San Antonio has always had its share of ghosts. Live in the Alamo City long enough and residents hear stories of specters of soldiers and Native Americans roaming the Alamo grounds or see the spirits of patients who perished at the hospital turned Emily Morgan Hotel.
Other creepy tales include the legendary, yet never verified, train/school bus collision and the horrors of the “donkey lady,” a burned, disfigured mother who mourns her children and curses her husband, all of whom were lost in a tragic fire.
With Halloween and Dia de los Muertos just a few weeks away, let's revisit some of these spooky legends, the telling of which has become a San Antonio tradition. Just don’t read them alone in the dark.
In March 1840, Republic of Texas officials and local Comanche chiefs met for peace talks in a building near Main Plaza. The conference turned into a fight where 35 natives were gunned down and seven Texans died. It became known as the Council House Massacre and today the spirits of those lost in the violence are reported to roam the area.
Employees and guests at the Menger Hotel have long shared sightings of apparitions. There’s the tale of a young girl who was hit and killed by a horse-drawn carriage in the late 19th century. The Menger lobby is now reportedly her restless spirit’s domain.
On the Northeast Side, several spirits are known to haunt Victoria’s Black Swan Inn, some of them former couples who passed away while in ownership of the property. Likewise, at Lambermont, a huge mansion on the East Side, the former owner is said to live out eternity inside its walls. Built by Edwin Terrell, an attorney and diplomat, he fell ill at home. In agony, Terrell was desperate to end his life, but failed. Instead, Terrell wound up suffering for several more days. Years later, the suffering would continue after a contractor fell to his death at Lambermont — some say it was deliberate — and a couple died there following a fight.
You never know who you’re going to meet on a dimly lit dance club floor one evening. South Texans have long told the story of a handsome man who charms a young woman. After they dance the night away, the fellow reveals himself to be the devil, chicken feet and all. The demon disappears in a puff of smoke.
In the Hill Country, a bear king once protected a Kickapoo tribe from predators. A small-town newspaper from the early 1900s held an account of one woman who was taken captive by a bear-like creature, but escaped to tell the tale. Cryptozoologists to this day believe the so-called bear king was actually more of an unknown species of ape — Texas’ version of Bigfoot. The myth is so familiar to locals in Marble Falls that a Bear King Brewing Co. recently opened there.
Terror also comes from the skies. Some people have recounted a story from the Three Rivers area where they have witnessed a humanoid figure with giant wings soaring in the air and occasionally diving for prey.
Some growing up in a South Side neighborhood in the 1960s experienced strange things, such as hearing footsteps at night when everyone in the house was asleep. Or another time when they briefly gazed upon a monster with a gruesome mouth, sharp teeth ... and bunny ears.
One tale from 1965 features a boy who ventures down to San Pedro Creek after a storm. He stumbles upon a a nearly five-foot-long human-like creature lying in the tall grass. The strangely colored figure had a large head and abnormal eyes. A being from another world, perhaps?
Another story, set in early 1900s Devine, has a young girl on a turkey hunt in the rain. She finds one, but then sees a tall figure, clad completely in black. The “man” silently motioned for her with a smile. The girl runs back home and tells her father, who goes to the spot where she saw the menacing figure. He finds no turkey or man, but rather turkey feathers, a pair of small shoes, and two footprints tracked into a muddy patch.
These are just a few of San Antonio's spooky tales. After all, a city that's 300 years old is bound to have a few ghosts.