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Haunted history

From hell hounds to friendly ghosts, spirits lurk on the upper Texas coast

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Broadway Cemetery Historic District

Jo Bird, an island musician and artist, strolls through the Episcopal Cemetery in the Broadway Cemetery Historic District in Galveston. The historic district is comprised of seven separate cemeteries, the oldest dating back to 1839.

BROADWAY CEMETERIES

The names and times of islanders past can be read on tombstones in the cemetery at Broadway and 41st Street in Galveston.

The cemetery actually is seven separate ones maintained by different churches or institutions, said Jami Durham, a historian of property research and cultural history at the Galveston Historical Foundation.

The graves of some of Galveston’s most prominent names and legends rest in the cemetery, she said.

Michel Menard, one of the city’s founders, is buried there, she said.

Gen. John Magruder, a Civil War major general who fought in the Battle of Galveston, is buried there, she said.

Haunted cemetery

A monument in the Trinity Episcopal Cemetery marks the grave of Gen. John Magruder, a Civil War major general who fought in the Battle of Galveston, at the Broadway Cemetery Historic District in Galveston.

Haunted cemetery

The sun sets behind gravestones in the Old City Cemetery, which is part of the Broadway Cemetery Historic District in Galveston.

Haunted cemetery

A monument marks the grave of Michel Menard, one of the city’s founders, in the Old Catholic Cemetery in the Broadway Cemetery Historic District in Galveston.

Haunted cemetery

A large granite gravestone in the Trinity Episcopal Cemetery marks the grave of the Alberti family. Elize Alberti made headlines in 1894 for poisoning four of her children.

Also buried at the prominent cemetery is Elize Alberti, who made headlines in 1894 over the death of four of her children, Durham said.

“One day, her husband came home at lunchtime,” Durham said. “She had poisoned them all with arsenic. One survived and maybe one or two survived because they weren’t home.”

Alberti, who was sent to a mental institution, eventually died by suicide, she said. But her ghost is said to haunt the grounds, along with many others.

“There’s a lot of history in those Broadway cemeteries,” Durham said. “Everybody has a ghost.”

Keri Heath


MAISON ROUGE (RED HOUSE)

Hundreds of people pass brick ruins on Harborside in Galveston every day without knowing much about it. But locals know it was once the site of the luxurious home of Jean Laffite, an infamous pirate who plundered unsuspecting ships.

Laffite lived in Galveston in 1812 and had built the Maison Rouge, 1417 Harborside Drive, with his buccaneers, where he ruled with total authority. Laffite decorated the Maison Rogue with items he had plundered from ships while he lived in Galveston, according to historians.

Laffite, also known as “The Terror of the Gulf,” was chased by authorities from the safe haven and he fled to Louisiana’s Barataria Bay and later possibly to Yucatán in Mexico, though historians aren’t certain.

Laffite Society

A Texas historical marker stands at the site of “Maison Rouge,” pirate and privateer Jean Laffite’s stronghold on Harborside Drive in Galveston.

Maison Rouge

Decades after Jean Lafitte left Galveston, the F.W. Henricks Home was built on the site of the pirate’s fort and personal dwelling, Maison Rouge, on Harborside Drive. All that remains of the Henricks structure are the outside walls of the basement and the front steps.

Laffite was said to be protective of Maison Rouge and went to a voodoo queen to give him a “pack of devil dogs, bred for hunting men and animals,” to protect it, according to theclio.com, a history and culture website. “In accordance to his demand, she did a ritual over the pack as they were born. There are still reports today of people seeing the hounds, smelling wet dog, or hearing growls near the Red House. It is said that if someone sees the hounds, it is a bad omen meaning trouble is near.”

Decades after Laffite left Galveston, the F.W. Henricks House was built on the grounds of the pirate stronghold.

“Research and archaeological digs confirm that the Henricks House was built on the site of Laffite’s fort and his personal dwelling,” Lou Macbeth, a Laffite Society member, wrote in a 2017 guest column in The Daily News.

“All that remains of the Henricks structure today are the outside walls of the basement and the front steps,” she wrote.

The Lafitte Society is a club that focuses on the life and times of the pirate.

Many believe Laffite’s treasure still can be found on the island and his spirit can be heard at Maison Rouge yelling at his crew. Neighbors of Maison Rouge have claimed to see orbs of light and the sounds of men arguing on the property.

– José Mendiola


Haunted Places

The bar at the Cedar House Inn in Dickinson evokes shades of the past.

CEDAR OAKS INN

Guests might encounter some supernatural residents sharing their rooms at Cedar Oaks Inn, a bed and breakfast in Dickinson.

The 125-year-old Cedar Oaks Inn property, 3822 Water St., originally was owned by the Schaper family of Galveston before being sold to the Weigand family in 1897. It originally was meant to operate as a working dairy, but a noisy brothel and casino, which operated until the 1940s, weren’t ideal neighbors and plans changed. The brothel and casino operated under the name Cedar Oaks Inn, which inspired the current businesses’ name, said Tanya Nuss, owner and operator of the inn.

The inn is divided into two buildings, The Birdcage Saloon, designed in the style of an 1800s-era saloon in the Old West, and The Barracks, a building used as barracks for those serving at Ellington Air Force Base.

Nuss, who has lived in and owned the property for 27 years, said there are unexplained noises at night of people walking up and down the hallways and also reports of flickering lights matching Morse code. When Nuss’ daughter was a child, she was scared to go upstairs in the home, Nuss said. Later, she told her family she had made friends with the spirits, Nuss said.

Haunted Places

The Weigand House in Dickinson is rumored to be the sight of strange happenings.

Haunted Places

The Weigand family in 1897 purchased property in Dickinson from the Schaper family to operate as a working dairy. Today, it's a bed and breakfast called the Cedar Oaks Inn.

Historic Cedar Oaks Inn

The Weigand family in 1897 purchased the historic Cedar Oaks Inn property in Dickinson. They restored the home in the 1970s, said Tanya Nuss, owner and operator of the inn.

A medium has examined the supernatural spirits and identified four ghosts, Nuss said. The medium, who deemed the ghosts harmless, said one of the spirits is a man wearing a uniform who smokes a pipe, carries a glass of whiskey and never leaves. Other spirits on site include an older woman carrying a child who leaves the property at times. An old couple also visit the home from time to time who are described as poor with tattered clothes.

The medium told Nuss the spirits like what she has done with the property. But the spirits never visit the kitchen because they weren’t happy with the renovations made by a former owner, Nuss said.

Trace Harris


THE HENDLEY BUILDING

The 1858 Hendley Building, 2010 Strand in Galveston, is no stranger to ghosts and supernatural happenings, in large part because the structure is so old, Cheryl Jenkines said.

Jenkines manages Hendley Market, the store that operates on the bottom floor of a former cotton warehouse. She and others who visit or lived in the building had plenty of experiences with ghosts, she said.

“Anything this old is going to have something going on in it,” Jenkines said. “Galveston has too much history for there to not be something going on.”

Haunted Hendley Market building

A Victorian-era portrait hangs above an antique sideboard in the Hendley Market Lofts in Galveston. The building was listed as one of the five most haunted places in the state by Texas Highways magazine.

Haunted Hendley Market building

A Hurricane Ike-damaged portrait of Dr. Wilbur hangs in Hendley Market in Galveston.

Haunted Hendley Market building

The atrium floor of the Hendley Market Lofts looks into the eclectic island shop of Hendley Market.

The top floors of the building house short-term rentals, but when long-term tenants lived there, they used to report ghostly encounters all the time, she said. They told of apparitions of a little boy or a woman in white in the hallway, she said.

“Many male tenants have said they can hear her skirts rustling,” Jenkines said.

Each year on Day of the Dead, traditionally celebrated Nov. 1-2, Hendley Market staff places an altar out. Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a day to remember ancestors in Mexican culture. Staffers are sticklers for blowing out the candles at the end of the day, Jenkines said.

Historic Hendley Building

Carriages outside the Hendley Building on The Strand in Galveston, circa 1872.

“We had this three-step process to blow out the candles,” she said. “Consistently over the year, candles get relit.”

Jenkines thinks the candle lighter is the ghost of Dr. Wilbur, whose portrait she found in the wreckage of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and hung in the shop.

The ghosts are generally friendly and Jenkines likes having them around the historic market, she said.

Keri Heath


Stringfellow Orchard

The long, oak-lined drive at Stringfellow Orchards is one of the things that lured Sam Collins III to investigate the Hitchcock property further.

STRINGFELLOW ORCHARDS

Stringfellow Orchards, 7902 state Highway 6 in Hitchcock, once was owned by internationally renowned horticulturist Henry Martyn Stringfellow. It also was the site of a tragic story of the loss of a child.

The owners of the orchard, Henry and Alice Stringfellow, lost their only son, Leslie, in 1886.

Alice Stringfellow was so devastated by her son’s death, she became bedridden, said Sam Collins, who now owns the property.

Alice had tried reaching her dead son by conducting seances in the attic in the parlor of the orchard at 7 p.m. every night, Collins said.

The couple had collected more than 4,000 letters of what were conversations with their dead child, Collins said.

Stringfellow Orchard

A portrait of Leslie Stringfellow, the only son of Henry and Alice Stringfellow, hangs in a small, second-story room of Stringfellow Orchards in Hitchcock. It's rumored that Alice held seances in the room trying to contact her son after his death.

Stringfellow Orchard

The original shiplap walls were exposed during restoration of Stringfellow Orchards in Hitchcock. Several original pieces Sam Collins III found in the home also are displayed, like the antique wash bowl and pitcher.

Stringfellow Orchard

A barn dating to the 1870s sits under the towering oaks at Stringfellow Orchards in Hitchcock.

One of the letters is in the possession of the Rosenberg Library, Collins said.

The couple would place their hands on a planchette, similar to a Ouija board, that held a pencil and was moved by the communicating spirit.

There was a letter in which the supposed spirit of Leslie had designed his own headstone.

The headstone can be found in Lakeview Cemetery in Galveston.

Alice stopped conducting the seances after the death of her husband in 1922.

Although Collins believes Henry Stringfellow was conducting the seances to appease his grieving wife, many wonder whether the Stringfellows’ spirits linger on the orchard grounds to this day.

– José Mendiola


WALTER HALL HOUSE

When Deborah Gammon spent nine months as a docent and guide at the Butler Longhorn Museum, formerly located in the historic Walter Hall House, 1220 Coryell St. in League City, she always felt the presence of a ghost roaming the building, she said.

Gammon recounted a time when a group of three women went to tour the museum. One of the women grabbed her by the shoulder to tell her of the ghost on the stairs she had just witnessed.

“I told her I was already well aware of the ghost, and told her that it was not harmful,” Gammon said.

Gammon often witnessed the ghost on the stairs, she said.

“Just about every time that I would walk up the stairs, I just felt like there was something there,” she said.

Gammon also never felt harmed by the ghost that roamed the halls and frequented the staircase, she said.

Some have speculated the staircase ghost could be Helen Hall, who died in the house in June 2014, or Walter Gardener Hall III, the grandson of Walter and Helen Hall, who tragically drowned on the morning of his second birthday.

Walter “Skipper” Hall III drowned in the pond in front of the home in League City on the morning of Aug. 1, 1950.

There has been at least one sighting of the ghost of a child roaming the grounds, Gammon said. 

– Sarah Grunau


Editor’s Note: The Butler Longhorn Museum is closed as managers look for a new site.

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