For centuries there has been an attraction toward cemeteries. Researchers, historians, and genealogists appreciate the history cemeteries contain and the family records therein that are carved in stone. Grandchildren of generations past are thankful that they have a place they can go to trace their family roots and see physical evidence of their family’s legacy. Some go to admire the elaborate carvings on many of the headstones, including sculpted angels, flowers, or the magnificent carved “logs” of the Woodmen of the World headstones. Also, paranormal investigators have found many cemeteries to be quite spiritually active for recording evidence of paranormal existence, and they are much more inviting to visit during the summer months.
Cemeteries in Oklahoma have an interesting and colorful history. Some were once segregated, some belong to a town that no longer exists, some started off as a family plot that was extended to include the local community, some belong to churches, and then there are Indian Burial Grounds, the locations of which many are unknown. While scores of haunted cemeteries litter the Oklahoma landscape, below are a few that are a bit more notorious in nature.
It is said the cemetery at Fort Gibson is haunted by a heartbroken young woman. Her fiancé had abandoned her at the altar, but she tracked him down to the frontier fort in the late 1800s. Desperate to know what was going on, she disguised herself as a man and served in the military on post near him. She began following him home at nights and discovered that he was taking up with a Native American woman who lived nearby. Bitter and enraged, she confronted the man one night and murdered him with a shotgun. After he was buried, she resented what she had done and longed for her former fiancé to be alive again. She started visiting his grave at night and crying herself to sleep on his headstone. One frigid evening she froze to death on his headstone, but her spirit has continued to visit the grave.
There are a number of cemeteries throughout Oklahoma that contain noteworthy headstones of outlaws and such forgotten souls that the markers don’t even give them a proper name. Both of these are the case at Dick Duck Cemetery in Catoosa. Although the land was donated by Richard Duck in the early 1800s, it’s a Duck of a different name that has made this cemetery distinguished.
Bluford “Blue” Duck, whose Cherokee name was Sha-con-gah Kaw-wan-nu, was riding drunk one evening with William Christie when they came upon a young man named Samuel Wyrick and Duck suddenly unloaded his entire revolver into the man. He then reloaded and fired at a nearby Indian boy who had leapt up on a horse to go get help. Duck was tracked down and arrested. It’s unknown whether Blue truly knew female outlaw Belle Starr, but there is a story that circulated which stated that prior to Belle’s marriage to Sam Starr, Blue and Belle had a short affair, and it is due to this affair that Belle assisted with Blue’s appeal after he had been sentenced to hang. What is known for sure is that a picture of Blue and Belle was taken at that time, and Blue’s sentence was changed to life in prison in 1886. Nine years later, Duck grew deathly ill, and with one month to live, President Grover Cleveland pardoned the outlaw so he could spend that final month with family and friends. Bluford Duck was buried at Dick Duck Cemetery on May 7, 1895.
In what seems to be a sign of the times in the 1880s around the Catoosa area near Tulsa, there is a series of small white headstones within Dick Duck Cemetery that have been marked as “Half Breed”. Not much is known about these markers, all dated between 1882 and 1883, but they eerily speak out to us about the culture of America at that time.
Buried in Arapaho Cemetery is Robina Smith whose grave is visited by many who seek out her legend. As a young 19 year-old woman in 1936, Robina was killed in a horrific car accident with a creamery truck. Her father was grief-stricken over the fact that his daughter had not yet sought salvation from God, and he feared for her fate in the afterlife. Following his death in 1972, visitors to the cemetery began hearing a voice near Robina’s grave crying out, “Oh Lord, my God, Robina has not yet been saved.” This cry has been known to interrupt funeral services at Arapaho, and when a geologist studied the site to determine a natural cause for the voice he couldn’t find one and even heard the voice himself.