Texas Hill Country is the home of many people who love wide-open spaces, rolling hills, and the dry climate. It’s a gorgeous place to visit or to put down roots.
It’s also very haunted.
The following three sites are from an article, 10 Most Haunted Places in the Texas Hill Country. (The full top-10 list is linked at the foot of this article.)
That article got my attention because it’s a very good list. Some of those same haunted sites appeared in my early book, The Ghosts of Austin, Texas.
I was at the Driskill Hotel (in Austin) is among the top three on the list. I was at that hotel when they were working on the “suicide” room, to reopen it. Its atmosphere was definitely eerie, and the hotel was reluctant to tell me why the room had been sealed up for so many years… with good reason.
The Driskill has many more ghosts than what’s in this article – I talk about them in my book – and that hotel remains one of my favorite haunts to visit when I’m visiting Texas’ spectacular hill country.
If you’ve encountered ghosts in that part of Texas, I hope you’ll share your stories in comments at this article.
3. Dead Man’s Hole, Burnet Co.
Discovered in 1821 by a roving entomologist, Dead Man’s Hole is a gaping Texas hell-mouth that drops some 15-stories into the ground. During the Civil War, Union sympathizers, including Judge John R. Scott, were killed by proud Confederates and dumped down the Dead Man’s Hole. Multiple bodies were retrieved during the 1860’s, but the deaths did not stop during the Civil War. Most recently, one ghost hunter reportedly heard the voice of a young girl pleading, “No Daddy, I just want to go to Dairy Queen.” It is believed that Dead Man’s Hole has claimed as many as 35 bodies.
2. Driskill Hotel – Travis Co.
The Driskill Hotel opened its doors in 1886. It has been the site of paranormal activity ever since the passing of its wealthy owner, Jesse Lincoln Driskill. His spirit is believed to haunt the hotel. Legends also have it that in Room 525, two honeymoon brides committed suicide in the bathtub–exactly 20 years apart to the day. Once blocked off to the public, the room was reopened in the 1990’s. Since then, inexplicable leaks and faulty lighting have continued to disrupt guests in this room. Multiple guests have also spotted the spirit of Samantha Houston, the child daughter of a Texas Senator. Samantha died tragically at the Driskill in 1887. She was chasing a ball down the stairs when she fell down the grand staircase and broke her neck. Her giggles can be heard throughout the hotel to this day.
1. The Devil’s Backbone, Comal & Hays Cos.
The Devil’s Backbone is a limestone ridge that stands tall from Wimberly to Blanco. Ranchers have been known to hear galloping horses running along the ridge. Several people have claimed to see the ghosts of Confederate soldiers, a wounded Native American, and even the White Lady running back and forth across country roads. Once, a four year old boy visiting the area was found speaking often to an “imaginary friend”. When asked about the friend, the boy said she was a little girl with a hole in her head. When his parents asked why she had a hole in her head, he said, “Her daddy put the hole in her head to save her.” The parents were later told by local historians that families of settlers from the region often committed suicide, and even killed their families, rather than being captured by Native American raiders.
But, if you’re ghost hunting in or near Austin, you’ll learn far more from my book. It was the first regional book to describe — with specific details and addresses — ghosts that haunt Austin, Columbus, and nearby communities.
Discover over 100 haunted locations in and near Austin, Texas. Explore the eerie links between downtown Austin’s ghosts, including the city’s connection with Jack the Ripper, and the creek that keeps on haunting.
Available at Amazon.com and other fine booksellers.
Here’s the photo from the book cover, in more detail:
This picture was taken around dawn, and the sun had barely cleared the horizon behind me.
This is not a flash photo, and it was a normal Texas morning in Columbus City Cemetery.
There was no dust, and that’s not an insect, either.
As you can see from the photo (or if you visited the cemetery), there are no reflective surfaces to cause a lens flare.
I lightened the picture slightly (but did not alter the contrast or anything else) so you can see the orb and cemetery features more clearly.
That’s an extraordinary anomaly, and it’s one of many from that cemetery.
The following photo was taken the same morning, pointing in the opposite direction. This isn’t a flash photo, either, but it has no orbs. Nevertheless, I think you can see why I like researching at Columbus, Texas. It’s downright eerie.
Of course, Columbus is one of many locations in my book, The Ghosts of Austin. The main focus is on Austin, and it offers a wealth of haunted sites.
Oakwood Cemetery is among my favorite public haunts in Texas. It’s a large cemetery near downtown Austin. If you’re ghost hunting in Austin, plan to spend several hours there.
It’s surrounded by a fence you can see through. So, even after dark, you may get some great ghost photos and other evidence. (However, the neighborhood is mostly residential. Please respect their privacy.)
At any cemetery — including Oakwood — I look for grave markers with messages like this one:
“And never suffer me to be separated from thee” is a lovely sentiment. It’s also the kind of inscription that can indicate tragedy or at least deep unhappiness. Both are red flags that can suggest a haunting.
The marker, above, is one of many at Oakwood featuring emotional inscriptions.
Here’s another grave to look for. It’s a very damaged crypt. Any time you see a grave like this, check it for EMF, cold spots, EVP, and photographic anomalies.
In the following photo, you’ll see a similar, damaged grave in that same cemetery. Where’s the body or the coffin? (I hope it was moved to a safe location, or reburied in the ground beneath the open crypt.)
No matter where the body is, when you see an open grave like this, it’s a place to investigate with care.
The next photo features an odd family plot at Oakwood Cemetery. I understand the convenience of a low-maintenance grave site. However, this cement-covered plot is so unusual, I look at and wonder, “Are they trying to be sure everyone stays in their coffins?”
In general, always look for unusual graves.
For example, these two shell-covered graves stand out at Oakwood Cemetery.
In the next photo: Many of the cemetery’s headstones are worth researching. Here’s one to look into, if you’re planning a trip to Oakwood.
When I was there, I noticed odd EMF spikes around this grave. That doesn’t mean it was haunted, but it’s unusual enough to investigate.
I’m pretty sure it says, “M. Julia, wife of M. R. Reagan, & daughter of M. F. Bailey. Died July 23, 1861. Aged 26 years.”
(Double-check the actual stone to be certain. The photo isn’t clear and I may be misreading it, especially her parent’s surname.)
So, you’d be looking for records of a woman born around 1835, who married Mr. Reagan around 1855 or so, and died in 1861.
I’d start with death records for that date, and also check the 1860 census. It looks like her husband died September 30, 1865, so that’s another lead you can pursue.
With the EMF spikes I saw around that exact grave, I’ll bet there’s a tragic story, and perhaps a ghost.
This book shares locations and stories of over 100 ghosts and haunted places in Austin, as well as those within a few hours’ drive of Austin. Photos in the book include haunted sites in Austin, Columbus, and San Antonio, Texas.
Ms. Broome was one of the first to report hauntings related to Jack the Ripper’s early years in Texas. (Since Fiona’s book was published in 2007, many “ghost tours” have included those sites in their routes.)
Fiona also identifies paranormal patterns that link many of Austin’s most famous haunted places. With this information, you may find even more haunted sites in and near Austin. Fiona gives you the tools to make your own discoveries.
Originally from New England, Fiona spent four fascinating years in the great state of Texas, researching ghosts and haunted places from Austin to Galveston.
Fiona specializes in unreported and under-reported haunted places that are open to the public. She approaches ghost hunting from an historical viewpoint, verifying and documenting ghosts’ actual histories whenever possible.
This book doesn’t repeat the same old “ghost stories.” It’s a fascinating study of over 130 ghosts and haunted places in and near Austin, Texas.
Many of them were unknown, prior to Ms. Broome’s 2002 – 2007 research.
The sites include:
The Driskill Hotel
Shoal Creek… and its curse
The Texas Governor’s Mansion
Austin’s former “red light” district
And over a hundred more, eerie, haunted locations in Austin, San Antonio, and nearby cities and towns.
This book includes true tales of ghostly encounters, street addresses of the haunted sites, helpful tips for ghost hunters, and eerie insights from “the other side.”
“…Spell-binding stories backed up with historical data and loads of photographs… recommended reading.” — Margaret Byl, Paranormal Investigator and writer
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. 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?
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 page 18 & 19 in my book about Austin’s ghosts.)
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 to be sure that everyone is safe and sound in this magnificent hotel.
2. Buffalo Billiards, 201 East Sixth Street, Austin, TX
Buffalo Billiards is 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.
Today, the former brothel is one of Austin’s most popular night spots. Stop in for a drink and some food, and you’ll see tourists, locals and scantily-clothed ghosts among the crowd.
3. The Spaghetti Warehouse, 117 West Fourth Street, Austin, TX
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.
After dinner, stroll up the street to the upscale gay men’s bar, Oilcan Harry’s. There, look for one of Austin’s most colorful ghosts, the late madam Blanche Dumont. She’ll be among the dancers.
4. Texas Capitol Building (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.
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, but 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.
In its pages, I list over 130 ghosts and haunted places in and near Austin, Texas. You’ll read a full description of the Driskill Hotel’s many ghosts, a list (with details) of Austin’s most haunted cemeteries, the connection between Austin and Jack the Ripper, and the Shoal Creek Curse.
In addition, you’ll discover haunted sites around Austin, including Columbus, Texas. I describe its strange history and many ghosts as something like a “theme park for ghost hunters.”
There seemed to be something prophetic in the image, and I wasn’t sure what it was.
Well, I had some ideas, but I needed a good second opinion.
For me, the confirmation arrived in the form of headlines in the June 2008 newspapers.
Since it’s easy to say that something was a “premonition” after the fact, I’ve avoided saying that this photo predicted the fire that destroyed much of the Governor’s Mansion on June 8, 2008.
However, when I looked at the photo, I always saw fire. I was looking for someone else to confirm that.
This morning, someone commented about that possibility, in reference to the tragic June fire.
I’m not sure what to think about this. It’s not the first time I’ve had a premonition, and felt prompted to take a photo. However, this particular photo looked like a fire at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas, and I didn’t feel that it was an image from the past.
I don’t like predicting tragedy, especially when I have no information to support it, and nothing helpful to prevent what I “see.”
But, this is one of those photos that has troubled me, and it emphasizes the importance of saving all of the “odd” photos that you take, especially in haunted places.
As with this Austin, Texas photo, later events may reveal what the anomaly was.
It may not be a glimpse of the past, but a look ahead to the future.
For me, this concept is chilling.
Since this photo was posted online in March 2006, many people have had a chance to look at it. Take a second look. I’m not sure that was a visual premonition of the fire, but it’s certainly an odd photo.
Many people sent helpful comments. For example, several observant readers mentioned the ghostly apparition of the man at the tree.
The following are just a few of the very best of the many comments I’ve received about the photo, when I first posted it. They’re listed in the order that they were received. Some of these comments are unique, and others show that several people see similar images in this photo.
(This is a very long page. You may want to print it out, and then compare the comments with the original photos.)
“…take a look in the bottom left corner- I see what looks like a woman’s face in that misty area.” — W. Ceranek
“…the first one I see is in the upper tree trunk (closest to the front) you can see a body without a face. It looks like a male figure standing with feet apart, arm almost down to his side, but the sleeve has a ruffle at the end, but no hand really to be seen. His shoulder is just about to the top balcony. He looks like to be wearing the skin tight pants I (riding pants)? with a long tailed coat on.
“The second one I see is where the tree starts a V shape. It looks like there is an upper body of a man, like he is sitting for a portrait. He looks like he has white hair that comes just below the ears, his facial features look like he has a heavier face, like he may be a bigger man. You can see the white shirt in the V under the jacket (coat) he’s wearing. The collar of the jacket looks like the lapels are larger and then come down to an angle.
“There is a line on the picture (third tree back) that looks like a hair? Or it could be some type of energy form.
“If you look at the top of the balcony, it also looks as if it is on fire.
“It does also look as if there is a skull form with a very long pointed chin.” –DC from NE
“…Some aspects of the photo look like it could be double exposure, yet some parts of it are in focus, plus the orb and orange lights which don’t seem to be affected by that either.” — Kyleigh (NZ)
“…there appears to be a little boy standing on the balcony. Where the second story of the mansion looks to be divided into four parts by the pillars, in the second “part” a little boy in a white shirt is standing before the railing. His head reaches above the railing, and he looks sad. He has short brown or red hair. His legs are hard to see.” — Yuka Oh
“..in weird1 there is a face of sorts, although a little evil looking he is looking to the left and a little down you can see the left eye and a grin on the face.
“Zoom is the original of mom2 it is the original picture but zoomed in on the light. In mom I tried to highlight the features of a woman? It also looks as if she is turning away and something is in her arms.
“if you look at zoom2 again you should be able to make out what I was trying to recreate. You need to zoom in quite a bit to see anything.” –SSX
“…in that picture of the tree with the white house behind it, I see two things I think might be quite odd. … at the bottom of the picture, in that small plant in the left corner, it looks like an arm because you can kinda make out the hand, but it might not be right.
“Up in the balcony of the house, to the farthest right of the balcony, if you look closely, it sorta looks like there is a blue-ish figure up at the top. I’m not sure what he/she is doing, but I thought that was quite odd.” — Rachel
“…the bloke against the tree…he looks kinda weird.” — DR in AU
“…on the top balcony it looks like there’s someone standing there, perhaps a lady in an old dress. I’m not sure, but there is someone or something standing there.” — Paul Williams from Hawaii
“..why does it look like one, if not two, little heads peeking over the balcony like two kids who should be sleeping but aren’t?
“What are the bright green spots in the tree top? (reflection maybe?)
“I love the ‘happy face’ that is in the V of the tree trunk, I’m sure it’s something on the house itself but it looks funny from this point of view.” — Kath
“I don’t think in the blurred picture that there is a set of cartoon eyes in it. But I do think that if you look at it again above where you thought you’d seen cartoon eyes above it, just a little closer to the green on the trees is a black circular shape I would say that that is the face or head and then as you look down to the left looks like an arm in the white and orange.
“The shape I would say is an arm and it looks to be wearing a white gown of some sort…
“Then there is the same picture below but it isn’t blurred and although it is darker… I would say if you look close into the tree branches where the light shows through it looks like there are quite a bit of faces in it don’t ya think?” — Sonjia from Michigan
“…if you look towards the bottom i see an apparition of a face in the grass.” — Corey Joiner
“…the initials SP [appear] carved into the tree in the forefront and just next to it I can see a face.
“When I showed this to a local psychic, they suggested that the owner of the mansion had a family member who may have been murdered in the past, and the orange streak represented… vengeance on its mind at the time of the photo. … the yellow streak may have been sorrow towards or from the mansion.” –Mr. T. M. Cigobia, N.T Australia
“…in the house in the background, the light is on, and very bright for the daytime.” — Mike
“I immediately noticed the face (not the cartoon eyes) this face is centre of pic and transparent, though the right side of his face is more solid in appearance. his head seems to be tilted back slightly with prominent nose, cheek and jaw.
“…I copied the photo (temporarily) and circled the face and drew lines to certain features. Now I know this makes it harder to actually see the face in question but if you place it next to the original for comparison it’s pretty clear.
“I’d love to check this place out as I am quite psychic and have been contacted by the dead before but I don’t think I’ll ever find myself in the neighbourhood… pity!” — Kim from Australia
“What strikes me immediately about this picture is the erie cartoon like figure in the very upper right hand corner. There is a definite white outline of a head, upper torso, shoulders and upper arms with blue eyes, nose and mouth.
“I frequently see these types of figures in walls, furniture, etc, especially when deeply concentrating or meditating, but whenever I snap a picture, the figure is never present but 99% of the time an orb is visible right about where the figure should be.
“[My wife and I] decided to try an experiment. We went to a spot where I have had many “paranormal” experiences and I began meditating while my wife waited with her camera in hand. As I began to sense activity, I waited until sure enough the ‘faces’ began to appear to me (most of the time they were not apparent to her) and I told her where to take a picture.
“Sure enough in about 9 out of ten pictures, there was a very pronounced orb right where I said I had seen the face.
“…it seems like too much of a coincidence that they almost always seem to appear in the spot where I predict they will be. Who knows, but now I see this picture on your site with a figure in it just like the figures I see but can’t photograph. Very interesting.
“One theory I am toying with now is that for some reason, they are spirits that want to be noticed, but can’t physically manifest themselves. Instead, they can somehow produce an image that can be seen(or in this case photographed) possibly from their ‘thoughts’, which is why they appear cartoon like.” — Jay in Nebraska
“…the first thing that caught my attention was that white shadow on the top end of the bark just before the first leaves. It reminded me of a hand holding a pen (though in the actual shadow no pen is visible) at a bird’s eye-view.” –Kathleen
“…the first thing that i saw was what looked like fire lines on the trees but then i started to see what looks like the bottom of a chin and then the lips and nose almost in the center of the picture. It appears to me that the face is looking to the left which would be our right…” — Lito
“I can see a large skull in the mist on the left side, right where the big tree is.
“I also notice three other strange things in that picture.
* One, there is blue “rod” of light on the bottom left side, in the grass. It is not straight though.
* Two, there is a bright squiggly line just right of the center of the picture, right around the two smaller trees.
* Also, in the mist near the “skull”, I can also make out what seems to be a bust of a person, but it is difficult to determine whether it’s a man or woman. The figure looks to have short hair. This misty figure appears right where the big tree splits into a V.
“I can also see a small white misty area on the far right, in the shrubery or whatever that is. Then there is something on the ground that reminds me of a crude skull near the blue light, but closer to the center of the pic.” — SBM, Fredericksburg, VA