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Cover story: Odd Oklahoma

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(From tag in museum) Mummy with Cartonnage and Breastplate from the Faiyum district of Egypt. - Tutu died approximately 332 B.C.
  • (From tag in museum) Mummy with Cartonnage and Breastplate from the Faiyum district of Egypt. Tutu died approximately 332 B.C.

Take a trip through some of the curious attractions the state has to offer.

The world is a weird and wonderful place, and there are amazing and delightful things around every corner. Oklahoma has a wealth of the weird and offbeat, and we’ve compiled a few of the best so you can learn a little more about our state. Consider this your guide to the funkier side of Oklahoma. The truth might be stranger than fiction, but mystery and supposition are even more exciting.


Tutu the Egyptian mummy Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art 1900 W. MacArthur Drive, Shawnee mgmoa.org 878-5133

Everybody loves a good mummy, and Oklahoma has two noteworthy ones. There is the beautiful mummy of Tutu, who died in approximately 332 BCE. Her body was preserved in the traditional way of ancient Egypt. The entire mummification process took 70 days. She is displayed at the Mabee- Gerrer Museum of Art in Shawnee along with the museum’s impressive ancient Egyptian collection. In the collection, there is also a mummified cat believed to have been a sacrifice to Bast, the Egyptian goddess of women’s health.


Grave of accidental sideshow mummy Elmer McCurdy Summit View Cemetery 1808 S. Pine St., Guthrie cityofguthrie.itlnet.net/cemetery roadsideamerica.com/story/14196

The other, lesser known mummy has a much wilder story to tell. He was a crook named Elmer McCurdy who was killed in a 1911 shootout with a sheriff ’s posse. The undertaker in Pawhuska embalmed McCurdy’s body with an arsenic-based preservative, and when no one came to claim the body, he put it on display. He charged a nickel to see the body of the “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up.” The mummy, which people took for a mannequin, made its way through amusement parks, traveling carnivals and a movie before it came to rest at The Pike in Long Beach, Calif. In 1979, during filming of an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, the dummy was “discovered” to be an actual corpse. Elmer McCurdy’s decades of being ogled were over. His remains were sent to Oklahoma and buried in the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie. The medical examiner who helped identify the mummy requested two cubic feet of concrete over the body so he would never be disturbed again.


Fort Reno POW cemetery and ghost tours

Historic Ft. Reno museum and visitor center is located among research facilities within the preservation. Photo/Shannon Cornman - SHANNON CORNMAN
  • Shannon Cornman
  • Historic Ft. Reno museum and visitor center is located among research facilities within the preservation. Photo/Shannon Cornman

7107 W. Cheyenne St., El Reno fortreno.org 262-3987

Fort Reno was developed in 1847 to be a military encampment during the Indian Wars. Throughout its long and colorful history, the fort has been host to Indian scouts and Buffalo Soldiers and breeding grounds for army mules and horses. There are 70 German and Italian prisoners of war interred on the grounds of the fort. Given the fort’s colorful history, it seems only fitting that it would be the sight of some feisty spirits. There are continuous reports of paranormal activity on the grounds, including slamming doors, cold spots and reports of faces in windows. Mysterious things also show up in photographs taken there. You can get in on the paranormal action with the Fort El Reno Ghost Tours, hosted once a month at the fort. The tour is a lantern-lit walk through the grounds while hearing about the unsolved mysteries and murders during the fort’s long history. The tours run monthly from April through October, rain or shine.


Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday 18154 First St., Spiro okhistory.org/sites/spiromounds.php 918-962-2062

The Mississippian culture that thrived along the banks of the Mississippi river from AD 800s to the 1450s had a vast trade network and a pictographic writing system. Artifacts revealed from within the mounds show goods from California, Mexico and the Great Lakes region. Permanent settlers built large earthen mounds around central plazas. The great mystery is why the population of this thriving center all but vanished and the land remained empty from 1600 to 1832, when it was cleared for farming. In the 1930s, an unsavory group masquerading as a mining company looted the site, sold the artifacts and destroyed one-third of the mounds. The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is an ongoing subject of significant archaeological research. The center hosts special events during the solstice and equinox with walks through the site with archaeologist Dennis Peterson. He explains the history of the mounds and their particular arrangement in regard to the sun’s movement.


Heavener Runestone 18365 Runestone Road, Heavener atlasobscura.com/places/heavener-runestone 918-653-2241

There has been much theory and speculation on the origin of the stone, discovered in the 1830s by a Choctaw hunting party. There are written reports of the rock being seen by white trappers in 1874, who believed Indians carved it. Local historian Gloria Farley saw it in 1928 and realized the similarity of the carvings to the runic alphabet used by Vikings. There has been much speculation about the origin of the stone and whether Vikings passed through eastern Oklahoma in the 11th century. Theories about its origin range from the runes were carved by an ill-fated French expedition up the Mississippi to a prank by local Boy Scouts. The stone continues to be a draw to Heavener and the beautiful country surrounding it.


Showmen’s Rest and Bull Rider’s Reprieve Mount Olivet Cemetery Cemetery Road, Hugo 580-326-7511

A portion of Mount Olivet Cemetery is dedicated to those who have moved on to the big top in the sky. There, you will find graves of animal trainers, tightrope walkers and the 1962 World Champion Bull Rider, Freckles Brown. In this section of the cemetery — demarcated by granite pillars topped by circus elephants — you will find headstones depicting various aspects of circus life, including the headstone of Jack B. Moore, which is a model of a circus tent. The cemetery is a moving tribute to those who have finished their time on the road. As one headstone proclaims, they are “Dun Rovin’.” Also of note, Circus City is not far from the cemetery on Kirk Road and, in its heyday, was the winter home to more than 15 different traveling shows. Several shows still spend the off-season there. The city is also home to the second largest herd of elephants — the family behind the Carson & Barnes Circus run the Endangered Ark Foundation, where they participate in an elephant breeding program to preserve the endangered Asian elephant. Find out more at carsonbarnescircus.com.


Robbers Cave State Park 2300 Park Cabins Road, Wilburton 918-465-2565

Formerly named Latimer State Park, the 8,000 acres near Wilburton was renamed Robbers Cave in 1936 for some of its more notorious temporary residents. Through the ages, the natural cave served as a hideout for many an outlaw, including Jesse James, The Dalton Gang and Belle Starr. The cave is a natural choice of hideouts — it was not only shelter from the elements, but it was deep in the heart of what was, at the time, rugged wilderness. The main cavern runs more than 40 feet into the mountain and, as a bonus for all would-be fugitives, has a secret back exit. Visitors to the cave today can traverse the same steps that those running from the law took so long ago. Also of note, Younger’s Bend, Belle Starr’s refuge for the lawless, is located in Stigler, about 40 miles from Robbers Cave. In 1886, The Dallas Morning News reported the “Outlaw Queen” said, “I am friend to any brave and gallant outlaw.” She was known to give refuge to those in need of it in her cabin deep in Indian Territory and welcomed them into her home. She was shot in the back just before her birthday in 1889 and is buried at the site of the cabin.


Oklahoma Sasquatch Honobia Bigfoot Festival Oct. 3-4 facebook.com/honobiabigfootconferenceandfestival 918-917-3723

According to Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), you don’t have to look far in Oklahoma to find someone who has seen or heard the big guy. Since it has been compiling reports of sights and sounds affiliated with the mostly nocturnal creature, it lists 88 reports in our state. According to BFRO and other Bigfoot researchers, the Ouachita National Forest is a hotbed of Sasquatch activity. Honobia is the site of a biannual Sasquatch Festival. Researchers and fans gather to celebrate the mysterious hairy beast that scares the bejesus out of people with its nocturnal antics and oddly remains out of focus in photos, regardless of technology.


Thunderbird lake monster Lake Thunderbird State Park 13101 Alameda Drive, Norman 360-3572

This mysterious creature is said to inhabit at least three of Oklahoma’s lakes, but especially Lake Thunderbird. The creature is said to be responsible for the drowning and disappearances of unwitting lake swimmers. Although there are many skeptics, people who claim to have seen the creature describe a monster with tentacles and “leathery, reddish brown” skin the size of a cow. Could it be a rogue cephalopod with a taste for Okie flesh? There is no physical evidence, but many believers latch on to the alleged high number of mysterious drownings as evidence enough. Oklahoma lakes are murky enough to conceal what might lurk beneath. Proceed with caution, and whatever you do, don’t wake the kraken.


Oaklake Trails Naturist Park 24601 Milfay Road, Depew 918-324-5999

The Oaklake Trails Naturist Park, near Depew, is a pretty cool place. The folks there love sunbathing and enjoying the great outdoors in their birthday suits. To get a sample of the naturist life, head out to the park May 17 for the yearly Run, Walk or Crawl 5K Run. The event is open to the public, and it is clothing optional just in case you want to dip your toe in the nudist lifestyle from the safety of your own garments. Nudists refer to those who wear clothing as “textiles.” Don’t be a textile; let it all hang out at this park that was established in 1992 on 400 acres nearly smack dab between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The park is open year-round, and guests are always welcome to try it out, but be sure to contact the park in advance so they’ll know to expect you. And don’t worry; no one is allowed to take your photo without your consent. So get out in that warm Oklahoma sun and brown your buns with some nice, like- minded folks.


Territorial Capital Sports Museum 315 W. Oklahoma Ave., Guthrie 260-1342

Whether you are a sports fan or not, don’t miss the Territorial Capital Sports Museum in downtown Guthrie. The museum is a collection of Oklahoma sports history and Oklahoma athletes who have gone on to great things. One exhibit traces the history of minor league baseball in Oklahoma from the Oklahoma City Indians to the 89ers and the RedHawks. There is a strong focus on baseball, but there are exhibits on college and professional football players, Native American athletes and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Plan to take some time to chat with Richard Hendricks, the museum’s director. He is a walking encyclopedia of Oklahoma sports history. If it’s sports-related and it happened in Oklahoma, chances are he can tell you all about it.


As we said, Oklahoma is rich with the weird. Here are a few more destinations to stumble upon for pure entertainment and brilliant cocktail party conversation:

Tom Mix Museum 721 N. Delaware St., Dewey tommixmuseum.com 918-534-1555

See a monument to a man who was a cowboy movie legend and the suitcase that killed him.

Will Rogers Memorial Museum 1720 W. Will Rogers Blvd., Claremore willrogers.com 918-341-0719

A beautiful tribute to the man and the legend, this destination gets a mention for the fact that Will Roger’s “death pocket contents” are on display.

The ghost of the Rock Island Railroad Waurika Library 98 S. Meridian St., Waurika 580-228-3274

It is said that the library, a converted railroad station, not only houses artifacts and photos from the station but a ghost as well. There are rumors that one librarian even has a tape of some spooky incidents.

The Center of the Universe 20 E. Archer St., Tulsa

A concrete circle of about eight feet in diameter that sits in the center of Tulsa is an acoustic anomaly. When you stand inside the circle, whatever sound you make is significantly amplified. Those outside the circle can’t hear anything, regardless of the volume inside.

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