After eight years in New Orleans and Violet, LA, I had gotten used to knowing nothing much was under my feet. On occasion, we had to dig a hole in our yard and within three scoops, we’d hit sand. On leisurely days, we’d pick a road and drive to its conclusion where it ends in water. Moving to Tulsa, I became aware of how many things are under the ground. This is part of a series called Tulsa Below.
Carolann Smith, 51, was the talk of Tulsa in 1944. Someone noticed she was illegally getting food rations for her dog, Bon Bon. Neighbors saw her digging a grave in her backyard by moonlight. Others heard screams coming from the house. When the cops were called, they found the buried caskets to be empty, but they found two women – Virginia Evans, 31, and Nell Willetta Horner, 30, living in squalor in her basement.
She was found to have “mesmerized” the women. They went to work every day, remaining quiet while handing over their entire checks to Carolann. Upstairs, Carolann lived the high life with lots of hats, makeup, and plenty of food while Virginia and Nell slept in the unheated basement on orange crates. The women had been living there for over five years and said they stayed in hopes of an eternal life promised by Carolann.
Death, and rumors of murder, surrounded Carolann. Her husband Fay died in 1934. It was ruled a suicide but had suspicious circumstances. In 1935, her maid Beulah Walker, while fleeing Carolann’s home was hit and killed by a car. She had hefty insurance policies for both of them. The man investigating her husband’s death and the man who hit Beulah with his car also died mysteriously.
At trial, the “hexer” was described by some as having a lust for money and limelight. Others viewed her sympathetically saying she was broken from the death of her infant children and husband.
After spending a short time in jail for fraud, she disappeared. The house was torn down in 1975, but you can see the stairs to the house. The basement is still there under the lot.