Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at at time.

Educating the world about Texas one Yankee at a time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

At Texas hotels, ghosts check in but they never check out

Be careful the next time you make a hotel reservation in Texas. You might be checking into a haunted one.

I’ve stayed at the the Saint Anthony Hotel and Menger Hotel in San Antonio. I’ve stayed several times at the Excelsior Hotel and the Jefferson Hotel in Jefferson. I’ve stayed at the Hotel Adolphus and the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, and the Rogers Hotel in Waxahachie. And last summer, I stayed at the Driskill Hotel in Austin. All are reputed to be haunted.

The Saint Anthony Hotel is a little crowded with the ectoplasmic set. One ghost, Anita, used to be an employee of the hotel.

Apparently, she doesn’t know she’s dead and likes to hang out in the women’s restrooms. Another apparition is that of a woman who roams the one of the hotel’s ballrooms. And then there is the couple that seems to be celebrating their honeymoon posthumously.

I’ve heard it said you can’t take it with you, but evidently you can.

The Menger Hotel hosts Teddy Roosevelt for all eternity. Folks say the former American president hangs out in the bar and tries to recruit Rough Riders. About forty ghosts stay at the Menger, so I imagine the Sunday buffet can get a little crowded.

The Excelsior Hotel has been operating continuously since 1850. The Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club runs it and they don’t like to talk about their supernatural guests, but I do. The two rooms with the most spooky action are the Ulysses S. Grant suite and the Victorian Parlor. President Grant and his family stayed in what is now named the Grant suite. The legend is that Steven Spielberg was inspired by the hotel’s haunting and wrote the script for “Poltergeist” based on personal experience there. Not to freak you out too badly, but one of the spirits there wanders around headless. The lights in the Victorian Parlor go on and off without reason. Other than that, it’s pretty tame.

The Jefferson Hotel across the street from the Excelsior has a ghost in almost every room, but no high-speed Internet. A man in a long coat and tall boots has been seen in Room 5. Rooms 12 and 14 have a woman with long blonde hair in it who whispers to you.

Rooms 19, 20 and 21 seem to be haunted more by smell and sound, particularly the odor of cigar smoke and the sound of children laughing. Doors open and close on their own and sounds of furniture being dragged across the floor have been heard. I stayed in Room 25 when I visited and yes, I heard the furniture being thrown around. But the hotel was fully booked at the time. I cannot say for certain that the sounds weren’t made by the living.

In Dallas, the Hotel Adolphus is haunted by a bride who hanged herself after being left at the altar. She is seen walking about the hotel in her wedding gown. The Stoneleigh Hotel has long been a favorite for Hollywood celebrities hoping for privacy while staying in Dallas. I guess, for some, the stay was so memorable they chose to come back in the Afterlife. I don’t know which ones; that’s how closely guarded celebrity privacy is at the Stoneleigh.

The Driskill Hotel in Austin, at the corner of Brazos and 6th Streets, is worth a visit. Cattle baron Jesse Driskill opened the hotel in 1886. Driskill is the main phantom and he’s usually seen wandering the premises, smoking a cigar and turning lights on and off at will. I guess he still reads the electric bills.

Before the Driskill Hotel opened, a serial killer terrorized Pecan Street (now 6th Street) in Austin, at addresses not far from where the hotel currently sits. From New Year’s Eve 1884 to Christmas Eve 1885, an unknown subject was reported as having dragged serving girls from their beds, assaulting them and killing them either by slashing or chopping them to death. The final victims were two wealthy women, a departure from the killer’s modus operandi. Short story writer, O. Henry (William Sydney Porter), coined the name Servant Girl Annihilator for the killer in a letter to his friend Dave Hall. In reference to Austin, he wrote: “Town is fearfully dull except for the frequent raids of the Servant Girl Annihilators, who make things lively in the dull hours of the night….”

I imagine some of the spirits at the hotel may well be those of the hapless murder victims. The murders were so similar to the ones attributed to Jack the Ripper three years later that there is speculation they were committed by the same killer.

The former Rogers Hotel in Waxahachie has a lot of ghosts. The building is now an office complex with the After Hours Improv Theater (afterhoursimprov.com) in the basement. One ghost in particular, Emery, has a sense of humor. He liked to hassle the hotel chefs by blowing cigar smoke in their faces. Women reported being followed into the restrooms and being frightened (he’s a bit of a masher). I think I managed to ward off Emery during the times I was there by calling him out.

“Emery, this is Janna. I’m here in the ladies room to do one particular thing. Do not bother me at anytime for any reason because one day I’ll be dead too. And if you so much as create an icy spot or holler ‘BOO!’ while I’m doing my thing here, I will hunt you down in the Hereafter and make sure you end up with beachfront property at the Eternal Lake of Fire!”

Apparently, it worked. And Emery must talk to other spirits, because I am happy to report that I have never, ever been bothered by ghosts, poltergeists, spirits or phantoms at anytime in any hotel at which I’ve been a guest.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The giant crabs of Port Aransas come out at night, look for fishermen

The men went to Port Aransas every year for about a week for sea fishing and camping on the beach. When fishermen came off the fishing party boats, their catches were cleaned right there on the pier for them. The remains of the fish, from perch to shark, were dumped right off the pier there in Port Aransas, as they are today. After all, chum is biodegradable, right? It all goes right back into the marine-life food chain.

The men thought nothing of it.

Later that evening, they sat around a beach campfire outside of the rented RV on the beach. One went off to fish off the pier at midnight, something that was illegal, but everyone did it.

He wasn’t gone long.

The outlaw fisherman returned, empty handed, his eyes wide as saucers and practically unable to speak. “Crabs,” was all he said.

When he was able to catch his breath, the man told of crabs that came out of the water at the sound of his footsteps on the pier. They crawled up on the beach below and turned their stalked eyes upward…at him. “They were the size of dogs,” he said. “Not small dogs, either. They were as big as a cow dog. One was four feet in diameter at least. That one was the biggest.”

The best I can figure is that these were blue crabs. Blue crabs are what are most common in the Gulf of Mexico and they will eat anything, including carrion.

That’s dead flesh.

The fishing party deduced that the giant crabs had grown so large by eating the remains of fishing catches that had been dumped over the side of the pier.

“These crabs,” said the one who had seen them, “They were huge. And the way they looked at me…”

Now at this point I need to tell you that these men were former Soldiers. United States Army Soldiers. These are not men who would be frightened by tiny crustaceans. For a crab to strike fear in the heart of a Soldier…well that’s a pretty big crab. And an assertive one.

The teller of the crab tale, whose name has been withheld to protect his identity, said his friend reported that the crabs not only looked at him, they came toward him.

“He said they moved together, like tanks, slowly at first…then a little faster,” he told me. “He didn’t stick around to see what was going to happen.”

These were crabs with a plan of attack.

As I stated earlier, these crabs were shark-fed. If it’s true that we are what we eat, then picture a crab the size of a Volkswagen beefed up on shark flesh.

Until recently, I had never heard about the giant crabs of Port Aransas. The most I thought we had to fear from the ocean were sharks and Portugese Man o’War jellyfish. That, right there, is what keeps me from swimming in the ocean.

But now I know about the crabs; BIG crabs. And if you believe in Darwin’s theory on the origin of species, you also probably know that animal brains thrive and grow on a rich and varied diet. So if we’re to believe the tales of shark-fed giant crabs, then we should be prepared for super-intelligent crustaceans. Smart crabs, crabs that are aware of you and your potential as a meal; crabs that are fearless and able to open a door with their oversized claws; crabs that know to come to the beach at the sound of human footsteps on a wooden pier.

Crabs from Texas.

That alone should scare you, because everything is bigger in Texas anyway. But Texas crabs that are larger than even Texas crabs should be?

Be afraid.

Be VERY afraid.