During WWII, a Russian immigrant Wildcatter discovers a 100
Million dollar ocean of oil in Oklahoma, but his newfound
fortune puts him square in the sights of a seductive murderess
intent on making him her fifth kill.

Beginnings

Assaph Gutoff descended from nobility in the Baron von Gutoff lineage. According to legend, the Gutoffs were Volga Germans who came to what is now known as the Ukraine to fight the
Mongols in the 11th century. They had a fighting spirit throughout the centuries, becoming Barons of the countryside, ending up in Zhitomer, Ukraine, where Assaph was born on
November 10, 1886.


Assaph, being the youngest at 16, fled with his two brothers to America. They landed in Baltimore, Maryland in 1902. He had three cents in his pocket and was so sick the authorities quarantined him for three months. Upon release, Assaph’s brothers had already left to seek their fame and fortune and he was now alone in a strange new land with a strange new name… Gutowsky

 
Assaph & Augusta

Assaph worked his way across the country from the coal mines of Munschen, Pennsylvania to the International Harvester
Company in Chicago.

 

But then, one fateful night in a bar, he met Mr. Ludwig, who told him of fertile farmland in Oklahoma and also of a girl he wanted Assaph to meet…his daughter, Augusta. They left for Oklahoma the next day.

 

Assaph and Augusta fell in love and were married in 1908. They soon moved to Kingfisher, Oklahoma and started farming and raising four children.

 

In 1910, Assaph sold the farm and began his relentless pursuit of oil. His passion drove him across the southern Midwest, making and losing small fortunes. This earned him the nickname “Ace”.

 

In 1932 Augusta died suddenly and left Ace devastated. He found solace in a Kingfisher bar, where he met a raven haired, green eyed, seductress named Marie J. She had been waiting for him, like a Black Widow waiting for her next prey…

Marie J

Marie J was born into extreme poverty and spent her formative years in a shanty town in South Oklahoma City called Mulligan Flats. 

 

As she was beautiful and seductive, Marie J would use her sexual prowess to lure men into her web. After she killed them, she absconded with their money.

 

With each kill, Marie J rose up a little higher on the socio-economic ladder, until she met the prey she had been waiting for all her life.

 

Ace would take her where she so desperately wanted to go…

Doodlebug

Ace and Marie J were married in 1935. In that same year, Ace started drilling for oil like a man possessed! In 1937, the Oklahoman newspaper stated “Oklahoma County’s #1 Wildcatter” and this became Ace’s new title. He was convinced there was oil in West Edmond, although all the geologists and oil experts of the day said, “That area had been tested for thirty years and there is absolutely no oil!”

 

Ace did not take no for an answer. He endured even more ridicule because he firmly believed in a mysterious device called a “Doodlebug”. It was said to have metaphysical powers, but only for special people who possess the ability and knowledge to use

it.

OIL!!!

After ten major oil companies denied there was oil, Gutowsky’s discovery well, the No 1 Wagner, was spud-in on January 2, 1943. Ace knew the oil was deep in the ground, deeper than anyone had ever drilled.

 

He traveled all over the United States looking for funding to continue drilling. Twenty-eight times he experienced rejection and emphatic no’s, but he never gave up. Phillips, Gulf and Magnolia Oil Companies all scoffed and
ridiculed him, calling him a crazy Russian.


But Ace had the last laugh…On April 28, 1943, the No 1 Wagner hit the mother-load and oil gushed clear to the sky, making this one of the largest discoveries in Oklahoma history, thus giving Ace the new title “King of the Wildcatters”.

 

Bank deposits jumped 50 million in 90 days and the economic impact was felt immediately.

 

In 1944, The Gutowsky Brother’s Drilling Company was formed with his two sons, LeRoy and Chet.
 

Check out the Story Map!

Fighting the Enemy

“Gutowsky, in opening up the oil empire of wealth, not only won fame and fortune for himself and associates—he also dealt Hitler, et al, the biggest body blow of any Oklahoman on the Home Front.”

 

Ace is credited for providing enough oil to make D-Day possible, leading to an Allied Victory over Germany.

 

This was Ace’s greatest triumph over communism!

 

“I’m too old for the army, but my boys are carrying on for me,” Ace says. “I’m just trying to find enough oil to keep the army and navy going, and I don’t give a darn whether I make any money or not. America is a darned sight bigger than any of us and I want it to stay that way.”

Success

By the end of 1947, the output was 121,455,000 barrels annually. (This amount multiplied by an average oil price of $16.33/barrel (in 1943-47) equates to $1,983,360,150 ($7,688,101,500 in 2019).

 

The estimated wealth of the Gutowsky Brother’s Drilling Company was valued at 100 million dollars.

Ace leased an office in the newly built First National Bank in downtown Oklahoma City on the 17th floor… “high enough up, I don’t have to breathe the dust off the streets anymore.”
 

To celebrate his good fortune, Ace threw a party to end all parties in the Grand Ballroom on the 2nd floor. In attendance were the elite of Oklahoma City, oil tycoons, politicians, lawyers, banking executives and a few geologists to take the razzing!


A popular swing band played on the mezzanine and people were “dressed to the nines”. The music, like the liquor, was smooth, flowing through the crowd of people like butter…Rich and dripping with taste!
 

On February 16, 1945, Ace suffered a heart attack while vacationing and was admitted to a hospital in Hollywood CA. Upon inspection by multiple heart specialists, he was pronounced dead.

 

After twenty minutes, Ace awoke! “I knew I was dead. I know what I saw." The brilliant light illuminated the truth. "When I returned to life, the doctors couldn’t explain it."


Ace described those twenty minutes as “Out of this World”. His suspicion as to why he died in such a way all pointed back to Marie J. For years, he had been blind to what she really was, but now he knew.
 

That experience changed him profoundly. Ace said, “I came back because I had unfinished business—charities and religious
pledges I had made.”
He was tired of the rat race of the oil industry and longed for a
simpler life, like that of his childhood. He wanted to become a gentleman farmer just like his father.

 

After he sold most of his oil leases, royalties and land, he invested in thousands of acres of citrus groves and farmland in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. However, his dream was short lived.

 

Marie J was not happy and refused to become a “farmers wife”. She was determined to succeed where she had previously failed.

On April 4, 1951, Assaph “Ace” Gutowsky, “King of the Wildcatters”, died of a mysterious heart attack at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City.

This time the poison worked!  To this day, no one knows what became of Ace’s millions…

Resurrection
Our movie begins...
We find Assaph, mourning the death of his beloved, alienated from his children, broke and on a booze-fueled downward spiral to depression.  After 28 failures, he's doubled-down yet again on oil wells that failed to produce.  Just as his luck changes, he falls for a black widow intent on taking his money and his life.
 

ABOUT

My name is Kim Gutowsky van der Wal; Assaph "Ace" Gutowsky was my Grandfather.  I knew nothing of his life until Mark House, who helped with the induction of my father LeRoy "Ace" Gutowsky (a football star for the OCU Goldbugs and the Detroit Lions) into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.  Mr. House told me of an oil derrick/bronze statue in Mitch Park, North Edmond OK, attributing to my Grandfather the discovery of one of the largest oil finds in Oklahoma History, which was credited for helping the Allied Forces win WWII.  That is where it started.  In 2013, I set upon a mission to discover and tell Assaph's story.

Story: Kim Gutowsky van der Wal
Screenplay: Matt Payne
Artist: Matt Goad
Photography: Amy Mullen
Website and Mapping: Phil Pahl of Landlocked GIS

Special Thanks to

Ron van der Wal
Edmond Historical Society
Oklahoma History Center
Oklahoma Corporation Commission
Steve and Tanis Roelofs
 

© 2019 by Landlocked GIS, LP