Downtown Austin embraces the spooky season all year long. You can find haunted tours year-round that are happy to tell you the spine-chilling tales of the ghosts, ghouls and mysteries of Austin. Buckle in and brace yourself for some creepy content as we go through some of our favorite haunted places downtown.
Content Warning: Supernatural, Murder, Death, Suicide
The Driskill Hotel
Our next-door neighbor, the Driskill Hotel, is well-known for its haunts. One of their popular poltergeists is a young girl playing with a ball, often spotted near a painting of a young girl on the 5th floor. Many believe the apparition’s name is Samantha because children often are said to begin playing with an “imaginary friend” during their stay at the Driskill, and when asked who they are playing with, they almost always say “Samantha”. It is common lore that she is the daughter of a senator who fell down the stairs and broke her neck while playing with a ball during the 1887 Legislative session.
Another famous ghost of the Driskill Hotel is the hotel’s namesake, Colonel Driskill. Driskill was known to chat up the hotel’s guests in the lobby surrounded by a heavy cloud of smoke so he can often be found by the smell of cigar smoke despite the hotel’s longstanding no-smoking policy. Rumor has it, one security guard even quit after an encounter with the ghost. The guard smelled the cigar smoke and while searching for the source, he heard a deep voice behind him asking for a match. When he turned around, no one was there.
There is also the full-bodied apparition of Peter Lawless. Lawless is frequently spotted by staff and guests alike in the hotel. In life, Peter Lawless moved into the hotel and resided there for 31 years after his wife passed. His ghost is said to have dark hair and pants with a white shirt and a pocket watch. Housekeepers who have encountered him say they experience a tingling sensation, look up to find an older man staring at them and he disappears while they make eye contact. Guests and front desk staff have reported seeing him exit the elevator, check the time, nod to the front desk worker and then disappear.
The Driskill Hotel is also known for a spurned fiancé who died by suicide after her betrothed left her. The legend and the police report tell different stories; however, both line up to the same cause of death and name attached to the story. As for which tale is true, you can decide for yourself when you visit the famously haunted hotel.
Texas Governor’s Mansion
Several ghosts are rumored to roam the Governor’s Mansion at night. One of the most innocuous ghosts is perhaps the ghost of Governor Sam Houston, who appears as a full-bodied apparition and a mere annoyance to others as he seems to have a habit of turning on the light that hangs over his portrait.
The other ghosts tell love stories, one of true love and the other of an obsession. Rumor has it that a Texas Scout fell in love with a Comanche woman and met in secret at the site of the mansion. When their love was discovered, the scout was murdered, and the woman took her life in true Romeo and Juliet fashion. Their ghosts stroll the grounds hand in hand to this day, hopefully, happy in the afterlife. The other is the story of a boy, Governor Murrah’s nephew, who fell for the niece of the governor’s wife. He proposed within 24 hours of meeting her and shot himself when she said no. The nephew and Governor Murrah himself are said to still haunt the mansion.
Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol may be well-known as the largest capitol building in the United States, holding true to the famous maxim, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” but did you know the Capitol also has a few ghosts roaming the halls? We are not just talking about the unpassed bills and legislation that went to the chambers to die.
Ed Wheeler, a man in his twenties, fell to his death while repainting the inside of the dome in 1922. The scaffolding slid out from underneath him as he worked, plummeting him past all three levels of the rotunda to a tragic death.
In a more sinister event, Comptroller Robert Love was working in his office just like any other day in 1903 when a disgruntled former employee walked in. Love greeted William Hill and was handed a letter. As Love read the letter expressing Hill’s frustrations with Love and government officials spending too much time focused on the powerful few instead of the people, Hill shot Love twice in the chest. Hill encountered another employee while fleeing the scene of the assassination and was accidentally shot by his own gun in the ensuing tussle. Love’s ghost is said to appear in the Capitol wearing a suit and top hat, repeating his final words.
Other well-accounted-for ghosts that appear in the Capitol include the ghost of Governor Edmond Jackson Davis, who is said to bring a distinct chill despite the Texas heat and stare down anyone in his path and a ghost of a mysterious origin who has been seen by too many employees and visitors to deny. This ghost is a young woman in a red dress who appears to be a normal human until she walks through the wall and disappears.
The Omni Hotel
If you ever wondered why there aren’t more tales about modern ghosts, the Omni Hotel is for you. The spirit that resides here in the afterlife is known as Jack, and he is clearly from the 80s. In life, Jack visited Austin in an attempt to improve his sales and chose to stay at the recently remodeled Omni. But even in Austin, he couldn’t make ends meet as a door-to-door salesman and spent all his money trying to stay afloat. One day, when the bill collectors came to make good on his debts, Jack leapt off his balcony to an early demise and is said to haunt the room he was checked into to this day.
The Clay Pit/ Bertram Building
You may be familiar with The Clay Pit (if you are not, get over there because YUM), but are you familiar with the building’s dark history and spooky sounds? The Bertram Building is one of Austin’s first settled establishments. Built in 1853, the Bertram Building has been a trading post, dry goods shop with living quarters upstairs, restaurants and more. According the legend, O.R. Bertram’s young son passed away from Typhoid fever upstairs in the living quarters. Patrons of the popular Indian restaurant report hearing spooky moans and bellows above them with no logical explanation. Employees and neighbors hear the late-night sounds of parties coming from upstairs after hours when no one else is there.
The Littlefield House
Alice Littlefield said to roam the Littlefield House, showing up in two vastly different ways in the afterlife. The first, more light-hearted ghost story is that the piano upstairs will often seem to be playing itself, sending melodies drifting through the house. It is presumed that this is Alice since she was the one who played the piano the most in life. The second is a much more sinister tale. George Littlefield loved his wife so dearly that he would lock her in the house’s attic lest she be stolen while George was away since he made several enemies in the Civil War. His paranoia spread to his wife and turned into hysteria, which could not be treated while he was alive. Once George passed, it was said that Alice Littlefield was heartbroken but slowly returned to a stable mental state. Her ghost is said to shriek in the attic and run down the stairs as though her spirit is reliving the days it spent locked away. The Littlefield House may be closed to the public, but rumor has it that sometimes you can see the ghost of Alice Littlefield looking out the attic window.
Honorable Haunted Mentions
St. David’s Episcopal Church
Stephen F Austin Royal Sonesta
The Paramount and Stateside Theaters
We hope this lights up your spooky soul during this Halloween Season and inspires you to take a haunted tour downtown or perhaps even stay at a haunted hotel if you are brave enough. Keep Austin haunted!