In the 19th Century, tragedies washed over Galveston as regularly as the tides: deadly fires, yellow-fever epidemics, and hurricanes. Anecdotally, this legacy of destruction left Galveston one of the nation’s most haunted cities. Even for travelers without a taste for the macabre, the wide range of said-to-be-haunted sites offers a fascinating glimpse into Galveston’s colorful past. In fact, I’ve come to the Island to learn more about local history, largely by looking for ghosts.
Lights flicker on and off by themselves. Cigarette smoke scents an empty room. Shadowy figures move down hallways. We’re not scared. Even though it’s October—think goblins, ghosts, and ghouls—we’re game to explore Jefferson, which has a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Texas.
The sleepy town of Milford is home to a bed-and-breakfast inn that places a capital H on the word Haunting. Originally built as a dormitory, the building later became a hotel, boardinghouse, antique shop, halfway house for recuperating mental patients, and finally, in 2000, after several years of restoration, the Baroness Inn. Tales tell of long-gone, un-named lodgers who persist in maintaining residency.
A suicide in Austin spawned the Governor’s Mansion’s most famous ghost story. It happened during the Civil War, when a nephew and a niece (not brother and sister to each other) visited Governor Pendleton Murrah and his wife in the Mansion. Legend has it that the young woman encouraged the young fellow’s attentions, and he fell hopelessly in love with her. But when he proposed marriage one day, she laughingly scorned his offer.
In one of Texas’ oldest cities, where dozens of buildings boast creaky floors and historical markers, it’s easy to get spooked—or thrilled—come All Hallows Eve. In a city as rich with history as Galveston, you know spirits are stirring.
According to historian Dash Beardsley of Galveston, who has led ghost-searching treks of the island's Strand National Historic District for nearly three years, "There's a ghost story in nearly every building." His one-and-a-half-hour Ghost Tour of the Strand, one of several spirit-sleuthing treks statewide, offers an on-foot introduction to the island's paranormal world, taking visitors to such sites as Luigi's Ristorante Italiano, said to be haunted by the ghost of a survivor of the 1900 storm. Dash and his crew will take you to many other haunted spots on Galveston Island; adult tickets cost $10. Call 409/949-2027 or 281/339-0204.