Fear Factor

Forget about the tourist traps this Halloween. Here are the scariest places in Texas. Continue if you dare!
Fear Factor
Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells.
Photograph by Todd Hido

Stories of disembodied spirits still clinging to their former lives—some out for revenge, some merely too stubborn to cross over—are so intertwined with Texas history that they’ve become part of our culture. Who hasn’t been to San Antonio and kept an eye out for the boy who appears in the Alamo’s gift shop? Or visited El Paso’s Concordia Cemetery in the middle of the night to hear laughing coming from the children’s section? Given our state’s vast number of bloody revolutions and natural disasters (an untimely end being a customary reason to linger), as well as our love of fantastic yarns, it’s little wonder that Texas is rife with paranormal manifestations. Unfortunately, some of our best-known haunts—like San Antonio’s Menger Hotel—have become so touristy that their fear factor has been nullified. So I sifted through dozens of accounts from around the state to single out the scariest locales. Spookiness may be subjective, but these eight sites claim particularly unsettling happenings that aren’t easily explained. A word of caution: Many allegedly haunted spots are on private property. A ghost might only scare you away, but an irate property owner might have you arrested—or worse.

Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells

Once a lavish getaway for wealthy Texans, this fourteen-story hotel now sits in disrepair. But in its heyday, the Baker, which opened in 1929, was known for its grand ballrooms and restorative mineral baths. It also became a haven for ghosts, and when the hotel closed, in 1972, the spirits that roamed its hallways remained. The most infamous is the hotel builder’s mistress, who inhabits a suite on the seventh floor. After committing suicide, she began leaving a red lipstick mark on unused glasses. Another specter is thought to be Douglas Moore, a bellboy who was crushed in an elevator accident in 1948. A few years ago a visitor on a tour began taunting Moore’s ghost. Tour guide Kira Connally wrote about what happened next: “As soon as the words left his mouth, the coldest air I’ve ever felt went whooshing past me, and it brought the woman next to me to her knees, as if she had literally been punched in the stomach.”

Orviss Vault, Calvert

In the town of Calvert, about 35 miles northwest of College Station, numerous graves are clustered near the local high school. But if you keep walking past those plots and wander into the wooded area behind them, you’ll see it: the vault for D. A. Orviss and his wife, Louisa. Built in the late 1800’s, the crypt has been badly vandalized over the years, and the Orvisses’ remains were stolen long ago. “Hauntings tend to increase when there’s desecration,” says Casey Unger, a paranormal expert. She has encountered shadowy figures and unexplained cold spots, but her audio recordings of disembodied voices are the most disturbing evidence. On one tape, Unger can be heard saying, “I’m speaking to the spirits

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...