Though the weather does not indicate it, fall is here and with it comes a lot of activity on Galveston Island.
Once again it is “BOO!” time on the island. Galvestonians love Halloween and enjoy all the fun that comes with it. This is the time of year to observe lantern-carrying groups strolling around the downtown area and, of course, the old cemeteries on Broadway.
“Ghost tours” have become very popular on the island, even year-round. There are several companies offering the tours and authors like Kathleen Maca have written books on Galveston’s ghosts, as well as personally conduct cemetery and haunted location tours. Maca thrills her audience with ghost stories and tales of murder and woe, as she takes folks to various sites and locations.
Is Galveston haunted? Yes, probably so. Just about everyone on the island has a ghost tale to share. Houses, buildings, boats and empty lots are full of ghosts, or so it seems. Most people are familiar with Grand Galvez and her resident ghost on the fifth floor and, of course, the eerie portrait of Bernard De Galvez hanging in the hallway. Then there is the story of the “ghost children of Walmart” who perished in the 1900 Storm.
Numerous other spirits haunt businesses and properties on the island. Famous confectionary and bakery LaKing’s have a spirit that loves to open and close freezer doors at night. Many private homeowners often tell of the mysterious happenings in their antiquated homes, some of which have been investigated by paranormal teams and even presented on television programs. There are haunted Bed and Breakfasts, hotels, mansions, boats and other vessels, as well as the train depot and museum. The island is full of the unexplainable and the locals love it!.
One of my favorites is the old home site of once island resident and infamous pirate Jean Lafitte. The stone foundation of a home later built on the site and foundation is still visible in the fenced location near Harborside and 14th Street. A “hysterical marker” located in the front of the old brick and stone steps tells the history of the famed spot, Maison Rouge, the pirate house. Legend and local lore have it that around 3 a.m. visitors to the site might hear strange noises and even see ghostly apparitions. Some say they have even heard “hellhounds” wailing in the darkness. Others claim to hear men talking, playing cards, coughing and snorting as well as occasional outbursts of laughing and shouting.
I have visited the site myself on occasion and at the designated 3 a.m. bewitching hour. Having consumed quite a bit of adult beverages, I am not exactly sure what I heard. I thought I heard men talking and even the shuffle of cards and coins striking a surface. There were no hellhounds to be heard but I did have a hellish headache the next morning!
My other favorite “haunt” is the “Face at Ewing Hall” located on the UTMB campus. The famous face appearing on harbor view side of the building is supposedly that of a man who refused to sell his property to the healthcare institution. After his death, his family did sell the property and apparently aggravated him immensely. The face appeared on the side of the building and has not gone way, even when sandblasted. The face is clearly that of a man from another time!
With Halloween and seasonal excitement comes the festival season. The first weekend in November brings thousands of bikers to the island for the much-touted Lone Star Rally, which grows larger each year. For four days the Strand area becomes one big parade of loud bikes, people watching and bike related merchandising. The rally is a great time to see some pretty strange sites and goings-on.
After the Lone Star Rally in November comes the annual Dickens on the Strand festival. During the first weekend in December, tiny Galveston Island is transformed into the Charles Dickens world of merry ol’ London! Parades, costumes, bag pipers, merchants, stage shows and street actors take over the brick streets and work their magic under the gas lit sidewalks. Pubs supply cold ales to keep the revelers happy and rosy-cheeked.
Then comes Christmas! Galveston comes alive for this holiday and streets are again decorated, houses lighted and a merry mood overtakes the island. Christmas in Galveston is a unique and wonderful experience. Again, Galvestonians love any excuse to celebrate.
With several venues of fun kicking off in the fall, the island begins its joyous season of celebration. If you want to make your fall season festive and create some memories, plan to visit the island and check it out.
Forest Riggs lives in Galveston. He has recently published a collection of his works, Galveston & Related Stories. For more information and ordering, see ForestRiggs.com.
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