A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Overholser Mansion to take a tour. And honestly, I can’t believe it took me this long to see it.
The Overholser Mansion is beautiful, and honestly, a little bit of a time capsule. With a few exceptions, nearly everything is original to the house, which was built in 1903.
I’ve lived in the Oklahoma City area my whole life and never once made it to the Overholser Mansion. Nestled in the middle of the Heritage Hills section of Oklahoma City, the Overholser Mansion is not only super accessible, but really affordable. They offer tours on Tuesdays through Saturdays, and it’s $10 for adults. They also offer a Mysteries of the Mansion tour on the third Thursday of every month, which focuses on the weird and supernatural goings on of the mansion.The Overholser Mansion: Finding Writing Inspiration in State History Click To Tweet
Oklahoma state history has always fascinated me, and it even plays a part in the novel I’m working on right now. (I mention it in this YouTube video on worldbuilding.) But I wanted to share with you some things that have specifically inspired me from my visit to the Overholser Mansion.
The Overholser Mansion as Inspiration
Any Oklahoman who has been here a while can tell you the surnames of the rich people who functionally built the state — at least in the institutional way. (Henry Overholser himself is often referred to as the father of Oklahoma City.) Streets and buildings serve as reminders, but it’s interesting just how interconnected all of it really is. A plaque in the mansion lists the members of Mrs. Overholser’s “Chafing Dish Society,” which was a group of ladies who met weekly for lunch and cards. The names read like a who’s who in Oklahoma history, and it’s easy to see how that particular circle of rich folks became the Oklahoma oligarchy.
002: Ghost Stories
If you know anything about me, you know that I love ghost stories. (I may have an overactive imagination when it comes to ghosts. Don’t judge.) The Overholser Mansion has plenty, and if you’re interested in finding out more, you really need to take a tour. Seriously, Lisa’s tours are amazing, and I learned so much. Plus, she has great stories about different ghostly occurrences she’s experienced while working at the mansion.
I’m going to be honest here and say that I did smell Mr. Overholser’s cigars while I was there. And I did hear some weird sounds up in the third floor nursery, though I’m sure that was all just the wind…
I’m going to be real. I struggle with describing what things looked like back in the day. This is primarily because I wasn’t there, and also because many things aren’t preserved. This isn’t the case with the Overholser Mansion. With the exception of some changes made in the kitchen in the 1960s, pretty much everything is just the way it was when it was built. The carpets, staircases, furniture — all there. So in taking the tour, not only do you get a feel for how the house is laid out, but you understand exactly what a grand mansion would look like in those days, which makes your job as a writer a lot easier.
004: Weird Bits
Did you know that Mrs. Overholser attended the inauguration of President William McKinley? Did you know that she also had some of Queen Victoria’s lace, which you can see in the Overholser Mansion? Also, she was invited to the coronation of King George and Queen Mary. While I know that socialites and rich folk have always been well-connected, it’s still pretty weird. Mrs. Anna Overholser was a girl from Arkansas, and she married a rich entrepreneur. And all of this makes me wonder how connected that Oklahoma oligarchy really is…Do you like ghost stories? Click To Tweet
Visit the Overholser Mansion
If you’re local, have you ever been to the Overholser Mansion? If not, do you want to go with me? I can’t wait to go back, and I’m super excited to attend a Mysteries of the Mansion tour soon! Wanna get a group together?
Also, if you’re a writer, have you ever visited historical places to get inspiration? If so, what are your favorite places to visit?
I am a sucker for historical sites and ghost stories. Can’t even begin to tell you how many rabbit holes I have fallen down over the years while researching different subjects. When I was a journalist at the community college I attended, I loved doing stories on places like these. Bonus points if ghosts are involved. One of them was on our own campus. Course I also loved writing about earthquakes and for awhile that kept me busy, especially in 2006 during the 100th anniversary of the 1906 quake in San Francisco.
Now if you’ll excuse me I have some Oklahoma rabbit holes to fall down.
Good luck and Godspeed! There are some particularly weird rabbit holes!
Weird? Oooooh. That is right up my alley.