Friday, July 25, 2014

San Antonio Missions (South and Downtown San Antonio)

"While the Alamo is certainly the most famous site in Texas, it is amazing how many people do not know that it was originally just one of several Spanish missions established along the banks of the San Antonio River. Originally called Mission San Antonio de Valero, it was the first and northernmost of five religious settlements defended by the garrison from the presidio of San Antonio de Bexar. It was followed over the next thirteen years by the establishment of four other significant church communities, Mission San Jose, Mission Espada, Mission San Juan, and Mission Concepcion.

Over their centuries of existence, what are now collectively known as the San Antonio missions were the starting points of quests north and west in search of gold and souls, locations of raids and battles, places of births and deaths. They were crucibles of human emotion, those of fervent proselytes spreading the word of God, native peoples being stripped of their own cultures and faiths, greedy and bloodthirsty fortune hunters, and those who fell in battle at their gates or succumbed to disease within their walls. All were also established in an abundant area that had been occupied by ancient peoples since time immemorial and used by them for hunting and gathering. It should thus not be surprising that these missions are widely considered to be haunted and that people have reported every sort of paranormal phenomena at them, including everything from anomalies in photographs and recordings to apparitions of conquistadores, monks, Indians, settlers, and soldiers." 

Those are two of the opening paragraphs of my chapter on the San Antonio Missions for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country! It covers the mundane and supernatural histories of the earliest settlements in what is now the city of San Antonio is comprises the biggest chapter in the book. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Old Bexar County Jail (Downtown San Antonio)

"Presumably, we will never see a commercial in which someone, when asked if they are a ghosthunter who spent the night in a haunted jail, replies with 'No, but I did stay at Holiday Inn Express last night!' On the other hand, it would be quite reasonable for someone to answer that question in the affirmative if they had just spent the night in the Holiday Inn Express Riverwalk Area, which is located in what had been the Bexar County Jail for nearly a century. 

... One of the most common phenomenon is rooms that remain unnaturally cold, even during the summer or if the heat is turned on. Other activity includes beds that are indented as if someone is laying on them, but then abruptly have the indentations disappear; people hearing whispering in their rooms that stops when the lights are turned on; objects being pulled out of people's hands and thrown across the room; and the breakfast area being rearranged and disheveled during the night. Most horrifying among the things people have reported, however, are in the rooms where the gallows were once located, where people claim to have seen apparitions fall through the ceiling as if just hanged!" 

That is a preview of my chapter on the old Bexar County Jail for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country! People can become inmates for the night at the former detention facility, which is now a hotel in the heart of downtown San Antonio. 

Above left: Allison Schiess of Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours talks about the Old Bexar County Jail from the parking lot of Penner's, an iconic San Antonio clothier. Above right: Brutal murderer Apolinar Clemente, who lived in the jail for a year-and-a-half before dying there at the end of a rope. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Menger Hotel (Downtown San Antonio)

"In an old and storied state occupied by the ghosts of a colorful and bloody past, one might think that the title 'Most Haunted Hotel in Texas' would be a tough one to live up to. With some three-dozen spirits identified in it, however, give or take a few, the sprawling Menger Hotel has a strong case for making this claim. These reportedly include the ghosts of conquistadores, Indians, Texian and Mexican soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Alamo, cowboys who drove cattle on the Chisholm Trail, a land baron, a U.S. president, a murdered housekeeper, a 'lady in blue,' and a little girl who died by misfortune. As anyone investigating the site quickly learns, the mundane and supernatural histories of the hotel are inextricably linked and span the centuries." 

That is the first paragraph of my chapter on the Menger Hotel, a beautiful San Antonio landmark that has been welcoming guests, and enticing the spirits of some of them to stay indefinitely, since 1859. At right is a picture of the original lobby of the hotel as it appears today. Below is a picture of the current lobby, added during one of the hotel's many expansions. At bottom is a photograph of the Menger Hotel as it appeared in 1865, the last year of the Civil War. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

San Fernando Cathedral (Downtown San Antonio)

"It would not be an over-exaggeration to say that San Fernando Cathedral has, literally, been the spiritual and geographical heart of San Antonio for nearly 300 years, and there is even an official seal set into the floor church affirming this. It is, in fact, the oldest active Roman Catholic cathedral in Texas, one of the oldest in all of North America, and the mother church of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and seat of its archbishop.

As one of the oldest extant buildings in the city and the site of what most people today would consider to be some very strange practices, it is perhaps not too surprising that San Fernando Cathedral would have a reputation for spiritual activity. Phenomena people claim to have witnessed at the site include spectral faces appearing on the walls and the apparition of a white horse galloping across the plaza in front of the church. Inside it definitely does, in any event, have a sacred and even otherworldly atmosphere." 

Those are the first two paragraphs of my chapter on San Fernando Cathedral for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill CountryI have visited San Fernando Cathedral a number of times and, most recently, had the privilege of doing so with Allison Schiess, one of the title members of Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours. She is a descendant of the Canary Islanders who built the church and I very much enjoyed hearing her unique and personal perspectives on it. 


Top left: the seal marking San Fernando Cathedral as the center of San Antonio. Top right: The sepulcher containing the cremated remains of James Bowie, William B. Travis, and David Crockett. Bottom: A postcard from the era 1901-1914 showing the cathedral and main plaza. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sheraton Gunter Hotel (Downtown San Antonio)

"Since 1837, travelers and visitors to San Antonio have often found one of the nicest and most convenient hotels in the city to be located at a particular corner about a hundred yards from the bank of the river. Over the years, this establishment has had many different names, occupied successively larger and more elaborate buildings, been controlled by the armies of four nations, and collectively contributed to a fascinating and colorful history. One of those colors, however, has been that of blood, and gruesome events that have occurred at the hotel are among the things that have led to it becoming a reputed venue for hauntings and paranormal activity."

That is the opening paragraph of my chapter on the Sheraton Gunter Hotel for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country! Below left is bluesman Robert Johnson, who is said to have made a pact with the devil for musical ability and who recorded an album at the hotel in 1936. Below right is Walter Emerich, who shot, dismembered, and ran a prostitute through a meat grinder in a room at the Gunter Hotel in 1965.  


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Emily Morgan Hotel (Downtown San Antonio)

Located in one of the largest and most imposing buildings in downtown San Antonio, the Emily Morgan Hotel is one of the city's quintessential lodgings — all the more so in that it is the "official hotel of the Alamo" — and at the same time stranger and much different than any of the others. Its merits as a beautiful luxury hotel aside, it has both a unique and atypical history and as its namesake the woman who may well have inspired the classic song "The Yellow Rose of Texas." 

"The Emily Morgan Hotel was originally developed as a hospital and then in 1984 it was converted into a hotel," Allison Schiess of the Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours told me. "It is named after the woman, an indentured servant, who was 'distracting' Santa Anna when the Texans attacked the Mexicans during the Battle of San Jacinto. So, she helped us win our independence." 

Those are the opening two paragraphs of my chapter on the Emily Morgan Hotel for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country! Among other things, it explores the history of one of the most colorful and controversial figures in Texas history, the woman known variously as Emily Morgan and Emily D. West. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Alamodome (Downtown San Antonio)

"When one considers what sorts of places are most likely to be haunted they might not necessarily think of large, public, relatively new structures like event arenas constructed during the past two or three decades. But almost everything is built where other things with their own histories used to be and on ground that may have already been sites of spiritual activity and even places that are the brightest under the best of conditions sometimes have dark pasts of their own. And, short of a battlefield, there are perhaps few places where so many people congregate in one place and express such strong emotions as at a sports stadium. It should thus not be too surprising that people have over the years reported so much paranormal activity at the Alamodome." 

That is the opening paragraph to my chapter on the Alamodome for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country! Incidents at the stadium that some people believe contribute to it being haunted include the hideous death of daredevil Randy Hill in 1993, who was killed when the top of his car was sheared off by another driver. 

"A stunt driver was killed Saturday night when the top of his car was sheared off during a planned midair collision gone awry," the Associated Press reported on November 15, 1993. "His wife and three-year-old son watched from the audience. Randy Hill, 49, of Phoenix died instantly when his car was struck by another car driven by daredevil Spanky Spangler, who was not injured, organizers said. Hill retired from stunt driving eight years ago and only recently decided to do the stunt at the two-day San Antonio Thrill Show at the Alamodome. The two cars were supposed to meet head-on at 50 mph. Organizers did not immediately know what went wrong. The rest of the show was canceled after the accident." 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

University of the Incarnate Word (Alamo Heights/Midtown San Antonio)

"Founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word as a school for young women, the University of the Incarnate Word is one of the three oldest institutions of higher education in the city of San Antonio. It should thus come as no surprise that it is also one of the most haunted and that at least three of its buildings are believed to be inhabited by the spirits of those who have lived on the campus in years past. Beyond merely being haunted, however, some parts of the university feel almost mystical, from the resting place of nuns who lived out their lives there, to a holy grotto modeled after one of the most sacred in Europe, to the very headwaters of the San Antonio River." 

That is the first paragraph of my chapter on the University of the Incarnate Word for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country! This is a fascinating site that has many spiritually active locations within it, from ancient springs to the estate that is the namesake of the Alamo Heights neighborhood. 


Top left: Lourdes Grotto. Top right: Brackenridge Villa. Center: Bishop Claude M. Dubuis Residence Hall. Bottom left: The Blue Hole, headwaters of the San Antonio River. Bottom right: Incarnate Word Cemetery. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Alamo Quarry Market (North Central San Antonio)

"Admittedly, I tend to be more than usually skeptical when I hear reports about shopping centers and the like being haunted and to give a hard look at whether there is, in fact, a credible reason why they would be. In the case of the Alamo Quarry Market, however, it does not take too much digging to reveal that, being located just a few miles from the headwaters of the San Antonio River, it has been continuously inhabited since time immemorial. More than 10,000 years ago Paleo-Indians hunted and gathered throughout the abundant area and every people who have followed them, from Apaches and Comanches to Spaniards, Mexicans, and Anglo-Americans, have availed themselves of its riches as well. Prior to being adapted for commercial use, in fact, it was the site of the sprawling Alamo Cement Company factory, and many elements of the old industrial complex have been retained and even incorporated into the shopping center. So, Alamo Quarry Market has got more than enough history behind it to make a case for it being haunted." 

That is the opening paragraph to my chapter on Alamo Quarry Market, and the movie theater located there, for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Victoria's Black Swan Inn (Northeast San Antonio)

"Built in the late 19th century on the site of a battlefield where Texans fought to maintain the independence of their short-lived republic, the mansion now known as Victoria's Black Swan Inn is one of the most historic and haunted places in San Antonio. It is also one of the most famous sites of paranormal activity in the area, has been featured in numerous books, articles, and television programs on the paranormal, and is a popular venue for ghosthunting groups. One of those is the local San Antonio Ghost Hunters, and I had an opportunity to visit the inn for the first time in June 2014 as part of an overnight investigation with them." 

That is the opening paragraph for my chapter on the amazing and incredibly haunted Victoria's Black Swan Inn that will be appearing in Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country! As things stand now, this is the largest chapter in the book and details both its history and my experiences at it. 



Top left: Victoria's Black Swan Inn owner Jo Ann Rivera told me about the many paranormal things she has experienced since acquiring the property in 1987. Top right: Two investigators, including San Antonio Ghost Hunters founder John Delgado, examine a door that kept locking itself! Bottom left: Old cars like this one, along with carriages and even a bus, are among the things that ghosthunters have the opportunity to investigate at the property. Bottom right: San Antonio Ghost Hunters under the direction of Glenn Martinez use a Kinect gaming component to track spiritual activity.