TOMBALL’S HAUNTED PLACES

MIKE BAXTER SHARES THE FIVE BEST PLACES TO ‘ SEE’ GHOSTS

Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE -

TOMBALL, TEXAS – SMALL TOWN WITH BIG HAUNTS

By day Old Town Tomball, 28-miles north­west of Hous­ton, is filled with eclec­tic an­tique and spe­cialty shops, award win­ning mom-and-pop eater­ies, live en­ter­tain­ment, fes­ti­vals, and a qual­ity of life that makes liv­ing in a small town very de­sir­able But, late at night when the moon is high and the streets are empty, Tomball, Texas is said to host a dif­fer­ent sort of night life; a “spir­ited” night life filled with un­ex­plained in­ci­dences in­volv­ing things that go bump in the night. You see, Tomball is said to be the small town with the big haunts.

THE AL­LEY GHOST OF ELM STREET

Along the rail­road tracks on North Elm Street is Tomball’s new­est award win­ning spot for craft bar­be­cue and hand­made choco­late to die for. Te­jas Choco­late + Bar­be­cue is set in what many old-timers say is the old­est house in town . . . so, what bet­ter place to find a res­i­dent spirit with a love of bar­be­cue and sweets?

Re­cently named the #6 Bar­be­cue Joint in Texas by Texas Monthly Magazine, Te­jas is one of the town’s hot spots for “un­ex­plained late night groans, and the sound of foot­steps in the at­tic and on the stair­case,” said co-owner Scott Moore, Jr. “When we moved into the build­ing it got my at­ten­tion real fast!” he said.

Moore said that he had heard tales from neigh­bor­ing shop own­ers about a ghost named Travis who wan­ders the al­ley be­hind his shop at night. “We were work­ing late one evening and our back al­ley gate opened and then slammed shut,” he said. “There was no one in the al­ley and no breeze what­so­ever. It was un­nerv­ing.”

Two years af­ter open­ing the restau­rant, Moore and his co-work­ers at Te­jas Choco­late + Bar­be­cue still freely talk about hear­ing noises up­stairs af­ter hours, pans and boxes fall­ing from level shelves as if pushed by an un­seen vis­i­tor, and the light at the top of the nar­row stair­way to the sec­ond floor that is switched off in the morn­ing even though they know it was left on when they locked up the night be­fore.

Moore sees Travis as more of a prankster, but, “some­times it gets bor­der­line un­com­fort­able be­ing alone here,” he said. “I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced the weird things that hap­pen here any­where else I’ve ever worked or lived.”

Sim­i­lar sto­ries were told by the de­vel­oper dur­ing the ren­o­va­tion of the old house on North Elm Street. Re­mod­el­ers reg­u­larly heard the sound of some­one walk­ing in the at­tic, tools left in one room would later turn up in an­other, and then there was the con­stant un­easy feel­ing of be­ing watched when alone in the build­ing. Even to­day, the orig­i­nal air-con­di­tion­ing con­trac­tor that did work in the at­tic dur­ing re­mod­el­ing re­fuses to go back into the space for fol­low-up projects.

Moore has jok­ingly ac­cepted his way­ward guest as pos­si­bly an im­pa­tient rail­road pas­sen­ger who con­tin­ues to miss the ghost train that some­times rolls down the nearby BNSF rail­road tracks caus­ing the cross­ing arms to lower on Main Street for no ap­par­ent rea­son.

When Travis isn’t mak­ing mis­chief at Te­jas he’s mak­ing him­self known next door at Jane & John Dough Bak­ery. In an old house built in 1936, the eclec­tic cof­fee house is filled with en­ergy said co-owner Jane Wild. “You can feel it all around,” she said. Co-owner John Blanke­meyer agrees adding that the en­ergy is strong­est in the hall­way lead­ing from the kitchen to the main din­ing room. “When you pass through the hall­way you get the feel­ing you’re be­ing watched,” he said.

Like his friends at Te­jas Choco­late + Bar­be­cue, Blanke­meyer be­lieves that Travis is a joker. Things go miss­ing only to show up else­where, there will be knock­ing on the kitchen door as if some­one wants to come in when there is no one on the other side, and the oc­ca­sional voices and shout-outs are re­minders that they are shar­ing space with an un­seen guest, he said. But, it was the first en­counter with Travis that was the most mem­o­rable re­calls Blanke­meyer.

“Dur­ing con­struc­tion we had a row of trash bags filled with de­bris stacked against a wall. There was also a piece of wood, a wall stud, lean­ing against the same wall be­hind the bags,” he said. “As two of us watched, the stud didn’t just fall over the bags. It leaped over them and landed flat on the floor. The two of us just looked at each other, like ‘what just hap­pened?’. Now we re­al­ize that it must have been Travis.”

GRANNY’S GHOST

The mis­chievous spirit at Granny’s Korner across from the his­toric Tomball Depot has been named Ger­tie by shop owner Mary Har­vey. For years the sprawl­ing an­tique and gift shop on Mar­ket Street has ex­pe­ri­enced un­ex­plained voices and ac­tiv­i­ties both day and night.

“I’m sure that there’s a ghost here. Cus­tomers have even com­mented on it, too,” said Har­vey. “Ger­tie slams doors, causes things to fall, makes all

sorts of noises, and has even touched peo­ple as they shop. We all know that when the fes­ti­vals start hap­pen­ing there at the old Depot, it dis­turbs Ger­tie and she shows her pres­ence,” Har­vey said.

A City of Tomball em­ployee re­ported hear­ing a loud bang­ing sound com­ing from Granny’s Korner one morn­ing while set­ting up for a fes­ti­val be­fore dawn. The er­ratic sound was as if some­one was in­side pound­ing against the old shop win­dows fac­ing Mar­ket Street in or­der to get the em­ployee’s at­ten­tion. As the em­ployee walked away from the area the sound im­me­di­ately stopped.

Feel­ing a pres­ence is one thing, but ac­tu­ally com­ing face to face with Ger­tie in the shop one day was all the proof Har­vey would ever need to be­come a be­liever. “I was in a hurry and walked around a wall and nearly ran over her,” she said. “Think­ing it was a cus­tomer, I put my hand up to keep from bump­ing into her. That’s when she just dis­ap­peared.”

Har­vey says that she was so sur­prised to see the ghost that all she can re­mem­ber is that Ger­tie was about 5’3” tall and had long hair. “We’d heard that there was pos­si­bly a ceme­tery here at one time, and there was a jail nearby for many years,” said Har­vey.

“I’ve also been told that many years ago a woman was stabbed to death in what’s now the court­yard of our shop.”

A sum­mer­time thun­der storm in Tomball ear­lier this year didn’t sit well with Ger­tie, Har­vey said. “The thun­der and light­ning was in­cred­i­ble dur­ing the night,” she said. “When we opened the shop the next morn­ing it was a mess. There were pic­ture frames and all sorts of things ev­ery­where on the floor.”

De­spite lights and ceil­ing fans that turn on and off by them­selves, the ther­mo­stat that won’t stay put, the ho­tel style bell on the front counter that “dings” when no one is there, and mer­chan­dise that re­lo­cates on its own, the ladies who work at Granny’s Korner have ac­cepted Ger­tie and hope that she will some­day ac­cept them.

“We’ve learned to deal with her,” Har­vey said. “We’re not scared of her and ac­tu­ally en­joy talk­ing to her and hav­ing her around. In fact, I had a ghost ex­pert tell me that Ger­tie is my pro­tec­tor and that she some­times trav­els with me,” said Har­vey.

THE MU­SEUM MYS­TERY

Nes­tled among the gi­ant oaks on North Pine Street just off of Main is the pop­u­lar Tomball Mu­seum Cen­ter with its col­lec­tion of his­toric homes, a one-room school house, church, farm mu­seum and more.

One of the old homes there is the Grif­fin House, con­structed in the early 1860s by renowned builder Eu­gene Pil­lot. This beau­ti­fully re­stored ex­am­ple of Civil War era ar­chi­tec­ture comes com­plete with a bonus . . . its own ap­pari­tion in the at­tic.

Ac­cord­ing to Mu­seum Di­rec­tor, Charles Hall, sto­ries of a fe­male spirit in the Grif­fin House have cir­cu­lated for years. As the story goes the fig­ure of a woman dressed in pe­riod cloth­ing has ap­peared in the up­per reaches of the home and been seen more than once rock­ing qui­etly back and forth in her rock­ing chair in the par­lor on the main floor.

The ghost is thought to be the 21-year-old daugh­ter of the Faris fam­ily who once lived in the home. The mys­te­ri­ous cause of the young woman’s death has never been de­ter­mined.

SPRING CREEK SPECTERS

Dur­ing the Civil War a Con­fed­er­ate pow­der mill sat in what is now Spring Creek Park, just a short drive from down­town Tomball. It was there Tex­ans loyal to the Con­fed­er­acy worked around the clock mak­ing can­non pow­der for the rebel army’s ar­tillery pieces.

In 1864 a hor­rific ex­plo­sion de­stroyed the fa­cil­ity killing three men work­ing there. The force of the blast was so great that a huge crater was cre­ated that over time filled with water and be­came a pop­u­lar swim­ming hole for lo­cals.

De­spite ru­mors of spir­its at the pond and in the sur­round­ing woods, the lure of the cool dark water con­tin­ued to draw swim­mers to the pow­der mill site will­ing to risk a ghostly en­counter for a quick dip. Un­for­tu­nately for some that de­ci­sion ended in their death. Af­ter sev­eral cu­ri­ous drown­ings the pow­der mill pond was fenced, but the ru­mors re­main even to­day.

A para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted at Spring Creek Park in 2008 with re­sults show­ing ev­i­dence of un­ex­plained re­sponses, shad­owy images and psy­chic im­pres­sions. Could these have been the spir­its of de­ceased sol­diers of the Con­fed­er­acy, drown­ing vic­tims or pos­si­bly both?

PHANTOM OF FANNIN STREET

The tur­reted two-story home at the cor­ner of South Wal­nut Street and Fannin doesn’t fit the im­age of a Vic­to­rian style “haunted house”, but years of al­leged para­nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties in­side have forced the land­lord to in­clude a special clause in the lease agree­ment for renters. “My lease reads that para­nor­mal ac­tiv­ity is not grounds for ter­mi­nat­ing the lease con­tract,” said cur­rent res­i­dent Rocky Pil­grim.

Pil­grim, a lo­cal at­tor­ney, had heard the sto­ries of the house be­fore mov­ing in but was skep­ti­cal; that is un­til things be­gan to hap­pen that she couldn’t log­i­cally ex­plain. “As the story goes, two spin­sters lived in the house alone and for what­ever rea­son one of them hanged her­self from a beam in the sec­ond floor loft,” she said.

For­mer res­i­dents have told tales of chil­dren at play up­stairs hear­ing voices telling them to “get out” and “Leave . . . I don’t like you”. On more than one oc­ca­sion vases, stacks of pa­per and other inan­i­mate ob­jects have been known to mi­grate from one space to an­other within the house

when no one was watch­ing. A shower mys­te­ri­ously turned it­self on full force, sec­onds af­ter a res­i­dent ex­ited to dry off, and glow­ing orbs have been pho­tographed around the prop­erty by the oc­ca­sional ghost tour, says Pil­grim.

A re­cent in­ci­dent in­volved a young woman play­ing her pi­ano alone in the home as she does ev­ery evening. Through her pe­riph­eral vi­sion while play­ing, the woman thought she saw a shadow mov­ing to her side, but when she turned to look it was gone. Again she started to play, and again she saw the shad­owy fig­ure mov­ing to her side only to dis­ap­pear when she turned to face it. It hap­pened a third time with the same out­come. The pi­anist then closed her eyes and con­tin­ued to play her tune when sud­denly she felt some­one or some­thing grip her shoul­ders from be­hind in what was de­scribed as a light, un­ag­gres­sive hold. She stopped play­ing and the grip was re­leased.

“I have never been creeped-out liv­ing here,” Pil­grim said. “Maybe it’s be­cause I’m still skep­ti­cal and few things have ac­tu­ally hap­pened to me . . . it usu­ally just hap­pens around me. I guess I pre­fer to re­main in ig­no­rance, and it’s worked pretty well so far.”

From its haunted homes, to spir­ited shops and shadow filled ceme­ter­ies, Tomball is “Texan for Fun”® in this life and ap­par­ently in the next!

For more in­for­ma­tion about Tomball, Texas, please call 281-351-5484, visit tomballtx.gov or “like” Tomball on Face­book at “Tomball Texan for Fun.” ®

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.