Texas-Sized Haunts

In: Texas Times Column   Posted 10/30/2017

Everything is bigger in Texas. And this time of year, that means scares, screams, and supernatural sightings.
It’s no surprise that for the second year in a row, Texas boasts two of the top three haunted houses in the United States, as ranked by HauntedHouses.com. 13th Floor in San Antonio tops this year’s list with werewolves and witches, and the House of Torment in Austin trails closely behind with ‘40,000 square feet of torment.’ Both are recommended for fright-seekers only, not the faint of heart.
But most of our state’s spookiest attractions aren’t reserved for October – they’re here all year round, and have been for centuries.
You may have heard the tale of the Weeping Woman, La Llorona, who haunts the riverbanks in El Paso, or of sightings of a lantern flickering down Bragg Road in the hand of a decapitated railroad worker searching for his head in Saratoga.
Visitors to Martha’s Chapel Cemetery down ‘Demons Road’ in Huntsville have seen a moonlit hand protrude from the ground, grasping the air for something – or somebody – unknown. At that same cemetery, repeated reports of errant screams, giggles, cries, and even a headless creature over the years leave us wondering what stirred up the toil and trouble down Demons Road.
But it’s Texas’ longstanding hotels that seem to attract the most paranormal activity. For instance, elevators at the Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio tend to stop on unintended floors, while elevators at the Driskill in Austin tend not to stop at all, trapping passengers until they explicitly ask the playful spirits in residence to “please open the door.” It was an elevator door that finished one of two rumored ghosts at the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, which has now been closed since 1972. Only the bravest guests sleep soundly through the night in Room 505 at the Hotel Galvez in Galveston (others claim they feel ‘uneasy’ in only that room), and mischievous spirits at the Jefferson Hotel are known to toss light objects toward guests and lock them in their rooms.


Flickr photo by Karen Blaha

Despite these campfire tales, not all Texan spirits are spooky. Take Fred, Arlington’s friendly ghost who keeps performers company on stage as they rehearse at the Arlington Music Hall and frequents Babe’s Chicken Dinner House next door where he’s told a waiter he once lived. Or Jacob, who has continued to watch over Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson building with his dog Petey since he passed in 1936, as reported by readers who still hear his violin and footsteps – pitter patters of six separate feet – in the halls.

The shape of the man who shaped Texas – and just his shape – still roams the rooms of the Texas Governor’s Mansion. His full-bodied apparition is said to appear in his old bedroom – that is, when he’s not leaving footprints behind and rearranging items on his desk at his Memorial Museum in Huntsville. Whether he’s stuck around to advise his successors or because he just can’t bear to leave the Lone Star State he hasn’t yet shared with us.  If it’s the latter, who could blame him?
A state with such rich history as ours is bound to attract tall tales of terror like these. So whether you celebrate Halloween seeking shrills at one of the top-rated haunted houses, chills exploring Texas’ historical phenomena unexplained, or thrills trick-or-treating, I wish you a Texas-sized Happy Halloween.