Spooks of Fort Phantom Hill
Old Fort Commissary
Fort Phantom Hill
Located in Jones County, Texas, Fort Phantom Hill is one of the most pristine historic sites in the state. This popular historic site not only provides visitors with a vivid historical view of the past, but is also reported to have more than its’ fair share of spooks.
The fort was established on Nov. 14, 1851 to defend frontier settlers and West-bound 49'ers. Originally called the "Post on Clear Fork of the Brazos,” it later became known as "Phantom Hill,” perhaps due to prevalent mirages or sighting of ghostly Indians.
There are two accounts concerning the naming of Phantom Hill. The first account deals with the hill itself. It seems to rise sharply from the plains when approached from a distance, but as one comes closer it levels out and vanishes…like a phantom.
The second account tells of a nervous sentry who fired on what he thought was an Indian brave on the hill. Further investigation failed to discover any presence of Indians and one trooper suggested maybe he had seen a ghostly phantom.
Old Guard House
A Difficult Life
Life at Fort Phantom Hill was difficult. A shortage of vegetables in the men's diet, led to scurvy, intermittent fever, dysentery, colds, and pneumonia. The fort couldn’t rely on settlers for any aid as there were none.
Soldiers at the fort lacked shortages in all areas from uniforms to arms. Fortunately they were not engaged in hostile action with any Indians at the time. Although it was reported Indians did visit the post occasionally they were more or less considered a general nuisance.
However, once a tribe of 2,500 led by Chief Buffalo Hump's passed by the fort. The men promptly assumed battle positions. It is not known whether the Indians would have attacked the post or not. Apparently, seeing the battle readied soldiers, they passed by obviously not happy at the turn of events. One Northern Comanche leader did send the post’s commanding officer a message stating "when the grass became good again he was coming down and whip him." He never came.
Several legends say the place is haunted by restless Indians of the past. Some say the fort is haunted by an innocent man lynched near the fort. His accusers are all said to have died in mysterious ways.
But the specter most often encountered is “The Lady of the Lake.” Sightings of the lady date back to the mid-1800s, long before the lake even existed. Details and descriptions of her have changed over the years, but witnesses who claim to have seen her say she's real.
Archives in the local “Abilene Reporter News,” contain several accounts of the lady. One account places her back about 150 years ago to the early days of Old West pioneers. A man and his wife had settled where the lake now rests in Indian Territory.
Following several Indian attacks the couple were prompted to establish a secret password. No one was to enter their log cabin house without giving the password and whichever one was inside was to shoot anyone trying to enter. The system worked effectively for a while.
However, the man went hunting early one morning, leaving his wife home alone. But game was scarce and as evening approached, his hunt had remained fruitless. Disappointed, he dejectedly started back home. As he came into a clearing he was suddenly ambushed by a band of Indians. He miraculously managed to escape and reach his cabin with the Indians nipping at his heels. Frantically clawing at the door in fear he forgot all about giving the password. His wife shot and killed him. It is said she still walks the lake shore dressed in white and carrying a lantern searching for her slain husband.
Another version places the lady's origins in the mid-1940s. A man and woman were to meet at a church near the lake to be married. She arrived early, but her groom never came. She begged local authorities to find him as he wasn’t the type to leave her standing at the altar. Her intended was found the following morning floating in a boat in the middle of the lake. His face was frozen in pain and fear, but the cause of his death was never discovered.
Some say the Lady of the Lake roams the shores in search of the killer, wearing the white wedding dress she wore the day she was to be wed. It is also said her desire for revenge is so great her eyes are as black as the night.
A third version was printed in the early 1980s. But in this account the woman dies. The two lovers agree to meet one evening near the lakeside. The man arrived enraged about a rumor he had heard concerning suspected infidelity on her part. After a heated argument he drags her into the lake and drowns her. The slain lady now roams the lake searching for her murderer and carrying the lantern she had the night of her death.
Some witnesses report dizziness, nausea, palpitations and psychic cold spots. Dogs at the lake have been seen to fly into unprovoked fits, snapping at something apparently only they can sense.
A former psychic from Abilene, who visited the fort, tells this story: He suddenly saw the old officer quarter’s in its former complete structure, and found himself in the parlor. Two officers stood before him. One was tall and thin, the other, a red haired short man with piercing eyes.
As the psychic stood frozen in fright, the officers glared at him, apparently not pleased with his intrusion. As he turned to flee, the apparitions and the restored building faded.
A poem was written which describes the place exquisitely:
breezy Texas border, on the prairies far away;
Where the antelope is grazing and the Spanish ponies play;
Where the tawny cattle wander through the golden incensed hours,
And the sunlight woos a landscape clothed in royal robes of flowers;
Where the Elm and Clear Fork mingle, as they journey to the sea,
And the night-wind sobs sad stories o'er a wild and lonely lea;
Where of old the dusky savage and the shaggy bison trod,
And the reverent plains are sleeping 'midst drowsy dreams of God;
Where the twilight loves to linger, e'er night's sable robes are cast
'Round grim-ruined, spectral chimneys, telling stories of the past,
There upon an airy mesa, close beside a whispering rill
There to-day you'll find the ruins of Old Fort Phantom Hill.”- Larry Chitenden, 1938
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