THE GHOSTS OF FORT WASHITA
Near BROWN, OKLAHOMA
Old buildings, forts, settlements and other structures which have been around for a long time are likely to attract a ghost story or two over the years. While they may not always attract an actual ghost, they do tend to attract some pretty spooky legends. Such a place are the ruins of old Fort Washita. Is it genuinely haunted? I'll leave that up to you to decide.
Located in the south-central part of Oklahoma, and near the small town of Brown, are the ruins of Fort Washita. The fort was established in 1842 and was overrun by Confederate forces in 1861. Sometime between those years, a murder took place which may have given the fort its resident ghost.... or at least one of them. The ruins are still said to be haunted today by this restless spirit, the ghost of a headless woman who has been dubbed "Aunt Jane".
The legend of the ghost is a strange one and is filled with numerous holes. No one really knows for sure how she died, although some say she was killed by thieves and others say by soldiers. No matter what happened, she was apparently beheaded in the process of her murder because she has been seen in the years following dressed in a white gown and walking about the fort with ho head. The story says that Aunt Jane allegedly hid a large amount of gold somewhere on the grounds and her ghost is still looking for it.
Needless to say, this part of the story has prompted many would-be treasure hunters to go out in search of the treasure... only to be frightened off by the ghost of Aunt Jane. It is even said that some of the treasure hunters did not see the ghost but "felt" her presence and she kept them from digging. "Some force would hold the pick and not let it touch the ground," they said.
And apparently, this is not the only strange story associated with the old fort.....
After the Civil War, the fort was burned down and abandoned. A Chickasaw Indian named Charles Colbert was awarded the land the ruins of the fort rested on as part of a land allotment from the Chickasaw nation. He rebuilt the barracks into a home for he and his family, and his 32 dogs. The first night they moved in, all of the dogs disappeared! He spent the next day searching for them and after rounding them up brought them home... only to find them gone again the next morning. This was enough to convince them that they shouldn't be there and they moved away.
The next tenant was a doctor named Steele. He moved into the renovated house with his sister, who kept house for him. She began to report seeing a number of strange things in the house and on the property. Some have claimed they were ghosts but others claimed they were figments of a fevered imagination. Regardless, she suffered a nervous breakdown a short time later. Strangely though, without knowing the history of the place, she claimed to see a ghostly woman with no head!
The Steeles moved away and no one has lived on the property since.
The stories of odd sightings spread through the area and the place has remained a popular one for ghost hunters and for curiosity-seekers.
After this section was posted, I received more information about hauntings at the fort from Sharon Ann States. She writes:
"I wanted to let you know that I am very glad you paid attention to the stories from Fort Washita. I myself am someone who witnessed a haunting at that location.
"In 1994-95, I was a member of the 7th Regular U.S. Infantry Co. A. There was a living history club that frequents that site. On my first event, I stayed in the old Bonahan cabin, just off the main parade grounds to the west of the ruins. On that occasion, a friend and I were assigned that cabin for the weekend. We were the only females and so no one wanted to open another room in the main building.
"That first night, I had my first ghostly experience. I had no previous knowledge of haunting activity at that location. Anyway, that first night, my friend and I went to bed in the upstairs loft. All of the doors and windows were locked, including the loft door from the inside.
"In the middle of the night, my friend woke up with the sensation of being strangled. I awoke when she sat up in her bunk and although I saw nothing, the hair on my neck was standing at military attention.
"After a few short minutes, I returned to my slumber. A few hours later, I awoke with the sensation of someone hovering above me. I opened my eyes and while there was nothing to be seen, the sensation persisted.
"The second night of the event, we were joined by another lady who was a U.S. Attorney who lives in Oklahoma City. She was wary about spending the night in the cabin but did so anyway. That night, we were discussing corsets before we went to bed. I was new to living history and I was gathering information. She removed her corset and placed it on a chair.
"Throughout the night, all of us were haunted by dreams of suffocation. The next morning, the lady picked up her corset and the strings were gone. We knew that none of us had removed them because the loft was too cramped for free movement.... we couldn't even get up at night without waking the others. Only one piece of corset string has ever been found and again, all of the doors were locked from inside.
"There have been other hauntings at the site that can be validated by the Oklahoma Historical Society and many other tales".
Shortly after I received this account from Fort Washita, I heard from another of the participants in the strange events of the Living history weekend. Here's what she had to say:"I was one of the other ladies involved in the corset incident at the Bohanan cabin. The third lady had placed her corset upon the pile of clothing she had removed. In the morning, it was indeed without its strings. We never did find any part of them. All of us had nightmares during the night. I was the one who felt she was being strangled. In the morning when we discovered the corset, we all tried to get down the narrow staircase simultaneously. Later that morning, I returned to the cabin to collect my things and change into my street clothes. The door to the staircase was closed but I knew there was someone on the other side who was very angry at me for being there. I kept silently apologizing to the entity while I was changing my clothing and left as soon as I could. A funny thing about this entity is that it only manifests hositlity toward women. None of the men who have stayed overnight have experienced anything. The story of the Bohanans includes a husband being murdered, the widow marrying soon after to the man suspected of the crime and his untimely death soon after that. I do not stay there nor do I visit the cabin any more than I have to during our living history programs. It is not a pleasant place.
"The reconstructed barracks provides its own spirit visitations. Aunt Jane has been known to disassemble locks in the east room on the first floor. Two years ago I saw a civil war soldier on the second floor porch pacing back and forth and smoking. He had a great coat on even though it was July. One night around two or three o'clock in the morning, I visited the lavatory on the west side of the building. On my way back to my bed, I heard a commotion of what sounded like a large group of soldiers up on that same porch. I didn't have my glasses on at the time so I could not see clearly but it looked like a group of men milling about up there. I then heard the sound of footsteps coming down the staircase but could see no one. As the footsteps neared the bottom, they faded away. When I looked back up on the porch, there was no one and everything was quiet.
"Every Halloween one of our members performs at Fort Washita telling ghost stories and leading a ghost hunt around the fort. Proceeds from this event are used to improve the site. It really is an enjoyable experience as there are many ghosts around that fort."
Fort Washita is located between Brown and Little City, Oklahoma on Highway 199.
Copyright 1998 by Troy TaylorReturn to the Ghosts of the Prairie Home Page