Shaman's Portal Oklahoma

Restless Oklahoma: Shaman’s Portal

Shaman's Portal Oklahoma

Something strange is afoot in Beaver Dunes Park. Located in the panhandle of Oklahoma, the dunes are home to a legend involving the Spanish explorer Coronado, mysterious late night military excavations, Men in Black encounters, and enough mysterious disappearances to warrant the nickname “Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle.”

The story goes that Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, as he traversed the area on his quest to discover New World gold, ignored the warnings of his Native American guides to keep away from the dunes. The price he paid was to have three members of his expedition suddenly vanish before his eyes amidst strange flashes of green lightning–a description Coronado himself penned in his expedition diary, calling the phenomenon “the work of the Devil.”

Known by the natives as the “Shaman’s Portal,” the area has since been blamed for numerous such alleged disappearances, although none have been verified, especially in the last century or so. However, locals have claimed to witness mysterious military excavations conducted under the cover of darkness. In the Nineties, after receiving reports of unspecified “strange” findings from an Oklahoma State University archaeologist, one Dr. Mark Thatcher is said to have spent three years studying the area until he was shut down by men with military credentials who fit the description of the notorious Men in Black. It’s unclear whether Thatcher was part of another unidentified university geological team who is said to have studied the area in the mid-Nineties. This team supposedly took a number of geological samples and found strange anomalies that included ionized soil and electromagnetic interference. All of this has led some to believe that an ancient alien spacecraft lies buried beneath the dunes.

A flying saucer isn’t the only thing believed to be buried down there. Apparently, the area is also an ancient Native American burial ground. And we all know that building anything on one of those is generally a Bad Idea.

And the alien connection is only one hypothesis surrounding the area. Theories about the disappearances and the weird lights abound. Is the area a portal to another dimension? Were the missing people transported, or incinerated by the green lightning? Was this some kind of Native American magic meant to protect the tribal gold from greedy European explorers like Coronado?

As freaky–and kind of cool–as all of this is, unfortunately the only thing that exists in the way of real evidence is Coronado’s diary. Every other claim over the last five hundred years or so have been, shall we say, sketchy? Still, it seems that something happened to those lost explorers–something unnatural and extremely difficult to explain.

And that’s enough to keep me from exploring those dunes anytime soon.


Restless Oklahoma: Ponderosa Water Park

Credit:Johnny Fletcher via Abandoned Oklahoma

When I was a kid in the early ’80s, somewhere around 9 years old, something magical happened in the sleepy little lakeside subdivision in which I lived: the family that lived below the bluff atop which our end of the neighborhood sat built a water park on their property

It was no Whitewater Bay, but for basically being built in someone’s back yard on the side of a two-lane country highway, it was pretty impressive. It featured two slides–one long half-pipe slide that twisted and turned until it dumped you out into the large pool at the end, and an inner tube slide that was a series of shallow pools with straight slides connecting them all the way down until you got to the big pool. There was also a mini golf course and a snack bar and grill, and they were working on putting in a go cart track before they were forced to shut down.

The two or three summers that park was in operation were the best ever for the kids in that neighborhood. While admission was ostensibly $1 for two hours, they would let us pay $1 and then “forget” to kick us out when our time was up. Most of my allowance money went to spending just about every day at the slides with my friends. When we got tired of climbing back to the top of the hill to stand in line and go down the slide again, we would just hang out in the big pool until we got pruney or our moms would call and tell the park operators to send us home.

My friends and I particularly liked to hang out in this one corner of the pool, next to the pump. Not only was it far enough away from where the slides dumped people into the pool that you didn’t have to worry about colliding with anybody, but if you got in the water there you could feel the pump pulling you toward the low wall that separated it from the rest of the pool, which we all thought was a neat sensation. We also liked to get on top of the pump wall and do flips and dives off of it.

This is how most of my summer days went until one day during the summer of my eleventh year, when tragedy struck.

My friends and I had gone there that day as usual, and nothing was amiss. It wasn’t until a few hours after we’d gone back home for the day that we heard the news: a nine-year-old girl from town nearby had been playing in the pool next to the pump wall when she fell in on the pump side. I’ll spare you the details of exactly what happened to her, except to say that it was one of the most horrific ways to die I’ve ever heard of. Of course, the park was shut down immediately and everyone was sent home.

The family who owned and built the park were devastated, and I can only imagine what the girl’s family went through, and likely still goes through today. There was, of course, an investigation, and as far as I remember, the owners were fined heavily for not having covered and secured the pump area. In spite of all of this, there were occasionally noises made about reopening the park, and at some point in the nineties ownership changed hands and the new owners expressed their intentions to get it back up and running. But it never happened, and the park still sits there, abandoned to this day.

This is not a story about a haunting — at least not in the traditional sense. As far as I know there have never been any reports of disembodied voices, no objects moving of their own accord, no inexplicable lights or shadows, not even any orbs showing up in photographs that I’m aware of. But a place doesn’t have to have a literal ghost in order to feel haunted. Sometimes the aspect of tragedy is enough, as is the sense that it could have easily me or one of my friends who ended the park’s–and our own–life that day.

Here’s a haunting video slideshow of photos of the abandoned park (note that their timeline for when the park opened is way, way off):