Texas Traveler: Houston Haunts
Entrance to the Donnellan vault below the Franklin Street Bridge
Photos by Brittanie Shey
Texas Traveler has spent the better part of the month checking out some of the creepiest, oldest, most interesting parts of Houston and it's neighboring cities, and to wrap up the month we have a few more tales to tell you about. Below, five Houston haunts you may not have known about.
Donnellan vault Fancy a drink at the Brewery Tap? Be sure to walk a few feet west to the Franklin Street bridge and look over the railing at the northeast corner. You'll see some old red brickwork, the entrance to the Donnellan Family vault built in 1849. Texas Traveler has mentioned this before but here's the full story.
Family patriarch and early Houston settler Tim Donnellan, who died in 1849, was the first to be buried in the vault. Seventeen years later, after the end of the Civil War, Tim Donnellan's son and a friend found some unexploded ordnances in the bayou. One story claims the artillery was dumped into the water after the Confederacy surrendered, but another story claims a Confederate ship carrying the weapons sunk in Buffalo Bayou near MIlan Street. Either way, the weapons were still live, and one shell exploded, killing both Henry Donnellan and Charles Richer (sometimes listed as Ritchey).
Both bodies were added to the crypt, eventually joined by Emily Donnellan, the family matriarch. In 1900, all the bodies were moved to Glenwood Cemetery, but the vault still remains and is easily accessible when the bayou waters are low.
The Face The Face is one of those stories that sufficiently freaks Texas Traveler out, thanks to our extremely overactive imagination. (And we're not talking about this guy.) Yes, yes, we know all about the Elvis waffles and the Virgin Mary sweat stains -- you can read anything into a Rorschach test that you want. But have a look at this picture and tell us if you don't see what we see.
There are two backstories here. Some people believe The Face, on the harbor-side wall of Ewing Hall at UTMB in Galveston, is that of Jean Lafitte, the remnants of who's home, Maison Rouge, is just a few blocks away at 14th and Avenue A. Other people believe the face belongs to an old man who was a stalwart holdout against the sale of his property to the University of Texas Medical Branch. As soon as he kicked the bucket, his children cashed in, and he's said to haunt the resulting building.
The story doesn't end there. If you look closely above the face, you can see that the topmost panel of the building is darker than the rest. According to fable, the face used to be on this panel. UTMB tried to paint over it, but soon the face appeared on the panel below. That middle panel was sandblasted -- you can see it's a different texture than the rest of the building. But that only caused the face to move down again. Read the comments on this blog post from Galveston locals who've encountered The Face.
National Museum of Funeral History
The nation's largest educational facility on funeral heritage and history is in our very own town. From the burial rights of the ancient Egyptians to the modern displays of wealth after death, the Museum of Funeral History seeks not to be a macabre experience but rather an informative one. They even act as Hollywood consultants when historical films need accurate representations of funerals.
Through Nov. 1 the museum is hosting an exhibition on the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler. Admission is a staggering $10 but the museum is a non-profit, and someone has to pay for the upkeep of all those dioramas.
Jefferson Davis Hospital
Let's see. First it was the city's catch-all cemetery for years, final resting place to Civil War veterans, freedmen and victims of the yellow fever epidemic that hit Texas in the late 1800s. Then it was the city's first hospital for the indigent. For years it sat, rotting, just northwest of downtown, until it was finally renovated into artists' lofts. Grave markers are supposedly still found on the property.
The building looks cool, and stories of hauntings from current residents can be found here. Texas Traveler wants to know -- do any of our readers live there and have they ever "felt" anything weird? Because that smokestack has always freaked us out.
Bear Creek Park Officially called Bear Creek Pioneers Park, due to the settlement of land by some early German residents of Houston, this park, so the story goes, was the site of a Civil War battle, and as a result, much of the area is "haunted." There is a bridge where spirits will tap on your car, the ghost orb of a dead motorist, and the park is home to a blue light cemetery. No word on whether the ghost of Mr. Buck haunts the place.
Okay readers, now it's your turn. What are your favorite Houston tales, urban legends or haunted places in town?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.