Wednesday, November 11, 2015

An Annual Halloween-ish Ghosthunt

Each year I like to return to a site near my home, the 19th-century haunted German burying ground known as the Bremer Cemetery, and conduct a mini paranormal investigation there. I usually do this right on Halloween, shoot for getting there a little before midnight and then staying as long as I need to, and am by myself. This year, however, my friend Brendan flew out to spend the weekend before Halloween workshopping a number of things for our Skirmisher Publishing and d-Infinity, and so I decided to push up the excursion so that we could do it together. 

It rained all day Saturday and did not let up until around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, at which point we set out and made the 15-minute hike down into the wooded valley below the ridge my home sits on. 

He took all of the following photos and achieved some interesting effects with them by leaving his aperture open for periods of six to 20 seconds, making it look as if some of these were taken during the daytime, rather than the middle of a dark and very overcast night. None of them have been modified in any way. The first three are of the little fenced cemetery itself, and in the first one can see a red dot of some sort in the upper left quarter of the image, but I am not sure whether this qualifies as an anomaly of some sort. The fourth image is of me at the base of a tree around which I have detected paranormal activity during previous visits. 

All in all, our nighttime adventure did not produce any dramatic results but was a good training run and an enjoyable break from our labors! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ghost of a Chance (New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung)

Following is a feature article that appeared in the October 31, 2015, edition of the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, one of the local newspapers in the title area of my new Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country travel guide. 


Friday, October 9, 2015

Event Report: Wimberley Village Library 'Lunch & Learn'

It is kind of fun to talk about one of my books and the research I did for it in the heart of the area it is about! On Wednesday, October 7, I had the pleasure of giving a "lunch and learn" presentation on my just-released Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country to a couple dozen people at Wimberley VillageLibrary in Wimberley, Texas. 

Suffice it to say that my one-hour lecture, PowerPoint presentation, and question-and-answer session went very well. Several attendees asked great questions and about half the people came were engaged enough by the subject that they decided to pick up a copy of the new book. 

Thanks very much to everyone who came to this event and to Sarah Davis, the library assistant for circulation and programs, for setting it up! This was my first presentation in historic and haunted Wimberley and I certainly hope it won't be my last. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Our Haunted Hill Country

Of the three title areas I cover in my just-released travel guide, Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country, the last is undoubtedly my favorite for a number of reasons, one being because it is where I live. This 25-county area is full of historic towns and villages, wilderness areas, lots of ranchland surrounded by fences hung with unwelcoming signage — and numerous haunted places. Following are a handful of my favorites, all of them publicly accessible. 

The Devil's Backbone, aka Ranch-to-Market Road 32, is a haunted highway that corresponds to a ridgeline used by Spanish explorers travelling inland and later by ranchers driving cattle. Parts of this road seem mysterious and haunted under the best of conditions and it is little wonder that it should have so much ghostly lore associated with it, to include an ominous "White Lady" that causes car wrecks. One spot along the highway travelers might want to visit is the Devil's Backbone Tavern, a haunted watering hole located on the site of an old Indian campground and what was once a stagecoach stop. 

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has been part of the Texas state park system was designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1936. Native Americans believed the site was a portal to the otherworld and there are countless legends, ghost stories, and paranormal phenomena associated with this wondrous natural site, whose name is not arbitrary or just meant to be colorful. 

Jacob's Well is an artesian spring located just north of Wimberley. Peering into the mysterious and ominously beautiful depths of Jacob's Well, it is almost hard to believe that it is not haunted. Native Indians certainly held this natural artesian spring, which rises up through a limestone tube from the unmeasured depths of the underworld, to be sacred and inhabited by elemental spirits of the land. Beyond its appearance and hallowed nature, however, it is also the site of numerous drownings and there are those who believe the ghosts of those who have perished at this spot continue to haunt it.

James Kiehl River Bend Park is a pleasant recreational area situated along the banks of the Guadalupe River. Paranormal phenomena like strange mists, orbs, and EVPs have been noted both at it and a disused SA&AP railway bridge located nearby. There are also four small cemeteries dating at least as far back as the 1800s in the vicinity of the park.

The Treue Der Union Monument in the historic village of Comfort marks one of the strangest, bloodiest, and most heartbreaking episodes in the saga of a violent state, the Nueces Massacre, which took place during the Civil War. There is every reason to think the "Loyalty to the Union" monument might be haunted by the spirits of those whose deaths it memorializes and whose remains it marks.

Wimberley started as a trading post near Cypress Creek in 1848, the year Hays County was organized, and its original gristmill was expanded over the years to process lumber, shingles, flour, molasses, and cotton. The mill was shut down in 1925 but the community has continued to grow in more recent times into a resort town and destination for tourists and ghosthunters alike. Virtually every historic building in the town is reputed to be haunted and late author Bert Wall wrote numerous books specifically about the ghosts and legends of Wimberley and the surrounding area.

Other Hill Country sites with haunted lore associated with them include Fort Martin Scott in Fredericksburg, the Kerr County Courthouse in Kerrville, the Lover's Leap overlook outside of Junction, Schreiner University (notably its Delaney Hall), and the Y.O. Ranch Hotel & Conference Center. There are many more beyond these and if you ask the staff at any two establishments in historic communities in this area chances are at least one of them will have a ghost story associated with it.

And anyone who wants to learn more about haunted places in our area can find my book in stores and at sites like and can follow my Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country Blog!

I wrote the above article for the West Comal County Chronicle, a publication I write for off and on that is published by the Bulverde/Spring Branch Library, at which I periodically do educational lectures. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Favorite Haunted Road Trip Project

Periodically someone will ask me what my most and least favorite book projects have been and the answer to both questions is the same: my most recent one.

As contradictory as that might sound it is very true. My latest project is inevitably the one I have been most excited about and engaged with recently, for which the endorphin rushes received from finishing the various elements are most immediate, for which any exciting fieldwork I did is most memorable. That project is also the one for which I have suffered the most recent stress, for which I can most acutely feel physical rigors like lost sleep, for which other things have suffered because of my disproportionate use of time and other resources. This is the strange dichotomy of book authorship.

Its immediacy aside, I can nonetheless say that, of all the projects I have worked on for the America's Haunted Road Trip series of travel guides, Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country has definitely been my overall favorite. This is true for a variety of reasons.

One is my love for the American Southwest of which Texas is a part and the unique, violent, and colorful history that makes it such a fun subject for research, writing, and roadtrips and a likely locale for haunted places. Good subject matter counts for a lot.

Another reason is the almost iconic distinctness of the places I selected for inclusion in this book, which include everything from wilderness areas that have existed for time immemorial to ancient missions, grand hotels, and great public buildings. This variety of locales made the book stimulating to work on and that is the sort of thing that translates into a into a more enjoyable experience for readers.

Finally, a big reason is the improvements we have made in the format of this book so that it would be even more useful resource for the people using it as a guide on their own haunted road trips. Foremost among these improvements is a robust section of Additional Haunted Sites, which contains entries on 60 locations and effectively triples the number of places covered in earlier books in the series.

All these things have made not just me feel good about what I have accomplished with Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country — they have also made me very confident that the effort I have put into it will make it a valued resource for readers and one of their favorite volumes in the series as well. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Beyond Texas: Spirits of Fort McHenry (Baltimore, Maryland)

Just across the Inner Harbor is Fort McHenry, the object of the battle immortalized in Francis Scott Key’s The Star-Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem. A symbol of freedom when it prevented British invasion during the War of 1812, the fort came to represent oppression to many pro-Southern Marylanders when the Federal government occupied it and used it to help maintain its grip over the local area during the Civil War.

With such history and passions associated with Fort McHenry, it should not be too surprising that it has also long had a reputation for being one of the most haunted sites in a very haunted city. Over the years, all sorts of paranormal activity have been reported at Fort McHenry, including sightings of spectral figures on its earthen ramparts, disembodied voices, footsteps in empty areas, spots of unnatural cold, and furniture that levitates and otherwise moves around. Some investigators have even postulated that the fort’s shape — that of a five-pointed star — has some occult significance and might play a role in the preponderance of supernatural events that have occurred at the site.

A number of specific ghost stories have also been associated with the site and recounted in numerous articles, television shows, and Internet postings.

One of these involves the ghost of U.S. Army Lieutenant Levi Clagett, who, along with some of his men, was killed when a bomb burst not in the air but in their gun emplacement. Numerous people have seen walking along the top of the star point sometimes known as “Clagett’s Bastion” both a spectral figure and a man dressed in a uniform appropriate to the period at times when no costumed people were present in the fort.

Another named ghost associated with the site is that of Private John Drew, a soldier who was reportedly confined in one of the fort’s cells after he was caught sleeping while on guard duty and who, in shame, killed himself. His specter has been seen both in his cell and on the ramparts where he walked his last post, forever trying to correct the mistake that ended his military career and his life.

Some of the most dramatic paranormal events at the fort involve attacks on people by what has been variously described as a woman, a white figure, and an invisible entity that has reportedly done such things as push some people down stairs and knock others unconscious. Some believe this spirit is that of the wife of a noncommissioned officer assigned to the fort whose children died during an epidemic in the 1820s.

One ghosthunting group that recently visited the site and experienced things there is Maryland Tri-State Paranormal. Founder Ana Bruder told me that while they were there, her friend Laura suddenly said, “I feel like I am being watched.” Ana, who is sensitive to the presence of spirits, turned and saw the ghost of a uniformed soldier staring at her friend, just one of several spirits she detected while at the site.

Numerous other ghost stories and episodes of paranormal activity have also been associated with the site.

Many of the accounts of ghostly activity at Fort McHenry were originally reported by park rangers assigned to the site, and that remained the case up until a couple of decades ago. Today, however, in what they say is an effort to keep the site from being regarded as a “haunted fort” and to instead emphasize the nonsupernatural history of the National Monument and Historic Shrine, the managers of Fort McHenry decline to directly comment on phenomena that are still regularly reported by visitors.

Potential ghosthunters should also expect to have anything they ask to do at the site be curtailed by red tape. A favored tactic at Fort McHenry is to require application of a “special use permit” for anything its managers don’t really want people to do — the major exception to this being, it would seem, historic reenactment, for which the site has become a virtual playground. The important thing to remember is that the site is public property and that very little of what is involved in most investigations should actually require any sort of permission anyway. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Acknowledgements for 'Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country'

While writing is a solitary pursuit in so many ways, a striking number of people nonetheless played a role in the completion of this project and deserve recognition here. 

Foremost among those who warrant thanks is my wife, Diane, who accompanied me on visits to many of the sites that appear in this book and, perhaps even more importantly, allowed me to make working on it a priority.

Three people who have encouraged the development of this project and given me an opportunity to speak about it publicly are Donna Stewart, Laura Schier, and Sharon Kincaid of Psi-Fi Radio, a paranormal-themed show I have appeared on many times over the years. All three of them even ventured out to Texas in May 2014 to do presentations and broadcast the show from the Comicpalooza fan convention in Houston! 

Comicpalooza itself, for which I serve as the paranormal track coordinator, has also been a terrific venue for talking to people about haunted sites in Texas, the America’s Haunted Road Trip series, and paranormal investigation in general. Its organizers have always been very helpful and encouraging. I am especially grateful to John and Patty Simons, Ginger Simon, J.R. Warren, and Dawn Washington.

Another convention that has given me the opportunity to talk about haunted places in the Lone Star State is Dallas Comic & Pop Expo, which is owned and operated by impresario Zachery Taylor McGinnis, who I always enjoy working with.

I also have had the opportunity to work with a number of paranormal investigation groups while writing this book and would like to thank the members and organizers of San Antonio Ghosthunters, Dawn Paranormal, the Pasadena Paranormal Research Team, and the Dallas Area Paranormal Society. People in those groups whom I have particularly enjoyed working with include Jill Benoit, Christy Briones, John Delgado, Alan King, Glenn Martinez, Coy and Lori McCollum, and Kristen Stout.

Special thanks are due to Lauren Swartz and Allison Lindhorst of Sisters Grimm GhostTours, whose historical roots in San Antonio, paranormal research in it, and work on the subject provided me with lots of useful information and some unique perspectives.

Karen Holmes, someone whom I have worked with off and on in some capacity or other since moving to Texas in 2009, deserves thanks for encouraging me in this and other projects and discussing the history and folklore of Texas with me. She also gave me the opportunity to visit or spend time at a number of the sites described in this book, including Enchanted Rock, the Texas State Capitol, the San Antonio Missions, and the Devil’s Backbone (the first three of which I visited with her and students from Fischer Schule Haus Christian Academy, and the last of which is the area where that school is located).

I do not want to neglect to thank the publishing, editorial, and design staff at Clerisy Press for the work they did on this book at their end. I am especially grateful to acquisitions editor Tim W. Jackson, who served as de facto project manager for this book and as my main point of contact with the company while I was working on it; to marketing and publicity specialists Liliane Opsomer and Tanya Twerdowsky Sylvan; and to publisher Richard Hunt. Molly Merkle and Marie Hillin at the Keen Communications headquarters have also always been helpful and a pleasure to work with.

A number of the proprietors or staff of various sites I visited or people I encountered in the process of doing so deserve my thanks as well, and these include Jo Ann Rivera of Victoria’s Black Swan Inn, Doug Blank of the Faust Hotel, staff members at Hotel Indigo and the Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio and the Driskill Hotel in Austin, the staff of Ye Kendall Inn in Boerne, the management and staff of the Austin Pizza Garden, and bartender Lincoln at the Devil’s Backbone Tavern.

I also would like to thank all of the editors, colleagues, family members, business associates, and friends who patiently — or, in some cases, not so patiently — waited for me to fulfill my obligations to them while I was focusing so much of my attention on this project.

Finally, if there is anyone I have left out of these acknowledgments, I would like to sincerely beg their forgiveness and thank them for the roles they played in the completion of this book as well! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Contents for 'Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country'

Following is the outline for Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country as it stands now! These contents for the book are subject to some revisions and additions and as I do my final research for the book over the next couple of months but at this point are at least 90% reflective of what it will contain. Many items are hotlinked to previews or chapter excerpts posted to this site. 



            San Antonio Missions (South and Downtown San Antonio)
            Alamodome (Downtown San Antonio)
            Alamo Quarry Market (North Central San Antonio)
            Old Bexar County Jail (Downtown San Antonio)
            Comanche Lookout Park (Northeast San Antonio)
            Crocket Hotel (Downtown San Antonio)
            Emily Morgan Hotel (Downtown San Antonio)
                 SIDEBAR: "The Yellow Rose of Texas"
            Menger Hotel (Downtown San Antonio)
            San Fernando Cathedral (Downtown San Antonio)
            Sheraton Gunter Hotel San Antonio (Downtown San Antonio)
            Spanish Governor’s Palace (Downtown San Antonio)
            University of the Incarnate Word (Alamo Heights/Midtown San Antonio)
            Victoria's Black Swan Inn (Northeast San Antonio)

            Faust Hotel (New Braunfels/Comal County)
            Gruene Historic District (New Braunfels/Comal County)
            The Mansion (Boerne/Kendall County)
            Ye Kendall Inn (Boerne/Kendall County)

            Austin Pizza Garden (Southwest Austin)
            Driskill Hotel (Downtown Austin)
            Richard Moya Park/Moore's Crossing Bridge (Southeast Austin)
            State House (Downtown Austin)
            University of Texas Tower (Downtown Austin)

            Devil's Backbone (Blanco County, Comal County, Hays County)
                 SIDEBAR: Devil's Backbone Tavern
            Enchanted Rock  (Gillespie County, Llano County)
            Jacob's Well (Hays County)
            James Kiehl River BendPark/SA&AP Bridge (Comfort/Kendall County)
            Treue Der Union Monument (Comfort/Kendall County)

VII) Visiting Haunted Sites

VIII) Additional Haunted Sites
            City of San Antonio (Alamo Methodist Church, Brackenridge Villa Mansion, Brooks Air Force Base, Cadillac Bar, Chinese Graveyard, Christus Santa Rosa Hospital, Comanche Lookout Hill/Comanche Park, Crown Plaza St. Anthony Hotel, Donkey Lady Bridge, El Cameronsita Dance Hall, El Cameronsito/Player's Club, Empire Theater, Fort Sam Houston, Hemisfair Park, Hot Wells Motel, Huebner-Onion House, Indigo Hotel, Institute of Texas Culture, Lambermont, McNay Art Museum, North Star Mall, Oak Valley Vineyards, Old Stone Ridge Road, Our Lady of the Lake University, Plaza Marriott, River Center Mall, Riverwalk, San Antonio River Headwaters, San Pedro Park, Santikos Century Plaza 8 Theater, Stinson Field Cemetery, Trinity University, Tower of the Americas, Tro Bridge, University of the Incarnate Word)
            Greater San Antonio (Aumont Hotel [Seguin/Gaudalupe County], Bulverde Area Volunteer Fire Department (Bulverde), San Marcos River (Entity) [Luling/Guadalupe County], Seguin Palace Theatre [Seguin/Gaudalupe County], Seton Edgar B. Davis Hospital [Luling/Guadalupe County] , Texas Lutheran University [Seguin/Guadalupe County]) 
            Austin (Bertram's Restaurant/Clay Pit, Buffalo Billiards, Carrington's Bluff, Congress Street Bridge, David Grimes Photography Studio, Eanes-Marshall Ranch, Fado Irish Pub, Governor's Inn, Governor's Mansion, Hideout, Inn at Pearl Street, Jacob's Hill, Littlefield Building, Littlefield House, Mugshots, Neill-Cochran House, Old Stone Ridge Road, Omni Austin Hotel, Paramount Theatre, Tavern Restaurant, Zachary-Scott Theatre)
            Texas Hill Country (Schreiner University/Delaney Hall [Kerrville], Kerrville Courthouse [Kerrville])

IX) Further Reading/Bibliography

X) Ghostly Resources
            Sisters Grimm Ghost Tours

XI) Acknowledgments

XII) About the Author