Haunted: The Ghost of Clara Muxen and Ozark Folkways

Haunted: The Ghost of Clara Muxen and Ozark Folkways
Staff Photo Nick Brothers  Juniper Achey records from her smartphone to pick up electronic voice phenomena, or ghost voices, in the empty attic of Ozark Folkways.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers
Juniper Achey records from her smartphone to pick up electronic voice phenomena, or ghost voices, in the empty attic of Ozark Folkways.

We were sitting in nearly complete, pitch-black darkness in the attic of a building built in the 1940s. It was dead silent inside the building — the only sounds and creaks heard were created by us moving about, or the occasional car driving by on Highway 71. The air was heavy and musty, distinctively woody and still slightly warm from the day.

“Is anyone else up here with us? Please make yourself known,” said Rebecca Buchanan, executive director of Ozark Folkways of Winslow, Ark., the building we were in.

Within seconds we hear a tap at the other end of the building.

“Could you do that again to prove it was you?” Buchanan asked once more.

Silence. Then two taps, one right after the other near the same location as the first.

It’s believed that male presence evokes more paranormal activity at Ozark Folkways. I wanted to rattle the cage.

“Are you bothered by me being here?,” I ask.

Crack! Immediately after asking, the loudest crack of them all happened, and it was right next to us.


Earlier in the evening as I entered the half-decade-old, robust Ozark Folkways building in Winslow, Ark., the stories of different paranormal activity in the building already had my stomach tightening up like rigor mortis.

The building operates as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization as a crafts school for community members to hold workshops and teach arts and crafts. Buchanan oversees the operation with the aid of a board of directors.


Staff Photo Nick Brothers
Rebecca Buchanan stands next to a bust of Clara Muxen, the speculated host ghost of Ozark Folkways in Winslow, Ark. off of Highway 71. Muxen was the founder of the building, but died before seeing her vision of a crafts school come to fruition.

“Part of my goal is to raise enough money to finish construction on the building,” Buchanan said. “It’s what Clara Muxen would have wanted.”

Originally built in the 1940s from the vision of Clara Muxen, a retired educator from Iowa and a nun, she had planned on creating a craft school to teach the community how to support themselves through crafts. She was on her way to Hot Springs with her mother to help heal her sickness in the natural springs, as what was popular treatment at the time, when she fell in love with the Ozarks and decided to dedicate her life to building the craft school in Winslow.

Eventually, she contracted tuberculosis and died without finishing what she started. The first floor ended up being finished and used as a parochial retreat center until being boarded up for a few decades. The second floor and the attic are left unfinished to this day. Originally, Muxen planned to end her days in the building. She left her would-be coffin in the attic, which was there until being removed when Ozark Native Craft Association came in. It is believed her ghost remains in the walls of the building on the first floor, so she can see her mission through.

“I believe she’s still there,” Buchanan said. “I believe if a ghost sticks around it attracts other kinds of energy. I’ve been told by people that they’ve seen a man with a handlebar mustache upstairs. I feel safe on the first floor, but I don’t like to go on the second floor by myself. It’s too creepy.”

While Muxen is said to occupy the first floor, there have been numerous reports of other types of ghosts and paranormal activity on the second floor. In 2010, Ft. Smith’s River Valley Paranormal group, which is a certified member of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, did an investigation to see if Ozark Folkways was indeed haunted. The team uses tools to pick up electronic voice phenomena and use thermal imaging cameras. They’ve completed more than 150 investigations, and about half of the buildings they find to be haunted, said Adrian Scalf, co-owner of River Valley Paranormal.

“Well if you go by the definition of haunted, there’s a ghost present,” he said. “We had several EVP and that were answers to something we were saying, and we heard footsteps that weren’t ours. In our opinion the place is haunted.”

In fact, Buchanan sent me several audio recordings of EVP that her friend Juniper Achey had discovered while investigating the second floor. There were two that were very clear.

In one, Achey is talking with her daughter at the time about a man that was filling in on the cash register that was overly confident about being able to handle it. Her daughter says to her “He can handle it downstairs” and Juniper replies “Actually no he can’t.” A second later, a whispery, icy voice can be clearly heard saying, “Doesn’t have a clue,” that doesn’t match the voice of either Achey or her daughter.

In a recording from another time Achey and her daughter were investigating, her daughter says “Do you think it’s the devil?” and the same whispery, icy voice can be heard saying “No, no, no.”

Buchanan has stories of her own, involving a door knob turning itself open after being jammed and at a different time that same door was unhinged, which no one knew about, and nearly hit the man who tried to open the door. She’s also heard footsteps without bodies attached to them.

“I don’t believe in ghosts, I’m skeptical unless I can hear them or see them,” Buchanan said. “But I believe people. I’ve heard so many people who’ve said what’s going on here? Who’s here? There was a guy who had never been there before who talked about sensing spirits.”



Staff Photo Nick Brothers
The second floor of Ozark Folkways has been left unfinished for several decades. Many of the rooms now are used for storage.

The night I was there, I didn’t hear any voices or see any convincing strange activities, but we did hear those taps that seemed to be in direct reply to our questions. Mainly because of their old age, the rooms all felt creepy. I likely had a minimal adrenaline rush the entire time that I tried to suppress with reason and humor. Different rooms had different temperatures, and whether it’s haunted or not, long dark hallways are always creepy.

At the end of the tour, we sat down on the first floor with the lights off and I called upon the ghost of Muxen. I asked her bluntly for a quote, if she had anything to say. I also asked her what the best part about being a ghost is. Nothing.

Lastly, I asked her what she thought about the work Buchanan was doing. Then, in another room all of us heard a woman’s voice as loud as a person talking. We all gasped. All except Buchanan, who laughed, because it was her ringtone of her wife singing a lullaby.

The following Monday after my paranormal tour, I received some recordings from the tour. At one point, I asked “What’s on the ground in this room?” and a more mannish version of the icy whisper can be heard sarcastically saying “Wood.”

Oh yeah, and when I asked if the ghosts minded me being there and they cracked in reply?

On the recording I could hear a “No.”

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