Some people are just freaked out by ghost stories. Most of us have had an incident at one point or the other in our lives. I’ve had a few, nothing too serious, and nothing too definitive, either. I used to argue with a light switch when I was in my pre-teen years. I would turn it off, only to go back into the room later and find it back on. It was an old house, built in 1928, and the local stories were of death, suicide, or something nefarious that happened in the house some years before my family and I lived there. I never took much stock in it because nothing ever happened to me beyond that annoying light switch.
I didn’t have another incident for almost 20 years. I was in Austin for a conference, before I moved there, and stayed at the freshly restored Driskill Hotel. The Driskill is a post Civil War era hotel, and like our old house, has a lot of stories about hauntings and such. The first night I stayed there, something bolted into my room, through a locked door, in the middle of the night. I sat upright, with a feeling of someone being in the room with me, waken by the unmistakable sound of someone bursting through the door. To my relief, the door was closed and there was no one there. I smiled, wrote it off to the hauntings I’d heard about and went back to sleep. I had been pretty drunk that night, actually. I’ve stayed at the Driskill since, and have never had a similar incident, although I haven’t stayed in the older section since that first time there.
So ghosts have never been a big part of my life outside of the normal stories everyone hears. And I haven’t had another incident since the night at the Driskill some 20 years ago. That is until the last time I went to the Alamo.
I’ve always figured that if there are spirits that get trapped in this world, the Alamo would be a safe bet to find them. Some 250 “Texians” massacred and 600 Mexican deaths in such a small area would create some sort of energy if there is such a thing. The Alamo is pretty small, about 3 acres. After all the stories, you expect it to be three to four times as big as it was. Not that the size is important, I don’t think. So I was there with my wife, and we walked around like normal, taking in the sites and reading the plaques. But I had a different feeling this time. It’s always one of somberness, but this was different. I couldn’t really tell what it was, but it was noticeable enough that my wife asked me if I was OK. I told her I was fine, I just had a strange feeling. She agreed that there was something different this time.
As we walked into the shrine, which is in the original Alamo chapel, the ranger at the door was talking to someone else and didn’t remind me to take off my hat. I don’t always wear a hat, and I admit I had forgotten about removing your hat at the shrine. My hat was briskly slapped from my head. But the only one standing next to me was my wife. She reached to pick my hat up for me, as it ended up in front of her. I mumbled, “I’m so sorry” loud enough for her to hear, but not so loud that everyone in the room could hear me.
“What’s that all about?” She asked me.
“Something knocked my hat off my head.”
“Huh, ghosts a little bitchy today?
“Yeah, something’s got the place on edge, for sure.”
I started to think about the number of people who come through the Alamo site each year. It has to be more than a million. I imagine what it would be like to be a ghost from the Alamo, watching our society change and progress over the years, decades, centuries, and then see someone forget to remove their hat. Sure, removing one’s hat is only a token sign of honor, but what else does a ghost have?
I asked my wife if we could walk around the site again. I wanted to double check every plaque, and every room. And we did. We went into the barracks where Jim Bowie was shot, amongst others. We went through the entire site again, stopping, reading and just taking in the feeling of each area. I can’t say anything felt different, but I did have a better feeling about the visit than I had before.
When we went back into the shrine the second time, I already had my hat in my hand, and my heart was somber. The big difference this time around the Alamo is I didn’t make a single joke, which is rare for me. The ranger nodded and pulled me aside.
“I’d like to apologize for our ghost,” he said.
“Is that who knocked my hat off?”
“Yes, sir. Normally he’s not active, but something has him riled up today,”
“It’s all good, we went back through the site and paid much more attention. I had a feeling we owed it to whoever that was. I can’t imagine watching all these people for all these years come through this site and not just act with simple decorum.”
“I’m glad you understand me,” said the ranger, and walked back to his post.
I didn’t get a name of the ghost. I don’t think anyone would know, anyway. It’s been my experience that the staff will name the ghost arbitrarily. But there was a presence in the Alamo that day, and my wife and I both felt it. It was the first time I’d ever physically felt a ghost, as my hat was brushed off my head by what felt like a hand. Again, I can’t help but feel just horrible sadness for the poor spirit trapped in the Alamo having to watch tourists all day long. If I assume that it’s a spirit that was killed at the Alamo when Santa Anna attacked, that seems a horrible afterlife. A true hell.
I can only hope I come to a better fate than that. I also need to go to the Alamo more often and pay my respects.
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