TOMBALL’S HAUNTED PLACES
MIKE BAXTER SHARES THE FIVE BEST PLACES TO ‘ SEE’ GHOSTS
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.”
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.” ®