Halloween is around the corner, and for many people it's the one time of year that they're interested in spooky activities — watching classic horror films, getting ready to dish out candy to trick or treaters, or perhaps picking out a dubiously "sexy" Halloween costume (suggestion: Sexy Big Bird!) to wear at a grown-up party. But other people are interested in ghosts all year round, and our state offers many opportunities for folks who want to visit the (supposed) haunts of the restless dead. Texas is chock-full of places where spirits are said to gather, and anyone with a little courage and the inclination to visit them has plenty of options.
5. The Haunted Walmart — Galveston
When I stumbled across this particular haunting, I initially thought it must be some kind of joke, as the only specter I'd associate with a Walmart would be the disappearing spirit of domestic manufacturing. But no, the Seawall Walmart in Galveston is thought to be haunted by many people, and for a pretty scary reason — it's located on the spot where the St. Mary's Orphan Asylum once stood. So what happened to that long-gone institution? It was wiped out during the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston, which killed ten nuns and 90 children at the orphanage. Despite the heroic actions of the sisters in charge, only three children escaped death when the fury of the storm struck the dormitory everyone was taking refuge in.
Now that a Walmart stands where the destroyed orphanage once did, employees report toys being misplaced or disappearing, and occasionally some folks claim to hear the distinct sound of a crying child somewhere in the aisles, but none can ever be found when they search.
4. Presidio La Bahia — Goliad
Roughly two hours south of Houston on Highway 59 is Goliad, a city with a very notable place in Texas history. During the Texas Revolution, a group of Texans attacked the presidio standing in Goliad and were able to wrest control from the Mexican garrison that held it. The Texans held the fort until Mexican forces led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna retook the area during the Battle of Coleto, after which Santa Anna demanded that all surviving Texan soldiers be executed. In what was later named the Goliad Massacre, on March 27, 1836, the Mexican forces killed 342 men, including 39 who were executed inside the presidio itself. "Remember Goliad" and "Remember the Alamo" went on to become rallying cries soon after at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence from Mexico.
The Presidio La Bahia was rebuilt in the 1960s, and many visitors claim that the restless spirits of dead soldiers haunt it to this day. In fact, it's rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Texas. Some visitors have claimed to hear footsteps and distant cannon shots, along with other weird and unexplained noises, and some people have reported seeing spectral forms walking the grounds. The fort certainly has the violent history that some people believe makes it a good candidate for a haunting, and plenty of visitors seem to confirm this. Others experience nothing except the area's natural beauty. Those who are brave enough can stay the night for a nominal fee and try their own luck at playing the role of Scooby Doo or Shaggy.
3. Bragg Road Ghost Lights — Saratoga
Located in the Big Thicket in Southeast Texas is a creepy stretch of road cutting through the woods that some people believe is haunted. Many people have reported seeing strange lights appear and disappear in the distance while traveling the road on some nights, and some think that the lights are evidence of ghostly activities. The prevalent (and scariest) legend explaining the "Ghost Road" phenomena is that when the Sante Fe Railroad cut a survey line through the area in 1902, a railroad worker was decapitated in a horrible accident. In the following decades, people increasingly traveled the road by automobile, and sightings of spooky lights began to crop up, leading many to believe it was the ghost of the slain railman using a lantern while he wandered the road looking for the head he lost.
So obviously, this is a great place to take a date. There are other theories, including that the light is a mystical beacon pointing to the location of lost Conquistador gold, or a portal to another dimension. More conventional explanations are that the eerie lights are caused by swamp gases or the reflection of car headlights from a nearby highway, but visitors should probably keep their eye out for any headless guys walking around carrying lanterns.
2. The Driskill Hotel — Austin
The Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin is one of the most famous hotels in Texas, with beautiful architecture dating back to the 1880s. Built by Colonel Jesse Driskill, a wealthy cattleman, it's also widely believed to be haunted. Many guests through the years have reported hearing disturbing sounds, including screams in the night, or thought they were touched by unseen hands, but that's just the tip of the horror show iceberg when it comes to this luxurious hotel. There's the legend that one room was the location of more than one young woman's honeymoon suicide over the years — similar tragedies occurring in the same room but decades apart have some folks calling Room 525 the "Suicide Brides" suite, a story so creepy that it sounds as if it belongs in a Stephen King novel. The spirit of Colonel Driskill himself supposedly still walks the halls of the hotel he built, with the telltale smell of a cigar being his ghostly calling card.
1. La Carafe — Houston
Believed to be the oldest bar still operating in Houston, this downtown landmark is also supposed to be the permanent home of its own paranormal residents. La Carafe is on the National Register of Historic Places, and definitely shows its age. It feels like a functional antique, and has certainly been around long enough to attract its fair share of ghost stories. A former employee named Carl is said to still make appearances in the building, sometimes spotted peering out of an upstairs window or walking around noisily. Other visitors report having a strong feeling of his presence, or of being watched, while others claim to have had a glimpse of a large, dark figure. The bar is a pretty special place, and a real throwback to an era of Houston's history that has mostly disappeared, and perhaps Carl is just sticking around to make sure no one screws with a place that was meaningful to him.
Texas is a huge and sprawling state, and is home to many haunted locations. It's a treasure trove for curious folks who like to explore places with spooky stories attached to them. I don't know if ghosts are real or not, but these are five places that many people believe are homes to them. They are worth checking out for people interested in hauntings or who want to get into the spirit of Halloween.
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