The Unique National Park That Satisfies Both Fans Of History And The Paranormal

Ghosts, history, and the great outdoors. That's hard to beat ... unless you add outlaws to the mix. Then, you have a pretty perfect combination. But what if we also threw in a cave as a bonus? If this sounds like the recipe for a great time, there is a state park that you absolutely must visit. This park is located in Oklahoma near Wilburton and covers 8,246 acres. There are 189 additional lake acres, an old-growth forest, and hills that rise between 200 and 1,500 feet. You can go hiking, fishing, or camping in a tent, an RV, a lodge, a cabin, a lake hut, or a yurt. They even have an equestrian campground.

This place is Robbers Cave State Park. If that name evokes thoughts of criminal hideouts for you, it should. The park is named after caves that actually did house robbers and outlaws, some of whose names you will definitely recognize. Will you see one of their ghosts if you visit? Well, that's not guaranteed, but it's always a possibility if you believe in such things. In fact, there is even graffiti some of these outlaws wrote on the cave walls. Let's see which big-name 19th-century criminals hid out there and what they did. 

History of Robbers Cave State Park

The two notorious names you may recognize from the history of Robbers Cave State Park are Belle Starr and Jesse James. The park was officially established in 1936, but these dubious celebrities hid out there in the 19th century. It was also home to a number of Civil War deserters on both the Union and Confederate sides. 

Belle Starr, born Myra Maybelle Shirley in 1848, was an outlaw who lived in what is now Oklahoma but was known at the time as Indian Territory. As a kid, she grew up with Cole Younger and Frank and Jesse James, who would sometimes hide out at her farm. She and her family joined the Starr clan of the Cherokee, who would commit crimes like stealing horses and cattle and distilling bootleg whiskey. She was accused of abetting these crimes, was charged in 1882 with larceny, and went to prison for nine months, though her crime accusations continued. She was shot in the back in 1889, possibly by her son or husband.

It's more likely that you've heard of Jesse James, who was a train and bank robber and the leader of the James-Younger gang. He fought for the Confederacy in a guerrilla group, then turned to a life of crime. He was shot several times and murdered people as he robbed businesses. He garnered quite a bit of fame before he died. In 1882, James was shot and killed by a member of his own gang.

Hiding in the caves for dark doings

Part of the reason this cave was perfect for outlaws is that it lies on the border between Oklahoma and Arkansas, meaning Starr and the James-Younger gang could cross state lines as needed. Plus, they could sneak out the back of the cave via a secret exit.

If you want to check this place out, it's a short climb. The popular hiking trail to the cave is three-quarters of a mile long, but do note that it's pretty steep. Make sure you wear the right shoes. It's pretty easy to find and well marked, as you can see in the photo above, and there are stone stairs that make the climb a little easier. The caves are open to the public, so you can go whenever you like. Plus, none of the cave is underground, so if you get freaked out by caving, this one may not upset you that much.

Will you see a ghost? Could your ears make out the faint sounds of gunshots or was it just a branch breaking? We'll leave that up to you, but bring a flashlight, just in case.