Route 66 - Red Barn to Fort Reno Ghosts

Not finding any $10 bills floating around the old gas station ruins, we headed west to Arcadia and a famous round, red barn which promised some shopping for Youngest-daughter. She hadn't purchased anything for more than a day and she is so concerned about the country's financial problems, you know. She was just itching to help the economy.

That is one, big, red, round barn!
Built in 1898 by local farmer William H. Odor, the huge, red barn in Arcadia (N35 39 43.4 W097 19 34.9) is 60 feet across and 43 feet high. Heading west on 66, it sits on the right side of the road and is hard to miss. It was constructed with burr oak that was soaked in the Deep Fork River and then bent into shape. Why was it built round? Nobody knows for sure, but some old-timers said it was believed back then that round structures were tornado proof.  It was built to shelter farm animals and store hay and grain, but from early on, it was also used for social events. The barn had fallen into disrepair by the early 1970's, but the Arcadia Historical and Preservation Society completely restored it in 1992. The bottom floor is a sort of Route 66 museum and gift shop and the upper floor is a popular venue for dances, large meetings, and weddings.

Wash tub "swimming pool"
The gift shop did indeed have a large selection of items for sale - some cool stuff, some cheap touristy stuff, and some higher priced antique's along with a large number of books. Youngest-daughter ended up only buying a little knick-knack and I bought a couple of vintage Route 66 post cards. I found an old galvanized wash tub like my grandparents had which was my "swimming pool" when I was young enough to fit in it, but old enough to remember it. They would put the tub in the vegetable garden or next to my grandmother's flower beds so any water I splashed out would not be wasted. I thought pretty hard about buying it, but the price was rather steep and I would just be buying it for the memory with no idea what it would be used for or where to put it when I got back home. I passed it up and don't regret it.

Exposed ceiling inside the big red barn.
The ceiling above the 2nd floor was exposed wood and  presented an interesting pattern. I have no idea how many people that cavernous space will hold, but it sure is big!

On a side note - be sure to obey the speed limit signs in Arcadia. I had heard the local law enforcement folks  are rather free with writing speeding tickets and sure enough, I saw two of them, doing the classical hiding routine behind the side of a building and behind a tree with their radar guns out. I didn't get a ticket and now you shouldn't either!

Youngest-daughter in front
of Pops
After making use of their clean restrooms, we stashed our new goodies in the large plastic tub we had brought along to keep our souvenirs safe and dry in the back of the truck and after grabbing a couple of bottles of water from the ice chest, we continued our journey. Just outside of town, we came to Pops (N35 39 31.2 W097 20 06.5), an excellent diner, gas station, and convenience store with over 400 kinds of soft drinks! Opened in 2007, you can't miss this site either as it has a 66-foot high modern art pop bottle in front of it. Unfortunately, we were not there at night, but after dark, the structure is illuminated with LED's that light in sequence, changing color and giving the impression the bottle is being filled. We spent a fun 30 minutes inside just looking at all of the different kinds of pop they carried.

I have no idea where they get some of
these drinks, but they are very cool!
It took a while to make up our minds, but we finally purchased 6 bottles of soda - a Dr. Pepper made with real sugar the old fashioned way, a Coke in a glass bottle just because Youngest-daughter had never had a Coke in a glass bottle and 4 other cool soda's that I didn't even know were made; Route 66 Orange, Freaky Dog Grape, Grand Teton Grape and a Blue Whale soda. Unfortunately, I placed the carton on the back seat and when I opened the door at a later stop, the carton fell out onto the concrete and the Blue Whale soda shattered. Thankfully, the others survived the fall somehow and after carefully packing them away this time, made it all the way back home.

We soon ran into the suburbs of Oklahoma City - housing developments, road construction, strip shopping malls, and the beginning of rush hour traffic. There are few remnants of pre-1953 Route 66 in Oklahoma City and given my aversion to the hustle and bustle and overcrowdedness of large cities, this is the one spot where we deliberately veered away from the route and took the freeway to get through as quickly as possible. Thankfully, we were jut ahead of the stop-and-go traffic of everyone trying to get home from work and it didn't take all that long to get to the small town of Bethany, another suburb of Oklahoma City, where we rejoined Route 66.

Lake Overholser
After crossing the North Canadian River, the route curves around the shores of 1,500 acre Lake Overholser. Today, it serves as a reservoir for a water treatment plant and offers water-based recreation-type activities, but in 1941, this was the first and only body of water in Oklahoma to be officially designated as a seaplane base.  Transcontinental seaplane travel on Pan American Airways' "Clipper ships" was considered to be the best and most luxurious way to travel. There were high expectations this area would become the very profitable hub of a busy, commercial airlines business, but then World War II began and those dreams were put on hold. By the end of the war, government and civilian construction crews had built thousands of miles of long, straight, concrete runways all around the country and the era of seaplane travel was dead.

There are many stories of ghosts and haunted places on Route 66, but passing through Yukon (boyhood home of Garth Brooks), we came upon what is reputedly the most haunted stretch of the old highway, from El Reno to Fort Reno and on to Hydro. Fort Reno was built in 1874 and it's soldiers helped suppress the Indians, escorted cattle drives through the area, and guarded 1,335 German prisoners of war (they had been part of Rommel's forces captured in North Africa) as well as a few Italian prisoners during WW II. It also served as a Quartermaster re-mount depot until 1947. Horses continued to be raised and trained here even after 1947. Black Jack, the riderless horse used for President John F. Kennedy's funeral was born and raised at Fort Reno. The facility is now used as a grazing lands research center, owned by the government, with some of the buildings, but not all, restored for tourists.

Entrance to Fort Reno
There were many deaths in Fort Reno, attested to by the cemetery located about a mile down a lonely gravel road from the site - accidents, sickness, and at least one suicide. 62 German and 8 Italian prisoners are interred there along with a number of the fort's soldiers. In the Visitor's Center, formally the Commandant's Quarters, in the green-tiled bathroom, is where a Major Konat committed suicide in the 1930's after his wife left him for another man. The Major's spirit supposedly still roams the house, his medals rustling, his presence felt on the staircase landing where motion detectors are set off in the middle of the night in the locked facility. The Major changes television stations from soap operas to game shows the employees say, and they hear his heavy boots thudding across the floorboards upstairs when they are completely alone in the building. Lights go on and off after the facility is locked for the night. Water turns itself on and off in sinks. Pictures fall off walls when nobody is near them. There are cold spots you happen upon as you walk around the building.There is the unsettled spirit of Bill Stockwell who carries on eternally in the old guardhouse. He was being held prisoner in one of the basement cells in 1885 for a crime he adamantly insisted he didn't commit. He became very sick and the post's doctor prescribed treatment, but the bottle of medicine he was mistakenly given contained strychnine. His final words were to curse his accusers and insist they had not heard the last of Bill Stockwell. To this day, the sounds of someone sick and groaning are often heard in the guardhouse, chains rattle, and cold spots are felt.

There are other buildings on the grounds; buildings locked up tight so nobody can enter them due to their unsafe floors. There is still furniture in some of the rooms and the guides say the furniture is often moved around, but the locks remain undisturbed and there are no footprints in the dust on the floors. There is the story of the flickering light sometimes seen floating around the grounds. It appears to be flames moving from one location to another that quickly disappear whenever someone brave enough tries to approach. Some think it is the ghost of poor Hans Seifert, a prisoner of war who accidentally set himself ablaze while trying to light a natural gas stove just the night before he was to be released and sent back home after the war. He died trying to run away from the inferno that engulfed him. And then there is the documented story of the post's minister's funeral. His horse-drawn hearse was carrying his body to the cemetery when a bolt of lightning struck it, killing one of the 4 horses pulling it. Another horse was brought up and hitched to the hearse, but before arriving at the cemetery, another bolt of lightning struck the hearse, killing another horse and causing the hearse itself to begin smoldering. Men in the procession, as quickly as they could, hand-carried the coffin and the body of the minister the rest of the way to the cemetery,  threw him into the hole and ran back to the safety of their barracks, quickly passing right by the still smoldering hearse with the dead horse laying beside it.

We didn't see or hear any ghosts and we made it through without incident. I was hoping to maybe feel a ghostly tapping on my shoulder, but Youngest-daughter was fine with our lack of a paranormal experience. Maybe we would have better luck at our next stop, Hydro, and the apparition that appears to be an elderly humped back man doomed to walk the Mother Road forever.

Go to the first Route 66 entry here.
Or go to the first entry of each state:
 
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