By Michael Pineda
Superheroes, princesses and ghosts of all shapes and sizes will fill the streets starting Saturday in celebration of Halloween.
At historic Fort Reno, it will be just another night for many of the spirits that haunt its grounds. Throughout the years, visitors and volunteers have shared interactions that are hard to describe. For Yukon resident Wendy Ogden, she has had her fair share.
Since Ogden was 10 years old, she has spent time at the fort. Ogden has served as a reenactor, visited her grandfather as he rebuilt structures at the fort and served in various directorship positions since 2015 at the Cavalry Museum and the Visitor’s Center.
When asked to share a ghost story, one of the most prevalent that comes to mind took place on a spring day at the Cavalry Museum. Ogden was researching Ben Clark, one of the famed residents of the fort, for an exhibit.
“I was sitting at my desk and my two kids were sitting on the floor with their two laptops, just doing research on Ben Clark,” she said. “This particular day, being that it was raining, it was March when attendance was down from travelers.”
It was not an unusual occurrence to hear different sounds such as footsteps, furniture sliding or voices. Other than the voices of Ogden and her kids sharing research, it had been a quiet day.
On the other side of the room, there was the gift shop. Next to an enclosed glass display case, there was a display shelf, about waist-high. On the middle shelf, between two drinking glasses was a flask on a yellow bandana. Ogden said it was not sitting on the edge about to fall off. But it did.
“It flew across the room and slid across the floor,” she said.
History of the buildings
Fort Reno began as a military camp in 1874. During its history, it transitioned from a fort in the Indian Wars to an Army quartermaster remount station through 1948, also housing prisoners of war during World War II.
After the final animals were shipped from the fort in 1952, many of the structures fell into disrepair. Ogden said the Visitor’s Center, which served as the veterinarian’s quarters, had originally burned down and was rebuilt in 1934. The building sat derelict for years before it was restored. The building where the cavalry museum is located was a married officer’s quarters. The duplex sat derelict for 30 years until it too was restored.
Once it was converted into a museum, there were signs here and there of supernatural activity.
“I would sit in the museum in the offseason and hear furniture, creaking like someone is walking above you, groups of voices,” Ogden said.
“When I would be doing things at the desk that required full attention, like writing grants, quarterly payroll taxes, profit and loss statements. Anything like that. Anything that required my full attention, I would notice little things.”
At times, the little bells attached to the door would jingle despite there not being a breeze. Pens and pencils would roll across the desk without being touched. Pretty soon, Ogden decided it was time to look and see who had lived in the building, and who it was that was buried in the cemetery.
“What I uncovered in my investigation, being the geek that I am, I discovered in that particular building, the cavalry museum, there was a little boy named Louis Frass,” Ogden said. “He is on the register having arrived at Fort Reno, I think it was 1899. His dad was an officer and married. That would have put Louis Frass living in the officer’s quarters that is now the cavalry museum.”
Ogden learned that Frass had died of an unknown illness in March 1901. He was buried in the cemetery. Two weeks later, there was a house fire in a home that was located just to the north of the married officer’s quarters. That home sat on what is now a vacant lot.
“The story that was in the paper at the time revealed mom was in town conducting business after leaving two children at home,” Ogden said. “As she was coming back to Fort Reno, she could see a plume of smoke coming from the area and discovered it was her home.”
As the story goes, the woman’s son made it out alive. Her daughter, Maria Wheeler, was burned beyond recognition. Wheeler was buried next to Frass at the fort cemetery, where they remain to this day.
Ogden did the background work to find out more of the history. A paranormal group also conducted an investigation, which filled in some holes. The group was not provided with the history behind the cavalry museum and offered some revealing answers.
“They came back to me and said there were two women,” Ogden said. “One of them died of an illness. She had a cough. It was a persistent cough. We don’t know what she died of, but it was an illness that induced a cough.
“The other one, there was a woman that came through and she was very sad. Things were not well within the marriage, and she was sad they were not well.”
Ogden said the group confirmed some of the reports she had from patrons who at times heard a woman crying and other times heard coughing. The group also threw Ogden a curveball when they asked about her daughter.
They said, ‘Do you know somebody named Emily,’” Ogden said. “I said, ‘yes.’ They asked, ‘Does she work at the museum?’”
Her daughter volunteered at the museum. The group said they had picked up on two very young kids. One of the kids, a boy, said he liked it when Emily worked at the museum and that she was nice.
“When they started coming back with things that affirmed things I had experienced in there, it kind of began making sense,” Ogden said. “Almost everything they were asking me, I could place within some kind of instance at the fort that someone had either told me, or I had experienced, or my kids had experienced.”
As it turned out, the paranormal group was not the only ones to meet the young boy and girl. A book club touring the fort also encountered the two children.
“When I was working at the visitor’s center, I had a group of women there that had come out to do some research,” Ogden said. “They were a book club and went walking around the fort.
“They came back and started chewing on me, saying, ‘Why do you let your little kids play out on the lawn?” I was like, ‘Excuse me?’”
The group said there was a little boy and girl at the fort playing and they should not be allowed to play by themselves. This caught Ogden by surprise given that her children were teenagers and in school.
“They took me out there to show me the little kids and there were no little kids out there,” she said.
Ogden said the situation affirms Marie Wheeler and Louis Frass are still at the fort, playing where they used to live. She added the children seem friendly, they just want some attention.
Other buildings throughout the fort have their own stories, many of which are unexplained noises and incidents. While tours have ended for the year, the museums and fort grounds can be visited. The Visitor’s Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and the fort is located at 7101 W. Cheyenne St. in El Reno.