At only twenty-seven miles long and three miles across at the widest point, Galveston, Texas, is not a big place. Located about two miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico an hour south of Houston, the barrier island and tourist Mecca is home to 48,000 year-round residents.
At least, that’s the number of residents the most recent U.S. Census counted. Those who call Galveston home know the population is much larger. A goodly number of the island’s dearly departed…well, never departed.
|1859 Ashton Villa, courtesy Galveston Historical Foundation|
|1838 Michel B. Menard House|
courtesy Galveston Historical Foundation
|1877 Smith Brothers Hardware Store|
|Jean Lafitte, artist unknown|
courtesy Rosenberg Library, Galveston
|1911 Hotel Galvez, courtesy Hotel Galvez|
Capt. Marcus Fulton MottAfter serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, Marcus Fulton Mott became a prominent lawyer. He built a grand Victorian Mansion in Galveston’s East End in 1884. Although the existence of a cistern on the property has never been confirmed, Mott’s son may have murdered three women and thrown their bodies into the well—or at least that’s what Mott’s ghost has told people. Reports of supernatural activity at the house have died down in the past two decades, but prior to the mid-1990s, the ghost at the Witwer-Mott House reportedly ordered people out of the home, threatened them, and threw mattresses across the room…while people were on them.
Point Boliver Lighthouse Ghost
|1872 Point Boliver Lighthouse, courtesy U.S. Coast Guard|
Samuel May Williams
|1838 Samuel May Williams House|
courtesy Galveston Historical Foundation
Tremont House Ghosts
|Tremont House, courtesy Wyndham Grand Hotels|
|1895 Hutchings-Sealy Building|
courtesy Mitchell Historic Properties
William Watson(May disturb some readers.)
|Galveston Railroad Museum, courtesy Nsaum75|
A second spirit hangs out at the museum, as well. For a time, part of the building served as a residential psychiatric treatment facility. In the 1980s, a female patient jumped to her death from a fourth-floor window. Since then, the gauzy form of a woman has been seen sitting on windowsills, one leg outside, before disappearing.
These are only a handful of the non-corporeal residents of Galveston. Sometimes called “a cemetery with a beach attached,” the island is second only to New Orleans in the number of reported hauntings. In addition to the celebrity ghosts, other spirits with unknown names and less spectacular stories remain on the island, partly because of Galveston’s dramatic history.
The island switched back and forth between Union and Confederate hands several times early in the Civil War (the Rebs finally managed to hang onto it from January 1863 on), and both sides left bodies behind in buildings along the Strand. After the Great Storm, the surviving buildings along the Strand became temporary hospitals and morgues. The Strand fell into disrepair for a number of years until Galveston philanthropist George Mitchell stepped in to renew and revitalize the area. During renovations, a number of skeletons were discovered in the walls, left there by war or storm victims who literally “slipped through the cracks,” evidently. That may explain why Galvestonians and visitors frequently notice vague forms in uniforms or period clothing floating near ceilings in some of the historic buildings.
Other reported hauntings include:
- Orphans who drowned during the Great Storm have been spotted at the Walmart built on the site of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word’s doomed orphanage.
- The Flying Dutchman was reported in Galveston Bay twice in 1892.
- Bishop’s Palace may be haunted by the spirit of a former owner, who checks the building’s structural integrity when hurricanes threaten.
- An unknown man, possibly a Great Storm victim, sometimes runs along the sand at Stewart Beach.
Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico, Vol. 2, from Prairie Rose Publications.
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. Carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist has masqueraded as a gypsy spiritualist for so long she’s started to believe her own spiel. When she accidentally summons a pair of real ghosts, dishonesty may not be the best policy…but it’s all they’ve got.