As we creep into spooky season, and haunted houses and general scary-ment are in full swing, it’s time for us to reflect on all the real hauntings that have happened across our vast state. From Old West murders to deadly hurricanes to frightening soldier stories of the Texas Revolution, Texas is full of ghoulish tales that send a shiver down your spine. If you’re game for eerie stories with a little history thrown in, here is a list of some of the spookier ghost tours taking place around the state this month.
Stockyards Ghost Tour
Through Dec. 30
After opening Cowtown Winery in 2010, owner David Besgrove and his team began experiencing unusual things: coffee cups mysteriously turned over, bottles of wine smashed on the floor when no employees were around, a man seen sitting at a table one moment then disappearing. A ghost hunter was brought in, and she felt the presence of a child. “We didn’t find out until later that a child died there about 100 years ago, when the place was a Chinese laundry,” Besgrove says. Afterward, he did research on the Stockyards and discovered there’s a lot of paranormal activity in the district, and the Stockyards Ghost Tour was created.
The tour includes numerous stops including Miss Molly’s Hotel, a formal bordello turned historic hotel on West Exchange Avenue. Paranormal investigators contacted entities who they believe were prostitutes at Miss Molly’s from the 1940s and ’50s. “Some had been murdered, and one died of lung disease,” Besgrove notes. All seven rooms of the hotel have ghost stories, but the Cattlemen’s and Cowboy rooms have the most famous spirit sightings. “Most of the time, you can hear the cowboys’ spurs clinking as he climbs the stairs,” Besgrove says.
Other stops along the tour include the Swift building with its small ghost girl and Riscky’s Steakhouse’s haunted upstairs, plus the Cadillac Hotel, Longhorn Saloon, Basement Bar, White Elephant Saloon, and the Livestock Exchange Building. Guests on the tour, who may need it to calm their nerves, receive a glass of wine to accompany them.
Thunder and Blood: Strand Walking Tours
Galveston might be teeming with entertainment, bars, and restaurants nowadays to cater to tourists, but the town was once a haven for gangsters and the site of Civil War bloodshed and a catastrophic hurricane, as you’ll learn on the Thunder and Blood: Strand Walking Tour. Meander down The Strand historic district while a representative from the Galveston Historical Foundation recounts darker days from years past. “Our tours are led by authorized Galveston history representatives, so the info you’re getting is researched, factually based, and fact checked for accuracy,” says Will Wright, the chief creative officer for the foundation.
Learn about the deadly 1900 hurricane and how present-day bars and shops were once the buildings used as makeshift morgues to hold the estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people lost in the storm. Then hear about the Galveston gang crimes from the ’20s and ’30s, which included shootouts and robberies. In Old Galveston Square, see where the June 1865 General Order No. 3 was issued, which freed enslaved people in Texas and is today honored with Juneteenth celebrations, and learn about an enslaved woman who was hanged after killing her owner.
Hendley Row is also a stop, where the Battle of Galveston was fought in 1863. “The Maceos, a crime family that ran Galveston when it was known as the Free State of Galveston, are talked about as well, and they’re a big part of Galveston’s history,” Wright says. “And there’s ‘one-armed George Musey,’ a mob boss here during Prohibition.”
After Oct. 22, the Thunder and Blood tour is available weekly on Friday through Sunday for the rest of the year.
Haunting on the Blue Ghost and Other Tours
Nicknamed “The Blue Ghost” because of its sinkings and resurrections, the USS Lexington, which served in World War II and the Vietnam War, is full of stories about ghosts. On the Haunting on the Blue Ghost tours, hear about ghostly crew members and an apparition of a nurse holding a baby and searching for her beloved sailor, who was killed in battle.
You can also stop by the 1914 Nueces County Courthouse, which has been abandoned since 1977 after reports of screaming, voices, and strange noises were heard from the building. While you can’t go inside the building, a tour guide shares its history, haunted stories, and folklore. (For instance, the building’s basement was a makeshift morgue after the 1919 hurricane, and the building held criminal executions as well.) From the Heritage Park Museum, you can learn about four haunted houses, including the Galvan House, where a ghoulish police officer allegedly taps visitors on the shoulder, and the Sidbury House, where a spirit knocks down objects and rearranges dolls. These tours are offered through RJA Ghost Tours and Corpus Christi Tours.
Oct. 21 and 28
In the late 1800s, Taylor was full of riffraff, especially downtown, where Haunted Taylor tours chronicle the gory history of the Williamson County town—from murders to arson to suicides. A guide from the Taylor Conservation and Heritage Society takes you through downtown buildings and tells tales about hauntings, many of which were documented by the local paper and “confirmed” by psychics. Stories on the tour include one about the former movie projectionist at Howard Theatre on North Main Street. “His name was James, and he’s known to haunt the upstairs,” says Frances Sorrow, president of the Taylor Conservation and Heritage Society. “There’s also George Anderson, who was stabbed by two ‘ladies of the night,’ as the paper called [them], in the first city park, where the tour commences.”
More historical theater than spooky, Victoria Preservation Inc.’s Cemetery Tours at Evergreen Cemetery feature actors portraying various historical figures and townspeople, many of whom are buried in Evergreen Cemetery. This year, tours focus on seven figures, including José María Jesus Carvajal, a conscientious objector and Stephen F. Austin protégé who laid out the town of Victoria, and was involved in the Republic of the Rio Grande, the Mexican-American War, and the Merchant War. Then there’s Juan (John Joseph) Linn, an Irishman turned Texan who was fluent in Spanish and became a liaison between Mexican and Irish colonists and influential in the Texas Revolution, is also portrayed.
“We’ve got the cemetery path lit with torches all around, and groups stop at each actor portraying a different character,” says Jeff Wright, executive director of Victoria Preservation Inc. “Victoria’s bicentennial is next year. So this year and next, the theme of the tour is the town’s colonial and Republic of Texas eras, with characters having connections to these times in Victoria.”
But Wait, There’s More
For a couple more tours to get your spook on around Texas, there’s the Waco’s Oakwood Cemetery Walking Tales (Oct. 21), where interpreters in period costumes tell the stories of famous people buried in the cemetery, and Plano’s Rest in Plano and Apparition Expedition (Oct. 28), where visitors take a walking tour through Plano’s haunted homes and businesses.