This town is haunted

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 Illustration by Ansley Lewis

Illustration by Ansley Lewis

San Antonio is home to many legends and haunted places.

By Anthony B. Botello

San Antonio is haunted, said Brad Klinge, San Antonio native and star of the Discovery Channel’s “Ghost Lab” who has been doing paranormal research for about 20 years.

From Freeman Coliseum to the Alamodome, ghosts can be found all over the city, Klinge said.

One of the city’s most popular urban legends involves train tracks on the corner of Shane and Villamain in South San Antonio near San Juan Mission.

The legend says a train killed a busload of children stalled on the tracks, and their ghosts push cars parked on the tracks to safety.

Locals sprinkle baby powder on the bumper of their vehicles in hopes of seeing the handprints of the dead children, but Klinge said, “The road leading to the tracks is an optical illusion, and the fingerprints of the ghost kids on your bumper are nothing but your own fingerprints.”

He explained, “When you touch your trunk or bumper, you leave your body oil. … That’s what the print is made of.”

Another story is of the Donkey Lady.

Kendrah Holland, a paranormal investigator, participates with the “Russell Rush Haunted Tour,” including an online show at

Holland shared her familiarity with this local legend since childhood. “When I was younger, I was told to behave or the Donkey Lady will get you,” Holland said.

Klinge describes the Donkey Lady as the ghost of a horribly disfigured Mexican woman who looked half-human and half-donkey. She is said to haunt a remote bridge on the South Side off Old Applewhite Road over the Medina River.

She is supposed to appear to drivers who honk their horn three times.

Klinge, who grew up in the Universal City area, said he always heard she “lived in the Cibolo Creek area, that you could call out and she would either appear from the woods or rise from the water.”

Some people relate La Llorona, Mexican folklore banshee and harbinger of bad things, to Woman Hollering Creek. But the actual story behind Woman Hollering Creek is “specific to an Apache Indian raid back when they killed women and children in the camp while the men were away, and the hollering is supposed to be the screams of the people being slaughtered,” Klinge said. “So there is no connection on that one.”

Holland said her favorite local haunted spot is the Black Swan Inn. Built in 1846, the Black Swan Inn was a small farmhouse on Salado Creek near Rittiman Road built by the Mahler family, who added wings to make it the inn it is today.

Holland said she named her daughter after Sophia Mahler, a spinster who lived in the house until she was 82, but haunts the inn as an 8-year-old girl singing and laughing and known for playing tricks on people.

Other ghosts at the inn include debutante Jolene, the wife of Park Street, a prohibition-era lawyer who was known for getting criminals out of trouble.

Street’s wife, Jolene, has been seen in a lavish white gown walking through the area where some accounts say she fell from the stairs and suffered a fatal head injury.

Another Black Swan ghost is a bit of a rogue.

“Sabastian is a macho, angry farmer who haunts the milking barn at the Black Swan Inn, known to pinch girls on the butt and push guys to the ground,” Holland says.

Originally a dairy farm, the Black Swan Inn would deliver milk to Klinge’s local favorite, the legendary Menger Hotel. Klinge said it is thought to be one of the most haunted hotels in the world.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a legend because I have experienced many things here … even on ‘Larry King Live’ … ” Klinge said.

Klinge was featured on “Larry King Live” in a 2009 Halloween special. During a live feed from the Menger Hotel, the producer of the King show was on site with the paranormal team, but he was skeptical until a recording picked up the voice of a ghost saying “get your horse.”

“From stories from the staff who work there, physical evidence captured, to regular guests checking out in the middle of the night because of the hauntings … the Menger has it all,” Klinge said.

Built in the 1850s as an inn for a local brewery owned by the Menger family, it sits directly next to the Alamo hosting dignitaries and celebrities from around the world.

“Teddy Roosevelt recruited the famous Rough Riders in the Menger Bar, and yes, his ghost has been reported there,” Klinge said.

Another favorite local haunted spot was the Midget Mansion, where the owner killed his family and then himself. Today, apartments sit near Callahan at Loop 410 where the mansion once was.

The “Red” Berry Mansion on the East Side was the home of V.E. “Red” Berry, a politician indicted for three murders but then acquitted. It was known for its underground gambling, and today is reportedly haunted by Berry and others.

Roosevelt trained the Rough Riders on the grounds of The Freeman Coliseum. The barns held Nazi prisoners of war during World War II, and the building has also had accidental deaths during rodeos, circuses and concerts.

The Alamodome is thought to be haunted by a woman who was raped and murdered on that location before the facility replaced a neighborhood. The staff there can share stories of this “woman in black” many claim to have seen.

Milam Park, downtown at 500 W. Commerce St., was a city cemetery from the 1700s through the mid-1800s. The city had the headstones removed but left the graves.

“Apparitions have been seen walking through the park all the time, and some reported by the patients looking out the window from Santa Rosa Hospital right across the street,” Klinge said.

Klinge also shared Mexican folklore of Lechuza, or the owl witch, a woman who takes the form of an owl to seek revenge on people.

Legend goes, if people whistle three times at midnight and then hear a screech, Lechuza is nearby.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people believe in her,” Klinge said.


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