Spirits of those who died during the Battle of the Alamo, hotel housekeepers who met an untimely end but are still driven to tidy up, and Captain Richard King, founder of the King Ranch, are all apparitions that you might encounter while on a ghost tour of downtown San Antonio.
According to Guillermo Fuentes of San Antonio Paranormal Investigations, San Antonio is one of the most haunted cities in America. For those of us who’ve lived here for awhile, tales of La Llorona, the Donkey Lady, and the haunted railroad tracks on the South Side abound, so my husband and I decided to see what supernatural activity we might encounter in downtown San Antonio.
We met the Sisters Grimm, Lauren Swartz and Allison Schiess, for their Candlelight Ghost Tour in front of the Alamo at 8:15 p.m. The sisters, descendants of San Antonio’s Canary Islands founders, wove tales of the city’s history throughout the hour and a half walking tour that covered approximately 2.5 miles. Dressed in period costumes, the Britney Spears-like microphones and iPad they used were quite anachronistic but appreciated by the 40 or so attendees.
The sisters reminded us that the street we were standing on at the tour’s start was more than likely a mass grave for those who lost their lives during the Battle of the Alamo. They then drew our attention to the Emily Morgan Hotel, north of the Alamo, which was once a hospital but was converted to the hotel in 1984. The top floor still smells like a hospital, according to the sisters.
From there, we headed to The Menger Hotel, south of the Alamo, which is supposed to be one of the most haunted hotels in America. The conscientious housekeeper and the King Ranch founder may be found here, along with the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt, who still hangs out in the bar where he recruited his Rough Riders.
We then walked over to the Casino Club Building on the San Antonio River Walk, where certain supernatural spirits like to hang out in the lobby. From there, we walked to San Fernando Cathedral, and one of the sisters pointed out a skull that seems to be stuccoed into the back of the cathedral. The Canary Islanders and the Native Americans were not the best of friends, and those who lost their lives during their battles still roam San Antonio in the area near the Bexar County Courthouse.
We also visited the Spanish Governor’s Palace, where 36 criminals were hung from the Tree of Sorrow in the back courtyard. At times, the spirit of a dead woman can be seen sitting at a table in the far right window, according to the sisters. The O’Henry House was next on the tour. The famed short-story writer lived here in 1885. Until this tour, I had forgotten that San Antonio sported a fairly large red-light district in this area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We walked over to the Casa Navarro from there. This historic home of Jose Antonio Navarro, a leading Tejano in the Texas Revolution, will have its grand re-opening on February 25 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
My husband and I didn’t witness any paranormal activity on our tour. However, it was nice to spend time walking around downtown under a full moon to learn about the haunted history of our beloved city. The Sisters Grimm Candlelight Ghost Tour is just one of many ghost tours in San Antonio, according to the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most tours are priced in the $15 to $20 range, and reservations are required. Group discounts are available for 10 or more. Wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring your sense of adventure!