The Old State House Museum

More From Little Rock More From Arkansas

A restless male entity is still working here, even after suffering personal folly.


The Mission of The Old State Museum is “To interpret the history of Arkansas from statehood to the present, to preserve the Old State House, and to collect and preserve artifacts that aid in that interpretation and preservation.”

Unlike other state capitol museums, (Old Illinois State Capitol), it is not a step back in history, as not all the chambers etc are set up to resemble what they looked like in the days they were active and conducting state business. However, there are displays that show what it looked like, as well as exhibits on Arkansas political history and the people who made policy here.

The inside decor, the flooring, and the Greek Revival features are still here throughout the building, which is at least a comfort to those who wish the building had been fully restored.

The State Supreme Court and the Legislature met here, so visitors will find a Supreme Court Chamber and a Representative Hall, a Senate Chamber as well as the Governor’s Office, Court offices, and offices for Representatives.  Each branch of government had a separate structure and is represented here.

In the 1880s, the whole structure was renovated, which mostly meant enclosing all three individual branches of government, connecting them. Also, an addition was made to the back of the newly connected State House building where offices for the Arkansas State Legislators are now located.

Also, the original staircases leading up to the Chambers were very steep and hazardous, nicknamed “Breakneck.” They were replaced with safer but still beautiful Victorian staircases.

The Old State House has two Rotundas. The top one is an 1830s Greek-Revival inspired section with the largest Balcony floor. The second Rotunda is inspired by the Victorian period, built in the 1880s.




In the very beginning of the 1820s people were moving with enthusiasm into the Arkansas Territory in such numbers that Arkansas qualified to apply to become a state, complete with an elected body in its own Capitol building.

Kentucky architect Gideon Shryock decided on the Greek Revival style to “emphasize the connection between  the newest state of the long United States and the original democracy of Ancient Greece.”

Throughout its history in the 19th Century, The Old State House has been a place for unusual behavior by politicians.

A Disgraced Speaker of the House

In 1837, in the first year of Arkansas’ statehood, Speaker of the House, John Wilson, stabbed Rep. Joseph J Anthony to death, after one too many heated discussions between the two.  It started with Wilson calling Anthony out of order. Anthony started to personally attack Wilson and threatened him. Right after their fisticuffs on the floor of the august chamber, Wilson was out of control and pulled the knife on Anthony. Yikes!

Though Wilson was acquitted of murder because it was an “excusable homicide,” his political career was “in tatters and he was a broken man.” Uh oh.

In 1860, the legislators had strong debates about whether or not to leave the Union. The first vote went against joining the Confederacy. Another vote came up and the legislature chose this time to leave the Union.

In 1861, the Arkansas Secession Convention formally became the seat of the Confederate State Capitol in Arkansas.

In 1863, Union soldiers drove out the Confederacy. The State Capitol changed hands, becoming the headquarters of “a Unionist State.”


A Governorship taken by force! Brooks/Baxter War.

In the 1872 gubernatorial campaign, both Governor Joseph Brooks and Judge Elisha Baxter ran as Republicans. Governor Brooks urged African-American citizens to register as Republicans, which didn’t go over well with people in his party. Not surprisingly, his opponent, Judge Elisha Baxter, won the governorship.

Sworn into office in 1873, Governor Baxter also made himself unpopular with his Republican supporters by restoring voting rights to former Confederate officers. The state of Arkansas now had a Democratic majority once again. Perhaps Baxter was really a Democrat who only ran as a Republican to get his foot in the door. During Reconstruction, the Republican Party took control because many former Confederates members couldn’t vote. The Republicans had the edge until Baxter’s action. Not Good!

In 1874, ex-governor Joseph Brooks put together a militia of more than six hundred men and took control of the State House in Little Rock. He declared himself Governor. Yikes! This behavior was more like what happens in a Banana Republic than in a constitutional government based on law and order.

Governor-elect Elisha Baxter did the same and gathered about two thousand to fight the supporters of Brooks. Federal troops were stationed between the two forces; not exactly the way folks in a Republic are supposed to behave. After Federal troops were given the ok from U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, they forcefully removed Brooks and his supporters and let Baxter back inside the Arkansas State House.

That same year, however, President Grant offered Brooks a consolation prize by appointing him as the Postmaster at Little Rock, “a patronage position.”

One wonders if any more encores of bad behavior occurred in the following years. Perhaps, but not to this level.

After the 1880 renovation of the State House, it was now big enough to house everyone who had to work in this government building, but the writing was on the wall. In 1911, the new Arkansas State Capitol was finished, and the old State House was vacated, but not for long. Who wouldn’t love to have space in this glorious, well-loved place?

The Arkansas School of Medical Sciences moved in, making the Old State House the new headquarters for the Crossett Experiment. They made great discoveries here in conquering two diseases prevalent in the South: Hookworm and Malaria. They received global recognition for their treatments, which saved lives all over the world.

Throughout the Twentieth Century, a variety of organizations set up shop here, taking advantage of this glorious building. The Arkansas War Memorial, the first headquarters of the Arkansas State Police and various statewide patriotic organizations’ offices enjoyed their stays here.

In 1947, the Arkansas Legislature declared that the Old State House was now a museum, worthy of protection it as a state treasure, to be maintained with taxpayer money.  People in Arkansas loved their Old State House and welcomed this event.

Because the interior and exterior architecture had not been changed since the 1880s, the Old State Capitol Museum building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. There were  “two periods of significance.” The years 1825-to 1849, and from 1875 to 1899.



Having a career or reputation ruined can cause restless spirits.

Aaron Burr Bed and Breakfast, PA (Aaron Burr was found not guilty of killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but his reputation was ruined for good in politics, even though Hamilton had spread lies about him for years. His spirit takes consolation in this structure named for him).

Tavern at Clinton, MD (Mary Surratt was unjustly convicted of being in the conspiracy to kill President Lincoln. She was hanged and forever linked to the bad folks who planned the actual conspiracy, ruining her reputation forever).

T’Frere’s House, LA (A school teacher named Amélie Comeaux was either accidentally drowned, or murdered. She was then maligned by the Catholic Church, who said she had suicided and so was refused burial with her family).

The Old State Hall Museum, AR (In 1837, Speaker of the House John Wilson may have been acquitted of the murder of Rep.Joseph J Anthony, but he lost his political career and suffered a depression and brokenness; never recovering. He went to his grave a shattered person).


Having a goal to achieve and finally getting it done after much effort, only to have it taken away, can cause a haunting in the after-life.

Abraham Lincoln; Tomb, State Capitol and White House hauntings; IL and DC (Abraham Lincoln as President led his nation through a bloody war, and maintained the Union. He was murdered before he could finish the job of truly uniting the North and the South).

Glessner House, IL (A popular architect, Henry Hobson Richardson, had built many fine structures throughout his life. However, blueprints for this spectacular creation weren’t done yet when he died, so he didn’t get to participate or see the finished home in his life-time).

The Alamo, TX (Defenders who had protected The Alamo for so many years had a great deal of dedication. They ultimately lost to Mexican forces, which resulted in their slaughter,  as well as the death of nearly everyone still inside).

The Old State Hall Museum, AR (Governor Joseph Brooks was incensed when it came to light that Governor-elect Baxter turned out to be a Democrat in disguise, who gave political control back to the Democrats. Joseph Brooks put up a fight in protest and managed to keep Baxter out of the State House, until Brooks was ultimately defeated by the Federal Government).


A sudden death by murder or accident can cause a spirit to want to continue in the life that was taken from him or her.

Kahler Grand, MN (Although brutally murdered, the Hershey Candy Heiress decided to stay in a place as a spirit in this world that made her happy).

Lumber Baron Inn, CO (Two spirits of girls still stay in the place where they were murdered, perhaps remembering their lives, and maybe reliving their brutal murders).

Oregon State Capitol, OR (A politician who was killed in a farming accident is still working for his constituency in the after-life).

Old State House, AR (The spirit of murdered Rep. Joseph J Anthony may still be going through the motions of serving his district despite being dead).




Central Hall on the Second Floor appears to be a hot spot for spirits dressed in 19th Century clothing. While none of them have been identified, listed below are the suspects who may be haunting the Old State House.

Spirit of John Wilson

He may be remembering his proudest moments as Speaker of the House in the Representative Chamber.

John may be seen walking the hallways on government business.

He may be in his original office preparing for the day.

John is probably focusing on that fateful day when he destroyed his political career, wishing with all his might that he didn’t kill Anthony.

Spirit of Joseph Brooks

Joseph may be remembering his  accomplishments as a sitting Governor, but probably also he recalls his abrupt defeat, when he was removed from the State House by forces he thought were friendly.

He may be in the room where his Governor’s Office was located.

Joseph Brooks may be where he signed passed bills into laws.

He may be walking the halls, going to meetings with Legislators and remembering his greatest accomplishments.

Spirit of Representative Anthony

Anthony may be in his old office, preparing his arguments for the passage of a bill or working on rebuttals to arguments favoring passage.

He may be walking the halls on his way to important meetings with other legislators.

Or Anthony may be in the Representative Chamber arguing his opinions in front of the full chamber of representatives.

He may be reliving his death, regretting the words he spoke that sent John Wilson into the rage that killed him.

Spirits of Politicians

They may still be doing what they loved in life, representing the people in his district.

They may be arguing in the Representative or Senate Chambers for causes close to the heart.

The politicians may be preparing for future presentations, committee meetings in their offices.

They may be walking in the hallways to meet with others or go about their business

General Activity

Some people have felt a cold hand on their shoulder.

Unexplained cold spots have been reported throughout the Old State House.


Many people have seen a lot of activity on the second floor, in hallways, old offices and the main Central Chamber.

Other activity could have been witnessed in all the places that 19th Century politicians worked.




Most Probably so, despite the fact that no hard evidence has been shared. There is probably more than one spirit who is active here. Perhaps all the spirits mentioned above are still here, to say nothing of the others that haven’t revealed themselves to the living. Cold spots are felt all over the building suggesting this to be the case.

The old saying states: “Politicians never die, they just fade away.” The spirits who have stayed here may be remembering their struggles, their accomplishments, the fine verbal battles they had in the cause of getting a good bill passed, and reliving defeats as well. Perhaps, some are seeking peace for their restlessness, or just want to spend their after-lives in the place that they loved.



300 West Markham Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
(501) 324-9685


The Old State House Museum is located in downtown Little Rock, between Robinson Convention Center and the State House Convention Center.


Old State House Website
Encyclopedia of Arkansas website
Website: Wikipedia, Old State House webpage

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr


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