Travelling has given me an opportunity to experience different activities, but none so memorable as a trip to San Antonio a few years ago. Before I begin it is important to explain I am not a believer in 'things that go bump in the night', ghostly spirits or the foretelling of events. That is not to say I don’t believe in people who have honed their mental ability into an art form and read body language to reach logical conclusions, but not ghosts that walk through walls and scare the wits out of someone.
Upon my arrival in this beautiful old Texas town, I checked into the oldest hotel in the city, the Menger (also known as the most haunted building in North America; no doubt a marketing ploy intended to boost revenue). When I arrived I was offered a beautiful room in the old wing. Naturally I was quite pleased to be on the middle of three floors, surrounded by what I would consider an elegant 19th century decor.
I had a conversation with a local who explained the most dominant ghost, Sallie White, had been seen by many people, but she never leaves the third floor. He went on to explain she had been murdered in the hotel over a hundred years ago, and the owners had paid for her burial. As thanks, she tends to housekeeping duties on her floor.
That evening I decided to take a ghost tour (something I have never done before), of the San Antonio’s downtown. The starting point was the hotel, and the tour was led by one of the ‘Sisters Grimm’, who came dressed in proper attire, which dated back to the mid-eighteen hundreds.
It was then I learned the Menger Hotel was the most haunted in North America, with 32 confirmed spirits roaming the halls. A young girl named Sarah, had been killed by a horse and carriage in front of the hotel, and wandered the halls, playing with the children of guests. Many young patrons have had experiences of meeting Sarah, and indeed confirming her existence.
Another man, Captain Richard King, had lived and died in his suite and his spirit has never left. Objects begin to move about when guests occupy the suite, and upon several occasions, he has shown himself as guests were about to go to sleep. I chuckled at the way the Grimm sister told the tales, but knew, even though there were photos, that this was fiction.
We made our way to the second floor, my floor, and I again heard the tale of Sallie White. It was the way the locale had explained it, with one exception. Sallie was murdered on the second (my) floor and roams the corridor where my room was located. Sister Grimm went on to explain that Sallie recently entered one of the guest's room during the night as the patron slept. He assumed it was a maid, and yelled at her until she left. The next morning he complained about the disturbance, and was assured that no such employee had done that.
Last year, another lady was in the shower and when she turned she saw Sallie standing there. She immediately wrapped a towel around her, and ran to the lobby demanding a different room. I mused at these tales and, was it not for the fact that they all happened within the two or three rooms where I was staying, would have totally laughed them off.
The tour continued through San Antonio, stopping at the church where Davy Crockett is buried, and supposedly still roams around. We passed the Governor General's Palace where a young girl, dead for many years, appears and screams from time to time at passersby.
Our last stop was the former prison, now a Holiday Inn. A dangerous murderer was hung in what is now room 305. The staff, upon being hired, have to sign a waiver saying they are aware of the ghosts, and waive any rights to hold the hotel liable.
The tour was interesting, but although the tales played on my mind, I brushed them off... until I returned to my hotel. I carefully looked around corners, and peaked in nooks and crannies. I closed my door, checked the shower and put on the latches. Once I was in bed I realized how much noise a 150 year old building makes, and as I was drifting into sleep I awoke several times, fear stricken that Sallie White would come through my door any moment. Needless to say I did not sleep well that night, even though I saw no apparitions, felt no cool breezes or heard any eerie sounds.
I think it will be a while before I set foot in any building, deemed to be remotely haunted. It is not that I necessarily believe in such things, but one just never knows.
Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit photosNtravel.com