Fifteen years ago, the individuals who maintained the Fort Reno property needed to come up with a way to raise enough money to restore the timeworn buildings while sharing the fort’s history with the public.
“Fort Reno was a military camp in 1874 and was established as a military post in February of 1876,” says director Karen Nix. “Fort Reno and the Darlington Agency, which served the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians across the Canadian River, together preserved the peace and directed the orderly transition of this part of the Indian Territory from reservation to individual farms and ranches. Troops from Fort Reno supervised the first great Land Run of 1889 that opened the Unassigned Lands for settlement.”
With that history spanning more than a century, Fort Reno has had its fair share of suicides and unsolved murders, and those unsettled souls have piqued the interest of the living. So, in 2000, the ghost tours began, bringing in guests on the third Saturday of each month from March through October to witness the unusual occurrences.
For the last four years, those tours have been led by Grandma’s Paranormal Society. The group of volunteers has spent many hours investigating the site, comparing their findings to the fort’s documented history.
Paranormal investigator and tour guide Ruth Ann Crawford says the group has developed a relationship with some of the spirits and can count on them to make their presence known during the live investigations held on each tour. One such encounter occurred in the chapel.
“The chapel windows are at least 15 feet off the ground. In others words, so high that there’s no way a person could be standing there in front of those windows,” explains Crawford. “The person on the tour took a picture, and, very clearly, there was a human face and upper chest looking in that window. Not only was it so clear that you could see all the details, we believe – compared to the pictures that we have seen there at the fort – that it was Ben Clark. Ben Clark was a big part of the fort’s history, and he committed suicide here at the fort.”
The investigators strive to be as accurate as possible as they intertwine history and mystery to entertain and intrigue the guests – even the non-believers.