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Galveston, the Island of Doom

Updated on June 30, 2015
Hotel Galvez Circa 1911
Hotel Galvez Circa 1911
Hotel Galvez Today
Hotel Galvez Today

Galveston, a coastal city located on Galveston Island in Texas, is well known for the hurricane that demolished it in 1900. It was the worst natural disaster ever recorded in the U.S. claiming over 6,000 lives. But the island is also known for other things. It was known by the Spanish as “Malhado,” The Isle of Doom, an ominous name giving a slight hint as to the “other things.” Perhaps because it's rocky shore was responsible for so many shipwrecks and lost lives.

Galveston's first Europeans on the island settled there around 1816. It was named after Bernardo de Galvez y Madrid, Count of Galvez, a former Spanish governor. Galveston was the Texas Navy’s main port during the Texas Revolution and later served as the capital for the Republic of Texas. Today, many call it one of the most haunted cities in America. And more specifically, home to the haunted Hotel Galvez.

However, before there was a hotel, there was an orphanage. A young nun by the name Sister Katherine was tasked with the care of nine children. It was about this time the hurricane of 1900 hit.

Sister Katherine had tied a rope to all nine of her charges to keep them from being washed out to sea as they tried to get to higher ground. The following morning their bodies were all found washed ashore. They were buried just off the beach.

Ashton Villa

Some say a figure dressed as a nun is sometimes seen walking along the beach just before a storm as if trying to give a warning. Apparently the nun and her orphans decided to make the hotel their home as much poltergeist activity has been reported there. Doors opening and closing on their own, lights turning themselves on and off of their own volition suggests that just might be the case.

Another spooky tale involves a young woman who at some point rented room 500 at the hotel while waiting for her fiancé to return from a long sea voyage. Finally, word came he had gone down with his ship during a violent storm. Suffering from grief she killed herself. Known as the "Lovelorn Lady" some say she threw herself off the hotel roof, while others say she hung herself in her room. A few days later her fiancé returned. It had been a different ship that sunk.

To this day it’s said no one can spend an entire night in room 500 without leaving. People say they are overcome with despair and a smell of gardenias in the room. This smell has been found in other areas of the hotel as well, but is usually encountered on the fifth floor where she spent most of her time.

Many say Bernardo de Galvez also haunts the Hotel. A painting of him hangs at the end of the downstairs hallway. Some say they’ve felt his eyes upon them and a cold chill as they pass by it. Other people say that unless you ask the governor’s permission to take a photograph of his painting it will come out blurred.

But there are more ghostly legends in Galveston. There is the Ashton Villa Mansion a large, three story palace built by wealthy hardware businessman, James Moreau Brown that began construction right before the Civil War and took four years to build. Built of brick and cast iron it is one of the few stately mansions to survive the 100 hurricane.

Often called the "most haunted building in America," it was presided over by his colorful daughter, Miss Bettie Brown. Her ghost has been seen standing at the top of the staircase, and heard playing her piano. Touring visitors have reported feeling her presence. One of Bettie’s cherished possessions, a chest of drawers from the Middle East, reportedly locks and unlocks by itself although the key has been missing for years. Ceiling fans turn themselves on. And one bed refuses to stay made no matter how many times a day it’s made.

However, Bettie isn't the only spirit there. During the Civil War Ashton Villa was commandeered as a hospital for Confederate soldiers. Reports of marching soldiers in the house and on the grounds have been submitted.

Galveston, a small Island with a lot of Ghosts. But most residents accept the idea their community is haunted. As one said, "They were here before we were. They just haven't left yet."


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I've never been there and don't plan to. I mean, "Who ya gonna call?"

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Nor will they leave. Have you been there? I would visit in a heartbeat and stay in Room 500, too.