Haunted Austin: 5 Places You Might See a Ghost
“Keep Austin Weird” just got paranormal…
Haunted houses are a Halloween favorite for many, but despite blood-spattered walls, ghoulish actors, and bone-chilling music, there's one thing that staged terrors can never provide: an authentic scare.
You'll probably never encounter a real ghost at a staged haunted house, but many of Austin's historic haunts boast rich paranormal histories. These five locations in particular have been igniting Austinites' superstitions for years:
5. Paramount Theatre
Paramount Theatre moviegoers file outside after a show. Rebecca Bennett.
Once known as The Majestic Theatre in the early 1900s, Paramount Theatre has withstood the test of time and set itself apart from other movie theaters by offering a more well-rounded experience of the arts, featuring live music, dance and theater performances, magicians, and comedians, as well as unscheduled performers of a more supernatural nature.
In 2000, the Paramount’s projectionist, Walter Norris, died of a heart attack during a showing of Casablanca. Shortly afterwards, equipment and lighting controlled from the projectionist’s booth began to malfunction uncharacteristically. Only when employees leave candy bars and chocolate donuts—Walter’s favorite snacks—in the projectionist’s booth does the equipment run smoothly.
No one has ever reported seeing Walter’s ghost, but employees have heard voices and seen strange lights in his old booth, as well as footsteps and the creaking of seats in the auditorium after hours.
4. The UT Tower
The UT Tower is 307 feet tall, with 28 stories. Rebecca Bennett.
Even in its earliest state as humble “Old Main” tower in 1881, the UT Tower was believed to be cursed because its bricks were fired from mud hewn from haunted Shoal Creek and the ivy that curled up its sides was clipped from a grave.
The tower plays host to many a guided tour—and many a ghost. Ten unfortunate souls who fell to their deaths are said to wander around the base of the tower at night. Only one death was accidental; the other nine were student suicides.
Yet there's another, darker ghost rumored to dwell in UT Tower: Charles Whitman, the student responsible for the 1966 shooting massacre. Disguised as a custodian and equipped with marine training, three high-powered rifles, and a heck of a hard life, Whitman climbed to the top of UT Tower and gunned down 14 people and wounded 32 others before police officers were able to take him out.
Whitman’s ghost is only seen occasionally, but his presence lingers thickly in the tower such that even security guards on their nightly rounds tell Charles to stop when the lights flicker.
3. Austin Pizza Garden
Austin Pizza Garden is located along busy highway 290. Rebecca Bennett.
Austin Pizza Garden is known as one of the best pizza joints in the city because of its secret dough recipe and unfailingly friendly waitstaff. Dinner at APG is a real treat—but with the restaurant’s resident poltergeist, it can also be tricky.
In the kitchen, pizza cutters spin by themselves, silverware ends up unexplainably strewn about the floor, cold spots make employees shiver, and one “dead spot” causes employees to forget what they were doing as they pass through it.
Elsewhere in the restaurant, doors repeatedly lock of their own accord, chairs scoot across the floor, a voice whispers employees’ names, and footsteps can be heard in the second floor office. Two guests have reported chatting with a person that disappeared mid-conversation and several employees have repeatedly seen a ghost standing at the top of the kitchen’s rear stairwell.
The Texas Spirit Seekers conducted an investigation in 2008 and apparently, APG's ghost afflicted several members of the team with nausea and scratched a team member's back.
2. The Littlefield House
UT staff members avoid being in the Littlefield House alone. Rebecca Bennett.
Situated on W 24th and Whitis on UT’s campus and used for presidential events and office space, the Littlefield House, the prodigy of an ambitious cattle baron named George Littlefield from the 1800s, is said to be haunted by the ghost of George’s wife, Alice.
Fearful of Yankees stealing Alice away from him, Major Littlefield locked her in the attic for safekeeping at the start of the Civil War, but he somehow missed the memo that the war had ended and left her there for the rest of her days. As a result, Alice became depressed and agoraphobic—and later, clinically insane.
According to legend, Alice shared her lofty prison with bats and shrieked when they took flight each evening. Apparently, those cries of terror can still be heard today, just as her restless ghost has often been seen pacing about the attic and staring out of the windows.
1. The Driskill Hotel
The Driskill is 6th Street's very own haunted mansion. Rebecca Bennett.
Known as one of the most haunted hotels in the nation, The Driskill Hotel even comes with a name that sounds murderous. The elegant hotel opened in 1886 when a local cattle baron named Colonel Jesse Driskill sought to expand his business. Rumor has it, he never left.
His cigar smoke wafts out of unoccupied rooms, his chair rocks by itself, and some have even seen the stately Colonel turning lights off and on and creeping on the ladies—and he’s not alone. Guests and staff have reported seeing at least eight other ghosts over the years.
The lobby staircase is haunted by the ghost of a young girl who tripped down the stairs to her death while chasing her ball. Room 29 is the domain of the pistol-carrying “Houston Bride,” a woman who committed suicide in the bathroom after her fiancé left her at the altar.
Then there’s the pleasant Depression-era hotel manager mulling about the lobby, the Victorian-era clerk arranging flowers at the front desk, the railroad ticket salesman who haunts Room 419, the two other “suicide brides” from Room 525, and the old security guard patrolling the hallways, in addition to the haunted mirrors in the Maximilian Room.
The downtown Omni Austin Hotel, Buffalo Billiards, Austin's Inn at Pearl Street, the Texas Governor's Mansion, Shoal Creek, and the Neill-Cochran House Museum are also rumored to host a fair amount of ghosties.
For a truly frightening Halloween experience, consider visiting one of Austin's most historically-haunted locations. You might just see a real ghost!
To read about more haunted locations in Austin, check out these books: The Big Book of Texas Ghost Stories and The Ghosts of Austin, Texas. For spooky tours of Austin, check out Austin Ghost Tours or Austin Haunted Limo Tours.