Common Mystics Podcast
Season 2 Episode 9: The Troubled Spirits of Osage Co., OK
00:00:53 On this episode of Common Mystics, we are compelled to discuss the forgotten victims of the Osage murders in Osage County, Oklahoma. I'm Jennifer James, I'm Jill Stanley. We're psychics. We're sisters. We are Common Mystics. We find extraordinary stories in ordinary places. And we have another story for you today out of Osage County, Oklahoma. It's true.
00:01:18 I did not think that we were going to do this story. I didn't either. I'm actually very, um, I'm excited about it, but it's very complex and there's a lot going on, so let's get right into it.
00:01:34 So we were on the road to Kansas, right on our Common Mystics road trip. Right. And we spent the night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We got some Starbucks the next morning. You got
to start right. You gotta start right.
00:01:49 And we set our intention. That's right. Do you want me to tell everybody what our intention was? Please remind everybody. They already know. Our intention was, as it always is, to find an unknown story, a story that was unknown to us, but also gave voice to the voiceless.
And the story has to be verifiable. Has to be verifiable.
00:02:13 Of course, of course. So we headed west of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mm hmm.
And we got off at Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and we're headed north in this little itty bitty town. And we end up at Sand Springs Cemetery. Mm Hmm. Tell me what you're getting. And right away we start getting, we start seeing breadcrumbs. Mm hmm. For instance, the name Brown. Now, you have a family connection to Brown.
00:02:47 My husband's grandfather's name is Roy Brown. And literally that name was in the cemetery multiple times, multiple, which is weird because he also has, Chad also has a nephew named Roy Brown.
00:03:05 Interesting. Yeah. So that made us think, okay, we're, we're headed in the right direction. We are headed towards our story. Right? Right. Right. And in the cemetery, I'm feeling a Pinkerton connection. Like the beginnings of the private investigator. You, what were you feeling? You were feeling? I was feeling outlaws. Like the word outlaws popped into my head, which is funny. Cause it's not really a word that I use too much. You were taken
aback by one of the names on a headstone. Do you remember what it was?
00:03:38 I sure do. It is a very unfortunate last name. It was Murders. The last name was Murders. Yeah. That would draw my attention. Yeah. Well it did. And I was like, Hmm.
Again, made me feel like we were headed towards our story. Mm hmm. Major breadcrumbs. Mm Hmm
00:04:00 So, we leave the cemetery and we go north and we're going through hills. It's looking beautiful. And it's all bougie. Like there are big mansions. You can see far in the distance, these large homes-- in just lining the ridges. And then I notice that there's a sign referring to Osage natives or Osage Nation. And I was like, oh, I know where we are.
00:04:27 Do you remember? I do remember because you were like, Jen, did you listen to that Fresh Air episode that I told you to listen to about the Osage? And I was like, no. And you were like, why not? I told you to listen to it. I did.
00:04:40 You did. But it was, it sounded like a pretty depressing story. And I just wasn't, I just wasn't feeling it. But, um, you, so you had some knowledge of the Osage. Tell me what you had heard.
00:04:51 So, I had heard that a county in Oklahoma was home to the Osage Nation and the Osage were rich because of the oil rights that they had. Apparently their nation had lived upon oil, rich soil. And so they were rich and people were killing them for that oil money. So that's all I knew about it, but that was enough to be like, we're wasting our time because I know the story. That's not part of our intention. We have to leave.
00:05:18 Right. Now, there's a book about this. It was like on the New York Times bestseller
list. Yeah. Yes. It's called Killers of the Flower Moon by-- And you actually… go ahead…. by David Grann.
00:05:31 And what were you saying? That you actually had the book in your possession? Yes, my mother-in-law had given me the book to read and I never read it yet, but I have it. And so I was like, there's no way this can be our story.
00:05:44 Right. Because you know, our intention is that we have a story that we don't know about. Right? And a story that's unknown to us. And in this case you were all like, this is not our story. I already know about this. Let's keep moving. We are not staying here to, you know, get any hits on the Osage. That is not, that is not our story. Exactly.
00:06:04 So we leave, we head west again on the highway and we get off at, on a little road, highway 64 and we decide using our spideys, we're going to take it north. And we went, we end up in a small town that intrigued us. We were called to it, called Hominy, Oklahoma.
00:06:27 So we're driving through the streets of Hominy and I kid you not, we keep seeing the name Brown. Again and again. Again and again, and again, it started to get a little creepy. we're in this small, it was like a small neighborhood. It almost felt like a subdivision. And to my left, there are these huge mountains. We were literally at the base of hills. And I kept feeling as if people were looking around the hills and valleys for a missing girl. That's what I was feeling.
00:07:01 Oh my. Mm hmm. And what else? You were also getting a reference to a movie.
Yes, I was seeing in my head, in the movie Giant, James Dean strikes oil on land. And in the movie, there's a scene where oil sprouting from the ground, like Old Faithful and James Dean is in the middle of this oil, this rain of oil. And he's looking up and he looks so happy and he's so relieved to have struck oil. And it's supposed to be a joyous thing, but that's the image that kept going into my head. And if you watch the movie Giant, it turns out to be a blessing and a curse.
00:07:38 Hmm. What were you feeling? You know, I was directing us because you are driving like you always do. And I directed us north and we saw the most amazing and creepiest site. It was stunning. It was startling. And it was compelling. You were feeling emotion from it. Do you want to describe what we saw?
00:08:06 Yeah, we were at the bottom of this ridge and looking up there were these black, like cutout silhouettes of Native Americans and they were on horseback and they had a lot of movement. They're really beautiful. But for us, they felt foreboding and really charged with energy. And the two of us were so struck by these silhouettes, looking down at us from the ridge that we had questions about why they were there because they affected us emotionally so much. Right.
00:08:43 They were, they were stunning. I was afraid of them. I felt like they were charging at us. Mm hmm. But they were very interesting. You're wondering why they're there because in this little town you're like, why did some-- and these are... things are huge. I'm not talking-- I mean like 12 feet possibly bigger. Huge. So someone put a lot of effort into this and we were kind of like interested. So we, we like...
00:09:07 Let's check out the town and see what we can find out about it because someone needs to know why these are there.
00:09:13 Right. And so Hominy-- it's, it's a cute little downtown area. There's not a lot. But one of the places that we saw that was open was a little gallery and shop. So we stopped at the little gallery and there was a lady in there and we looked around and then we asked her about those silhouettes on the ridge line. And lo and behold, she tells us that the artist who created that work of art was her husband who happened to be there.
00:09:47 That is insane. Like, the one place in town we stop happens to have the artist there. So again, major breadcrumb, that these, these natives are part of our story in some way, but we just didn't know how.
00:10:04 That is insane. So they’re having a conversation with us. He tells us the story behind the silhouettes, which is really….he's paying homage to the people of the land. It’s giving them respect. So it was, it was actually a very beautiful story. I'm really grateful for him... to him, that he was there to explain it to us. But at that time, when we left the store, Jen and I had a conversation about where we're actually going, because at this time we were going to Kansas City, or I'm sorry, Topeka, to meet our brother. But after being in Hominy, we decided to take a longer route and head west to Wichita. So we decided to take a, a smaller highway and take 20 west out of town.
00:10:47 That's right. And that would turn out to be a fateful decision because before we even got to Wichita, we stopped at another little town called Fairfax, Oklahoma. Again, we were driving through, we didn't have to stop, but something about this town needed our attention.
00:11:10 We were definitely pulled there. Absolutely. Upon getting into the area, it felt still, it felt, it felt calm. And it also felt like... like remorse, it felt... like sad…. like almost a depression.
00:11:27 It was thick with spirits. AF. And I think we didn't talk about it. We were just kind of really sad and searching at that point as we drove around. But both of us knew, okay, we are on the right track here. There is something in Fairfax that needs telling, but we didn't know what it was at that point.
00:11:50 The town itself had inhabitants. It was a town like an act... an active town. But Jen and I are saying, this feels like a ghost town. It's almost like a half ghost town. It was very peculiar. The duality we're picking up from the area.
00:12:07 That's when I started picking up on the vision of a woman who was, like, dressed for partying. And she was at some sort of nightclub or bar, but she was crying because she was messed up. And when I say messed up, she had been beaten. Um, or yeah, she was crying desperately. And it was a really troubling image in my head. And I wrote it down because I couldn't, I couldn't get it out of my head.
00:12:35 So we're in the car. You're feeling that image and we're using our spidies to find the cemetery. And as we're headed that direction, I'm feeling the pursuit of prosperity. I'm feeling driven to, um, to make something of myself, that's the feeling I'm getting. Um, and then we end up in Fairfax cemetery.
00:12:59 Mm hmm. It was so, so odd to be in that cemetery. And what do you mean? There were, there were a lot of native American graves and you and I pinpointed that right away, but it didn't seem right. There was something so off about so many of those graves, one of the things that stood out to me was the Americanized versions of their names. A lot of times you couldn't tell by their names that they were native American, except for a little portrait of them, that would be on the headstone. Right. Which just seems so weird. What else, what else stood out to you? It literally felt like what I was looking at wasn't all that was there. It felt like there was so much beneath the surface. Like not everything is what it seemed there.
00:13:52 Right, right. And you and I were looking at those tombstones and it was premature death after premature death, after premature death. Yeah. It seemed like the cemetery was mostly made up of natives based on the pictures on the headstone. But these natives didn't live a very long life. They were all, they all died prematurely. So it seemed who, what else did we find in that cemetery, which is creepy?
00:14:22 We found a tombstone with a woman's name. That was our mother's name. It was her American first name, Stella, and her last name. Like legit, which is crazy. Like legit, like the same words are on our actual mother's headstone. The same name, the same name first and last it's insane. Right.
00:14:44 Not her Polish name because we know that she had a Polish name. It was her Americanized name, which again is very, it's very layered. That's exactly what we were noticing about the natives, but they're Americanized names were on these tombstones. Very crazy. And it felt like I remember having a conversation with you that it felt like the, um, for lack of a better term, the American, the Americanization, the white washing of this native culture felt precarious. Like it didn't feel like it took all the way. Does that make sense? Do you remember having that conversation? Yeah.
00:15:21 Yeah. Absolutely. Something was off. Yeah. Something was definitely off there.
So then we headed out of town and we were headed towards Wichita, but Jen did some research before I had a chance to, and she, and what'd you say, Jen, what were you on? Well,
00:15:39 I did a preliminary search on Google based on a lot of the information that you and I had written down, you know, our notes in the car. And again, and again, I just hit it. I just kept coming up with the Osage murders. And you already told me that you did not want to do a story about the Osage because you already had some information about them and about the story. Right? Right. But the, our hits were so strong. They were undeniable. So I said, Jill, you already have that book. I think you need to read the book. And then we'll decide whether we want to eliminate that as our story, or if it really is our story.
00:16:19 To be honest, we went back and forth about this. We did not agree for a very long time. And just recently, Jen and I took a road trip to New York state to see our sister and in the car on the way there. We decided to just get on Audible and to listen to this book as we drove to New York state. And that's how we,. we settled the argument and I'm glad we did. It blew our minds, sitting there listening. It blew our minds.
00:16:47 Because it was very obvious that this was our story. And even as we left the bougie part of Osage County, the spirits were still with us and they guided us to some major locations, bigger locations, more, what would you say? More relevant locations in the county that this story has to do with. So Jen, tell us about the book.
00:17:09 Well, I'll just give you a little bit of information and this actually comes directly from the book jacket, just to give you people a little bit, uh, uh, a brief summary of what the premise of the book is. Again, this is Killers,-- Killers of the Flower Moon.. And who's the author? Grann. David Grann. Okay. So the book jacket said, says, and I quote, “In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. One by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. It was just the beginning as more and more members of the tribe begin to die under suspicious circumstances. In this last remnant of the wild, wild west. Many of those who dare to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.
00:18:12 As the death toll climbed, the newly established FBI took over. It was one of the Bureau's first investigations and it was badly blundered. In desperation, the young, new FBI director, J Edgar Hoover turns to former Texas ranger, Tom White, to unravel the mystery.”
00:18:29 Okay. So I'm intrigued. Mollie Burkhart. Please tell me about her. Mollie was the daughter of Lizzie and Mollie was a full blooded Osage Native American. She was one of four girls. In the years preceding 1920, Mollie's sister, Minnie passed away of unknown causes. Now, Jill, a doctor said, she died of, quote unquote, “wasting disease.” What does that mean? I have no idea what that means. And that's ridiculous. That's generic AF is what that is. It’s like,oops, she died, right? She got sick and wasted away. I guess. Hmm. Suspicious. Minnie was only 27 at the time that she died of this wasting illness and had always been in perfect health, by the way. Oh my gosh. That's scary. So during May, during May, 1921, Mollie began to fear for another one of her sisters, Anna Brown.
00:19:39 Having a sister as a full-time job. I got to tell you. I got to tell you, you're always worryin’ about em. That is true.
00:19:45 Anna was 36 at the time. She had recently gone through a divorce from her husband, a man named Oda Brown, who happened to be white. Hmm. The author would describe Anna as the kind of person who would go on drinking sprees and go dancing in the bars with friends, often til dawn. She sounds like fun. She does sound like fun. Her body was found in a ravine by hunters, three miles outside of Fairfax.
00:20:19 So she had been missing for a couple of days and um, they found her body. Oh, I'm so sorry. She had been, yeah, she had been murdered, gunshot through the head. Right? Yeah, she was shot in the head. Poor thing. Shortly after, Mollie's mother Lizzie began to get sick and she was living with Mollie and Mollie's husband Ernest. Ernest Burkhart was also white. Ahh haa. But poor Lizzie in July of 1921, Lizzie passed away. Now, poison was suspected, but it couldn't be proven. My God, poor Mollie. Now, I know, I know. First Minnie, then Anna and then her and now her mom, Lizzie. It's terrible. It is terrible.
00:21:08 Now on March 10th, 1923, Mollie's last remaining sister Rita was killed. Oh my God. Rita Smith and her husband William or Bill Smith and their housekeeper Netty all died when their home was destroyed by an explosion.
00:21:31 So, you know what? Not even the Kennedy family had this kind of luck. So I need you to tell me what is happening. Well, hold on. What I didn't tell you is that this family lived... Right…. In Fairfax. Oh, oh my God. You mean, Will… Will? You mean Bill and Rita's
house was in Fairfax? It was. That's where it exploded.. in Fairfax. Oh my God. Yeah. Where we were, where we weren't going to stop, except we decided to go to Wichita and stuff. That’s insane. Okay. So what,
00:22:05 Like I said, the Kennedy's had better luck than Mollie and her family. So you need to explain to me what is happening.
00:22:14 Oh my gosh. Okay. So you, we had already mentioned that the Osage in the 1920s were the richest people in the world per capita. Yeah. And that is because that, and I'm going to read from Short Forum Blog, who explains it: “In the late 19th century oil had been discovered on the tribal reservation of the Osage people, who live primarily in Osage County, Oklahoma. Now the oil discovery turned the tribe into one of the wealthiest per capita groups in the world with the total tribal income from leases to the oil companies, running into the tens of millions and leases on individual tracks, climbing as high as 2 million. So to manage this influx of money, Jill, the Osage tribal leadership instituted something called a headright system. And under the headright system, each member of the tribe was entitled to annual royalties from the oil production.
00:23:16 And it was distributed in equal measure to the members of the tribe. That makes sense. Yeah. Now, although individuals could sell their surface land or could lease their land, they could not buy or sell the head rights. And the head rights could only change hands through inheritance. And this is why the headrights systems significance is clear in the Osage murders because an Osage, who suffered many deaths in the family could find themselves with the title to multiple headrights. And the headrights of Mollie's family members that had rights... of Mollie's family members who died... They would all be inherited by Mollie. So Mollie's killing her family? Well, no, but something just as sinister or even worse is happening here. Jill, tell me what is happening. Well, Mollie married a man named Ernest Burkhart.
00:24:09 You said that before I think. Yeah, he was a white man. They had three children together. Okay. But Ernest was connected. What do you mean? I mean that he was the nephew of a man named William Hale. William Hale was known as Bill Hale or more importantly, King of the Osage, was his nickname. Yeah. I don't like that at all.
00:24:33 He gave himself that nickname, FYI, which is even lamer. But go on. Oh my gosh. Yeah. He was an American cattleman in the quote unquote, “Indian territory.” He built himself a ranch and he really made a fortune raising cattle, but he was also, Jill, a major power player in the community. Okay. Give me an example of that. Well, he, he rose to local prominence through bribery, extortion, and intimidation. He owned a lot of homes in Fairfax and he also invested in the bank, the store, the funeral home. I mean, his money was all over. Wow. All over Fairfax. And he was related to Ernest. He was Ernest's uncle. Okay. Right. And apparently it was Hale and his nephews, Ernest and Brian Burkhart, who conspired to kill Mollie's family. And then her, for the headrights because all of her head rights would then be passed to her husband, Ernest. Okay. Okay.
00:25:43 So, not only were they killing Osage natives, but they were killing them in a way that all the headrights would be funneled down to Mollie and then essentially offing Mollie? It's devastating to even think about. So, this whole time Ernest is married to Mollie and it was just so he can eventually murder her. And he's slowly murdering every member of her family. That's cold.
00:26:17 That is really cold. It's unfathomable. It's unfathomable. I don’t want to be blahzay about this, but you referred to these murders as the, as the “reign of terror” and three men conspiring to kill Mollie's family just doesn't seem to fit that title. So, what else is going on here that we hadn't touched base on yet?
00:26:37 Well, the reign of terror was known to last from 1921 to 1926. Right? That's like, that's what it's known. Like, if you look it up, it's, that's the reign of terror. However, Mollie's family, that's just one example of the type of terribly treacherous murders and killings that are happening to the Osage, this wealthy people, um, who are really being targeted. At least two dozen people in the area, inexplicably turned up dead and not just Osage, but other people in the community like oil men, lawyers, and essentially anyone who are true friends to the Osage or trying to help them or trying to get, like, other, other entities, like the federal government to come in and do something. And those people were, were ending up dead too, because they were trying to uncover this, this corruption.
00:27:31 You said that some people in the community who ended up dead were trying to get the attention of other authorities, like the federal government to help. So, are you meaning like, no one's doing anything about this? It's just like free reign on the Osage?
00:27:43 Well, for starters, the murders weren't getting much press. Okay. So, there were some local coverage, but these murders were happening in the dozens, it wasn't getting picked up by the national press. Okay. Because we're talking about Osage, these are Native Americans. And at the time, unfortunately, many white people found them to be quote unquote, “subhuman.”
00:28:07 Wow. Right. And although it seems as if they're being systematically targeted and murdered, they really weren't looked at as people equal to white people. And not only that, but remember the press is printing stories about, like, the savage native living in mansions and the Osage, focusing on their wealth.
00:28:31 Yeah. They were jelly pie. Yes, absolutely. So yeah, if the Osage were in the paper at all, it wasn't about the murders. It was, it would be about like, oh, look how rich they are. How unfair. Look at the uncivilized people who have, uh, you know, four or five cars in their garage and, you know, big mansions.
00:28:51 So, we’re not going to get into this at length. But it's interesting to note, that the Osage people, although that had been depicted of them in the press, as they're spending their lavish millions on whatever they want, like mansions and automobiles and chauffeured cars, but they were actually under a trusteeship where white people were entrusted or appointed to be, um, conservators of the native’s wealth. So, if you were a full blooded native Osage, you didn't have access to your money. So although it sounds like all bougie and they were living large, like the rest of the 1920s in American history, these people had to fight for their money if they got it at all. So I just want to note that. Continue. I'm sorry.
00:29:36 That is a really good point because most of them were not in control of their own money. Exactly. And the ones who had honest, white people helping them were the lucky ones.
Mm hmm. And those were few and far between.
00:29:49 Oh, Jill, this is so depressing. Yeah, it is. Okay. So couple, couple, all of this corruption and, uh, prejudice and murder with the fact that we're talking about Oklahoma really as the wild west right now. Really. I mean, it's kind of the last holdout. So it... there's lawlessness, there's local sheriff and lawmen who don't know anything about forensics or really don't have any investigative skills and corruption is everywhere. And guess what? The lawmen, they're easily bought off, especially at,... yeah. Especially if it's, you know, to keep quiet about doing the Osage wrong.
00:30:31 Wow. Yeah. I'm sure It didn't take them, like, any convincing. They're just like, whatever, do what you will. I know It's awful. There's a good example of corruption when it came to investigating these crimes against the Osage that the author had, um, spoke about during a Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies. Can you please, uh, read that quote from me? Sure.
00:30:53 This is David Granns, the author of Killers of the Flower Moon. He said, “ the governor of Oklahoma eventually sent in his top state investigator. He had been a long-time private eye and had a criminal history. He shows up to look into the killings. He quickly takes a bribe, you know, from a bootlegger. He's then arrested. The governor quickly pardons him, and then goes and commits an unrelated murder.” So you get a sense, just, to the quality of the legal establishment and who is supposed to be solving these crimes.
00:31:22 Uh, so, yeah, if you weren't depressed before, not only, not only are these people being killed and exploited for their money, but there really is no hope. So, what do you do if you're, if you're Mollie?
00:31:35 Well, you know what? I think that this is, this is a good point because this is the governor of the state. We're not even talking about Fairfax. We're not even talking about the local county sheriff. We're talking about the state. At this level, they can't get someone to help out and find out who is killing Mollie's family and the Osage.
00:31:53 I have a question, I know this is off topic. I just want your input. Do you think the governor did that because he was, he was supported by rich people- rich oil men, and he was just sending in someone to make it look as if he was investigating these murders? Do you really think he tried? Because that's not... I mean, to me, you picked someone who had a criminal history. Right.
00:32:19 You picked like the worst possible person you can find to look into this. Doesn't seem like he was really trying that hard. It almost seems like a joke that you sent this person there. It sure doesn't. I don't know. It sure doesn’t. That’s just what I thought. I mean, I don't know. What do you do if you're Mollie in these circumstances?
00:32:38 Well, Mollie tried to investigate the murders on her own. She actually hired a team of private investigators to look into the murders of her family, but they were also corrupt and bought off by local people who didn't want the story to be well-known or they didn't want the murders to be uncovered. Um, and many of the people that she hired had their own criminal backgrounds and private eyes and private detectives… they didn't have any oversight. Like there was nobody making sure that they were on the level, that they were on the up and up or that they weren't like, you know? Um, what's it called? Um, being dicks? What's a spy who’s like a double crossing spy?
00:33:24 A double agent? A double agent. Right. Right, exactly. And in fact, some of the private eyes that Mollie hired or came to town were actually, uh, bought off by Bill Hale. Remember the King of the Osage? He would be paying them not only to not investigate, but create false leads and further cover up the facts. Do you believe that?
00:33:48 That this is just sickening. Please tell me, please tell me that something is done because this just seems out of control. And I personally, like, I don't see any hope for Mollie. I really don't. I'm... I'm devastated.
00:34:02 I know. I am, too. Well, in the 1920s, J Edgar Hoover was just getting his bureau of investigation off the ground. Okay. Um, the Osage murders would happen to be the first big story for the FBI, but Hoover, lucky for him, enlisted a man named Tom White, who had been a Texas Ranger.
00:34:28 I'm so sorry. I'm gonna stop you real quick. Before Tom White got involved, the investigation was like a shit show and they, like, released a prisoner from jail that ended up killing somebody. It was really bad, and it was bad press for J Edgar Hoover. So, then he found this lawman, Tom White. And like you said, lucky he did. Please continue. Lucky he did because
00:34:46 Tom, Tom White was a stand up guy. He had, um, he had a background pursuing bandits on horseback as a Texas ranger. He... but he came from a family of lawmen and his dad Emmett was the sheriff in central Texas during a really rough time. Uh, too, apparently it was a really rough time to be a sheriff of....of Texas.
00:35:13 I don't think there's ever like a cozy, cozy sheriff job. Good point. It's not a cushy job? So, um, Tom was brought up alongside the convicts that his father was warden to in central Texas. He watched his father's humane treatment of the people in his care, and that really had a lasting effect on young Tom White and Tom prided himself on the fact that his career was relatively bloodless. In fact, he never killed anyone in the line of duty. And that is really pretty rare.
00:35:49 I love Tom. He's a good man. I know. I love Tom, too. He's a really good man. So there's this website that you found that has this quote about Tom? Yes. Please read it for me. It's litchart.com is where I had gotten the quote, but read it for me if you will.
00:36:04 Um, so of course, litchart.com says this about Grann’s portrayal of Tom and Killers of the Flower Moon. He says “Throughout the text, Grann highlights White’s lawfulness, decency, and steadfast pursuit of the truth in contrast to the deep pervasive greed and corruption, which have taken hold of Osage County.”
00:36:27 Would you swipe-- would you swipe right on that? Would you be like, yes. I like decency, lawfulness. Thumbs up. Yes. Yes. Oh my gosh. Finally. Can we finally have an upstanding white man here? Can we finally get one that's not going to be, like, murdered please? Or not murder? That'd be great. Just one.
00:36:53 Okay. So it took some time for Tom to gain the trust of the Osage. I'm sure. I mean, I don't trust a white man at this point. I don't, I don't blame them.
00:37:06 So they began talking about Hale. Um, now Tom White had a reputation as restrained and methodical as an investigator and he studied the probate records, dealing with the estates of the murdered Osage people and he outlined the murderous plot. Um, and it totally began to make sense. And he noted not only the murders, but also the order that they occurred and the same names were coming up again and again, William Hale and his nephew, Ernest Burkhart, who was of course Mollie’s husband.
00:37:45 Apparently the way that they describe Ernest is that he was very submissive to his uncle. They applied a little bit of pressure and then all of a sudden he cracked and he just spilled everything. So it was pretty notable. Yeah. Yeah. Ernest
00:38:02 Ernest totally broke under questioning. He said that Hale encouraged Ernest to marry Mollie -- ah haa-- who was, of course, an allotted full blood Osage with headrights and with a lot of family members with their headrights.
00:38:16 I know that I'm really naive, but some part of me wanted to believe that Ernest fell in love with Mollie, and it was later that this murderous plot came up, but it just, it hurts me so much to know that this woman loved her husband and he literally just looked at her like, I'm going to murder you in like a couple of years, but laid in bed with her, had kids with her.... I mean, that… Had kids with her… I can't. Okay… go on.
00:38:45 It really is devastating. Because she loved him. Oh, well. In 1926, Hale and Burkhart were arrested and Ernest Burkhart, we already said he cracked, he pleaded guilty and received a life sentence in Oklahoma. And he went to the Oklahoma state penitentiary. Good. Turning state's evidence. Uh, Burkhart testified against Hale, testified against his dirty rotten uncle.
00:39:16 So Burkhart was a rat and Hale was a snake. In 1929, Hale was sentenced to life in prison in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. That makes me feel like justice was kind of doled out…. a little bit.
00:39:36 I mean, I don't know. I mean, it's better than nothing. It's better than nothing. Some people, some people would argue that they should have gotten the death penalty. True. I'm satisfied with life in prison. I'm not particularly fond of the death penalty, but...
00:39:52 Well, you know, despite Osage protests, Hale and Burkhart were both eventually paroled.
00:40:00 Okay. Feeling less satisfied with justice at the moment. Okay. Alright. Um, And Ernest Burkhart, Mollie's husband, received a full pardon from the Oklahoma governor Henry Belmont in 1965.
00:40:16 He was pardoned. Completely disgusted. She did divorce him. She would end up divorcing him. She did well. Yeah, she did divorce him and she did end up marrying another man. Um, a gentleman named Cobb, who was also of native descent. I think he was a half native. And um, she lived out the rest of her life in happiness and peace. So that makes me happy for Mollie. Um, but it, it makes me so sad about the state of, of racism in this country that these people can do horrible crimes... conspire for years, and really not be brought to justice in the way that they deserve. Just saying,
00:41:01 All right, Jill, how, like, why are we talking about this story? Like, how did we know we had to talk about it? Well, we tried not to talk about it, but the spirits. We really tried. I really put my foot down, but the spirits didn't care. They're like, yeah, whatever, drive down here. And we ended up in Hominy. And Hominy, by the way, is an important town for the Osage. Tell me. They have their annual Ilonska dances here in this place. So it's an important location for them. Hmm.
00:41:35 And It was in Hominy that we decided to go to Wichita instead of directly to Chris's in Topeka, which took us to Fairfax. That's right. Which was the sight of many of the murders from the book. And I did not know any of the specifics. I didn't know about, um, Fairfax. I didn't know about Anna Brown. So let's talk about those hits to see... that really supported.. the fact that we were supposed to be talking about this story.
00:42:01 Jill, you talked about Pinkerton. You actually said the word Pinkerton. I sure did. That is crazy. Explain that. How was that a hit? Because Mollie had used, um, private eyes or Pinkertons- the early private eyes- to investigate her family's murders. Also private eyes in the, like... from around the country were going there for exactly that reason, posing like, oh, I can help you find out who's killing people, so that people will pay them to do it.
00:42:31 Unbelievable. I can't believe you said that. Mm hmm. You’re good, girl. Oh, stop-- I got one for you. You were feeling the outlaw... feeling the outlaws. Yeah. I didn't want to get into like the weeds on Hall being a son of a bitch, but he--- Hale…Hale. Hale. Does he really deserve me getting his name right? I mean, honestly, I really don't care
00:42:54 Well, we don’t want to confuse our listeners. William Hale. Yeah. That guy. Outlaws, talk to me. So, he hired an outlaw named Ramsey and it was Ramsey that actually shot Anna Brown in the head, while his nephew Brian Burkhart, held her up, so that he can get a clean shot. They got her drunk. They brought her to a res-- a ravine. Brian held her up as Ramsey, the outlaw, shot her in the head.
00:43:23 Oh God. So he hired outlaws to do his killing. Mm hmm. Premature deaths that I was, that we were feeling…. that's pretty. That's pretty self-explanatory. It is. It is The names of natives appearing on their gravestones as whites, um, evangelical or, or Catholic biblical names. That's pretty, yeah, That's pretty…..
00:43:47 A strong analogy for the, the way that they were trying to assimilate themselves into American culture. But also… Well, ya know, it was forced acculturation is what it was. It's true. It was forced acculturation.
Speaker 3 00:44:02 And that is a very, um, very same way our mother felt, having the nuns at school change her name to Stella from Stanislawa. Right. That's true. That is very true. Very labored metaphors there. Spirits good. Spirits deep.
00:44:18 Jill, you were totally picking up on a missing girl. I totally think that was Anna Brown. I do too. And the woman that I was picking up on… legit. Legit, Anna Brown, because I had the sense that this one was out on the town, like at a bar or a nightclub. And that's where Anna went. That's where she was when they took her and killed her. Absolutely. It's terrible. How about, Jill, explain the, your pursuit of prosperity and that sense that you were getting.
00:44:51 It really was a feeling of being tenacious and thinking outside the box about how to get funds or how to become something. And I really feel like these white people in Osage County really took the cake because they found new and interesting ways to exploit the natives who had money. Um, we're going to get into it a little bit later, but we'll take a deep dive on that down below, further on in the episode. What were you feeling.. Jen leaning on...leading us to the ghostly native silhouette. Oh my gosh. Oh my God. The ghostly native silhouettes were...
00:45:27 I think that they were an analogy of the Osage and just looking at us with sadness and anger and accusation.
00:45:40 Cha’…. Is that his name? The artist? I think so. He looked at what he was… when he was creating these silhouettes as a tribute to these great people. When we saw them through, with, um, being, um, inspired by spirit, we saw that anger, we saw the unrest and that's not what he was trying to convey with it. Not at all. So that's really interesting that we saw it through different… through a different lens for this purpose. We felt it.
00:46:10 We felt it through spirit to tell a different story. Absolutely. And James Dean, James Dean, and Giant. That, I mean, that's a really good one, spirit. She impresses me. So in Giant, James Dean is like this poor guy who strikes oil and his oil money really becomes his loneliness and demise.
00:46:32 Hmm. She good. She good. When we were listening to The Killers of the Flower Moon in the car and they described how people would dance around and the oil that was raining from the sky. I totally, I totally got that. And I thought of that James Dean image that you had brought up earlier.
00:46:50 I didn't even think of that when I was in the car. You just bringing that up right now gave me goosebumps. Yeah.. a hundred percent. Yeah. The vibes in Fairfax, we didn't talk about yet. Dude. It's not, it's not a ghost town. It's not. Like, it's an active town. That's what's weird about it….like, it is a full functioning town, and yet you and I were like, uh, what is happening? Like it was just totally creepy. It felt desolate. It felt sad.. Thick, thick with native spirits. That's what we said. Pissed off native spirits. And I don't blame em...pissed off myself.
00:47:28 Okay. So remember when I was talking about earlier, um, white people being really, um, inventive when it came to how they were exploiting natives, we're gonna get into that here. Do it. Because this story is getting a lot of traction right now, but when I say that there's Martin Scorsese making a movie about the book Killers of the Flower Moon. The Killers of the--- Leonardo DiCaprio is going to be in it. He’s hot. um, the Killers of the Flower Moon, the book itself just came out in 2017. So this, although it was forgotten for generations had been brought back into the forefront, but they don't really talk about how it was not just Hal and his nephews. It wasn't just the, the,--- William Hale--- the private eyes that came in. That guy. It wasn't just him and his nephews. It wasn't just the people pretending to investigate these murders.
00:48:27 It was a whole system of people set up to exploit these natives after they had gotten their head rights in 1906. Can you explain that for us, Jen? Sure. The local white people, the local merchants would overcharge the Osage for things that they would absolutely need. Like, let's say a funeral. So a funeral director would charge 10 times more for an Osage funeral and it would cost them $80,000 in 1922, $80,000. That's in 1922 to bury a family member
00:49:09 To bury an Osage person. Basically you would have a native tax on anything that a native needed as a necessity in life. They would be like, oh, you need this for an Osage person? $20 as opposed to like, that's a penny, dude. Right. Exactly. Exactly. And not only that, the doctors- Please get into the doctors--- the doctors were white men and they were quote unquote “treating natives” in many cases for ailments that they did not have, that they didn't have. Mollie was apparently diabetic and was getting diabetic treatments. But that is very questionable. Um, when she started seeing a doctor outside of that community, she started getting better.
00:49:54 When she, she was actually in fear for her life. So she went into hiding and it was when she was in hiding away from the reservation or away from the Osage County lands that she started improving... for-- without the treatments for the doctor. Can you imagine? Poor... the things that Mollie had to come to grips with in her life, knowing that, like, your doctors are poisoning you, your husband married you to murder you. He's killed your whole family. Like the things that Mollie had grapple with…. I understand why the author picked her to tell and have these stories be told through her life, but it wasn't just Mollie.
00:50:36 It was the whole tribe. Exactly. She's just a very small part. That's right. When we were in that Fairfax cemetery, we noticed that a lot of the natives there died prematurely, but before… way before 1920, There was Mary King that was, was killed, or presumably killed in 1917. And Jen just today found an article from 1988 where a wealthy Osage man Red Eagle was murdered of suspicious circumstances by a gentleman that lived in Hominy, and Red Eagle had multiple headrights. That's right. And that was 1988. Right. So, so to say the reign of terror lasted four years in the 1920s doesn't--- that is not accurate. That's not the whole story for sure. For sure.
00:51:42 Let's talk about when some of those murders were solved by the FBI in the 1920s. Even that…. even that was exploited. No, I totally think you're right. I think that, like you said, even the, even the participation of J Edgar Hoover doing something right by sending in Tom White.... Although Tom was successful in investigating and uncovering the plot to kill Mollie's family, like we said, that was just an itty bitty portion of the atrocities happening to these people. And instead of doubling down and really getting to the, to the meat of the genocide that's happening in Osage county, J Edgar Hover was like... Yeah, Hey, look at us! Look at what we did! Yeah, aren’t we cool? We need more money and power to become even better at our jobs and totally disregard the rest of the things happening in Osage County. Right. Exactly.
00:52:37 He waved that victory flag and used it to promote himself as the head of the FBI. But really there was so much more work to do in Osage county and to date it hasn't been done. 00:52:51 And the reality is, because of J Edgar Hoover's lack of interest in these [murders]... Like I said, genocide, we not only do not know the extent of the murders, we also don't have a clear understanding of the impact of the murders and the wealth that was funneled away from these people generations later, even today. We just don't know. That's... that's true. That is true.
00:53:23 So, Jill, who do you think the voiceless are in this story? I was going to ask you that-- I think the voiceless are definitely the countless natives that might've been, um, that probably most likely have been killed for greed for their oil rights, but who, I know you have feel a special kinship to one in particular, if you wanna, if you wanna take it from there. Well, I wouldn't say kinship,
00:53:49 But Anna Brown. Now, I, you know what? I really like the book. I really liked Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon, and I highly recommend that if you are, if you are interested in this story, read the book. It's a really good read. He's a really good author, but he doesn't do Anna Brown any favors. He makes her out to be a drunken floozy. Pretty much. And I don't think that's quite fair.
00:54:14 Well, I don’t think he needed to get into it. Is it necessary-- yeah, exactly-- is it really necessary to describe her at all if that's the only thing you can say? Liike, like mama always said, if you have, if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all. I mean, she was probably a woman in pain.
00:54:32 I agree with you a hundred percent. Oh absolutely. She was going through a divorce, poor Anna. Let's not victim shame because that's really how it felt like she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in all fairness, I think that her death wasn't better investigated because people felt like she was…. her behavior…. because of her lifestyle. It put her at greater risk of murder. And I think that that was the angle he was probably trying to hit on. But again, that’s shitty. We didn't have to go there. It's a theme of the book maybe, but it's like, we didn't need it. There's so much going on here that we didn't need to add that in. So, but again, I really do like the book and I think everyone should read it, Killers of the Flower Moon… Alright. tell the people where they can find us. You can find us at our website, common mystics.net. You can find us on our Facebook page, our Instagram page and our Twitter feed, Common Mystics Podcast. You can listen in on Audible, Amazon, Tuned in, Stitcher,
00:55:40 Spotify, Google podcast, and Apple Podcast, where you can leave us a positive review so other people can find us. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you. Good night.