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Texas | Columns | "Wandering"

Ghost Story
Apparitions, Apparently


by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton
What with all those ghosts gadding about on TV shows, itís beginning to look a lot like Halloween year-round.

Eerie music swells in the background as re-enactments of paranormal events depict strange goings-on, running the gamut from a departed granny floating into the kitchen to bake cookies again to a long-dead piano player startling a sleeping family at midnight with hits from the Fifties.

Mysterious lights bounce around rooms, pictures fall from walls and tables and chairs levitate, all of which makes one wonder, ďWhoís doing all that stuff?Ē

I would like to think the movers and shakers are the TV producers, script writers and directors with over-developed imaginations, or maybe the unexplainable is being outsourced. (Can you say ďboo!Ē in Bombay?)

Iím not saying the spooks are not out there. I guess they are -- some of them anyway -- based on reports by people who claim sincerely and sanely that they saw what they saw.

Personally, Iíve never seen a ghost in my life and I hope I never will.

According to myriad encounters reported over the years, however, Iíve been where the ghosts are; weíve just never met.


Numerous times Iíve driven at night on Highway 281 between Blanco and Johnson City but, thank goodness, never noticed a shabby, blood-stained hitchhiker with a two-foot-long butcher knife and a mean look on his face.

Word on the street is that heís a ghost with issues. During his earthly existence, he went on a rampage, stabbing several relatives to death. (Was it something they said?)

Anyway, if you happen to spot the Slasher when heís trying to hitch a ride to Johnson City on a dark and lonely night, donít stop. Just keep driving. Faster ... hurry.


A well-known hotel in San Antonio where Iíve never seen a ghost, in spite of numerous reported sightings, is the historic Menger. On several occasions Iíve stayed in the older and presumably the most haunted section of the hotel but never got even a glimpse of Sallie White, the chambermaid murdered by her husband in the 1800s. The ghost-watchers say Sallie walks the hotel halls carrying fresh towels. So, just sayiní, if you need extra towels while staying at the Menger, call Sallie.

Menger Hotel, San Antonio TX 1905  post card
Menger Hotel, San Antonio
1905 Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/

The Menger apparently has been the scene of many other apparitions and one of them is supposed to be Capt. Richard King, founder of King Ranch. The captain doesnít bother to open doors but glides right through them, ever so quickly. Wish I could do that, especially when struggling with those key-card door openers.

The Menger, Iíve heard, also has been host to the ghost of President Teddy Roosevelt. The story goes that heís still in the hotel bar, recruiting Rough Riders for the Spanish-American War. Now T.R. is one ghost I wouldnít mind meeting. I bet heís a bully-good ghost, speaking softly, carrying a big spirit stick.


While the Menger may be Americaís most haunted hotel, Galveston claims to the most haunted city, the Top Ghost Host, with spirited attractions ranging from pirates and hurricane victims to the rich and famous.

Ashton Villa, Galveston, Texas
Ashton Villa, Galveston
Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Herda

As a frequent visitor to the island, Iíve dropped in on Bettie Brownís mansion, Ashton Villa, a number of times but apparently sheís never at home when Iím there. Oh well. I read that Ms. Brown likes to travel.

The Galvez Hotel is reported to be haunted, too, but you couldnít prove it during the time I stayed there. I guess the Galvez ghosts were out on the town, shmoozing with their kindred spirits on The Strand.

Ever heard about that creepy face on Ewing Hall at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston? According to legend, the image is that of the original land owner who warned his family not to sell the property after he died. They did and he came back to Ö uh Ö face them.

I clicked on a web site that showed a photo of the building and ... whoa! Unless the photo was doctored (no pun intended, UTMB), there is a manís face.

Oh my. If looks could kill.



© Wanda Orton Baytown Sun Columnist
"Wandering" June 10, 2013 columns




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