The Thomas Gilcrease House and its Haunts
Sitting on a 460-acre plot of land in northwest Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Thomas Gilcrease Museum houses one of the world’s most extensive and renowned collections of Native American and Western art and artifacts.
The original structure of the Gilcrease House was constructed in 1913 by a Tulsa lawyer named Flower Nelson. Flower had originally purchased the 90-acre parcel from the Mackey family in 1909. The original building had nine rooms on its first floor alone as well as a veranda. There was a large master bedroom on the first floor as well as a beautiful barn and garage — the home was meant to be loved and cherished… and it was.
In 1943, the home became a place for orphaned Native American children from nearby reservations until Thomas Gilcrease moved into the home in 1949. During its tenure as an orphanage, a second floor was added to provide more space for the children living there.
After Thomas moved into the home, his massive art collection came with him. He eventually ran out of space in the home and built a museum on the property near the mansion which he opened up to the public.
Over the years, Mr. Gilcrease expanded the property, creating twenty-three acres of lush gardens. They were a favorite of Thomas, as he was an avid bird lover. So, who was Thomas Gilcrease and why is his former home haunted? Let’s dive right in and meet the oil tycoon that was a bit unlucky with love!
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Thomas Gilcrease’s History
Thomas Gilcrease was born in 1890 and was raised as a member of the Creek nation. He was allotted 160 acres of Native land around 1900, which was destined to become part of Oklahoma’s oil fields. Gilcrease was a gifted businessman, and at the young age of 32, he established his own oil company — this was the start of his fortune.
With his career and money on track, Thomas later fell in love with the sandstone mansion and offered the Nelsons a great deal for the house and the eighty acres of land it sat on. The Gilcrease family moved back to the Creek nation homeland and the mansion soon became known as the Gilcrease House.
Thomas and his first wife, Belle Harlow, raised their two boys Thomas Jr., and Barton in the home.
Though Thomas was a skilled businessman and an honest and generous person, he was rather unlucky when it came to the likes of love. He and his first wife divorced in 1926 and he remarried in 1928 to a woman named Norma Smallwood. The two had a daughter, Des Cygne, and their marriage ended shortly after in 1933.
With failed relationships, Thomas found the love he craved in the arts and history of the American West. He started collecting in 1922 and over the years he added to his collection of artwork by seeking out single works and even purchasing bulk amounts from dealers and other collectors.
Thomas Gilcrease found himself traveling a lot around Europe in the 1920s and 1930s which inspired him to start his own art museum. He opened his growing collection to the public in San Antonio in 1943, but he moved it all back to Tulsa in 1949 when he decided to go back to his favorite stone mansion, the Gilcrease family home.
In the 1950s, oil prices took a steep dive and Thomas found it more and more challenging to maintain the collection. Finally, he thought about selling his entire art collection in one piece, but the people of Tulsa got together and voted 3-1 for a bond that paid all of his debts — this should show that he was well-loved by his community.
Thomas later deeded the entire collection to the city of Tulsa, and committed oil revenue to assist Tulsa in the running and maintenance of the museum. In 1958, the Gilcrease Foundation gave the museum buildings and the grounds to Tulsa as well.
After Thomas died in 1962, he willed the final group of artwork to the museum, as well as his home and gardens that he loved so dearly — so much so, that his apparition is one of the most reported entities at the home today.
Hauntings of the Gilcrease Home and Gardens
The Gilcrease House is well known in the community as one of the most haunted places in Tulsa. The entities there, however, are kind and loved by locals.
Thomas loved his artwork, and his death didn’t change that fact. He is known to visit the museum buildings at night, which resulted in a pretty high turnover of graveyard shifts security guards! Thomas also enjoys puttering around the home, and his presence has been heard, seen, and felt. He appears as a solid apparition — quickly as if to just say hello.
Employees have heard footsteps all over the home and have even reported doors opening and closing all on their own.
Thomas also appears in the gardens, floating about the many plants and looking upwards towards the sky — perhaps birdwatching!
Entities of Seven Native American Children
Seven different apparitions of young Native American children have been reported in the home and gardens. They once lived here too, spending their childhood in the home and playing outside with one another. It’s no surprise that they returned to their home in the afterlife, as it was their safe haven then, and is now.
Unknown Male Entity
One more ghost calls the Gilcrease House home — an unknown male spirit that wanders about the house making loud bangs. He’s been seen a couple of times and no one is able to place a finger on who he could be.
Plenty of ghost investigation teams have entered the Gilcrease House and left with evidence of strange occurrences, such as photographs of orbs and personal experiences that are unable to be debunked. The home is open for tours these days — perhaps a visit to this beautiful western abode is in order, Thomas Gilcrease would love to show you around!
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