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Austin, Texas is a wonderfully haunted city. Its ghosts are more colorful than most, with the kinds of histories you’d expect from a “wild west” city.
From former corrupt sheriffs to colorful madams, and from cursed bricks to the ghost of a US President, Austin may have more ghosts per square foot than any city in America.
In fact, many of Austin’s ghosts linger because they want to, not because they’re stuck in our earthly plane.
These are the five places that I’d visit with just a brief time to investigate Austin’s ghosts.
1. The Driskill Hotel
You have to stay somewhere when you’re in Austin, so why not stay at the city’s most elegant, haunted hotel?
In my book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, I devote an entire chapter to the Driskill’s great ghosts.
The lobby has at least two ghosts. One is a little girl who follows a bouncing ball (that manifests as an orb) on the staircase near the front desk.
Almost directly across the lobby from that staircase, a small room was once the hotel’s vault. It’s haunted by the cheerful ghost of a Depression-era hotel manager. When the banks closed during one financial crisis, the Driskill’s manager opened the vault and handed out cash to patrons. He trusted them to return the money when they could, and every one of them did. His ghost lingers through hard times and good, occasionally greeting guests in slightly outdated formal wear.
Be sure to visit the Maximilian Room, for some of America’s most haunted mirrors. (For their tragic history, see pages 18 & 19 in my book about Austin’s ghosts.)
Note: I’m not sure if that mirror is still in the Maximilian Room, and if it’s still haunted. Here’s what you need to know about haunted mirrors:
Upstairs, in addition to famous ghosts such as LBJ, you may catch a glimpse of the phantom hotel security guard. He’s always on the job, striding quickly through the halls. He’s making sure that everyone is safe and sound in this magnificent hotel.
2. Buffalo Billiards [Closed]
Location: 201 East Sixth Street, Austin, TX (Buffalo Billiards may have closed, but that address may still be haunted.)
Buffalo Billiards was less than a block away from the Driskill Hotel. In 1861, as the Missouri Hotel, it was Austin’s first “boarding house” and a popular place for a cowboy to find a date… for an hour or so.
When I investigated the area, the former brothel was one of Austin’s most popular night spots. At the time, I said: “Stop in for a drink and some food, and you’ll see tourists, locals and scantily-clothed ghosts among the crowd.”
Now, it’s closed, per this article: Buffalo Billiards, A Longtime Downtown Austin Bar, Closed Permanently.
3. The Spaghetti Warehouse [Closed]
Location: 117 West Fourth Street, Austin, TX (Per Yelp, it’s now closed.)
When you’re ready for a good, filling meal, Austin’s Spaghetti Warehouse is the place to eat… and encounter ghosts.
Ask your waiter about the latest ghost sightings at the Spaghetti Warehouse. Most of the staff seem to have first-person stories to share.
In addition to quirky poltergeist activity, ask about the ghost who appears as a man – or just legs – around the restaurant’s vault.
An alternative, still open for business (2023): Stroll up the street to the upscale gay men’s bar, Oilcan Harry’s. (In fact, it’s the oldest operating LGBTQ+ bar in Austin.)
There, look carefully for one of Austin’s most colorful ghosts, the late madam Blanche Dumont. She’ll be among the dancers.
4. Texas Capitol Building
(Start at the Visitors’ Ctr: 112 E 11th Street, Austin, TX)
Day and night, you’ll see ghosts around the Capitol building. The most famous is probably Governor Edmund Jackson Davis (1827 – 1883) who is seen gazing from a first-floor window. On foggy and misty days – especially around mid-winter – and around dusk, he’s seen walking on the paved paths around the Capitol building. He’s tall and has a moustache, but people most often comment on his chilling stare. In fact, he often pauses when he sees someone, stares at them, and doesn’t move until they’ve passed him.
If you’re at the Capitol, be sure to walk past the Texas Governor’s Mansion. It has its own dramatic history with multiple hauntings. I recommend early morning photos at the mansion grounds, as well.
5. Oakwood Cemetery and Oakwood Annex Cemetery
Location: Navasota St., Austin, TX
Oakwood Cemetery and its annex may be Austin’s most beautiful and haunted cemetery. There, you can visit the graves of many of Austin’s ghosts including Susannah Wilkerson Dickinson and Ben Thompson.
Most of Austin’s cemeteries close at dusk – and you should not visit that area alone at any time, but especially as nightfall approaches.
However, if you visit that neighborhood with friends, and the cemetery is closed, you can take photos through the openings in the fences around Oakwood.
(If you’ve been in the cemetery during the day, you’ll know exactly where to point your camera to capture eerie, phantom images.)
Austin features many more, chilling locations where you can encounter ghosts and other frightening entities.
Some of them – such as the nightly appearance of as many as a million bats, around one downtown Austin bridge – are entertaining.
Others, such as the ghost of Jack the Ripper and his victims, are best avoided unless you have nerves of steel.
Looking for More Ghosts in Austin…?
For more ghosts (and true ghost stories) around Austin, read my book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas.
However, as of 2023, many of those haunted locations are now closed or are under different ownership.
Here’s what’s important to remember: Sites are often haunted because of what happened at those physical locations. Whether the site is now a corporate office building or a fast-food restaurant, it may still be haunted.
Here’s what I’d said about my 2008 book:
- The Driskill Hotel’s many ghosts.
- A detailed list of Austin’s most haunted cemeteries and some of their most infamous graves.
- The eerie connection between Austin and Jack the Ripper.
- Why the Shoal Creek Curse lingers over Austin and – possibly – surrounding communities.
And – if you live in Austin or you’ll be there for a few days – my book includes haunted sites around Austin, including Columbus, Texas.
(I describe Columbus’ strange history and many ghosts as something like a “theme park for ghost hunters.”)
The editing in this book is typical of when it was published – at the peak of the Ghost Hunters craze – but you won’t find a more complete (and personally researched) book about ghost hunting in Austin.
It’s the original guide to ghost hunting in Austin. If you’re serious about paranormal research it’s still the best way to find the physical locations of real ghosts when you’re in Texas’ capital city.
Find it at Amazon: The Ghosts of Austin, Texas, by Fiona Broome.