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The Living Dead Finally Put to Rest

September 18, 2002

Almanac Transcript

The living dead finally put to rest this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

As a native of northeast Oklahoma, I've often heard stories of the famous Osage Zombie, John Stink, who roamed around the Osage Hills near Pawhuska. As it turns out the nugget of truth at the center of this story is almost as weird as the legend itself. John Stink, whose real name was Ha-Tah-Moie, was born around 1863 in southeast Kansas. As a member of the Osage tribe he moved with that group to what is now the Osage Reservation or Osage County, Oklahoma.

John Stink was a full blood Osage and like most full bloods he gave up his native traditions very slowly. For many years John lived outside in the woods around the Osage tribal center of Pawhuska. Always surrounded by a pack of dogs and with an ever present cigar in his mouth, John Stink made an interesting site as he made his way through town or wandered about the countryside, an Indian blanket thrown over his shoulder and a scarf wrapped around his head.

The exact details of how John turned into a zombie are unclear. According to various stories he might have contracted small pox, passed out in a snow bank or suffered from tuberculosis. Regardless, it is a fact that John was found unconscious, presumed dead and readied for burial. At some point during the mourning process, much to the surprise of onlookers, John Stink awoke from his coma, stumbled out of his grave and headed back to his home in woods. From that point on the more superstitious of the Osage community regarded John as a member of the walking dead and shunned him for the rest of his life. For the remainder of his life, John lived a solitary but comfortable existence. The Osage allotments and the oil contained therein provided well for the tribe, and John received a plot of land adjacent to the area country club. He lived outside on his property until concerned citizens constructed for him a log cabin. John spent the last few decades of his life living peacefully with his dogs, sleeping on the covered porch of the cabin and accumulating, according to some sources, a rather large collection of golf balls. The occasional visitor was treated to coffee, conversation and cigars.

In 1938 John Stink slipped on a rock breaking his leg. During the healing process John contracted pneumonia and never recovered. It was in this week, on September 18th, 1938 that the famed Osage Zombie, the man who returned from the dead, John Stink was for the last time permanently laid to rest.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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