There are several legends about ghosts in the Alamo, but never has there been one that really seems to date from the 1836 battle. For instance, several of the security guards have reported standing in the church and hearing footsteps overhead. Could this be a ghost dating from the army period, when there was a second floor in the church?
There have also been tales of ghosts in the basement of the museum/ gift shop. Since that building didn't even come along until 1936, who knows what the origin is?
And, lest we forget, there are also those who claim to have seen John Wayne's ghost at the Alamo, spouting lines from his movies.
From correspondence of Frank Thompson to Mike Trzecinski. Submitted by Mike Trzecinski 10/97
______________________________ Excerpts from ęCopyright 1997 TEXAS MONTHLY, INC. All rights reserved.
When it comes to strange phenomena, the Alamo is the Bermuda Triangle of the Southwest. During the famous siege of 1836, 1600 Mexican soldiers and 200 Texans were killed; the casualties were buried in mass graves, thrown into the San Antonio River, and incinerated in mounds. The sheer number of dead in that small area is enough to evoke an atmosphere of solemnity, and supernatural occurrences have been reported there for over a century. In essence, the history of the mission-turned-fortress must now compete with the history of unexplained events that continue to unfold on the Alamo grounds.
One of the most often-repeated stories of an Alamo ghost is the apparition of a small blonde-haired boy that can be seen from time to time in the left upstairs window, now the gift shop. According to legend, the little boy may have been evacuated during the siege and perhaps returns again and again to the place where he last saw his relatives. He usually appears during the same time every year, during the first weeks of February. Given the window height above ground level and the fact that there is no ledge to stand on and no other way to climb up, it makes it hard to argue that the boy is a real child. Recently, one of the Alamo Rangers told ghost hunter Martin Leal of another apparition they witnessed. He was wearing a long black coat and was walking across the Alamo grounds towards the library. The Ranger told Martin that he thought, "What kind of idiot would wear such a warm coat on a 90 degree day?" and then realized the coat wasn't a design of this era. The idiot was a ghost.
The Menger Hotel
In 1859 brewery proprietor William Menger built an inn so his patrons could sleep off their drunkenness, rendering them less likely to fall off their horses on the way out of town. Since then, 7 additions have been erected and the historic hotel now boasts 300 rooms, some with a unique history of notable guests and infamous occurrences. It is common knowledge that Theodore Roosevelt recruited many of his Rough Riders in the hotel bar. Probably the most famous spirit said to haunt the hotel is the ghost of Sallie White, a chambermaid shot by her husband on March 28, 1876, who roams the fourth floor of the original wing wearing a long skirt and a bandanna around her head. But the paranormal activity isn't confined to that area: stories of hauntings pervade the hotel and the property surrounding it. The newer rooms face the Alamo and guests have witnessed ghostly wanderings on the grounds from their windows above. The Mengers assistant hotel manager Ernesto Malacara has been with the hotel twenty years, and has become both a spirit enthusiast, a historian and the hotel's best PR agent. We asked him about the reputation that the Menger boasts, of ghosts.
What have been some of the recent disturbances at the hotel?
We seem to be getting quite a bit of activity nowadays. We're getting about one occurrence about every two or three days. We had a lady here that was in town for a convention for an entire week. We assigned her a room in the original building and when she went into the room she felt something was wrong. She said that when she and her husband laid down that night, when she closed her eyes, she saw skulls. Not skeletons, but just two skulls. Later in the evening, whomever or whatever it was started getting a little frisky with her; they started pawing at the bed sheets and she felt hands all over her body. So she got up and she told her husband, "We're getting out of this room right now." He of course didn't want to do it, but being a modern woman as she was, she said, "I've got my own credit card and if you're not going to do this, I'm going down to get another room myself and you can stay here." She did.
And believe it or not, I was actually talking to some women doing a local story about ghost sightings when a woman walked up and said she'd like to register one small complaint. She said the night before she had gone to bed and all of a sudden the TV came back on so she got out of bed to turn it off. She went back to bed and shortly after the TV came back on again.
Two weeks ago I had a repairman working on the movies back here. We have three large steel lockers and each one of these units houses video players -- about eight units per locker. The repairman was working on one locker and all of a sudden the door of another locker opens and a tape pops out. Do you know what the title of this movie was? The Devil's Own. Whether this is someone trying to tell us something or something else, who knows? I hear these kinds of stories all the time. The girls back in PBX say they feel as though someone is watching them. And when they turn around to see if anyone is there they see only half of a face left. I have a room service waitress who tells me she goes up on the floors in the morning to bring down dishes at about 5:30am and somebody plays hide and seek with her. She'll hear her name called, "Yolanda," and when she looks there's no one there. A few moments later she'll hear her name again, and this goes on while she does her job.
Two things have happened to me. See that door, that heavy glass and brass door? (He points to the main entrance in the central part of the hotel.) I would guess it weighs about 160 pounds. I've seen that door open completely. One of the girls said, "It's the wind," but I ran over and there wasn't any breeze at all, not to mention it was the inside door that flew open; the outside doors, which are just as heavy, remained tightly shut.
And I've seen the woman in the blue dress more than once. When I first got here twenty years ago I heard the story of a lady in blue, but at that time I was told of a woman in a blue evening gown, and this woman had on a blue dress. It certainly wasn't an evening gown but it was blue. It was a design from the late 30s or early 40s, and her shoes were like a short version of combat boots. And she had on these little round glasses. Sam Nesmith, a local psychic and the one-time curator of the Alamo was here in the hotel and we had been discussing things that had happened here. We were on the second floor in the Rotunda area and he's looking over in a northerly direction and he says to me, "Ernest, she's there." He said this woman is over there reading a newspaper; she dropped it down and raised it back up. The woman he describes is the same exact lady in blue that I'd seen on the second floor knitting, and a banquet waiter had seen her once on the second floor, going into the Renaissance room. You see things when you least expect them.
Is there a quick turnover of employees because of the hauntings?
We don't really have a big turnover because there's nothing to be afraid of. These spirits are all benevolent; no one has ever been hurt during one of these experiences. Some of the employees take it in a joking way, others are not too sure and it frightens them. I've had everything from tears to not being able to talk, things of this nature.
So if I wanted to try and have a paranormal experience, would you advise me on which room to stay in?
I don't do that for one reason: I'd be opening up... my god... a big kettle of fish. I can't say for sure that you'd have an experience, but it's all over the hotel. I had two girls in here that I put in a room that I know (I keep the master list of what's what)... I didn't say anything but, 'See you tomorrow.' The next morning I asked them if they had enjoyed their stay and one of them said something happened early in the morning. At about 6:30am one of the girls heard someone walking across the carpet, making a slapping noise like when the heel of a shoe hits the carpet. She thought it was her friend who may have gotten up to go to the bathroom or something, and so she turned to talk to her but the friend was sound asleep. She just pulled the covers up over her head.
About six weeks ago I had a lady come from Delaware who wanted to make reservations for 1998. She went back here to ask one of the girls to take her up and show her some rooms. On the way up in the elevator this lady tells our employee that everyone in her family is psychic, and she doesn't herself have this ability but she can sense things. The minute they got out on the floor the woman grabs the girl's arm and tells her there was a man killed in a gun fight in this very hall. She wanted to know if I had any knowledge of that incident and the closest that I can come to that is once I had this doctor tell me that a cowboy came out of the original lobby and there were two cowboys standing in front of the hotel playing with guns and one accidentally shot him.
Are the Menger ghosts good for business?
It's a lot of fun. And I guess it's a marketing angle to a degree, but any employee who has ever told me a story, I believe them. We're not making this stuff up.
After what you've witnessed here, do you personally believe in ghosts?
I do believe we have something here, yes. I really, really do. And as a matter of fact, with all of these little things that have been going on -- I had one of the waiters tell me recently that in the Renaissance room there was a sideboard stacked with wine glasses and they just started falling off one by one. He said, "It's that blank-blank ghost again." So I do believe we really have something.
Are you ever afraid?
I'm an old man and I don't scare easily, but I was in the Renaissance room the other day, it was late evening, and we have a chandelier in there and one lamp over in the corner. So I was going to flick off the chandelier first and then I thought oh no, if I flick off the chandelier first then I'm going to have to walk back after turning off the lamp in the dark. Another time when I was with Sam on a hot summer day, we were up in the King Ranch room where Richard King died in 1885 and I said, 'Sam, it's about six or seven degrees cooler in here.' That was spooky.
ęCopyright 1997 TEXAS MONTHLY, INC. All rights reserved.
Some suggested reading:
"Spirits of San Antonio and South Texas" by Docia Schultz Williams and
Reneta Byrne. Republic of Texas Press.
"More Great Southern Mysteries" by Randall Floyd. August House.
"The Haunted Alamo" by Robert and Anne Powell Wlodarski. G-Host
"San Antonio: The Flavor of its Past, 1845-1898" by Donald E. Everett.