From scary faces to haunted places, the island is famous for the paranormal
In a city with so much history, scary stories, legends, myths and mysteries abound. Here are just a few:
Haunted Train Depot
The Galveston Railroad Museum, 2602 Santa Fe Place, is a monument to Galveston’s past. On the site of the city’s old Santa Fe Railroad Depot and rail yard, the museum features a collection of locomotives and railcars dating back to 1922.
The museum is open during the day, but it’s at night, when the lights are low and the sun is down, the old depot seems to come alive with other kinds of visitors, said Jennifer Kelso, the museum’s marketing director. Last winter, as decorators were setting up the museum’s Polar Express exhibit, decorations and other items would inexplicably fall to the floor, Kelso said.
“There can be this really creepy feeling in your shoulders that makes you say ‘Something’s not right here,’” Kelso said.
– John Wayne Ferguson
Michel B. Menard House
The Michel B. Menard house, 1605 33rd St., is supposed to be haunted by one of Menard’s daughters, who tripped on her wedding veil and broke her neck, according to myth. In another version, the victim is a woman who died when she tripped on the stairs at an elaborate Mardi Gras party in 1856.
As local lore, it’s a favorite. But it’s fanciful fabrication, Jami Durham, a researcher at the Galveston Historical Foundation told Coast Monthly in 2016.
“The Menard daughters were both married,” she said. “The eldest, Helen, lived into her 90s, and the second daughter, Clara, died in Alabama during a yellow fever epidemic.”
What about the woman who was supposed to have snapped her neck at the Mardi Gras festivities?
“Also not true,” Durham said. “The Galveston newspaper wrote a detailed account of the party, including costumes, food and decorations, but there was no mention of a death, an unlikely detail to omit.”
1859 Ashton Villa
Durham is an agnostic when it comes to ghosts, but she had one experience at the historic 1859 Ashton Villa, 2328 Broadway, which she can’t explain.
“I was working on a wedding exhibit with another staff member, and we both saw a woman come down the stairs and turn into the main hall,” Durham said. “There was a tour in the house and we both thought she had come downstairs to find a restroom. When I followed, there was no one there.”
Later, the tour guide told her there were only two couples on the tour and that they stayed with him the whole time.
“But, we both saw her and that’s the truth,” Durham said.
The face at Ewing Hall
On the subject of scary, most islanders conjure up conversations about “The Face.” It’s the likeness of a man that appears on the west wall of Maurice Ewing Hall at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
“The legend is that an old man who owned the property refused to sell the land to those who wished to buy it,” Will Wright, of the Galveston Historical Foundation, said.
“When he died, his children did sell the land, although they knew he opposed it.”
An image of a face is on a section of concrete on the structure that was built there. The face was sandblasted away, but then reappeared.
Across the harbor on the eastern shore of Pelican Island lies the half-sunken vessel, the SS Selma, a weird remnant of the U.S. fleet of concrete ships. Steel supplies were dwindling in World War I and concrete ships were seen as a viable alternative, although only 12 were ever constructed. The ship was launched around the time peace was realized and the vessel was put into use as a tanker.
“Misfortune seemed to plague the vessel,” Wright said. “It ran aground in Tampico, Mexico, and reportedly, the cost to repair it was too great. It was brought to Galveston, towed to its location, and partly submerged.”
Legend says that since it has been grounded here, the Selma has been home to spies, ghosts and a recluse or two. For years, a hermit named Frenchy LeBlanc lived aboard, and some say he stills walks the wreck.
Editor’s note: Some of these ghostly reports originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Coast Monthly.