I don’t read a lot of books about ghosts, either fictional or (whatever this means in terms of your thoughts on the existence of paranormal activity) nonfictional. But two things happened to get CAMPUS GHOSTS OF NORMAN, OKLAHOMA on my radar. First, I had the pleasure of a fantastic ghost tour on my first visit to New Orleans which caused hauntings to loom in the back of my mind. Second, my friend, Jeff Provine, wrote it.
I didn’t graduate from the University of Oklahoma, but I am a lifelong Oklahoman, so the campus fills a large section of my cultural real estate. Even though I’m not intimately familiar with the nooks and crannies where ghostly activity could happen in Norman, I found this book absolutely riveting.
For every page of spectral commotion, there are probably 10 or 12 pages of true — and truly interesting — history. I walked away from this book more spooked out than when I watched PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and more educated about Oklahoma history than when it was forced on me in eighth grade.
The stories of exorcising sorority ghosts, mysterious roller-skating child apparitions or businesslike secretary specters who just want to make coffee for you are absolutely eerie and satisfying to the paranormal enthusiast. But the historian will be impressed as well with tales ranging from multiple cataclysmic fires in the university’s early days, through masonic and fraternal houses changing hands over and over until the stories become utterly muddled, and finishing up with influential professors who were also Grand Dragons in the Ku Klux Klan.
The book is split into three parts. “Hallowed Halls” takes us on a tour of OU’s buildings, the ghosts who inhabit them and the history that ties it all together. “Greek Afterlife” focuses on the members of fraternities and sororities who can’t seem to get enough of college life, even from beyond the grave. And finally, “Haunts of Campus Corner and Beyond” takes us off campus and into the bustling (after)life of Norman itself. Each section is then split into several smaller sections that group ghost stories connected in either paranormal or historical detail.
I’m not that big into ghosts and I typically could not care less about OU or its history. Nevertheless, I enjoyed CAMPUS GHOSTS so thoroughly that between now and Halloween, I’m taking one of Provine’s regular ghost tours, which spawned this book. Anybody who knows me understands what psychological hurdles I must overcome to venture into Norman, let alone the campus itself.
If you’re Okla-local, you should visit the ghost tours yourself and maybe pick up a copy of the book afterward so you can creep out your fellow alumni. If you’re a history buff or just interested in the supernatural, the book will more than make up for not being able to visit in person. CAMPUS GHOSTS OF NORMAN, OKLAHOMA is the perfect combination of spooky campfire story and informative tour guide. —Joshua Unruh