The “Smelly Socialite” of the KDNT Radio Center

Posted: August 28, 2011 in Denton Ghost Stories, Haunted Happenings

Funeral on West side of Denton Square for Judge W.L. Austin, 1888

Denton’s first radio station, KDNT, has a rich history intimately tied to the Denton Square. Virgil William “V. W.” Shepard, a carpenter by trade, had no intention to go into funeral services but, because he was frequently called upon to build wooden coffins, this turned into a long-term lucrative family business and partnership known as “McGill and Shepard Furniture and Undertaking.”  The turn-of-the-century business was first set up on the west side of the Denton town square (where the Fine Arts Theater is now located) and later known as Shepard Furniture and Embalming, then Shepard Funeral Home. V.W.’s son Harwell Shepard was an amateur radio enthusiast who set out to establish Denton’s very own radio station in the early 1930s.

001b Radio Center Bldg 1924

By 1947, after several incarnations, KDNT moved to the former site of Harwell Shepard’s parents’ funeral home and personal residence. The funeral home operated on the first floor, while his parents’ residence was upstairs. Originally constructed in 1921, the Hickory Street location was remodeled to house KDNT after an upstairs fire and dubbed “Radio Center.” Shepard, proud of both of his business ventures—funeral home and radio station—once said, “I talk ‘em to death, then I bury ‘em.” According to KDNT’s oral history:

The Hickory Street studios were not without their share of excitement.  Several former employees had encounters with a ghost at Radio Center.  Betty Whatley, wife of late Chief Engineer Hal Whatley, explains:  “(Hal) was working late one night at the console, probably doing his Saturday night program, when a young woman walked in.  She was wearing a long, gray dress and a fancy hat, like those worn in the 1800s.  Her perfume had a strong, terrible odor.  As she crossed the room and approached Hal, she never said a word.  As Hal was about to speak to her, she turned and walked away, then disappeared.  Hal searched everywhere, but found that he was alone.  He said she couldn’t have come in from outside because all of the doors were locked.”  1970s News Director Roger Daniel recalls the same:  “My theory was that she was the original news director checking by to see if they were ever going to update the equipment!  Although I did not believe in ghosts, I never saw her, but yet Hal had me so spooked (that) I’d be afraid to go to sleep at night.”  Even 1960s nighttime DJ Bill Orton reported seeing the same ghost several times around midnight.

This address now houses the offices of Denton’s DATCU Credit Union or First Bank, yet reports of restless specters persist to this day! Not too far away, the studio of Denton’s Grammy-winning legendaries Brave Combo experience their own phantom christened “The Dude”, perhaps influencing their 2003 album “Box of Ghosts“!?!

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