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Ma Barker's Ghost

Updated on October 24, 2016

Most ghost lovers are familiar with the never ending card game that is taking place even right now at Glamis Castle in Great Britain. But few people are aware of the eternal card game that is happening near the Florida swamps.

People usually come to Florida in their later years to retire and live a peaceful life if they can. Even Ma Barker and her friends were down here relaxing from their nefarious activities at a resort before their vacation was suddenly cut short by the FBI.

Ma Barker was born in 1873 near Springfield, Missouri. Her maiden name was Clark but she was more commonly known in the earlier days of her profession as Arizona Donnie Barker.

When she was still quite young Arizona Donnie married a man named George Barker who besides giving her use of his surname also managed to sire - it is believed - four sons. The sons - criminals all - were, ranked according to age: Herman "bloody" Barker (1894 - 1927), Lloyd Barker (1896 - 1949), Arthur "doc" Barker (1899 - 1939) and Fred Barker (1902 - 1935). Oddly enough, their father George did not have a criminal record and seemed to have been an average type of person.


Bloodletting vacation

After Ma Barker left her husband she got together her sons and a few of their friends and swept across the Midwest from Minnesota to Texas on a crime spree. It was quite a spree, lasting from the mid 1920s to the mid 1930s. As the matriarch of the gang, Ma directed kidnappings, payroll heists, bank robberies and even post office burglaries. In their wake were left many dead police officers.

Needing to take a much needed break from the routine of stealing and killing, Ma led her gang down to a resort in Florida near Ocala in the north central part of the state. They found a spacious two story building in which to stay in Oklawaha, Florida, overlooking Lake Weir.

You can visit this location too. Proceeding south from Ocala, Florida on highway 301, turn east on Highway 464 until you reach the small town of Oklawaha. It shouldn't be hard to find the place where Ma Barker stayed and died, probably anyone of the 1100 or so citizens there (babies, infants and the insane excluded) could direct you there. In fact, you may be able to rent a room in this very haunted site.

In the mid 1930s the FBI was beginning a serious crackdown on public enemies. They claimed to have shot dead John Dillinger one July night in 1934 outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Autopsy records released thirty years later prove that another man – James Lawrence - was really shot that night and has left his ghost at that site.

Bonnie and Clyde, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, "Baby Face" Nelson and many others had been chased down and bumped off or were about to be. A person would've expected that Ma Barker and her group would've been on the lookout. Maybe they thought that they were safe holed up somewhere down in Florida which back in the 1930s was mostly swamp and alligator country.

The eternal card game

Longest shootout in FBI history

Ma Barker and her shady group spent their time drinking, playing cards and fighting among themselves. With all the booze they drank and food they ate they were probably an economic boon to this tiny community. They were certainly ranking celebrities of the time.

On a day in January 1935, however, the vacation came to an abrupt end. The FBI had surrounded the building with an arsenal of weapons and Ma Barker and her clan were called back to work. What ensued was the longest FBI Shootout of all time.

A steady battery of machine gun fire sprayed the building where Ma Barker and her son Fred were hiding out. The occasional blast of a shotgun was hardly heard amidst the constant, unrelenting chattering of the machine guns. Bullets tore through the wooden outside walls of the resort house, shredding the exterior siding.

The interior didn't fare any better. There was barely a spot of wall that hadn't been dug out by a machine gun round. The old-fashioned wooden furniture was chewed to splinters by the nonstop gunfire. The floor was littered with chards of glass from the blown out windows, fragments of window-dressing were strewn everywhere and the remains of the tables and chairs slumped in contorted positions, missing arms and legs. And amidst it all were Ma Barker and Freddy, firing, reloading and firing again.

Nothing could be heard above the horrific sound of gunfire. But most of the FBI agents were wearing earplugs and couldn't hear anything. They didn't even know if they were still being fired upon.

It didn't matter. The strategy was to maintain a continual barrage of gunfire on the house until it was determined that no one inside could possibly be still left alive. It was almost as if the house itself were being killed.

Finally, with a wave of his arm, the FBI agent in charge signaled a halt to the attack. A stunned silence gasped in relief. The entire landscape was frozen; all of the wildlife had fled and it seemed that even the nearby Lake Weir was frozen in shock.

The resort house that had been the target of the assault was still going through its death throes. The sound of raining plaster, pictures falling off walls and furniture at last succumbing could be heard through the quiet. Ma Barker and her son Fred were already dead, riddled with bullet holes and lying amidst the debris of the house.

Rocking chair for ghosts only

Never ending gun battle

When the FBI agents marched into the house even they were taken aback by the extent of the devastation they'd inflicted. More astonishing than what was destroyed, however, was what had been left undamaged. Still hanging from the ceiling untouched was the chandelier and leaning back in the nook of one of the walls was a fancy china cabinet, also not nicked by a single bullet.

So, the FBI had finally tracked down and bumped off Ma Barker and her son Fred, both of whom were promptly put on display, full of bullet holes, like hunting trophies. The resort house where they'd been killed was eventually repaired and put back into service. Apparently, Ma Barker and her friends still like it here because they're back - as spirits.

The resort house on Lake Weir is busy with ghostly activity. It's almost as if Ma Barker and her gang had never left. Footsteps and voices can be heard coming from all over the building. Especially active is the main room where Ma and her cohorts spent a lot of their time. The sound of a still ongoing card game is so loud that witnesses claim to be able to hear the cards slapping down onto the table top and chips being flipped and thrown.

Ghostly fighting is still occurring, too. Yelling voices are often heard and they are so loud that witnesses from the upstairs room can almost decipher what is being said. It seems like the good old days over and over and over again for Ma Barker and the gang. They'd come here for a vacation and it seems like this one will never end.

Ironically, sounds of the gun battle haven't been widely reported from this site. Maybe, in the afterlife, Ma and the boys have actually outwitted the G-men who've furnished them with a permanent vacation. Tourists are welcome here and if you like you can drop by this small town of Oklawaha and visit Ma Barker and the clan and have a taste of Ole Southern Hospitality.

Floridaland Ghosts


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