When your town’s name really is just a seed to a elaborate murder mystery…your town is Dead Women Crossing in Oklahoma.
The origin of the name involves divorce, prostitutes, murder, and even suicide. Not necessarily in the order one would expect. Wiki explains:
On July 6, 1905, a schoolteacher named Katie DeWitt James filed for divorce. The next day, she carried her 14-month-old daughter Lulu Belle to a train station in Custer City. Katie was going to visit with her cousin who lived in Ripley. Her father Henry DeWitt came to bid farewell; her husband Martin James did not come to the station.
A few weeks later, Henry became concerned that he had not heard from his daughter. He contacted a sheriff, who suggested hiring a detective named Sam Bartell. Bartell started his investigation from Clinton, but nobody remembered seeing a woman and a baby there. Then on July 28, 1905 in Weatherford Bartell learned that Katie and the baby spent a night in the house of William Moore. They were brought to this house by Moore’s sister-in-law Fannie Norton, a resident of Clinton who also was known as Mrs. Ham, and reputed to be a prostitute.In the morning Norton, Katie and the baby left in a buggy; Norton returned alone two hours later. Then Norton went back to Clinton.
Later Bartell found out that two women and the baby were seen around Deer Creek. The detective also was able to find the baby. The witness testified that Norton left the baby with a boy, and asked him to take the baby home. The baby was unharmed, but her clothing was covered with blood.
Of course the loose ends on the story were not all tied up.
- Did Katie and Norton meet on the train by chance, or had Norton sought out Katie? Was Norton somehow involved with Katie’s estranged husband, and if so what was his role in the murder? Katie’s husband had a strong alibi for the time of her disappearance, but he did not take a part in her search, and showed no interest in finding her.
- Why were Katie’s remains not found for two months? The area was extensively searched. Did somebody move Katie’s body later, and if so, who did it? The only suspect in the case, Fannie Norton, was long dead by that time.
- Why did Katie leave the train at Clinton, rather than continuing to Ripley as planned? What did a schoolteacher find in common with a prostitute?
And now the least surprising part of the Wiki page: It’s purported to be haunted.
When Susan Woolf Brenner went to Deer Creek during her research, she saw a blue light with no particular shape that originated in the creek, and was coming towards her friend and her. Some people claim they have heard a woman crying for her baby around this place.
The Wiki page is called “Dead Women.” Another page on Google lists it as “Dead Woman” which would make more sense.