Halloween in Houston

October 1, 2005 by  
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Houston is home to a number of haunted stories. Founded in 1836, the city has had its fair share of spooky stories and frightening events. There have been murders and slayings, disappearances and accidents. One of the most interesting stories that we found has to do with the banks of Buffalo Bayou.

Rich banks
As we were told by Sandra Lord of Discover Houston Tours, the banks of the bayou were used as burial sites in the 19th century. Wealthy families lived along the waterway, and family vaults were carved into the banks.

Though the remains along the bayou were excavated and moved to Glenwood Cemetery in 1901, there still remains a little-known vault beneath the Franklin Street bridge at Louisiana. The Donnellan family was once buried here, but because of its unique location under the bridge, the vault has remained.

Sadly, this family suffered a loss that remains on history books today. During the Civil War, a Confederate ship, bringing goods to soldiers, sank just short of the Milam Street landing. The ship remained here, underwater, for the most part, for decades. As water levels fell, the ship could be seen through the murky waters of the bayou.

This must have sparked the curiosity of two of the young Donnellan boys. They decided to explore the remains of the ship beneath the water, but did not realize what the cargo contained. Unfortunately, the ship had been carrying weaponry and artillery, and, according to the story, as the boys dove in and out of the ship, they disturbed some of the ammunition. The ship exploded and took the lives of the two young boys. They were interred in the family vault along the bayou. Although most evidence of this unique burial system has been washed away by the waters of the bayou, the Donnellan family vault remains. An impressive red brick edifice wall can be found beneath the bridge, attesting to the city’s early cemetery history.

Treacherous Tours
Walking tours prove frighteningly fascinating
If you have never taken the time to saunter about downtown, this is the time to start. The weather is wonderful, the construction is (nearly) over and the ghost stories are abounding. With the revitalization of Houston’s downtown, there has also been a revival of the area’s historic hauntings.

Hosting Ghost Walks through downtown Houston for the past five years, Sandra Lord of Discover Houston Tours will be leading these terrifying tours Friday and Saturday nights from Sept. 30-Oct. 29. Starting at the historic Southern Pacific building’s Franklin Street Coffee House and winding through downtown (including a ride on the METROrail), tourists discover the beauty and diversity of the area, as well as some of the spooky stories that accompany the century-old buildings.

Although in years past the tour has welcomed the whole family, this year’s Ghost Walks stop into quite a few bars and include a bit more terrifying tales. Ideal for a date, these tours are wonderful combo of history and lore, and guides are able to weave a perfectly frightening night. To make a reservation for the Ghost Walks, call (713) 222-9255 or visit www.discoverhoustontour.com. (Just to let you know – she does all types of historic tours all year long!)

Wrong floor
One of the most repeated ghost stories and well known haunted buildings in Houston is the present-day Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant on Commerce Street. Built in 1912, it was originally the Desel-Boettcher building.

According to Lord, this building was the site of a very unfortunate accident. Formerly used as a pharmaceutical warehouse, a very untimely death occurred here – and the building has been haunted ever since.

The story goes that a young pharmacist worked long hours at the office. One such evening, he was carrying a full load in his arms, waiting for the elevator on the second floor of the building. He didn’t wait long enough – and stepped in before the elevator had gotten there. He fell to his death. Not only do many claim his ghost haunts the restaurant, but also that of his wife. (The story assumes that she was very unhappy about her husband’s young demise.)

Spaghetti Warehouse staff claims that “weird” things happen here – especially on the second floor and in the basement. From cold, clammy gusts of wind to soft whispers, moved objects to unexplained hair-raising feelings, nary a ghost enthusiast is disappointed when he/she visits the Spaghetti Warehouse.

Old regular
Lord relates a number of ghostly stories emanating from everyone’s favorite wine bar, as well. La Carafe is housed in Houston’s oldest commercial building. Constructed in 1860, the building at 813 Congress has housed a number of occupants; but for the last half century, La Carafe has delighted patrons with pleasantly priced wines and a unique historical character that pulls in a comfortable, eclectic crowd.

Here, there are definitely regulars, people who wish they could be more regular about coming and visitors who come for the first time and vow to become regular patrons. Once you step in the door, you fall in love.

This may be true for a ghost who is rumored to haunt this funky bar. As the story goes, there is a regular guest who just couldn’t give up his seat at the bar. Sightings and stories have melded together, but the ghost remains a loyal patron. H

For Little Pumpkins
More than trick-or-treating, these activities offer Holloween hilarity Halloween is for the kids, anyway. There are a number of wonderful children- and family-friendly events held throughout Houston. From putt-putt golf to fall festivals, take the whole gang out for some spooky entertainment.

Haunted holes
For a spooky night of putt-putt golf, come to the fourth annual Haunted Holes at the Putt-Putt FunHouse where every Friday and Saturday night in October will feature 18 spooky holes with elaborate decorations, interactive props, professional actors and trick-or-treating. Guests will be walked through the bat cave, pumpkin patch, graveyard, haunted castle and alligator hole. A Haunted Holes ticket also includes a free ticket for CastlEscape, a Halloween-themed virtual reality feature. (281) 333-0579, www.puttputtfunhouse.com

Very scary
This is your last chance to experience the haunted house, gothic castle and phantom funhouse of Fright Fest at Astroworld – and, for that matter, Astroworld altogether. Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays from Oct. 7-30, Astroworld will again open their gates for the scare of the season. You won’t want to miss the “ghastly fiends” or the “ghoulish clowns.” (713) 799-1234, www.sixflags.com

Kid fun
Your family will love the lurking spiders, cheerful ghosts, friendly goblins and dancing skeletons of The Children’s Museum of Houston’s McDonald’s Halloween Mansion on Oct. 15-31. Kids will have a spookily good time dancing to the fun Halloween music. (713) 522-1138, www.cmhouston.org

Boo at the zoo
The Houston Zoo puts a spin on trick-or-treating with Zoo Boo on Oct. 21-23 and 28-30. With a Happy Haunted House (animal themed, of course), craft booths, parades, magic shows and more, there is an activity every member of the family will enjoy. Don’t miss the 500 lighted pumpkins! (713) 533-6500, www.houstonzoo.org

Ghostly gardens
Bring the whole family to Moody Gardens on Galveston Island on Oct. 30 for Ghostly Gardens from 2-4 p.m. The events will range from free trick-or-treating to costume contests. You will also enjoy the free screening of a classic creepy movie! (800) 582-4673, www.moodygardens.org

Pumpkin Patch
What a sweet little pumpkin

St. Luke’s United Methodist Church offers the ultimate photo opp. for Halloween. Every fall, the church’s front lawn is transformed into a beautiful pumpkin patch. With all sizes and varieties of pumpkins and gourds, as well as Indian corn and ceramic decorations, you are sure to be able to find the perfect jack-o-lantern. Families are able to go out to the church and buy these orange beauties (and take some pictures, too!) from Sept. 24-Oct. 31. All the proceeds benefit the Pure Sound Youth Choir, a harmonious group composed of 7th to 12th graders. 3471 Westheimer, (713) 402-5016 H

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