In the small town of Ripley, Oklahoma, a haunting legend surrounds an old oak tree standing in a hollow. Local residents claim to hear chilling sounds emanating from the tree on windy nights, and the hollow itself is said to be cursed, earning the name Ghost Hollow. But what is the history behind this eerie place, and why do so many believe it to be haunted?
As it turns out, the area surrounding Ghost Hollow was once a place of great lawlessness. In the late 1800s, when Payne County was still a wild and untamed land, it was not uncommon for criminals and outlaws to be hanged in the hollow. This practice continued until the early 1900s, leaving behind a legacy of death and despair that still lingers in the area today.
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One of the most popular legends surrounding Ghost Hollow is that of the curse placed on the area by a grieving father. According to the story, the man mistakenly shot his daughter while trying to kill her white lover, leading to a curse that demands death in the hollow every 17 years. This curse is said to have claimed many lives over the years, including a gambler from Ripley caught cheating at cards and subsequently hanged from the tree.
Local witnesses report hearing terrible moans coming from the hanging tree on windy nights, and one Boy Scout troop even had their horses spooked while passing through the hollow. Other legends suggest that an innocent man was hung from the tree in 1887, and the bark from the tree mysteriously fell off the next day. Finally, during full moons, witnesses claim that the tree glows brightly, adding to the eerie atmosphere of Ghost Hollow.
But the cursed tree of Ripley, Oklahoma is not limited to just one species. Another haunting legend surrounds an Elm tree that once stood along the Cimarron River in the same town. This tree was believed to be cursed, serving as the ideal spot for hangings in the 1800s. Legend has it that in 1887, an innocent man was strung up on that Elm, and the next day, all the bark mysteriously fell off of it. When the light of the moon shined on this bare tree, it glowed an eerie white color, and some even claimed to see a body hanging from it.
Another story suggests that three horse thieves were mysteriously hung from the tree, but it was not the first death this cursed tree has seen. Supposedly, an “Indian princess” was killed on the site of the tree for falling in love with a white man. She was only 17 and wanted to run away to marry him, but her father intervened. In his attempt to shoot her suitor, he instead killed his own daughter. Ever since then, the tree has been cursed, demanding a life every 17 years. Other deaths associated with the tree include a gambler who was caught cheating, two bodies found there in the early 1900s, and a deadly car wreck in 1939.
The Elm remained standing for many years, but it has since fallen down or been destroyed, depending on who you ask. We may never know if it’s alleged “glowing” was due to the natural occurrence of the moonlight hitting a bare tree or something more paranormal. However, visitors still claim to get a “creepy” feeling and hear an eerie moaning sound at Ghost Hollow.
Have you ever been to Ghost Hollow? Let us know in the comments