This mansion wore many hats in its time. The land was originally owned by the Creek tribe, then it was a luxurious mansion in Tulsa. It’s been an orphanage for indigenous children from the local reservation, became a private abode again for a while, and finally was converted into a museum. Today, we explore the Gilcrease House and Museum on Ghost to Coast.
Built in 1913 by a man named Flower Nelson, who purchased the land in 1909, the Gilcrease House was immediately filled with opulent things and surrounded by acres of empty farm land. The namesake of the house would become the new owner in 1949, living in the house during its use as an orphanage. More buildings and rooms were added to accommodate the children in their care. Thomas Gilcrease was a wealthy oil baron but he’d originally been raised as a member of the Creek tribe. Purchasing the home was like his family coming home to his tribe’s homeland, and they would treat the land with respect while on the property.
Thomas and his first wife, Belle Harlow, (Osage Tribe member) raised their 2 boys in the mansion, the family lived in the home for over 50 years, from 1919 to 1969. When money became tight in the 1950s, Gilcrease considered selling his sizable art collection and the mansion as oil prices fell and his fortune was in jeopardy. Groups from Tulsa banded together to offer Thomas a bond to pay off his debts, in exchange for the art collection to be housed in a museum. Gilcrease would set aside money to help build the museum and the running of the foundation. In his will when he passed in 1962, he left the house and all of the possessions in it to the Gilcrease Museum, where it still stands today.
It’s no wonder why the former owner still lives in the home in the afterlife, his ghost being the most commonly reported to the museum staff today. His spirit is said to enjoy looking at the paintings from his art collection, and his presence and footsteps are said to be heard in the house often, as if enjoying his eternal existence in the home he loved so much, surrounded by his favorite things. The ghost of Gilcrease was said to be seen as a full bodied apparition, appearing to the staff of the museum as if to say hello and remind them of his presence. He also has been seen enjoying the extensive gardens around the home that he cultivated and are still growing strong.
A more tragic ghost story involves the Native American children who were housed there in the 1940s. Unverified reports of a sweeping epidemic of disease is said to have caused the death of at least seven children, who can still be heard playing in the upstairs rooms of the home and appear in the gardens from time to time. The spirits are friendly and are typically heard as the laughter of young children reverberating in the halls and gardens.
One other full bodied apparition of a man in period clothing has not been identified, but has been seen in several locations of the home, as if keeping watch over it and keeping the children with some company in the afterlife. None of the ghosts in the museum or home are considered to be dangerous or malicious, so a visit to the haunted location may reveal playful and kind ghosts following you through the exhibits and halls of the home.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.