John Wilkes Booth or David E. George?
ENID, OKLAHOMA — It happens a couple of times a week.
A presumed customer walks through the door at Garfield Furniture with no real interest in purchasing one of Russ Frazee’s fine couches or beds, not even a stick of furniture.
“We have a nice, steady trickle of history buffs,” he says.
What they’re really here for is the 110 mystery upstairs on the second floor.
“In what we like to call ‘the Death Room’.” says Frazee as he pulls the stairway down with a rope tied into a noose.
“My grandfather bought the building in 1943,” says Russ.
Back in 1903 Frazee’s building was the Grand Avenue Hotel.
There was a guest in a small room registered as David E. George.
In January of that year that man chose to end his life by drinking strychnine poison.
Once a month, for several years now, local actor Larry Simpson re-enacts the deathbed scene for visitors on walking tours.
Simpson demonstrates, “And then I lay down on the bed, which is actually a good thing for me.”
George’s death became part of local history because of what witnesses reported as his last words.
Again, he demonstrates in character. “I’m actually John Wilkes Booth,” he coughs. “The killer of Abe Lincoln.”
Deathbed confessions being what they are, the local funeral parlor propped up old George after he was embalmed.
Earlier tourists used to come in and compare pictures of the real Booth to the man who claimed he was Booth.
There were people who did research on the subject who actually thought George’s claim might be true.
Russ Frazee is a longtime believer. “I would say that I’m 80 percent sure that David E. George was actually John Wilkes Booth,” he says.
The Frazee family has had a furniture store in town since 1922.
The old Grand Avenue Hotel closed a hundred years ago.
But for the visitors who still ask for one particular room Russ will oblige.
You can look at a few pictures, get a postcard, even buy a t-shirt, and decide for yourself.
David George checked out a long time ago but his mystery remains.