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Sooner Stories

Skeletons In our closet... You won't believe some of the items stored in the Archives!

October 2001

The Halloween season sounded like the perfect time to share some of the "strange and frightening" items stored in the Archives.

For example, an Oklahoma man is serving three consecutive life sentences at the State Penitentiary in McAlester for the murder of his wife and two kids. The man said he did not remember killing his family because he was suffering from schizophrenia. Fingernail filings and blood samples from this murder case are located in the Archives.

A family of four was killed in a home in Woodward, Oklahoma. State Bureau of Investigation detectives noticed footprints along the road leading away from the house and soon made a connection between the prints and tennis shoes worn by a young man who worked at a local gas station. That suspect was eventually convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to die. Today, the shoes that led authorities to the murderer can also be found in the Archives.

The Archives hold criminal and civil case documents and evidence from trials of district courts to the State Supreme Court. The Woodward case is one of numerous murder trials that can be researched in the Archives.

Exhibits from these cases include items such as murder weapons, autopsy reports, clothing, and photographs. "Ninety-five percent of our holdings are open to the public," said Gary Harrington, Director of the Archives.

As a repository of these high court cases, Archives materials document everything from "absurd" civil cases to the truly grisly, like Oklahoma City infamous Steak House murders. Bizarre items in the Archives also include a suitcase used as evidence for a case involving a pedestrian who was hit by a car. A box containing evidence from one murder case includes several photographs of the crime scene and the victims, and coins taken from the victims by the murderer.

Beyond the murder cases and autopsy reports, there is a box of bones, including leg bones, complete with a backward foot, belonging to a civil case regarding an automobile accident. Photos of skeletal remains of unidentified persons are also kept on file, and because of these records, people have been identified years after their bodies were originally discovered. 

So, if you plan on visiting the Archives this Halloween season, beware!

(Most of the article was reprinted from "Skeletons in Our Closet." ODL Source. Volume XIX. Number 10. October 1994, 1 & 5).

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Resources at the State Archives are available to the public. We house the records of state agencies and state officials. Those planning to visit the archives are encouraged to call ahead to find out what is available.


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