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 Amazon.com 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. 

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