|The Alamo Mission|
San Antonio's most noteworthy ghost stories date at least as far back as 1836, the year of the battle of the Alamo.
But the most celebrated tale, about a local railroad crossing where a busload of children reputedly were killed decades ago by a speeding train, has been widely debunked. And like many such stories, it endures anyway.
One of the earliest known local stories about ghoulish figures was passed on by Adina De Zavala, a historic preservationist and author of "History and Legends of the Alamo and other Missions in and around San Antonio" (Arte Publico Press, 1996).
De Zavala, who lived from 1861 to 1955, wrote that Mexican soldiers trying to destroy the Alamo after the April 21, 1836, Battle of San Jacinto "were everywhere met by spirits with flaming swords who barred their progress and soon frightened them off."
Although some have linked strange sounds at the Alamo with spirits of the defenders killed in the battle, De Zavala's account did not try to explain the origin of her ghosts. But De Zavala, who sought to preserve the Alamo compound, told of a curse that she said befell those who tried to dismantle it.
"These spirits ordered them to desist in hollow tones which struck terror to their hearts, 'Depart, touch not these walls! He who desecrates these walls shall meet a horrible fate! Multiplied afflictions shall seize upon him and a horrible and agonizing and avenging torture shall be his death!'" De Zavala wrote in a personal account edited by Richard R. Flores.
Another popular ghost tale dating to the 1800s is that of a chambermaid at the Menger Hotel whose spirit reportedly has been seen by guests and employees.
The young, attractive maid, Sallie White, was shot by her common-law husband, Henry Wheeler, in a nearby neighborhood the morning of March 28, 1876, according to "The History and Mystery of the Menger Hotel" by Docia Schultz Williams (Republic of Texas Press, 2000).
"She was employed in the second flood guest section of the original hotel and must have loved her work there very much. At least, that is why we believe she still returns to her place of employment, " Williams wrote.
There also have been downtown hauntings reported in La Villita and at Casa Navarro State Historical Park, at the home of Texas pioneer Jose Antonio Navarro.
Other, more bizarre urban legends have flourished in outlying areas. They include the "Donkey Lady, " a ghost with a beautiful woman's figure and hideous donkey head, said to frequent areas near Castle Hills and south of Palo Alto College; the "Dancing Diablo, " a charming but chicken-footed dancer last reported in the 1970s at the West Side's now-closed El Camaroncito nightclub; and a 7-foot-tall Asian female ghost that reportedly haunts an old cemetery near Stinson Municipal Airport.
Mark Louis Rybcyzk, author of "San Antonio Uncovered" (Wordware Publishing, 1992), ranked the tale of a far Southeast Side "ghost crossing" as No. 1 among local ghost legends.
The crossing at Shane and Villamain roads has long been a place of wonderment for teens and adults who put their car in neutral, then let it coast, apparently uphill, over the tracks. Some still say they believe the ghosts of children killed decades earlier push the vehicles over the tracks to prevent another tragedy. Some visitors even sprinkle powder on their car to check for fingerprints.
In 1990, psychic consultant Elizabeth Paddon, visiting here from Toronto, supported claims of ghosts at the Alamo and Casa Navarro.
But Paddon, a self-described ghostbuster and Christian spiritualist, debunked the story of the ghost crossing, attributing the movement of cars to electrical underground currents, the Express-News reported.
Others have said the crossing is on an odd slope, where the lay of the land creates an optical illusion of uphill movement.
Docia Williams and others who have researched the legend have never found records of a bus accident there, and in fact learned that school buses likely did not pass there until the 1960s.
Williams, who conducts tours of spooky local attractions for Mission City Tours, has continued to dispute the legend. Police now discourage visitation at the crossing, especially at night, because of traffic and security concerns.
Even though it once was reportedly the site of a live radio broadcast, police have said some people there have been robbed while checking their cars for fingerprints.
Additional reading on the ghostly history at the Alamo.
The Haunting of the Alamo
Over the years, a large number of skeptics and believers alike have experienced startling unexplained paranormal phenomena at the Alamo. Invariably some of these events can be summarily dismissed as the product of overactive imaginations and some have even been explained by science itself. But like so many other famous haunted battlefields and forts that have experienced their own incidents of death, murder and extreme emotional crisis, the Alamo is probably the best-known psychic "dead zone" in the United States.
Ghostly tales about the Alamo can be traced all the way back to 1836. Several weeks after the Battle of the Alamo, Santa Anna ordered General Andrade to raise the Alamo and in doing so ensure that nothing was left standing. Like any military commander holding the rank of general, Andrade delegated this unwholesome task to a trusted subordinate, Colonel Sanchez.
Upon the arrival of Colonel Sanchez and his men, all that remained of the old mission was the chapel. Resolute to carry out Santa Anna's demands, Colonel Sanchez instructed his troops to begin tearing down the church. As the detail set about preparing to carry out the order, work was abruptly halted when six ghostly monks materialized from the walls of the chapel.
The soldiers watched in stunned silence as these "diablos" slowly advanced waving flaming swords over their heads, while all the time issuing a warning in an inhuman screech, "Do not touch the walls of the Alamo". Heading the ghostly advice, Colonel Sanchez and his men retreated with their tails between their legs.
When General Andrade heard of Colonel Sanchez's cowardice, he returned to the Alamo himself with troops and a little insurance, a cannon. Andrade instructed his gunners to aim the cannon at the front doors of the chapel, but before it could be prepared to fire, the six ghostly monks re-appeared with fiery swords in hand. As the moaning figures approached the flummoxed general and his contingent, they again issued their unnerving warning. The ghosts moaning voices startled Andrade's horse and the general was unseated. When General Andrade had regained both his composure and the reins of his steed, he was disgusted to see his men fleeing for their lives. Considering the situation this was something the general should have done but instead, Andrade remounted his horse and turned to look at the Alamo one last time.
To his horror, the general watched as a wall of flame erupted from the ground in and around the low barracks. The smoke from the unholy fire then congealed into the form of a large, imposing man. In each of the massive figures hands were balls of fire, which he hurled at the general like an avenging angel.
General Andrade retreated from the scene presumably before the fireballs could hit their mark and no one has dared harm the sacred site since. Folks at the time believed that the larger than life spirit was an amalgamation of the spectral energy of all of the dead Alamo defenders that when combined, it created the missions menacing protector.
Official records and later archeological excavation's conducted at the Alamo seem to contradict the engrossing story of General Andrade's encounter with the six phantom monks. Factual evidence suggests that Andrade successfully leveled many of the walls of the fort and dismantled or burned the wooden palisade that had been erected in front of the church and along the south wall of the compound. Apparently General Andrade was not as scared by the fiery giant as the previous story suggests.
During the late 1800's, the ghostly activity at the Alamo was big "news" in San Antonio. In 1894, the City of San Antonio pressed the mission into service as a police headquarters and jail. It was not long before, prisoners housed in the old barracks started to complain about all kinds of ghostly activity there.
Several articles printed in the San Antonio Express News in February 1894, and August 1897, seemed to confirm that paranormal activity was in fact taking place on a regular basis at the Alamo. The articles detailed fanciful tales of a ghostly sentry said to walk from east to west on the roof of the police station. The ghostly manifestations, which included mysterious shadows and moaning sounds were said to be so prominent that the guards and watchmen refused to patrol the building after hours. This caused quite a stir at City Hall. Many of the councilmen felt that making prisoners sleep with ghosts was "cruel and unusual punishment". A short time later, the City of San Antonio abandoned its plans for the Alamo in favor of a jail site that was less haunted.
The paranormal incidents reported in 1894 and 1897 seem to unabashedly replay themselves over and over even today. Several recurring stories tell of a phantom sentry that has been observed walking frantically back and forth across the top of the Alamo. Some witnesses believe the ghostly guard is looking for a means of escape while others are certain that the specter stands watch over the missing treasure of the Alamo.
In addition to the presence of the ghostly sentry, tourists, park rangers and passers-by have reported seeing a myriad of grotesque man shaped forms emanating from the very walls of the Alamo itself after hours. Sometimes this paranormal menagerie is accompanied by disembodied screams and yelling of men trapped in the throws of an invisible conflict.
Members of numerous tours groups, ghost hunters and psychics who have visited the site claim that they have felt invisible eyes watching them as they traveled down the dark corridors of the Alamo.
Ordinary people insist that they have heard voices and whispers that seem to filter through the very walls of the mission as if they were attempting to communicate with the world of the living. Others tell lesser stories about their encounters with vanishing lights, eerie cold spots and a multitude of unexplained noises.
In one instance, a park ranger at the Alamo encountered the ghost of a man dressed in attire from the 1830's. It was a really hot day in late spring when the ranger first viewed the suspicious man on the fort grounds, walking towards the library. As the ranger hurried after the man, he observed that the he was wearing tall boots, a plantation hat and long overcoat. To the ranger's surprise, the puzzling man faded away into obscurity when he neared the chapel. When the ranger investigated further, he could not find any evidence of the strangers passing. Others have alleged to have seen the same apparition numerous times in the courtyard of the Alamo, both during the day and at night.
Generally the most often repeated ghost story about the Alamo defies all logic. It focuses on the spirit of a little boy who is rumored to haunt the parks gift shop. Both visitors and park rangers alike claim to have seen a blonde haired little boy, ranging in age from 10 and 12 years of age, staring out into the courtyard from one of the stores high inaccessible windows. The small boy is only visible from the waist up and has never become a full-bodied apparition. Rangers who have searched the gift shop in hopes of catching the ghostly prankster have come up empty handed. In each instance they have concluded that there is no way that a real person could perch him or herself in the window without something to climb up on or some way to support themselves. The mystery only gets more convoluted when you consider the fact that the gift shop was not built until the 1930's.
Legend says that during the last days of the siege of the Alamo, a small boy was evacuated from the Mission. It is believed that this little child returns to the same spot where he recalls last seeing a loved one alive. The ghostly child may appear to be looking out of the down from the window at curious onlookers when in fact his eyes only search for a comforting glimpse of a father, brother, or another other family member who made the ultimate sacrifice there at some point in the Alamo's tumultuous history.
One of the more interesting ghosts encountered at the Alamo is that of the "Duke" himself. As the director and leading actor in the bigger than life spectacle " The Alamo", John Wayne spent over $1.5 million dollars re-creating an exact replica of the old mission in Brackettville, Texas. In an effort to make the movie as historically accurate as possible, Wayne personally toured the original Alamo site and consulted actual blueprints of the fortress.
While filming the movie, Wayne became obsessed with the sequence of events that led to the fall of the Alamo. This preoccupation with historical accuracy drove the Duke to spend a fortune bringing the Alamo to life for the silver screen. The Alamo set was so detailed that it became a tourist attraction in its own right.
Shortly after his death, the "Duke's" ghost was observed at the real Alamo, walking the grounds. He has also been observed visiting and talking with the spirits of the forts patriotic dead. The story was so telling, that a psychic was enlisted to confirm the rumors that John Wayne's spirit visited the Alamo on a regular basis.
The psychic substantiated the fact the Duke's ghost stops over at the Alamo about once a month but could not shed any light on where he manifests himself the rest of the time. Many believe that the Duke put so much energy and enthusiasm into the making of his movie that it seems only natural that he left a little bit of himself there when he himself passed into the afterlife.
We could not in good faith delve into the various hauntings that are known to take place at the Alamo without discussing the most prominent ghost to make his presence known at the mission throughout the years. At various times during the year, park rangers have observed a transparent figure dressed in buckskin clothing and sporting a flintlock rifle, standing guard near the chapel. This is believed to be the spirit of none other than Davy Crocket himself. Other people, who have seen the phantom vigilantly standing at attention at various locations around the Alamo, describe the phantom soldier as wearing a coonskin cap, buckskin shirt and moccasins. In several instancing the figment has been observed by several different people, from different angles at the same time. These observations in themselves prove that the ghost, most generally associated with Davy Crocket, is not just an optical illusion.
Could Davy Crocket's heroic death at the Alamo be forever immortalized in a haunted vignette? One of the grizzliest phantom images to play itself out at the old mission occurs in the Long Barracks. It has all the characteristics of a "Residual" type haunting but it is also very similar to the "fictional" way Davy Crocket was said to have perished.
One night, a ranger entered the barracks and observed a hideous scene. There, leaning against a wall was a man, wearing buckskin clothing typically worn by frontiersmen during the 1800's. To the ranger's trained eye, it appeared that man's torso had been riddled with bullet holes! Before the ranger could react, the spirits of several Mexican soldiers stepped from the darkness and encircled the stranger with their bayonets at the ready. Like a coiled spring, the ghostly soldiers pounced, thrusting their long blades through the incorporeal body of the anguished buckskin-clad specter. In an instant the encounter plaid itself out and the ethereal apparitions just faded away, leaving one emotionally drained ranger in their wake.