Historic Hotel Haunts
By Carrie Dunlea
Do you have a penchant for the peculiar and perhaps haunted happenings? If so, plan a special trip this fall and visit some spooky hotels in Texas towns to get you in the Halloween spirit.
Let’s jump-start the trip in Jefferson, supposedly one of the most haunted towns in Texas, and home of the Excelsior House Hotel. The hotel is rich with history and is one of the oldest hotels in continuous operation in Texas. Operational since the late 1850s, the hotel has hosted the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Oscar Wilde, Ladybird Johnson and more. A more notable 21st century guest includes director Steven Speilberg. It is reported that the hotel is haunted by a phantom of a woman, and rumor has it that her hauntings prompted Speilberg to leave the hotel unexpectedly.
Hauntings aside, if you can handle the possibility of a phantom female, you’ll love the hotel, décor and its rich history completed with an abundance of antiques. The Excelsior’s rooms display furniture in rich wood, abundant with details. Historic Wing rooms are situated in the original building, once a private residence of Captain William Perry. All eight rooms have names, and numbers, and are decorated to historical significance of that time. In addition, there are three more rooms located in the West Wing, added on to the home in the 1860s. If more room or privacy is needed than a typical room, there is the Ruth Lester Memorial Home just two blocks away. The home has a king size bed, sitting room, and room with two twin beds.
If you’ve got the time to explore, there’s plenty to see in Jefferson. For a relatively small town, it’s big on museums.
Visit the Jefferson Historical Museum and R.D. Moses T & P Model Railroad, Gone with the Wind Museum, Mason-Dixon Line Military Museum and the Museum of Measurement and Time. In addition, visitors can schedule a Riverboat Tour on the bayou, ride in horse-drawn carriages, visit a true General Store and see the Historic Jefferson Railway. Another option is a train ride that includes a stop at the Diamond Don Gator Pit for an alligator feeding. If you’re the outdoorsy type, experience Caddo Lake State Park and take some of the hotel’s famous Orange Blossom muffins along for the ride! Excelsiorhotel.com
The name might be a bit odd, but the historic Nutt House Hotel located on the square in Granbury is not, unless the thought of a cleaning ghost scares you! This historic, all-suite hotel is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a former owner that can’t seem to let go of her duties such as cleaning and a few other chores. Room 4 seems to have the most activity, so you decide if you’re the adventurous type. Some guests have reported hearing a few other disturbances, and experiencing dramatic temperature shifts, but nothing sounds scary enough to make visitors run from the hotel.
Built in 1910, the hotel is a landmark on the square. Originally featuring 10 guest rooms and two separate baths, today the hotel has six suites with luxurious private spa-like bathrooms. The entire hotel, including the Grand Sitting Room, has Victorian and Edwardian antiques. The first floor is home to over 10 specialty stores known as the “Nutt Shoppes.” You’ll find jewelry, pet supplies, inspirational gifts and much more. Walk out the front door and continue your shopping on the square with more than 40 shops and a variety of merchandise.
It’s hard to be bored in a town such as Granbury. Like live entertainment? Check out the Granbury Opera House or the new “Granbury Live” venue, a music theater that often features western artists and local talent. An added bonus is the outdoor amphitheater in nearby Glen Rose, where the Christian musical drama “The Promise” is presented under the stars.
If you have kids in tow, check out the Granbury Doll House, a historic home with over 3,000 dolls on display. Other in town destinations include the Railroad Depot, Hood County Jail and Museum and Granbury City Beach and Boardwalk. Want to roam out of town? Check out Squaw Creek Park, a 457-acre reservoir, and nearby Glen Rose for a host of other attractions. nutthousehotelgranbury.com
There’s nothing like a short jaunt to Fort Worth to get you into the spirit for pretty much anything, and if you’d like to spend the night, the Stockyards Hotel is decorated to fit the western atmosphere of the town.
Famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were said to be rather fond of the hotel and have Room 305 named after them. Some guests staying in that room reported that water faucets in the bathroom mysteriously turn off and on. Other spooky happenings include the original hotel elevator reportedly going up and down on its own, TVs and radios turning on and off, and mysterious calls to the front desk. Some say they may be pranks by a former deceased hotel employee who can’t seem to leave his duties behind.
If rumors of ghosts don’t concern you, then this hotel is the place to stay. Located in the center of activity, guests can walk out the front door and find ample bars, restaurants and plenty of live music including the famous Billy Bob’s Texas. Fort Worth City Centre is located just five miles from the hotel, and if you plan to attend the races, Texas Motor Speedway is just 15 minutes away. Find out more at stockyardshotel.com
No haunted hotel list would not be complete without mentioning the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. Similar to the Excelsior Hotel, the Menger is one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in Texas, dating back to 1859.
In 1855, William Menger, a German businessman, brought beer to San Antonio and opened a brewery on the site of the battleground. Before long, Menger and his wife saw an opportunity to expand the business, catering to out-of-town guests who needed a place to stay.
Hotels this old come with a history and sometimes a few peculiar spirit happenings. Some say over 32 different entities have been reported at the hotel and perhaps most famous is the ghost of Theodore Roosevelt, who gathered his Rough Riders in the Menger Bar. With the Alamo nearby, the ghosts may have connections to the historic conflict.
The location and the beauty of the hotel does not disappoint. If you’re a fan of art, architecture and antiques, then this is the place. The three-story Victorian lobby is a sight to see along with amazing architecture and an oval lobby with Renaissance Corinthian columns. Enjoy the Spanish courtyard or check out the modern-day Menger Bar, an exact replica of the House of Lords Pub in London. Despite the hotel’s age, amenities and modernization are evident, however subtle they may be.
There is no limit to the attractions in San Antonio. Located on Alamo Plaza, the hotel is just a one-minute walk away from the Alamo, and five minutes from the Riverwalk area and River Center Mall. Visiting Sea World? Well, it’s only a short drive away. Whatever your plans call for in San Antonio, this place is worth a visit or an overnight stay. Visit mengerhotel.com.
This fall, forget the plane fare and plan a weekend jaunt to explore some of the beautiful historic hotels in Texas that will not only take you back in time, but may give you a little ghostly adventure to remember.