When Caleb Germany was in high school in Oklahoma City, he and some friends drove to Guthrie one night to see an abandoned building rumored to be a haunted orphanage. Germany asked How Curious: What’s the history of the building? Is it actually haunted?
Editor’s Note: A version of this story aired in October 2018.
The property in question is the former Masonic Children’s Home, a stately classical Revival red brick building with marble columns, built by the Freemasons in the 1920s. Germany visited the site a handful of times during high school and college, but he and his friends never ventured inside.
“It felt like, ‘Hey, if I were a ghost, this is where I’d be hanging out,’” he said.
More than 100 children reportedly lived at the Masonic Children’s Home in its early days. According to legend, a cruel headmistress doled out harsh punishments to children when they misbehaved.
Jeff Provine has authored several books about the supernatural in Oklahoma, including Haunted Guthrie. Provine says the child abuse supposedly upset a staff member who then committed suicide in the building’s bell tower.
“They say at midnight, if you’re up in the tower and wait and watch, you can see this shadowy figure fall down and hang by the neck,” Provine said.
Fewer than two dozen children lived at the Guthrie home by the 1970s, and it closed in 1977, according to the Oklahoma History Center. It sat unoccupied for years, but it is now an event center and hotel called Dominion House
Provine said some visitors have reported unusual experiences, like spotting a little boy running around in old fashioned clothing or hearing children laughing.
Julie Ayers, Dominion House’s director, said she has spent many late nights on the property, but she has never seen anything eerie.
“A lady made a comment online that the bathroom was ‘unseasonably cold.’ What she doesn’t know is that I have an air conditioner that just feeds that bathroom,” said Ayers, laughing.
Some accounts from the children that lived in the building also contradict the haunting rumors. In 1995, the Oklahoma Masons published a memory book of the children’s home with photos and recollections of former residents.
“We all had plenty to eat, nice clothes and caring people to look after us,” wrote Vonia Robertson Gough, who said she lived there beginning in February 1930.
The publication does not mention a cruel headmistress or harsh punishments.
Why Are Kids So Creepy?
Many scary stories in film, television and books center on children or children’s homes.
Peter Bradshaw, a film critic for The Guardian, wrote “our profound yet unacknowledged fear of children” is a “great theme” of the horror genre.
“We are afraid of their vulnerability, which is our vulnerability,” Bradshaw theorized.
Other theories suggest child characters are normally portrayed as harmless, so viewers find films that alter that portrayal disturbing.
Ghost stories are sometimes based on truth, and many horrific things happen to children in real life. Some former residents of a now-closed Catholic orphanage in Vermont, for example, accused staff in 2018 of beating and sexually abusing children, some of whom died.
Supernatural historian Jeff Provine said he does not expect rumors about the former children’s home in Guthrie, like the ones Caleb Germany heard in high school, to disappear anytime soon.
“An abandoned mansion on the edge of town--that’s urban legend fodder right there,” Provine said.
How Curious is a production of KGOU Radio. It's produced by Claire Donnelly. This episode was edited by Jacob McCleland and Caroline Halter. David Graey composed the theme music. Email your questions about Oklahoma to firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to the How Curious podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast app.
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