An estimated 8,000 poor souls lost their lives when the Great Storm of 1900 kicked Galveston's butt in our nation's deadliest natural disaster. While the survivors struggled with the decimation of 3,600 buildings, they also had to deal with the bodies of the deceased in that early-September heat. The Butterowe Building, strong enough to withstand the 130- to 140-mile-per-hour winds, was turned into a morgue until the families could identify their loved ones.
Now renamed Haunted Mayfield Manor and with a fictionalized back story, this 12-room mansion near 23rd and Strand has been turned into a year-round haunted house that delivers psychological thrills. The story goes that Dr. Horace Mayfield, who had been conducting dubious experiments dealing with fear and mental illness, lost his bride, his parents and his life's work in the storm, causing him to go insane.
The creative folks over at the Galveston Historical Foundation have mined stories like these and turned Galveston into Spooky-town this October, with inventive tours at several architectural landmarks. Explore the life (and possible afterlife) of Bettie Brown at Ashton Villa, experience Bishop's Palace by lantern light or take part in a séance with a spirit guide at Menard House.
The Haunted Harbor Tours explore the same waters where Jean Lafitte did his privateering (what's yours is mine) and coast past "The Face," where a man betrayed by his greedy children appears every night in spite of repeated attempts to power wash or sandblast his image away. The 50-foot passenger boat also explores a scuttled concrete oil tanker at Pelican Flats (which possibly housed spies, ghosts and a recluse), as well as the ghosts of a train that succumbed to the Great Storm.
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Many born-on-islanders swear by the veracity of the ghost bride of Hotel Galvez, who resided in Room 501. Every time her seafaring fiancé was scheduled to return, she would climb up to the turret and wait for her lover. During one such trip, it was reported that his ship was lost and she hanged herself in despair; the tragedy deepened when the seaman eventually returned to discover his beautiful bride was dead.
Dash Beardsley, the "Ghost Man of Galveston," has been doing tours since 1999, weaving together history with the paranormal and supernatural. The Old City Cemetery is actually seven cemeteries that grew together over time and is considered one of the oldest cemeteries in the area. Buried here are Civil War soldiers, those who perished in the Great Storm and many others who met their untimely fates in Galveston. Other tours include the Original Ghost Tour on the Strand, the Restless Spirits Tour (considered to be the sequel) and the Jack The Ripper Mystery Island Tour. Who knew?
There are plenty of other offerings available on the island, including a screening of Labyrinth on the Strand and Moody Gardens' trick-or-treating and costume contest event, the eerie Ghostly Gardens. The Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau did us a solid and compiled this handy guide for ghostly Galveston attractions in 2016.
Haunted Mayfield Manor
Year-round (time varies), $10
2312 Harborside Drive
For more information, visit hauntedmayfieldmanor.com.
Broadway Cemetery Tours
October 15, 9 and 10:15 a.m., $15
4201 Broadway Avenue
For more information, visit galvestonhistory.org.
Haunted Harbor Tours Onboard the Seagull II
October 21 and 22, 27, 28, 29 and 30; 5:15 p.m.; $15 adults, $12 youth, free for five and under
Pier 22 (22 and Harborside Drive)
The narrated exploration of spooky corners and tragic sites in and around Galveston’s storied harbor takes place onboard the 50-foot passenger boat Seagull II, and continues through October 30 with departures from the Texas Seaport Museum. For more information, visit galvestonhistory.org.
Ghost Tours at Ashton Villa
October 27-31, 8:15 p.m., $30
2328 Broadway Avenue
The public is offered a rare set of tours through this 1859 building. Join your guide for an unprecedented tour of the home as you hear about the early days of Galveston’s formation and the exceptional life, and possible afterlife, of the home’s Miss Bettie Brown. For more information, visit galvestonhistory.org.
Lanternlight Tours of the 1892 Bishop’s Palace
October 28-29, 8:30 p.m., $30
1402 Broadway Avenue
Experience Bishop’s Palace in a whole new light. This special tour lets visitors explore the National Historic Landmark and see how this architectural gem takes on a completely different look in the night. For more information, visit galvestonhistory.org.
1838 Menard House Séance
October 29, 9 p.m., $150
1605 33rd Street
Join Sharon Michelle as she guides a group of 12 guests through the spirits of Galveston’s oldest home, the 1838 Michel B. Menard House. A natural-born psychic, Sharon first started using her many gifts more than 40 years ago, and since then the spirit has continued to guide her and add to her knowledge and abilities. For more information, visit galvestonhistory.org.
Menard House Trick or Treating
October 31, 5 to 7 p.m., free
1605 33rd Street
Galveston’s oldest residence opens its doors for one night of ghostly fun. Bring your kids by for treats (and a few surprises) to the 1838 Michel B. Menard house, located at 1605 33rd Street. Free for all; be sure to bring your ghost-hunting equipment. For more information, visit galvestonhistory.org.
Hotel Galvez Ghost Tour and Dinner
Tuesdays-Fridays throughout October, 6 p.m., $45 per person plus tax and gratuity (includes three-course dinner; advance reservations required)
Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Boulevard
In celebration of “ghost season,” Hotel Galvez & Spa hosts weekly ghost tour-dinners during the month of October. The ghost tour-dinner is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays as well as Fridays (overnight package only). During the tour, staff members guide participants through the ghostly past of the hotel, which is then followed by dinner in the Galvez Bar & Grill. The one-hour public ghost tour is only available as part of the dinner package. Friday night tour dinner packages are available exclusively as part of an overnight ghost package. Advance reservations are required. For more information, visit hotelgalvez.com.
Hotel Galvez Audio Ghost Tours
Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Boulevard
Hotel Galvez offers a free audio tour app for smartphones. Guests and the public can enjoy 25-minute history tours and 20-minute ghost tours year-round. For more information, visit hotelgalvez.com.
Dash Beardsley’s Ghost Tours of Galveston
Fridays/Saturdays Year-round (time varies), $20 adults/ $15 children ten years old and younger. Galveston paranormal expert Dash Beardsley offers the island’s most popular haunted tours, including “Original Ghost Tour on The Strand,” “Restless Spirits Tour,” Secret Society Cemetery Tour,” and the “Jack The Ripper Mystery Island Tour.” For more information, visit ghosttoursofgalvestonisland.com.
Movie Nite on The Strand: Labyrinth
October 1, dusk, free
Saengerfest Park, 2302 Strand
Free outdoor showing of the film Labyrinth, in which teenage Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) journeys through a maze to recover her baby brother (Toby Froud) from a goblin king (David Bowie). For more information, visit galveston.com.
October 30, 2 to 4 p.m., free
Moody Gardens, One Hope Boulevard
Trick-or-treating, creepy crafts and costume contest for kids plus $5 admission to Moody Gardens attractions if a member of your group is in costume. For more information, visit moodygardens.org.