Halloween opens the doors of the world of the living to wandering spirits. It’s an ideal night to visit haunted places and tell horror stories by the light of a bonfire. We travel through the most ghostly Austin to scare you during a night where the border between life and death is blurred.
The spirits often leave behind an irresistible halo of revenge or what could have been and was not. That’s why they fascinate us for centuries. They are the pure representation of the human essence, even from afterlife. For that reason, on Halloween it’s well worth getting up your courage and strolling through fascinating and haunted places like these.
The Driskill Hotel is Austin’s most haunted place. That’s what the brave people who have spent the night in this opulent corner of Sixth Street say. The hotel is abuzz with paranormal stories that started with its owner, Jesse Driskill. This guy was an entrepreneur who came to Austin from Missouri. He had made his fortune dealing arms and cattle with the Confederate army. Full of money, he decided to buy a land in Austin in 1884 and six million bricks that were used to open his sumptuous hotel two years later. The inauguration was an event of such magnitude that it became a tradition in the city.
But soon, the afterlife began to disturb the Driskill’s peaceful halls and rooms and its guests. Just a year after its unforgettable inauguration, Samantha Houston, the four-year-old daughter of US Senator Temple Lea Houston, was chasing her ball when it hurtled down the stairs and rolled to death.
On the fifth floor, you can see a painting of a girl with flowers and a letter. It’s Samantha’s portrait according to many people’s thoughts. Around the painting there seems to be ectoplasmic activity, lights and a myriad of strange events. Many hotel guests and workers hear a ball, childish laughter and footsteps in the same place where Samantha lost her balance and her life.
In the hotel elevators you can meet the wandering spirit of Peter Lawlees, a railway worker who lived in the hotel for 31 years until his death in 1917. A good-natured person who will help you not get lost in the bowels of this hotel that also has a macabre history. A woman from Houston came to the hotel to celebrate her wedding. She was so excited about the event that she did not hesitate to celebrate the ceremony at Driskill’s.
It was 1991. Everything went wrong. The groom finally called off the wedding and the bride fell into a sad state leading her to act strange. She swiped her credit card around various stores and showed up at the hotel with several bags. No one could imagine that once in the solitude of room 329, she would submerge herself in the bathtub with a cushion and a pistol that did not hesitate to point at her head and blow her brains out.
Shortly after this event, the sad figure of a woman dressed as a bride began to be seen walking through the fourth floor of the hotel looking for, who knows, the love that is gone forever.
Two decades later, another bride, this time in room 525 and in the middle of her honeymoon, decided to take her own life. From that moment, strange events and presences in this room are usual. Although, the hotel’s most notorious ghost is its own creator, Colonel Driskill. Many guests have come across a sudden smoke and smell from the cigars the colonel smoked and even appearances in his favorite room that offers a unique view of Sixth Street and Brazos.
One gloomy night, a consultant found an elegant gentleman looking out the window and asking him: What are you doing in my room? The scared guy blinked and a thick smoke let him see his loneliness again. Perhaps, with a bit of luck, this Halloween night you can meet the colonel and ask him about his eventful life or how to lose a fortune on women, vices and poker. A story to tell on nights like this.
A Bloody Creek
A classic Halloween tale always includes souls who left after a tragic death. Seasonings that spice up the real and ghostly history of Shoal Creek. This place has been inhabited since 9000 BC. And have been violent deaths and gruesome crimes over there. It was also sacred land to the Comanches who fought during the 19th century to drive Europeans away from their borders. They came in 1834 founding the Dewitt Colony, the first name that Austin received. Among its inhabitants was Mirabeau Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas. Cohabitation was complicated and skirmishes broke out, making the area dangerous.
By then, Sarah Hibbins had already checked. This brave Texan had been captured by Natives crossing the Colorado River. She was able to escape but her husband didn’t shared the same fate and was gutted by the Comanches, spreading his guts throughout the creek. Despite this, a settler named Gideon White decided to settle over there with his family.
The Natives, anticipating an European invasion, murdered the entire family in 1842, being buried in a place that was never discovered. Their souls continue to roam the creek and if you have the chance to get close on Halloween you will hear their wailing.
They are not the only souls crying out to return home. After the civil war, Colonel Custer was stationed at Austin and set up camp in the area with such misfortune that most of his troops died of yellow fever being poorly buried in the area. The soldiers made a ghoulish find: An old Indian cemetery.
The number of lost souls and apparitions grew as crimes stained the place with blood. In 1890, someone spread the idea that there was a Spanish treasure buried in Shoal Creek, which fueled greed and violent murders. In those steep rocks where hustlers and murderers hid, you can hear their cries and laments. Do you dare to walk through Shoal Creek this Halloween?
A Night Ghost
Recently, the legendary Buffalo Billiards has ceased to exist. Never again will we be able to enjoy a night of billiards and beers or its fascinating ghost stories. Its story comes out in the Wild West, in 1861. It was founded by the Ziller family who had come to Austin from Missouri. For that reason, they called their business Missouri House. In appearance it was a hotel that sheltered travelers and adventurers who entered into the dangers of the West. However, it was a brothel where the girls tended to rustlers, cowboys and outlaws.
Life for these girls was complicated but, they were reckoned with. They were used to dealing with wild guys like Fred. This charming ghost has been part of the local’s clientele since immemorial times. People believe that it could be a client of the old brothel who is serving a sentence for something wrong he did in life. Who knows?
The only thing that is evident is his, at times, annoying presence. Moving chairs is one of his favorite hobbies. He is also dedicated to uncorking bottles in an effort to savor those spirits he enjoyed in his life. Many clients have noticed a shaking in their chairs caused by Fred and some females have felt a presence following them and touching them on the shoulder as if Fred wanted to flirt with them.
Besides, in an unmistakable sign of his eternal condemnation to swarm this place, Fred is amused to break the exit signs. It’s a shame that in Halloween, we can’t toast one of the best-known ghosts in town.
Goodness From Afterlife
Not all Halloween legends speak about evil spirits. Certain ghosts seem to watch over our safety or that of their most beloved places. That seems to be in the Littlefield House case. This building is the oldest one on the UT campus in Austin. It was built by George Littlefield to establish his residence in 1893. His fortune had grown exponentially due to his cattle business. Before, he had had time to fight in the American Civil War with the Confederate side and meet his wife, Alice. With her, he settled in this paradisiacal place with Victorian aesthetics achieved due to the huge import of cedar from the confines of the Himalayas.
The couple enjoyed the comforts of home and were instrumental in the development of the university. Alice was a virtuoso piano too. There were many occasions when she enchanted her guests with her songs. In 1912, when she was already 65 years old, she began to suffer a nervous breakdown that led her to have visions of the Apocalypse.
Besides, she was afraid of being kidnapped. Her erratic behavior led her to live confined in a psychiatric hospital for years. George died of pneumonia in 1920. His wife was still in the hospital, which she didn’t leave until 1935, when she was already 88 years old. For a few months, she was able to recover her social life and contemplate the advances in the city that her philanthropic work had produced.
After her death, the house became part of UT. Since then, strange piano serenades have accompanied visitors without any living instrument playing. Voices singing and moans are also heard. Although, the students who have passed through the house consider Alice as their guardian angel, who protects them and the house from any incident. On many occasions, the furniture has been moved to recover its original position in the solitude of the mansion.
Littlefield’s main room is the place where more strange events had been detected as well as on the upper floor where a female presence has been seen walking. Alice’s portrait continues to watch over her home and if you stop long enough you can watch her follow you with her protective gaze. An angel who deserves a Halloween story.
Show Must Go On, Even After Death
Old Paramount has recently turned 100 years old. Too long, too many scars, to have no Halloween story worth telling. It’s one of the few places in Austin that can prove a strange presence through graphic material. In September last year, pianist Chad Lawson was on stage when he saw a strange female figure on the theater’s mezzanine. He didn’t hesitate to take a photo of the presence. Nothing new in the theater.
Some people say that certain smells, footsteps and rare sensations are everyday in the theater. The Paramount Theater originally was the War Department of the Republic of Texas for years. Maybe this has caused many spirits of mothers and wives to keep coming to ask about the fate of their children and husbands in the different wars that ravaged Texas during the XIX century.
Who knows if on one of her walks, one of this mothers and wives meet another ghost who is a regular at the theater. A spirit sits almost everyday in one of the opera boxes to smoke an eternal cigar that impregnate the whole venue, something that draws the attention of the workers, as it’s a smoke-free space.
Although, the most illustrious ghost of the theater is undoubtedly its former projectionist, Walter Norris. Walter passed away in 2000 due to a heart attack while projecting Casablanca. Maybe, he is repeating an eternal We’ll always have Paris. All these ghosts haven’t been the cause of any scare like the one that Tony Johnson, custodian of the theater for 27 years, took. Tony was making the round when he saw two shoes approaching him with no one to make them move. He never encountered the unexpected again.
Something that maybe you can find this Halloween night, where souls will once again walk through haunted places, like the ones we have traveled in this amazing trip for the spectral Austin.
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