Ma Barker House, Ocklawaha: A Historic Hideout with Haunting Tales

  • By: Timothy Rose
  • Date: 30 July 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.


Nestled along the shore of Lake Weir in the small town of Ocklawaha, Florida, the Ma Barker House stands as a significant piece of American history and a source of chilling tales.

Renowned for its infamous past residents and purported hauntings, it serves as a fascinating destination for history buffs and ghost enthusiasts.

History of the Ma Barker House

Ma Barker House, Ocklawaha
Ma Barker House, Ocklawaha | Credit: patriciakrullphotography

The Ma Barker House is most notable for its association with the infamous Barker-Karpis gang, who used it as a hideout during the Great Depression. The gang’s leaders, Ma Barker and her son Fred, met their violent end here during a legendary shootout with the FBI in 1935, marking one of the longest and fiercest gun battles in FBI history.

The Ma Barker House, also known as the Bradford House, was originally built in 1930. The Barker family, however, didn’t move into the house until 1934. Living under the assumed name of “Blackburn”, they kept a low profile, all the while planning and conducting their criminal activities.

Their reign came to an abrupt halt on January 16, 1935, when the FBI, having traced a letter Fred Barker sent to a Chicago lawyer, surrounded the house. A four-hour long gun battle ensued, now known as one of the longest in FBI history, resulting in the deaths of both Ma Barker and Fred Barker.

Despite the chaos that ensued that day, the house remained intact and was sold to Carson Bradford in 1936. It stayed in the Bradford family for over eight decades before it was eventually sold to Marion County in 2016.

Haunting Legends and Supernatural Phenomena

The Ma Barker house, steeped in a history of violence and gangster activity, is believed by many to be the site of ongoing paranormal activity. One notable incident involved a seemingly innocuous piece of furniture—an easel—that unexpectedly moved of its own accord. In the presence of a park ranger and other witnesses, the easel inexplicably lifted and flew across the room, violently striking the fireplace equipment. The ranger present during this event noted that the easel’s movement was unnatural and unprovoked, suggesting an unseen force was at work.

The house’s upper level, specifically the bedroom where the notorious Ma Barker was found dead following the infamous 1935 FBI shootout, is considered the central point of these spectral happenings. A palpable sense of unease pervades this room, with numerous visitors reporting a distinct, chilling sensation upon entering. This unnerving feeling is often accompanied by a sense of being watched, adding to the room’s eerie atmosphere.

More strikingly, some visitors claim to have witnessed a spectral figure resembling Ma Barker in this room. The apparition, often reported near the windows from which Ma Barker allegedly fired her Tommy gun at FBI agents, appears to be bound to the location of her violent death. While these sightings lack physical evidence and are based on personal experiences, they continue to fuel the narrative of the Ma Barker house as a hotspot of paranormal activity.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting these paranormal claims, the stories persist, adding a layer of intrigue and mystery to the Ma Barker house. These tales, coupled with the location’s violent history, continue to captivate those with an interest in the paranormal and historical events.

Popular Culture and Media Coverage

Located in Ocklawaha, Florida, the infamous Ma Barker House stands as a grim testament to America’s criminal past. Known as the site of the 1935 showdown between the notorious Barker-Karpis gang and the FBI, the house’s legacy has permeated pop culture and media in a myriad of ways.

The blood-stained narrative of the Barker-Karpis gang was featured in the television documentary series, “Crime Story: The Barker Gang“, which detailed the gang’s heinous exploits and their fatal confrontation at the house with the FBI. Similarly, the chilling history was highlighted in the book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34” by Bryan Burrough.

The house’s criminal past also caught Hollywood’s attention. “Public Enemies,” a star-studded film featuring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, includes a fictionalized depiction of the Barker-Karpis gang, and their end at the House.

If you’re intrigued by the life and criminal exploits of Ma Barker and wish to explore the complex dynamics of the criminal underworld she was a part of, then The Barker-Karpis Gang: An American Crime Family by W D Smith, is a compelling next read. This book delves into the operations, relationships, and criminal activities of the infamous Barker-Karpis Gang, providing a detailed examination that complements and expands on Ma Barker’s story. Smith’s meticulous research paints a vivid picture of this notorious crime family, offering readers a chance to understand the intricacies that went beyond Ma Barker’s role.

Today, this once infamous hideout continues to be a focal point for true crime enthusiasts, attracting visitors from around the world who are fascinated by its history. The enduring legacy of the Ma Barker House showcases our cultural fascination with tales of lawlessness and retribution, placing it firmly within the tapestry of American crime pop culture.

Investigation and Research Efforts

Paranormal investigators have examined the House extensively. Some have captured electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) and noted fluctuations in electromagnetic fields.

However, skeptics argue that the house’s historical context and the notoriety of its past residents might influence the perceptions of visitors.

Credit – WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

Visitor Experiences and Urban Legends

Visitors often share experiences of inexplicable phenomena, with many recounting feelings of unease, sounds of phantom gunfire, or sightings of ghostly figures. These accounts, combined with the house’s gruesome history, have given rise to a number of urban legends.

Preservation and Tourism

Today, the House has been meticulously restored to its 1930s appearance and operates as a museum. The Marion County government offers guided tours, giving visitors a chance to step back in time and perhaps encounter some of its reported paranormal phenomena.


The Ma Barker House offers a unique blend of historical significance and supernatural intrigue. As one of Florida’s most notorious and haunted locations, it continues to captivate those who step through its doors, offering a tantalizing peek into the past and a taste of the unknown.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ma Barker House, Ocklawaha

Q1: Where is Ma Barker House located?
The House is located in Ocklawaha, Florida.

Q2: Can I visit Ma Barker House?
Yes, it now operates as a museum with guided tours available to the public.

Q3: What kind of paranormal activities have been reported at Ma Barker House?
Reports include ghostly apparitions, sounds of gunfire, and sudden cold spots.

Q4: Has the House been featured in any media?
Yes, the House has been the subject of various books, documentaries, and paranormal-themed TV shows.

Q5: Who were the notable past residents of Ma Barker House?
The most notable past residents were the infamous criminals Ma Barker and her son Fred.

Q6: Are there skeptics about the hauntings at Ma Barker House?
Yes, skeptics suggest that the reported phenomena might be due to the house’s historic context and influence on visitors’ perceptions.

Q7: How is Ma Barker House preserved today?
The House is maintained by Marion County and operates as a museum, offering guided tours.

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