By Kathleen Scott
In historic Texas towns such as Granbury and Galveston, some residents see ghostly happenings as echoes of an unfinished past that lingers in century-old settings.
The heart and center of Granbury, a town of about 6,000 souls, is a late 1800s courthouse and surrounding square.
Most weekend nights a guide named Boots, who sports the footwear, leads a walking tour of Granbury Ghosts and Legends around the square. At one corner he points to a flight of black iron stairs and calls it a “husband escape.”
In the days when saloons outnumbered churches and patrons partook of more than drink, if a man was in the company of a saloon girl when his wife came to drag him home, a barkeep would send the man down the outside stairs. Boots says this “husband escape” is where Jesse James' heart was broken.
The outlaw lived for a time in the area and even had a working checking account at the First National Bank. The story goes that he fell in love with an 18-year-old “soiled dove” at the saloon and began to settle down, until the night she hurtled out the back door and down the “husband escape” — but not quick enough to dodge a bullet in the back. Her final resting place isn't known, but some say she's one of the restless spirits whose footsteps are heard in empty upstairs rooms around the square.
|The Strand Historic District, Galveston|
Galveston Island's history lends itself to tales of the unexpected. Long ago, the island was home to cannibalistic natives and Jean Lafitte's pirates. Civil war battles took place there, and in 1900 a Category 5 hurricane inundated the island, killing 90 children at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage, and more than 6,000 people in the area.
The storm is memorialized in restored buildings, miles of seawall and stories of wandering souls. Dash Beardsley, a tall man in a long black coat and sunglasses (even at night) guides visitors to sites of afterlife activity in The Strand, telling tales of island history and people who lived and died and perhaps never left — their energy sometimes evident as sounds in an empty hallway, Civil War soldiers at upper windows, or wraiths in the street.
Maybe the connection of the past to the present is stronger in old towns like Galveston and Granbury.