Jeff Provine will tell you he believes in ghosts.
“I think ceasing to exist when you die is one of the scariest things,” he said.
Since 2009, the OCCC English professor has been leading ghost tours on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman.
Provine said the idea to participate in the tours formed while backpacking with some friends in England.
“I went with some friends on their hometown ghost tour and they had all these awesome stories,” Provine said. “I knew one story about OU and my friend told me I should do an OU ghost tour.
“I thought ‘nah, there’s not enough stories’ but it turns out there’s more than enough.”
After doing some research, Provine was ready to share his stories with eager visitors. Provine said the stories he tells range from spooky to simply fun.
“Depending on the tour, I tell different stories or at least tell them in different ways,” he said. “Some tours want them really scary and some want them more historical.”
Provine said his favorite story is the one he originally knew about a young boy who was roller skating in the 1930s.
“Some versions say he got hit by a car and others say he had an asthma attack but they rushed him into the old infirmary which is now all offices in Arts and Sciences and he died up there,” Provine said.
“Apparently he is up there still roller-skating on the third floor or at least messing with stuff.”
Provine’s love of telling ghost stories was taken to a new level when the History Press publishing company asked him to contribute to their “Haunted America” book series.
“They sent me an email and asked if I wanted to do a ghost story book collection,” he said. “So I put a proposal together, they liked it, and five months later we had the book.”
Provine, who has had some fiction pieces published in the past, said this is his first non-fiction work. His book is titled “Campus Ghosts of Norman Oklahoma.”
“It really connects with people; it’s not just a cool story but it’s a cool story about a building in which you took classes,” Provine said. “People seem to click on that really nicely.”
Since Provine already had stories from his tours, most of the research for his book came from talking to people in the community.
“I did two or three months of investigations, walking door-to-door, asking if anybody had any spooky stories, which is a really weird thing to do,” he said. “But it’s crazy because every once in awhile, you bump into somebody who has an unbelievable story.”
Café Plaid was among the places he visited.
“At Café Plaid, two employees came forward and said they had a story and told me to come back the next morning so I could talk to the baker.
“It’s the stuff you don’t really talk about but once you get the ball rolling, people get really interested.”
So far, Provine has done a few signings with his book and is looking into doing readings in the next few months.
“[The company] is already asking me for a sequel,” he said.
Provine said he plans to continue leading ghost tours for as long as he remains in the area. He said he enjoys the reactions people have to them.
The [biggest] reaction I’ve heard is ‘I had no idea,’” he said. “People walk by these buildings every day or went to school [at OU] and they come and hear all these crazy stories and had no idea.”
Provine said the most rewarding part about giving tours is seeing people learn something new about the world around them.
“The campus becomes a little more magical,” he said. “That’s one of the cool things about life: you can stumble around and do the same things over and over but then if you look really deep, it’s really an amazing place.”
The free OU ghost tours run monthly from March to November and are open to the public.
All donations go to the Children’s Advocacy Centers in Oklahoma, a non-profit organization that provides training, prevention, and treatment services to fight child abuse and neglect.
Provine said those interested in touring can go to visit.ou.edu to schedule a time online. Private tours, birthday parties and club meetings also are available for booking.
Provine’s book “Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma” can be purchased at Barnes and Noble, Hastings, Walmart, Amazon and most major book retailers.