The Old State House Museum was Arkansas’ original capital building and the oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi River. Of course it’s haunted! It’s said to be haunted by a single ghost. The ghost of who is the question. Arkansas politics used to be dirty, so any number of people could have an unnatural attachment to the statehouse.
We have two main suspects.
It’s important to note that the official statement from the Old State House is that there is no ghost. I have spoken to many locals and even a few staff people who say it just might be haunted, off the record. That being said, you really shouldn’t be afraid to visit the Statehouse. It’s a great museum and an interesting look at Arkansas history. This is just for fun.
One of the suspected haunting figures is John Wilson, the former Speaker of the House and the subject of one of Arkansas’ most famous duels. Some of the details of the duel are obscured, but it was, as many duels were, the result of a political dispute.
During a meeting in 1837, Wilson ruled a representative, Major Joseph J. Anthony to be “out of order”. Anthony and Wilson didn’t get along anyway. The two had exchanged words before this incident. Anthony started to personally attack Wilson and threatened him.
The two men got into a knife fight and Anthony was killed by Wilson, even though another representative threw a chair at them to break them up. Wilson was acquitted on grounds of “excusable homicide”. Politics were rough.
It is said that Wilson’s ghost has been seen sadly wandering the corridors of the Old State House wearing a frock-coat.
Staff members of the building have reported seeing his apparition.
But, is the ghost really Wilson? Other staff members have a different idea.
In 1872, Elisha Baxter was declared the Governor of Arkansas after a disputed election. His opponent, Joseph Brooks, declared that he had been cheated out of the win. Seventeen months later, Brooks staged a coup of the State House. He threw Baxter out of office and set up a cannon on the State House lawn to discourage attacks. The cannon still resides there. The ousted governor moved down the street and set up another office, operating his own government against Brooks. It was only a short time before President Grant stepped in and restored order to Arkansas. Baxter was named as the legitimate governor and Brooks was forced to retire.
Some staff members believe that Brooks is still upset about being forced from his office. Even in death, he believes himself the rightful governor. Maybe he is the one who continues to haunt the Old State House.
The Brooks-Baxter war is one of the most famous occurrences in Arkansas history. It would be very fitting if Brooks still refused to give up his home in the capital.