Five Creepy Legit Oklahoma Ghost Towns, Including Two Near Stillwater
When you think of "ghost towns," the thought process most people take is through the Old West. And that works for Oklahoma, for sure. Boomtowns built around mining and gambling back when the West was still wild, tent cities and stick-built shacks centered around a saloon and a cemetery. That's not exactly the case. There are ghost towns all over the world, and America's just happened to gall that way during a time that paints a picture in your mind. We all know what ghost towns "should" look like, but some are a lot more modern than you'd think.
The first ghost town we'll visit is right on the Texas border, bearing the appropriate name of Texola. It's funny that it caught a classification as a "ghost town" because people still live there. Albeit, very few people still live there. I can remember from my childhood, when we'd travel to grandparents' house for the holidays, there was still an exit sign on I-40 for Texola, but that's been some thirty years ago.
Funny enough, the Magnolia Service Station there is the big draw. It earned "Historical Registry" status back in the 90's, even though it's decrepit and falling apart still today. Once adorned with long-removed neon letters, it was once exactly the type of service station you would picture on Route 66.
You'd think, is located in my childhood backyard, I would have heard of Skedee before... but I hadn't heard of it before seeing it somewhere online. It's such a remotely located "ghost town" out in the middle of nowhere, even Google hasn't been through there to get a street view map built. Now that's a small, dead town.
Funny enough, it's a town that got its start like so many long-gone Northern Oklahoma towns. It built up around an oil boom, produced millions of dollars, and when the wells went dry, all the money moved out leaving scraps and agriculture for those still homesteading generational properties. People do still live there, managing to carve out a living in whatever industry they've chosen. It's admirable, but once in a while, you have a need for easy access to Buffalo Wild Wings.
You know, it's not the first time I've talked about Picher, Oklahoma here. It's a famous town known for its insane failure. Corporations took as much from the land as they could and left every resident there wondering what to do next. It was a piece of land heavy in minerals like zinc and lead. Naturally, some big corporation sprung up to capitalize on it. They provided jobs, workers provided revenue, and when the Environmental Protection Agency realized they'd been mining unrestricted for some hundred years, the discoveries were devastating.
Cave-ins became a regular thing, houses crumbled, foundations fell. Abandoned and illegally dumped waste sites lead to horrifying discoveries among the children of Picher, nearly a third of them suffering from lead poisoning in their youth. The horrors of unregulated industry left deep scars across the lives of those who had no idea. Amazingly, even as late as 2000, there were still some 1600 people living there. As more and more of these toxic discoveries were made, the population eventually dwindled to just 20 residents in the year 2010. It's still too early to know the results of the 2020 census, but odds are, there's at least one holdout still living in Picher.
If you were to Google "Lenora Oklahoma," you'd find very few results. In fact, the Wikipedia entry on this old town consists of just the following...
Lenora is an unincorporated community in Dewey County, Oklahoma, United States. It is located 5.5 miles west of Taloga. The community was founded in 1892 and had a population of 400 in 1900. A post office operated in Lenora from March 24, 1896 to June 30, 1955.
Not much is known about the history of this town to anyone outside this town. Shockingly, there are still a number of people living in the area, fewer inside what would be "city limits."
Ingalls, Oklahoma was once known famously for a shootout between some bandits and a lawman. This was right as America was starting to close out the era of the Old West. Billed as the "Battle of Ingalls," US Marshalls had it out one day in 1893 with the famed Doolin-Dalton Gang. Three deputies and three residents lost their lives in a gun-fight straight out of Hollywood. Started in the streets, rolled through a saloon, and came to a close in the alley. A stone monument still stands in dedication to the memory of that moment.
Ironically, and unknown to most of the residents of this Wild West forgotten town, Ingalls was an accidental safe haven for outlaws for a long time. It's another town so small, Google hasn't made the trip out there to catalog the city, but being just outside of Stillwater, it'd be a perfect Saturday road trip. See a ghost town, relive a little history, and eat some epic cheese fries at Eskimo Joe's in Stilly.
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