal slits. My mind went to how hard it’d be to escape from inside, my stomach churned. I scanned the top row of windows but only saw lacy curtains.
“No, I dont see a candle. There is something on the top left though.” I squinted at it. It looked to be a person in white standing chest height to the window.
“It’s a person! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” We would’ve lost our license if any one saw how we drove out of there. Only when we saw the walmart neon did we finally slow down. I cant remember was else happened that night. Just that I didn’t sleep.
It’s october 2019. My boyfriend (now husband) and I sat in his bedroom/ uncles garage. We were thinking of things to do for Halloween. This was years after the Klan house fiasco and asking my friends sister about the person in the window. She nodded and replied,
“They display a dress in that window. Historical or whatever. That’s what you saw. Shame you didnt see the candle.”
I was just relieved it wasn’t a member looking down at us. I recollected all of this to him and by the look in his eyes I knew, I had to go see the god damn Klan house-again. Annoyed i got into the driver’s side and made our way towards the walmart. The evening was orange and pink. I made note to get this over with while the sun was up. My boyfriend was anxious, his leg was bouncing uncomfortably as we passed the last street lamp.
“So how do you know which house it is?”
“You’ll know it when you see it.”
This time the drive was beautiful, the autumn leaves their festive colors. Instead of haunting, it seemed magical. I even rolled down the window to let the cold breeze flow through my hair. We went deeper and deeper. Eventually I turned down the radio when a familiar sickness flopped around in my stomach.
“It’s coming up soon. Just a few more curves.” Quickly the remainding sun was extenguished by the dying tree branches. I slowed down. It’s been years since I saw this house, why was I still scared? I half hoped to see the house had burned down like that trailer back then. But there it was. He gasped as I had done. I didnt look at the house. I just wanted him to get an eyeful and we can get back to safety. Maybe watch a movie or eat candy-
“Look! Look! Look!” He jabbed his finger repeatedly at one of the windows.
“The dress?” I leaned over for a second to see, not the dress, but a lit candle.