Island’s inns and hotels are famous for stories of ghouls and ghosts
When Theressa Stonecipher moved to Galveston in 2013, the Nebraska native was most struck by the historic homes and buildings on the island, she said.
Many of them had histories dating back more than a century ago — families had waited out the 1900 Storm in them, people had made lives in the new world in them and businesses were launched in them.
As it happens, that wouldn’t be the only surprise in store for Stonecipher on the island.
Stonecipher and her husband, Derick, who she met while they both worked at historic downtown island hotel The Tremont House, recently became proprietors of their very own property, the Coppersmith Inn Bed & Breakfast, 1914 Ave. M. The couple closed on the acquisition of the 1887 building on Halloween in 2019, to be exact.
“Prior to that, the previous innkeeper actually had a medium come in and do a reading,” she said. “The medium said there were multiple extra guests here at the inn.”
Stonecipher has heard a woman’s voice. Her husband had his own experience he can’t quite explain. And other visitors also have reported lights turning on in the middle of the night without explanation, she said.
Stonecipher and her husband have become members of a very unusual club. Although the island is best known for its beaches and rich history, Galveston might be just as famous among a certain segment for the hauntings of its hotels and inns. Rather than scaring away business, Galveston spirits increasingly have become a tourism draw, as evidenced by the ever popular ghost tours.
Each evening, a black cat goes to the front porch of the Charles W. Adams Mansion, 2314 Ave. M., and watches participants of ghost tours pass by the mansion, said Jerry Klekotta, manager of the property. The historic mansion, in the Silk Stocking Historic District in Galveston‚ was built in 1860 and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Legend has it that the cat, who Klekotta knows as Tin-Tin, is actually named Toby, and is 120 years old, Klekotta said. Locals say the cat is the son of Charles W. Adams, for whom the mansion was built.
Toby, or Tin-Tin, whichever you prefer, is known to be assertive with those on ghost tours, biting anyone brave enough to try to pet him, Klekotta said.
Many guests at the mansion, which offers short-term rentals for vacations and retreats, have reported encounters with visitors from the spiritual realm as well, Klekotta said.
“Some have seen apparitions, some shadows, for some, it’s something moves and others something has been moved,” Klekotta said.
Klekotta can vouch for the tales’ authenticity, having experienced something similar one night, while reading in his bed, he said.
“Supposedly, at one time, it was a boarding house, and the woman in charge would knock to see how everyone was doing,” he said. “I live on the property full-time, and one time I was the only one in the house and heard knocking. So, I went to look, and no one was there. I sat back down, was reading and heard knocking again. So, I checked all the doors and no one was there. Then I remembered the story and said, ‘I’m OK, I’m going to bed.’”
Eerie as Klekotta’s and the Charles W. Adams Mansion’s ghost stories might be, they’re hardly the most famous ghost story in the island’s hospitality industry.
The honor of the island property to bring the most visitors to the island in search of haunted rooms goes to the Hotel Galvez. As the story goes, the spirit of a woman named Audra haunts its halls.
Audra was engaged to a sailor and, while he was at sea, she would go to a room on the fifth floor, eyeing the stormy horizon as she waited for his return.
One day, tragedy struck when the ship was ripped to pieces. The sailor, however, would return safely a few days later, but Audra hanged herself in despair, as the story goes.
Theressa Stonecipher only learned about this world of island hauntings after she and Derick bought Coppersmith Inn Bed and Breakfast, she said.
“There was no real information,” she said. “The old innkeeper just had it in a file that we discovered a couple days after getting here. We read it and thought, ‘Oh gosh!’”
In the late 1800s, the Carnes family lived there, she said. It was then sold to Paul and Bridget Sheen, who had moved to Galveston from New Orleans and opened a coppersmithing business — hence the name.
Derick had the first personal experience with the spirits haunting the inn, Theressa said. One night, he was playing guitar alone and started getting loud feedback on his amp.
He turned the amp on and off and tried it again when a wave of static came over it and he got chills, she said.
About a month or two after the Stoneciphers purchased the inn, Theressa had her own experience, she said.
She was working on a computer when she heard a woman’s voice saying “hello,” she said.
“Anytime I’m waiting for guests, I’m up and looking out the window,” she said. “So, I was surprised I didn’t hear a person coming. But I looked out the window, and didn’t see anyone. I go outside and no one is there.”
Stonecipher sat down again and, a short while later, heard the voice again, she said.
“I freaked out at that point,” she said.
Not every owner of a haunted hotel is a believer in the spiritual realm, however. Barbara McClain and Dave Dunn co-own the 1890 Lost Bayou Guesthouse.
Dunn is positive he has seen ghosts before, but McClain always shares that information with a hint of skepticism in her voice.
“I’ve never experienced it,” she said.