Oklahoma became a state in 1907, following federal acts that incorporated Native American land into the United States. The terrain of Oklahoma is as diverse as it is beautiful from the Rocky Mountain foothills to prairie grasslands, to cypress swamps and redwood and pine forests. This state is truly a wonderous place to explore.
As with most states, Oklahoma is home to numerous ghost towns. I cannot possibly list them all here, but these are some of my favorites in the state.
- 1. Adamson – Coal History
- 2. Alsuma – Named by Many
- 3. Beer City – Sodom and Gomorrah
- 4. Boggy Depot – Chickasaw Settlers
- 5. Cayuga – Buggies and Blacksmith
- 6. Centralia – Stop Over on the Way
- 7. Doaksville – Civil War History
- 8. Fallis – Rails and Oil
- 9. Foss – Wipe Out by the Railroad
- 10. Ingalls – Gang Town
- 11. Ingersoll – Reservation and Railroad
- 12. Kenton – Dust Bowl Demise
- 13. Lenora – Boom and Bust
- 14. May – Post War Demise
- 15. Picher – Lead Poisoning
- 16. Skedee – Oil Bust
- 17. Texola – Thrived and Died
- Oklahoma Ghost Towns in the News
- Can You Metal Detect in Oklahoma Ghost Towns?
- Are Ghost Towns Haunted in Oklahoma?
- Houses for Sale in Oklahoma Ghost Towns
- My Favorite Oklahoma Ghost Town Story
- Kicking Up Oklahoma Dust
1. Adamson – Coal History
Adamson is a small ghost town, measuring just 4 square miles. Adamson was home to around 15 coal mines during its heyday in the early 1900s. Coal was the major energy source during World War I, and Adamson thrived during this period. In 1914, Mine No. 1 caved in, trapping 14 men some 800 feet below surface level.
Anthony Benedict, the last man out before the collapse, erected a monument to the fallen miners on the Benedict Family property off Hartshorne Adamson Road.
Today, most of the once bustling coal town has been swallowed up by extensions of nearby Lake Eufaula. All that is left today is the cemetery, the monument erected by Benedict, and a few houses.
Where to Find Adamson
Adamson is halfway between McAlester and Wilburton in southeast Oklahoma. Head east on Highway 31 from McAlester and exit onto Adamson Road. Adamson is west of the Adamson Road and North 420 Road intersection.
2. Alsuma – Named by Many
Alsuma was established in the early 1900s, and today is part of Tulsa, OK. The post office opened in 1905. Alsuma gets its name from the town’s leaders’ wives, Alice, Susan, and Mabel. They argued over naming the town and settled on using the first 2 letters of each wife’s name. The town had a population of around 75 families and sat on 165 acres.
The post office closed in 1926. Few traces of the town remain today. The City of Tulsa lists Alsuma Park as a recreation area, but it is mostly used for storm water retention. Few residents remain in the town today.
Where to Find Alsuma
3. Beer City – Sodom and Gomorrah
Beer City started in 1888 following the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad in Tyrone. It was known as the “Sodom and Gomorrah of the Plains” as Kansas had a strict prohibition law and Beer City was a few miles south of the Kansas/Oklahoma border. The Yellow Snake Saloon and Hotel was one of the first businesses, run by businesswoman Pussy Cat Nell Jones.
Beer City features several saloons, brothels, and dance halls, and newspapers printed that it was “the only town of its king in the civilized world where there is absolutely no law.” In 1889, Woodsdale Sentinel of Paris, Texas printed a story about Beer City where a man who proclaimed himself Marshall of the town would bribe business owners for money in exchange for keeping the peace.
Pussy Cat Nell and other business owners grew tired of the “fees” and 15 of them shot the man 74 times.
The town disappeared as quickly as it sprang up in 1980. Today the area is used for agricultural purposes.
Where to Find Beer City
Beer City was south of Liberal, Kansas, and east of Tyrone, Oklahoma. The area is mainly farmland now. Newspaper clippings and photographs are the only evidence the town ever existed.
I cannot find an exact Google Maps location for Beer City, but click here to learn more about this forgotten town: https://spydersden.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/beer-city-in-no-mans-land/
Oklahoma became a state in 1907, following federal acts that incorporated Native American land into the United States. The terrain of Oklahoma is as diverse…
Oklahoma is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world. With ancient mountain ranges, sprawling prairies, mesas, and even wonderfully rich eastern forests….
Oklahoma has a history that’s ripe for finding treasure. Although the state entered the “union” in the early 1900’s, Indians inhabited the territory for hundreds…
4. Boggy Depot – Chickasaw Settlers
Boggy Depot was inhabited by Chickasaw settlers in the 1830s. It became a popular stopping point for those traveling westward. A post office was opened in 1849 and a year later Butterfield Mail and Stage Coach established a stop in Boggy Depot.
Residents made a living off the toll bridge crossing the Clear Boggy River, a cotton gin, a flour mill, and a seed mill. Native Choctaw Chief Allen Write, who coined the name for Oklahoma, lived in and is buried in Boggy Depot.
Boggy Depot dissolved when the Chickasaw and Choctaw Tribes established boundaries, making the town inside Choctaw territory. Many Chickasaws moved west, and the railroad moved about 12 miles northeast of the town to present day Atoka.
With that, many residents moved to be closer to the railroad. The area is known today as Boggy Depot Park, and all that remains are the cemetery and a marker.
Where to Find Boggy Depot
Boggy Depot is southwest of Atoka. Head west on Highway 7 for about 11 miles, then turn south on Park Lane road for about 4 miles.
5. Cayuga – Buggies and Blacksmith
Native American Mathias Spitlog founded Cayuga after he moved from Ohio. He built a buggy factory, general store, and blacksmith shop. Spitlog also aided in constructing a gothic style catholic church, which remains in the town today.
The town declined severely after a fire burnt down nearly all the buildings, except the church. The Cayuga-Spitlog Mission Church was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1972.
Where to Find Cayuga
Cayuga is northeast of Grove. Follow Highway 10 to E 260 Road. Head east. You will see the church on the west side of the road.
6. Centralia – Stop Over on the Way
Centralia was founded in 1898 when J.H. Hargrove surveyed the area and laid it out between Blue Mound, Potato Hill, Leforce, and Notch Mounds. Hargrove started a post office, and his son-in-law came shortly after and built a livery. Shortly after a grocery store and hardware store were added to the town.
A fire in 1907 struck the business district destroying the bulk of the buildings, including a hotel. The town flourished until 1915, with a population of 750 people. At this time there were also 2 banks, schools, and many homes. By 1930, both banks were closed. AS of the 1980 census, 43 resident remained. In 2010, those numbers were down even more with only 8 homesteads remaining.
Where to Find Centralia
Centralia is halfway between Delaware, OK and Bluejacket. Take E 160 Road east from Delaware to S 4290 Road. Turn north. Centralia is on the east side.
7. Doaksville – Civil War History
Doaksville was established by some of the earliest settlers to Oklahoma, Josia S. Doak and his brother. They came from Mississippi and settled near the site of the historic Fort Towson. Doaksville began to grow, and the fort was established a few years later. From 1850 to 1863, Doaksville was the Tribal Seat of the Choctaw Nation.
It was also where Confederate General Stand Watie surrendered during the Civil War. Much of the town is gone now. The cemetery still exists and features numerous headstones from the 1800s.
Where to Find Doaksville
Take Highway 70 to Fort Towson. Exit onto Red Road and follow this for about a mile. The cemetery can be seen on the east side of the road.
8. Fallis – Rails and Oil
Fallis was founded before Oklahoma became a state. The population never reached more than about 3520, but the area prospered due to its location along the Katy Railroad. It was also the site of the first discovered oil well in the county.
Fallis produced 6 significant literary figures: Blanche Seal Hunt, Beulah Rhodes Overman, Vingie E. Roe, Althea Caldwell Connor, Jenny Harris Oliver, and Delbert Davis.
Today, a few run-down homes and a dirt road are all that is left of Fallis.
Where to Find Fallis
From I-44, exit toward Route 66 at Exit 158. Turn north off Route 66 onto Luther Road. Turn east on E Charter Oak Road. Charter Oak Road becomes E 0870 Road, leading into Fallis.
9. Foss – Wipe Out by the Railroad
Foss began in 1890 when people began moving into the Turkey Creek valley. A flash flood in 1902 wiped out the town and killed several people. Surviving residents then moved from the creek bottom to higher ground, reestablishing Foss.
Foss flourished and was home to nearly 1,000 people by 1905. Businesses of all kinds were established in the town, and by 1912 an electric plant was put in. The town began to struggle in the 1920s as the rail centers of Elk City and Clinton took much of Foss’s trade.
An air force installation at Burns Flat reinvigorated the town in the 1950s. The base closed around the same time as I-40 was put in, bypassing Foss altogether. Today, the ruins of Kobel’s Gas Station, a Baptist Church, jail, and a few homes and building foundations are all that is left of Foss.
Where to Find Foss
The remains of Foss can be found off route 44, just north of the Route 66/I-40 interchange.
Insider Tip: While traveling in the Foss area, take a trip to nearby Foss State Park, just 10 miles north of the old townsite. Foss State Park features 1750-acres of parkland, 8,800 acres of lake, 120 campsites, hiking trails, and a beach. The area is popular for water skiing, fishing, boating, and swimming. Learn more here: https://stateparks.com/foss_state_park_in_oklahoma.html
10. Ingalls – Gang Town
Ingalls was established in 1889. By 1890, 150 residents called the area home, including the Doolin-Dalton Gang. They lived peacefully among the community for a few years until they were captured by U.S. Marshals in 1893 following an old west style shootout that claimed the lives of 3 Marshals.
Today, visitors can see replica buildings installed to show what the town looked like in its heyday along with a monument honoring the memory of the 3 fallen Marshals.
Where to Find Ingalls
From Stillwater, go east on Highway 51, then turn right on Doolin Drive.
11. Ingersoll – Reservation and Railroad
Ingersoll began as a Native American Reservation that was then opened to public settlement. The town grew after the Choctaw Railroad opened a line through the area in 1901. Ingersoll’s population grew to 1,500 and the town was incorporated in 1902.
The city flourished but had a poor reputation due to its many saloons and pool halls. Ingersoll still boasts a few residents and a couple of businesses.
Where to Find Ingersoll
From Cherokee head west. Ingersoll will be on the south side.
12. Kenton – Dust Bowl Demise
Kenton was established in the panhandle of Oklahoma, known as “No Man’s Land.” The area was originally used by Native Tribes for hunting, later becoming the property of Spain, Mexico, and finally the United States, though it was not officially part of Oklahoma.
Kenton, by 1905, was home to 3 general stores, drug and hardware stores, a livery, grain and seed mills, barber, blacksmith, shoe shop, furniture store, saloons, and a church.
Kenton was hit hard by the massive dust storms of the 1930s, and railroad service was discontinued. Kenton today is home to about 17 people, with a handful of businesses.
Where to Find Kenton
Kenton is in the Cimarron River valley on Highway 325 near the Oklahoma and New Mexico border.
13. Lenora – Boom and Bust
Lenora, an unincorporated community, was established in 1892. By 1900, 400 residents called Lenora home. A post office opened in 1896 and officially closed in 1955.
Lenora was once called the “Pearl of the Prairies.” It was a prosperous area for trade and culture. Today, the town is abandoned and desolate.
Where to Find Lenora
Lenora is 5.5 miles west of Taloga, in Dewey County.
14. May – Post War Demise
May was established in 1902 and became a major wheat-shipping point. The Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway completed construction on a line through the town in 1912, and May was incorporated the following year.
May declined in population during World War II, as many joined the military or moved elsewhere for employment. During the postwar years, more people left, and more businesses closed.
Today, May is home to about 40 residents, with a post office, grain elevator, and a church.
Where to Find May
May is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 270 and State Highway 46, about 21 miles southwest of Buffalo.
15. Picher – Lead Poisoning
Picher was a major center for zinc and lead mining for nearly 100 years. However, decades of unrestricted subsurface excavation of these minerals and ore left large piles of toxic mine tailings all over the area.
The town suffered groundwater contamination and in 1994, 34% of children suffered from lead poisoning in Picher. The site was officially placed in the 1980 Tar Creek Superfund Site by the EPA.
A 2006 survey by the Army Corps of Engineers determined that 86% of Picher buildings were undermined and could collapse at any time. In May 2008, an EF4 tornado came through and chased out even more residents.
As of 2011, 6 homes and 1 business remained as the residents refused to leave. Picher is among few towns in the world that had to be evacuated due to being considered uninhabitable from environmental and health damage caused by mining.
Be mindful if you visit this area to stay out of buildings as they may not be safe. Also, bring along bottled water and restrict contact with any dirt, sand, or other potentially contaminated surfaces.
Where to Find Picher
Picher lies along the Kansas/Oklahoma border, south of Treece, KS, and Northeast of Cardin, OK. Highway 69 runs through the middle of town.
Insider Tip: Since 2015, former residents of Picher hold annual “Coming Home for Christmas” parades. The parades grow larger each year with former residents wishing to include their kids and grandkids in their past by showing them the town where they grew up.
16. Skedee – Oil Bust
Skedee began in 1893 during the Land Run and was originally named Lemert. It was changed in 1902 because it was too close to the name of a nearby town. In the center of town stands the Bond of Friendship Monument, a memorial to the dealings between Colonel Walters and the Chief of the Osage Nation, Baconrind.
An oil boom happened in the area and millions of dollars flowed through tow. The Osage Nation was considered the wealthiest in the world per capita at the time.
Skedee was hit hard when the oil boom busted in 1935, followed by a flood in 1957 that washed out the railroad. Many buildings, like the schoolhouse, contain memories left behind by former residents, lending an eerie feeling to the area.
Where to Find Skedee
Skedee is about 6 miles northeast of Pawnee, along Blackburn – Skedee Road and Grain Elevator Road.
17. Texola – Thrived and Died
Texola was established in 1901 near the 100th Meridian. The town was surveyed numerous times over the years, with many residents living in Texas and Oklahoma, despite never moving. In 1909, agriculture was the order of the town, with 2 cotton gins, born, and grist mills. The town featured a bank, stores, hotels, and restaurants. By 1910, 361 people called Texola home.
That number dropped and rose over the years, peaking in 1930 at 581. The ghost town still features the restored Magnolia Service Station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995, an old jail from 1910, an old bar, and several abandoned businesses.
Where to Find Texola
Texola is on old Route 66, a mile east of the Texas/Oklahoma border.
Oklahoma Ghost Towns in the News
KOCO News 5, Oklahoma’s ABC affiliate, ran a story in 2022 about the rise and fall of Picher. Picher is now a toxic town, where many people were afflicted with lead poisoning due to mining activities, as discussed above.
The article states that after the government deemed the town unlivable and the tornado ripped through, there were no law enforcement officers of any kind. It was the perfect place to commit crimes and get away with it, as most ignored the shady dealings.
Learn more about the demise of Picher in this news article: https://www.koco.com/article/oklahoma-picher-toxic-ghost-town/41759536
Alsuma has also been mentioned in the news. This ghost town is inside the city of Tulsa. Residents who grew up in the area state that Alsuma was a tight knit community with good neighbors and a vibrant culture. The town of Alsuma was officially annexed by Tulsa in 1966. Learn more about this town here: https://www.newson6.com/story/642e3b6ff1b14c7ae4b34f4f/alsuma:-the-ghost-town-inside-tulsa
Can You Metal Detect in Oklahoma Ghost Towns?
Metal detecting in Oklahoma is permitted on public lands, certain state lands, and certain federal lands. You may not metal detect on any historical locations or sites, including Native mounds, burial sites, or earthworks. You may also not metal detect on Trust land without permission.
Metal detecting is no longer allowed in Oklahoma State Parks. You may still check with the park ranger for the State Park you wish to hunt in. They may have special use permits for just such occasions.
As with any metal detecting trip, make sure you contact the local authorities to find out the exact nature of metal detecting laws in the area. They are subject to change, and it is a good idea to double check each time.
Learn more about metal detecting in Oklahoma here 👉 Where to Metal Detect in Oklahoma
Are Ghost Towns Haunted in Oklahoma?
Many ghost towns in Oklahoma began life as Native Lands and were then settled as the Land Grab grew, oil and minerals were discovered, and the railroads grew. Many Oklahoma ghost towns are said to be haunted.
Besides ghost towns, many Oklahoma cities and towns are known for hauntings. Guthrie, Oklahoma is said to be the most haunted place in the state.
If you plan to visit Oklahoma ghost towns, take along your digital recorder or spirit box and see if you can catch a spirit voice! I also like to take along a good camera or use my phone’s camera with flash.
If you have gone ghost hunting, or watched shows where they hunt ghosts, this is one of the most effective ways to catch visuals that you cannot see with your own eyes. I have to say, I have captured several unidentifiable objects in photographs, and have also captured voices I could not hear on digital recorders. It is worth a shot!
Houses for Sale in Oklahoma Ghost Towns
Whizbang, or Denoya, is an abandoned location known for petroleum manufacturing in the 1900s. The town still has a few inhabitants, and homes can be purchased in the small town for as low as $54,000. Learn more here: https://debtquest.com/ghost-towns-for-sale-in-the-usa/#ghost-towns-for-sale-in-the-usa
There are few ghost town properties currently for sale in Oklahoma, however, there are many abandoned places, including larger buildings, which are for sale. Check the listings here: https://abandonedok.com/status/for-sale/
My Favorite Oklahoma Ghost Town Story
The Story of Ingalls, including the Battle of Ingalls, is one of my favorite Oklahoma ghost town stories. I grew up in the west, and this story is right out of the pages of an old western storybook.
The Doolin-Dalton gang, also called the Oklahombres, Oklahoma Long Riders, and the Wild Bunch, were cornered by U.S. Marshals in Ingalls in 1893.
Ingalls was known as a haven for outlaws at the time, and the gang was wanted for bank and train robberies, among other crimes. After the gunfight, 6 men were wounded, and 3 U.S. Marshals were killed: Richard Speed, Lafayette Shadley, and Thomas Houston.
Most members of the gang escaped but were eventually rounded up and arrested or killed.
Learn more about the Battle of Ingalls here: https://z94.com/ghost-town-ingalls-oklahoma/
I am also fascinated by the story of Picher. I studied environmental science in college for many years and learned all about superfund sites. I recall reading about Picher, but never took the time to research it until recently.
Picher, Oklahoma, Gilman, Colorado, Centralia, Pennsylvania, and Wittenoom, Western Australia, are the only locations worldwide ever declared uninhabitable due to mining activities.
Read more about the fall of Picher here: https://www.wideopencountry.com/picher-oklahoma/
Insider Tip: When exploring Picher, be sure to avoid entering any buildings as most are undercut by mining activities. They are not safe to enter and could collapse. Limit your contact with any surfaces including dust, dirt, and water in the area as they contain toxic levels of lead.
Kicking Up Oklahoma Dust
Oklahoma is home to a staggering 2,000 ghost towns! Oklahoma has a long and storied history. Many of these ghost towns were inhabited by Native Americans, followed by settlers during the Land Grab and with the discovery of oil and other precious resources.
Declines in production, natural disasters, and highways eventually made many of these towns fade away into history. Some places have no trace of the former townsites, while others are full of dilapidated buildings and cemeteries.
There is no shortage of ghost towns to visit in beautiful Oklahoma, so get out there and explore!