Words and photos by Natalee Dobbs
Are you a fan of the paranormal, ghost stories, or things that go “bump” in the night? Well then, you need to take yourself (and a few good friends) to Ft. Reno for their monthly ghost walk tour!
The Visitor’s Center – reportedly a Major haunts this building.
Fort Reno? What’s that, you say? Well, Ft. Reno (located west of El Reno) is a historic military camp which was established in 1874 for the protection of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. The Fort has also played an important role in African American history – a cavalry of “Buffalo Soldiers” were stationed at the Fort, participating in enforcing order in the Land Run of 1889 and escorting cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail. During WWII, the Fort was home to German POWs, who were captured in Northern Africa as a part of Rommel’s campaign. The Germans were treated quite well, and were able to work for $0.80 day as farmhands and laborers for local area towns and ranches. The POWs were so impressed by their treatment, they built the beautiful chapel that still stands on the grounds of the Fort, and can be rented for weddings. The Fort is now used as a grazing research facility by the USDA.
A possible ghost caught on film?! (red arrow inserted by me)
At sundown, and before you embark on the guided tour, you will be given two separate orientations/presentations. One is regarding the history of the Fort itself and some of the ghostly activity that the staff members and visitors have experienced throughout the years. If that doesn’t get you spooked, the next presentation is by a local paranormal investigation team (this night the presentation was conducted by Ghostlight Paranormal – a team based in Oklahoma City), where they relate tales of the investigations and possible evidence of paranormal activity at the Fort. Afterwards, attendees are split into four separate groups, told to grab a lantern and follow your guide around the Fort for some history and ghost stories!
The most haunted house at the Fort, and extremely creepy.
The first house we came to is rumored to be the most haunted building on the grounds. It definitely gave me the creeps, but then again, looking at any old house in the dark on a full moon night will do that to most people. Our group then proceeded to the USDA offices, where staff members have reported doors opening, footsteps, and cold spots throughout. The next building was the old barracks, which is now being used as storage. Our guide (Jessica Wells) encouraged us to look in the windows and take photos, as many strange things have shown up when photographed. After visiting another house on the grounds, we then stopped at the Chapel. While we were there, my group and another were treated to a paranormal experiment, in which one of the investigators, Lindsey Miles (who was leading the other group), sat at the altar of the church, while the rest of us sat in the pews. The lights were then turned off, and Lindsey attempted to communicate with any spirits that may be present by knocking 3 times on the floor and asking the spirits to reciprocate in kind. The experiment was performed 3 times, but only a vague creaking noise was ever heard.
Aiiieeee!!! A ghost!! Just kidding, it’s just one of the employees dressed up for fun.
The last three houses on the tour were former officer’s quarters. Plenty of activity from various sources have been reported in these locations. At this point, we had been on the walking part of the tour for almost 3 hours, so be sure to wear your good shoes! However, there is also a golf cart available for anyone who has trouble walking or standing. Once the tour of the Fort was completed, you have the option of proceeding with the guides (via your vehicle) to the cemetery, located about a half-mile up the road. Any cemetery at midnight during a full moon will be creepy, but other than the atmosphere, I found this one to be rather sad, yet peaceful. Jessie, our guide, told us stories about the more notable individuals buried there, especially that of Ben Clark, a former scout who committed suicide after the death of his wife; a Chinese immigrant and launderer for the soldiers who was brutally murdered, and is the only segregated grave in the cemetery; a German POW who perished of burn wounds sustained in a natural gas explosion just one day before he was due to go home; and a minister whose casket was struck by lightning twice during the processional to the graveyard.
Super-creepy Officer’s quarters, where the battery in my camera mysteriously drained and then died.
Overall, my friends and I had a wonderful time during the tour. We found the guides to be friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the history of the Fort, even outside the ghost stories. One detail that is not listed on the Fort’s website (www.fortreno.org) is that reservations for the tour are preferred (they fill up fast – there were around 60-70 people at our tour), and the cost for the tour is $6 for adults, and $5 for children and senior citizens. However, the fee for the tour goes towards funds to match a government grant to restore the buildings at the Fort, so the cost is for a good cause. The tours run April – October on the 3rd Saturday of the month. Next month’s tour also coincides with the Fort’s “Tombstone Tales Day”, where re-enactors will tell stories of the inhabitants of the cemetery for the public and schoolchildren. Ft. Reno’s Ghost Tour is definitely worth the 20 mile drive for an out-of-the ordinary good time.