On an old bridge between Summit and Oktaha — a bridge so old that as you drive over it, when you look down, you can see the ground through the wood that makes up the bridge — a mother and her baby were crossing when the baby fell off the bridge to its death below. The mother, distraught with grief and crying uncontrollably, dove off the bridge after her baby, meeting her death in the same way.

To this day, if you park on the bridge, you can hear the baby crying, and if you listen closely, you can hear the mother screaming.

It’s a poignant and horrifying story.

And it’s also completely untrue.

The story of “Crybaby Bridge” is one of the most pervasive urban legends in America — nearly every city has one, and the Muskogee area is no different.

Though it may not be from a distraught mother and her tragically killed baby, Muskogee IS haunted, if you listen to the people who swear they hear creepy voices or see ghostly apparitions.

Bacone College seems to be the center for many of the hauntings, according to Roger Bell, president of the Three Rivers Museum and the leader of a ghost tour in Muskogee each year.

Bell is quick to point out that he’s not a ghost hunter or anything of the sort, but rather that he’s more interested in the history of Muskogee — which happens to include ghost stories.

And the ghost stories abound.

Ghost riders make their way down East Side Boulevard perodically, apparently. Then, just as you notice them, they have a habit of disappearing.

At another place on East Side Boulevard was apparently a tea house. If you’re at the location, 219 East Side Blvd., and you stick your hand under water, you’ll hear tunes from the 1950s playing. When you come down the stairs, you’ll feel cold air on your back. Late at night, the ghost of a man who died there will sit on the end of your bed and you can see his red eyes glowing when all the lights are off. In the bathroom, you can see a big, black shadow in the ceiling when all the lights are off. And finally, when you drive by the house late at night, if you listen intently, you can hear two men talking as if they were in your car with you.

At Bacone, phantom riders often ride through campus if you’re there at the right time. In addition, if you’re alone at Sally Journeycake Hall, listen hard; you’ll hear Sally’s footsteps upstairs. Sally also opens and closes doors, and if you’re a naughty person, she may start rearranging things in your room, including knocking over trashcans.

In the Ataloa Lodge, late at night, when no one is around, Kachina dolls start to dance. No one knows why. But when you wake up in the morning, the dolls may not have made it back to their original places.

There’s also a building on Bacone’s property that used to be an orphanage. To this day, you can hear children crying there.

On Arline, some have heard reports of a little girl standing at the top of the stairs, and their televisions, stereos and other appliances will suddenly come on and off in the middle of the night.

The location of Old Sally Brown School has been full of ghosts as long as anyone around here can remember, and even though it’s been renovated, the Severs Building that now hosts Bank of Oklahoma is still occasionally visited by the ghost of a man who was brutally murdered there many years ago.

The Thomas Foreman Home, one of the bedrooms of which is portrayed on the cover of this edition of Weekend, is sometimes visited by the ghost of Mrs. Foreman, who keeps watch over the property.

In the Fort Gibson National Cemetery, there’s a woman who posed as a man and later was killed while mourning over her soldier husband’s grave. She was buried in the Captain’s Circle and still haunts the area to this day. Sometimes, as it has been for the last 100 years, you can go out there and still see her sobbing at her husband’s grave.

Those are just some of the ghosts that people around Muskogee talk about.

Everyone, it seems, has a different ghost story, and they all involve tragedy.

Muskogee is an old town, and apparently the ghosts are starting to get good and settled in around here.

That’s unavoidable, says ghost hunter Amanda Shawver of Ghost Hunters of South Tulsa, who has been experiencing contact with the other side since she was a tiny child.

“A ghost is residual,” she says. “What that means is that it has no idea what’s going on. It’s just residual energy that is left behind.”

That “residual energy” manifests itself as the apparitions seen by humans, she said, and the more energy there is around, the more apparent the ghosts are.

Teri French, co-founder of Paranormal Investigation Team of Tulsa. in Tulsa, agrees — sort of.

“Ghosts are some time of an anomalous energy,” she said. “They’re leftover energy, usually from some sort of traumatic experience — murder, suicide, sudden death of some kind. Some ghosts just don’t ever leave a place because they put their heart and soul into it and it was their life when there were alive.”

Shawver describes herself as a true believer in ghosts. French describes herself as a believer, but “I’ve become more of a skeptic since I started doing this.”

Both are ghost hunters — people who receive reports of ghostly activity and then go investigate it using what they call scientific methods, though French admits the science itself is a little difficult to come by.

“The equipment we use doesn’t really check for the presence of ghosts,” she said. “Instead, everything we use just measures the environment, such as the temperature, electromagnetic fields, since there’s a theory that ghosts may alter the electromagnetic frequencies in the air. We look for changes in the environment.”

French’s team, which calls itself by the acronym PITT, uses the same equipment on control environments — areas that have no reported hauntings — to make sure any readings they get from haunted sites aren’t just within the range of natural occurrance.

Shawver is rather more enthusiastic. Her team uses much of the same equipment as French’s team, but they also use dowsing rods — occultic objects long touted for their supposed ability to locate water in dry places.

When asked whether her theories about ghosts were based upon scientific observation or on some sort of ghost theology, Shawver was quick to reply: “Most of the explanations I’m giving you are theology.”

In other words, there’s little to no hard science to support the existence of ghosts at all.

Skeptics point out that ghostly manifestations usually occur out of the corner of the eye or fleeting moments. The manifestations sometimes can be written off as hallucinations (a reality French’s team tries to discover from each case before they commit time to a full investigation) or other anomalies that are perfectly explicable from normal occurrances.

Still, some phenomena seem to still fall outside the realm of scientific explanation so far.

The tea room ghost on East Side Boulevard doesn’t really poke his head around much anymore. The house has long been torn down and there’s a Braum’s there now. French and Shawver both agreed that the ghost is probably still around, but because people aren’t in a house alone with him, they’re less likely to notice him these days — unless he takes a big bite out of their banana split.

The Thomas Foreman Home ghost has only been experienced by one man, the house’s gardener, who himself later passed on.

The Bacone ghosts still freak students out occasionally, and the dolls still dance, if you listen to the stories.

The crybaby bridge story still gets life from each new generation, and the ghosthunters agree that the urban legend probably had its genesis in a true story somewhere, but most crybaby bridges are just wishful thinking.

No one seems to know exactly what the story was at Sally Brown School, nor do they know the specifics of the haunting.

But if you’re looking for stories to creep you out in Muskogee and the area, you’re not short of opportunities. Not only that, but if you’re really interested in the afterlife’s leftovers, you can accompany Bell on a tour of the area’s haunted places Oct. 27 and 28. Register quick at the Three Rivers Museum, because last year, the tour was packed completely full.

And whatever you do, don’t be an evil person around Bacone or Sally Journeycake will get you.

You can reach Leif M. Wright at 684-2906 or Should he die before you reach him, just look over your shoulder.

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