With Halloween just around the corner, would-be ghostbusters of all ages are out looking for their next big thrill. If you happen to be visiting Texas at this spooky time of year, read on for our pick of the ten best haunted spots in the state, including a terrifying basement, hotels packed with otherworldly guests and a beautiful light show that no one can explain.
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Granbury Opera House
The Granbury Opera House is said to be haunted by the ghost of John Wilkes Booth, the Confederate sympathizer and actor responsible for Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Supposedly, Booth went to perform a Shakespearean play under the name of John St. Helen but instead was chased down and fatally shot. To this day, staff claim that footsteps can be heard pacing the balcony in his heavy boots and that he can be seen standing in a white shirt and black pants. Aside from being home to a famous ghost, the Granbury is also a great spot to catch musicals and comedy performances.
Haunted Hill House
Skeptical about the existence of ghosts? Book yourself on an overnight stay at Haunted Hill House in Mineral Wells, situated just down the road from the Baker Hotel, and you might have reason to reconsider. Touted as the third most haunted building in the country, it’s said to be home to dozens of restless spirits who push, scratch and even bite guests. To truly test your nerve, spend the night in Shadow Man Room, where the resident ghost likes to rearrange guests’ bedding and stroke their hair. Certainly not for the easily-scared.
Sightings of an apparition were reported long before the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells closed in 1972. It’s said that the ghost of a woman haunts the seventh floor: she was perhaps the mistress of the former hotel manager, and the stress of their affair led her to jump from the top of the building. Maids have reported finding glasses stained with her red lipstick on the rims at times when there were no guests. It is also said that the smell of her perfume wafts through the air. This much-loved Texan landmark is currently set to reopen its doors after a $65-million renovation.
The 20th building that houses the Houston branch of Italian eatery Spaghetti Warehouse was once a warehouse for pharmaceuticals. One day, a young pharmacist accidentally fell into its open elevator shaft and plunged to his death. His grief-stricken wife died soon after. Nowadays, their spirits are said to be mostly active on the second floor, where staff have reported furniture and silverware being rearranged, floating bottles of wine and sudden cool breezes. The grieving widow’s spirit is also said to tap guests on the shoulder and call staff members’ names.
Elder Street Artist Lofts
What was formerly Houston’s Jefferson Davis Hospital now houses the Elder Street Artist Lofts, which provide living and working space for the bravest local creators. Built over a cemetery where nearly 3,000 civil war and yellow-fever victims are buried, it is believed that the frequently-reported hauntings are caused by deceased patients and fallen soldiers. One resident says that the spirit of a girl who died of polio occupies his apartment – a spirit that many other artists-in-residence say they have seen around the building as well. Nice place to call home, huh?
Bragg Road (also known as Ghost Road) runs north-south between the abandoned village of Bragg and Saratoga and is said to be one of the most haunted spots in East Texas. According to the legend of the Saratoga Light, those courageous enough to walk along this former railway track after dark will see a hovering, flickering orb in the distance. It’s said to be the lantern held by a worker decapitated by a train, who’s still searching for his missing head. Or is it simply a car headlight from a nearby road? We’ll let you decide.
De Soto Hotel
The scruffy-looking De Soto Hotel is known for being home to some of El Paso’s most malevolent spirits. Its resident ghosts include a shadowy figure that stands in doorways, once said to have been recorded on camera and audio, and a playful little girl named Sara who runs around the corridors and rooms. The most chilling experiences, though, have occurred in the basement, where guests and staff have reported being bitten and scratched and experiencing an unpleasant feeling of being watched by unfriendly eyes. Territory for experienced ghostbusters only.
The Marfa Lights
Head to the sleepy village of Marfa to witness (if you’re lucky) one of the most mysterious natural spectacles in Texas. First seen by a rancher in the late nineteenth century and by countless visitors and residents since, these unexplained, apparently sourceless lights randomly illuminate the sky above uninhabited land just southeast of Marfa: they can be blue, red or white and have been described as whizzing around at great speeds. To see them for yourself, attend the Marfa Lights Festival in September, or head to the official viewing area near the village any time of year.
Olde Park Hotel
Dating from 1886, the building now housing The Olde Park Hotel in Ballinger has been used throughout its life as cowboy lodgings, a school, an antique shop and a brothel. Colorful characters from these various phases are still said to be hanging around the property and include frequently-sighted spirits named ‘Glenn’ and ‘The Cowboy’, as well as a woman believed to have worked in the antique store. To meet these otherworldly residents, book yourself on an overnight ghost tour, which includes a full breakfast in the morning (provided you’re not too nervous to eat).
La Carafe Wine Bar
The legendary La Carafe Wine Bar is housed in Houston’s oldest commercial building, which originally opened as a bakery in the 1850s. Many long-dead residents and employees are reputedly still occupying the property, with bartenders reporting the till opening by itself, bottles and glasses suddenly falling from shelves and the sounds of children’s laughter drifting from the upper stories. Some have also reported seeing the form of a former manager hovering by the window. La Carafe’s ambiance highlights its haunted credentials, with lighting provided by decades-old candles and spooky pictures on the walls.
Additional reporting by Mark Nayler
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