By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)November 1, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. --Soldiers are tough. But there are Army wives living on the Old Post Quadrangle who say 'I ain't afraid of no ghost.' On Halloween that kind of bravery means something.
With purple and black lights strewn across the Sherman House's historic front, Connie McDonald, Fort Sill first lady, is ready. She has her 'black hats club' sign to welcome all witches, and she said she thinks she and Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, have broken the chain of spirits visiting their quarters.
"We've experienced zippo. We think it's the system," said McDonald. "Mark says he doesn't hear anything because he takes his hearing aid out at night."
She said another theory on why they haven't experienced anything in the Sherman House is because of all the entertaining that takes place there.
"We wear the ghosts out," she said. "The family before heard music. Of course part of that is the master bedroom is an old ballroom. And, in the closet, supposedly there's a Native American who comes out periodically with the intent to scare people."
McDonald has a copy of "The Ghosts of Fort Sill," by Robert Hiatt, on a bookshelf nearby with the story of the closet's spirit, which attaches it to when Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was attacked.
"So I keep the vacuum cleaner in there. It's my own modern version of 'Ghostbusters' I guess," said McDonald. "We never had any experiences in the Danford House either, but families since then have. Evidently there's a lady over there on the second floor who speaks to the children."
That's not to say she has never experienced ghosts or the unexplained in any of the historical housing she and the commanding general have lived in during their time with the Army. She said one such incident was when they lived at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"I was unpacking our wedding china and I do it in a certain order. I mean after you unpack so many times you know exactly how you're going to do it. And our wedding china kept moving. The entire stack! I thought I must be tired."
"Every time I would unpack something that had something to do with our wedding it would get misplaced. At this point Mark and I had been married 18 years, so it wasn't like that new thing you don't know what to do with. I found myself actually saying, 'Stop moving it.' And I was like 'Oh my. I just talked to the air.'"
McDonald said there were other things that separately would be insignificant, but again tied back to her marriage. For instance a leak from her son's bathroom into the basement found its way directly onto their box of wedding pictures. And then a visit from her friend's mother put the incidents into focus.
"I had never told anybody these stories because first off, you sound like something is wrong with you, and I didn't want to make a big deal about it because my daughter was about 11," said McDonald.
She said her friend's mother walked through the house, but stopped short at the dining room.
"She said there's something in there I'm looking around for a spider. She said 'There's a spirit in there and they're not happy and I'm not going in.' And I started thinking about my china. It was right there."
McDonald said her friend's mother didn't consider herself to be a medium, but she got the impression the spirit used to be a maid, or nanny, or cook, who had a crush on the officer of the home and didn't like the wife. She said although the spirit was spiteful it wasn't dangerous.
McDonald said following that discussion the lights in their master bedroom flickered and a framed wedding invitation on the wall fell more than once.
"I just remember when the wedding invitation fell off the wall I was like, OK there's something to this."
McDonald said there was a time when the ghost seemed to call a temporary truce. And it seemed it even warmed up to her.
"My father passed away and my mother moved in with us. She was suffering from Alzheimer's. You know there was no messing with us the entire time. No movement of anything, no lights flickering, nothing falling off the wall when my mom was there. Four months after that, things started happening again, but they were minor. Not enough to make you they were just like 'I'm still here.'"
As far as their current residence, McDonald said besides the constant entertaining of living guests, she and her husband joke that there is no ghost activity because she was born on Halloween.
"Mark says the ghosts that are here remember me from when I was a little girl in the 1890s."
McDonald said she has always has fun with her birthday and her son even used it to get out of being bullied in school when he threatened that his mother was an actual witch. Ever since then she has dressed as a witch for Halloween.
Old Post Quadrangle
Down the street on the Old Post Quadrangle, more stories pop out of each historical home.
Cristi Cardenas, a resident since June, shared the tales over coffee with other military spouses. Using "The Ghosts of Fort Sill," the group walked around the quadrangle recounting each haunt in the book.
"I know my house is not in the ghost book, but there's a lot of strange stuff that happens in it. I hear military drum music and I talked to the previous tenant and she said she heard the same thing," said Cardenas.
She said her family's first realization something else was in the house was from the way her cat and dog acted.
"The first maybe two weeks we were here, they were so uneasy."
She said at night their dog whimpers and sits at the top of the stairs and shakes.
"The other day I was sitting on the sofa and I just stopped because I thought I saw a person wearing like khaki or grey pants with a white shirt. So it's not like what other people describe seeing someone wearing a Civil War uniform. It was not a uniform. I purposely went 'Noel' to my husband like was that him? But I knew. I just told the kids, 'I just saw somebody walk into the kitchen,'" said Cardenas.
She said this is the fourth set of historical quarters her family has lived in and there has been something unique to each one.
She said when they lived on Upton Road on Fort Sill, the thermostat would rise and fall on its own and there would be cold spots throughout the house.
"You could physically walk in and walk out of these cold spots. It wasn't until a few years later that you're watching these ghost movies and they talk about these spots are actually entities, spirits that you can kind of feel. We would spend a lot of time jumping in and out of spots in that house," she recounted with a laugh.
She said one night when her children were upstairs asleep, a basketball mysteriously rolled down the hallway. Something that could easily be explained away except it had to roll up a stair to get to the hallway.
"It's neat to live here and experience these things. I guess I'm just used to it. I enjoy telling the ghost stories, I enjoy experiencing them and so far I'm not scared because there's been nothing where I feel unsafe. I think it's kind of cool."