From the archives: Is the museum haunted?


Photo illustration Melanie Blakeman & Laura Smith

Then a sophomore, 2014 graduate Maisie Dyer portrays Sarah Jane in this photo illustration with the World War I wagon that some say is haunted by a ghost named Sarah Jane. The wagon now sits in storage among other vintage vehicles. Amid rumors that the wagon had to be put into storage because of numerous complaints from museum guests about the woman who was always seen hovering around the wagon, Warren Stricker, director of the research center at the PPHM, said the wagon is in storage because its prior display location is now used for other museum pieces.

Sarah Jane is described by a museum employee in a 1989 issue of “The Prairie,” West Texas A&M University’s student newspaper, as a semi-translucent woman with red-brown hair, a calico dress and a bonnet—a ghost who appeared from nowhere and seems to have no confirmable origin. Her haunt? The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum.

Workers claim to have seen her on the north side of an old WWI Red Cross wagon, wringing her bonnet and staring wistfully at something. Some visitors claimed to see blood or feel panicked when near the wagon, while others feel suddenly at peace.

“The best accepted story about Sarah Jane is that she was hit and killed by the ambulance wagon and has haunted it since then,” said Warren Stricker, director of the research center at PPHM. “I’m inclined to be skeptical. I spend a lot of time up here by myself and haven’t seen anything suspicious.”

There’s too much stuff that’s happened here for there not to be something.

— Buster Ratliff, PPHM Operations Coordinator

However, others are not as doubtful of the ghost’s existence. In fact, a team of ghost hunters once asked to record the museum at night for ghostly activities. They set up two cameras around the research center on the third floor, turned off all of the lights, and recorded all night.

“Paranormal investigators videoed the floor and saw things they found significant,” Stricker said. “They saw a streak of light on one camera, then small points of light on another. I admit the video was a little weird, but I don’t stop coming here because of it.”

Though the “haunted” Red Cross wagon is no longer on exhibit, some ghosts, be they Sarah Jane or Casper, are still rumored to walk the halls of the museum.

“There’s too much stuff that’s happened here for there not to be something, be it mice, pigeons or something else,” PPHM Operations Coordinator Buster Ratliff said. “It’s enough to make you wonder.”

Editor’s note: This photo and story first appeared in the Oct. 14, 2011 print edition of The Eagle’s Tale.