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Tulsa Spirit Tours offers strange, true history of Tulsa landmarks

Chelsea Copeland / Red Dirt Report
The Philcade building in Tulsa.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
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COWETA, Okla. - Board the Tulsa Spirit Tours bus and you’ll be taken back into Tulsa’s past of cops and robbers, a race riot to end them all, and crimes to put even Stephen King’s most horrific novels to shame. Yet we live and go to work in this city and coexist peacefully (or not so peacefully) amongst spirits of old Tulsa.

Tulsa Spirit Tours is operated by Tulsa’s most well-known paranormal investigations team, Paranormal Investigation Team of Tulsa (PITT). Lead by Teri French and founded in 1998, PITT has investigated numerous Tulsa landmarks such as Cain’s Ballroom, The Brady Theater, and the Gilcrease Mansion. The team has been featured on local news stations and even on the Travel Channel. PITT offers numerous tours including haunted pub crawls, serial killer tours, overnight tours, walking tours and bus tours. Their tours focus on both the history and hauntings of Tulsa. I was on the bus tour.

Jason’s Deli was our first haunted location. It was called Belleview School (changed to Lincoln in 1914) and was built in 1909 and closed in 1990. Managers have seen a little boy in outdated clothing hanging around the dumpsters and climbing out of windows. Long before it was a restaurant, the building was a school where a little boy fell to his death from a window. The windows have been sealed ever since.

In between locations, French and Olten took their time to show any evidence they have of hauntings, usually their own experiences. You will hear a handful of EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena, or the voices of the spirits that cannot be heard by the naked ear) and mysterious photographs that may or may not be spirits from the dead.

Next was Oaklawn Cemetery, featuring a potter’s field supposedly filled with race riot victims, completely unmarked. It is said that the Mazzio’s on Elgin and Brady Theater were detention centers during the race riots. Ground penetrating radar shows that something of significant size is under the ground. An eyewitness can confirm that he had seen numerous bodies of black Tulsans being disposed of in an empty part of Oaklawn. Ironically, Tate Brady, a Tulsa founding father, and alleged Ku Klux Klan member is buried in the nicer part of the cemetery. As for spirits, one of the Tulsa waste management drivers has reported seeing a little boy in old clothing hanging out in the potter’s field section of the cemetery at least thirty times over his tenure late at night.

While we did not drive by it, the oldest house in Tulsa was mentioned, saying voices, screams and moans can be heard emanating from it. The house is located in Owen Park and dates back to 1885. It had been moved from its original location on North Cheyenne. The house belonged to Reverend Sylvester Morris, who founded the St. Paul's Methodist on Cherry Street. 

As the dark began to fall, we zoomed over the real Tulsa Hex House, or what is left of it. Located at 10 E. 21st St. the former ivy-covered duplex in 1944 was home to widower Carolann Smith who ‘hexed’ two other women, Virginia Evans and Willetta Horner, into giving Smith all their money and took out life insurance policies on them and her dog. She also claimed to the wartime ration board that the Horner, Evans and her dog were her children, allowing her to get more supplies. She was able to live in luxury, buying makeup and pretty things while Evans and Horner slept in the basement on egg crates. Then, something strange happened. Smith’s maid ran into the street screaming one night where she was hit by a car and killed. The house was later demolished and paved over, filling in the basement where Evans and Horner were held captive and became a parking lot. To this day, people report their cars being moved, turned on, stereos blasting and windshield wipers going all without the keys.

We hit the Deco District next and got free gelato at Mod’s which boasts consistent solid ratings throughout every review platform. We weren’t there for the gelato, we were there for the Philcade. The building was the headquarters for oilman Waite Phillips, one of the founders of Phillips Petroleum Company.

Deep below the building is a tunnel that connects the Philtower (also used by Phillips) and Philcade which is speculated that Phillips used for his own safety, fearing that he would be kidnapped by gangsters. This is the original Tulsa tunnel and more were added. While the tunnels are not haunted, they are an interesting part of Tulsa’s history and as creepy as can be.

The last stop of the night looped us around to Peace of Mind bookstore. Peace of Mind has a unique history. Not wanting to give everything on the tour away, I’ll let you find out for yourself about what’s going on here.

I have been on at least a dozen of the Tulsa Spirit Tours, as well as their paranormal conferences at the Little Theater and Cain’s Ballroom. I appreciate their commitment to stay new. Tulsa is a big city with blocks of haunted places and dingy history to cause it all. There’s a lot of places to experience.

The bus felt cramped and crowded, unlike the Tulsa Trolley which was used previously. I missed the creaking and slamming of the windows on the trolley as it drove over Tulsa’s streets and the beautiful views of Tulsa. In the bus, all I could see was the bottoms of businesses and a creepy doll staring at me. However, on the bus, we were able to drive over the paved in cellar of the real Tulsa Hex House, something we could only drive by in the trolley.

I recommend Tulsa Spirit Tours on their recitation of Tulsa’s seedy history alone. You may not look at Tulsa the same way ever again. 

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About the Author

Chelsea Copeland

Chelsea Copeland is a native Oklahoman, born in Tulsa and raised in Coweta. She graduated from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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