Sometimes the State Archives houses items of the strange and unusual. You would be surprised what you might run across in the stacks upon stacks of archives and records. Here are a few of the unsettling items you might find.
The Archives hold criminal and civil case documents and evidence from trials of district courts to the State Supreme Court. 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 Woodward case is one of numerous murder trials that can be researched in the Archives.
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.
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. Another of these bizarre items in the Archives includes a suitcase used as evidence for a case involving a pedestrian who was hit by a car. In another box, evidence from one murder case includes several photographs of the crime scene and the victims, as well as coins taken from the victims by the murderer. Exhibits from these cases include items such as murder weapons, autopsy reports, clothing, and photographs (like the phantom photograph below). Beyond the case files 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.
If you plan on visiting the Archives… beware! You never know what you might run across.
(Most of the article was reprinted from “Skeletons in Our Closet.” ODL Source.Volume XIX. Number 10. October 1994, 1 & 5).