San Antonio – by Irene Butler
Published in Travellady On Line Magazine
Water drips off his wide-brimmed hat and from the hem of his long black coat, though there is not a cloud in the night sky. Seen through the wrought iron side-gate of the Alamo he stands motionless beside the old church, one of the few remaining original structures. Some say as they looked into his shadowy face their eyes fleetingly connected with his chilling black orbs before he vanished. During the last days of the legendary battle of 1836, in which all 189 defenders were killed, Commander William B. Travis reported relentless heavy rains.
My husband Rick and I were gazing at the Alamo from our ledge-seats at the base of the cenotaph in the defender’s honour in downtown San Antonio. With 20 other “real” people, we were listening to (and I was recording with my handy MP3 player) a Ghost-101 tutorial by Martin Leal, our ghost hunt guide whose haunting history precedes him. He has appeared on TV shows in 30 countries, including the History and Discovery channels, and has performed spectre investigations around the world.
“Where people have died tragic and horrific deaths there is a higher incidence of spirits that have not ‘crossed over’,” said Martin. “Cemeteries and historic buildings are also spirit prone.” The Alamo, which previously was the mission of San Antonio de Valero, is known as a hot-bed of paranormal activity to psychics and ghost investigators. Part of the road and plaza in front of the Alamo was once the mission cemetery. Infrastructure repairs in the area still uncover bones and skulls.
“Keep an eye out for ghosts in transparent whole forms, also smoke-like wisps or vortex streaks. Others are hardly distinguishable from us – until they walk through a wall or suddenly evaporate.” Martin further explained how the lingering-departed often move faster than can be detected by the human eye, which explains why people often glimpse these entities in their peripheral vision, which is more sensitive to movement.
Our tour commenced with Martin leading us to nearby landmark hotels where he filled us in on their ghostly “regulars”.
At the Emily Morgan Hotel, a row of gargoyles with pained expressions stared down at us; a caduceus, the ancient Greek symbol of the medical profession, was above where the door once was. Before being turned into a hotel in 1985, it was a hospital and doctor’s offices between 1926 and 1976. Most of its ghosts hover where the old morgue and operating rooms used to be.
We looked up to where Martin’s laser pointer came to rest. “That’s room 8ll – a male ghost has rattled more guests in this room than any other in the hotel. Not long ago, a frantic woman rushed to the reception desk claiming there was a man in her room. A thorough search found no flesh-and-blood being. When told the likelihood of an unearthly intruder, her reaction was to return to bed for a peaceful sleep – not everyone is afraid of ghosts.”
The St. Anthony Hotel (built in 1909) has a variety of resident ghosts. A 9th floor entity plays hide and seek with people exiting the elevator; disappearing and reappearing through the walls of a room directly to the left. Other uncanny occurrences include the roof garden doors opening by themselves and the sound of footsteps passing without an accompanying visible form.
Although most ghosts are anonymous, some can be identified such as Sally White who haunts The Menger Hotel (opened in1859). After being murdered by a jealous husband in 1876, the hotel covered the funeral costs for this dedicated employee. In her maid’s uniform of the day, a long grey skirt and a bandana tied around her head, she has been seen carrying towels down hallways. Guests think her rude for not answering when spoken to – and then freak when she suddenly disappears.
Back at the Alamo, Martin shared some hair-raising tales. After Mexican General Santa Anna defeated the Alamo, he ordered the burning of the fallen defender’s bodies. Although Santa Anna was subsequently defeated by the Texans, he clandestinely sent soldiers back to the Alamo to raze the remaining structures. These men reported six fiery diablos (devils) barring the doorway waving blazing sabers and shouting “Do not touch this place”. A second attempt by another group of soldiers was thwarted by an apparition rising out of the roof with balls of fire in his outstretched hands.
Martin opened his duffle bag of ghost detection equipment for us to try out – gadgets to search for electromagnetic fields and cold spots (based on the theory that ghosts draw energy from their surroundings) and thermal imaging cameras that produce pictures of what the EMF equipment picks up.
Some people raced over to the barred window of the low barracks, the only other original Alamo structure, where a short man in buckskin is often seen. Others, including myself, ran over to the side-gate in hopes of detecting the man in black. Though the entities remained elusive that night, I felt they were no doubt amused by our antics.
A few days later, I downloaded my MP3 recorder onto my computer. At first I was perplexed by the intermittent static; then realized a bizarre pattern. Whenever Martin was sharing general information, his voice was clear, but when he talked about specific ghosts there was a deafening high-pitched static.
I pounded off an e-mail to Martin. He related being involved in ghost investigations where half a dozen pieces of sophisticated equipment shut down, then when his team left the area, all of the equipment started working perfectly again. I listened to the static patterns again… was it a ghost messing with my recorder?….my recorder that has since worked perfectly?
For more info:
Ghost Hunting with Martin Leal – (210) 348-6640
San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau
PHOTO CREDIT: Rick Butler