The Curse of Old Town Spring
“Welcome to Ghost Tours,” our guide begins in a Scottish accent. I’m in Old Town Spring with my writing buddy, Susie McCauley. It’s a quaint town in Northwest Houston nestled along Spring Creek. And when I say quaint, what I really mean is haunted-to-the-max. Great boutique shopping by day. The Ghost Capital of Texas by night.
Susie and I are on the adults-only ghost tour. What does adults-only mean?
The hauntings aren’t sugarcoated. Casper does not live in this town. The stories told aren’t of the Goosebumps variety. No. These are the ghosts of nightmares. Tales that echo through the nighttime streets of Old Town Spring. Unexplainable noises, streetlights that flicker for no apparent reason, and the “someone’s-there” chills that walk up your spine.
And a curse upon the land. One that has troubled the inhabitants since the 1700s. A curse cast by the Akokisa tribe, also known for their cannibalism.
Cannibalism? I hear you ask. Surely not. Houston is the oil and gas industry, land of the conservatives, the—
Long before modern day Old Town Spring existed, it was the winter camp of the Akokisa Indians, known throughout the region as hunters and gatherers and tribe eaters. Since the time of the Akokisas, Old Town Spring has been involved in shoot-outs from the railroad, the Civil War, a high criminal hanging rate, and has experienced countless unexplained fires.
Hello warm-and-welcoming place for spirits to lurk!
History is a bit silent about the Akokisas, so I decided to go to the source. But since the Akokisas have long disappeared, I had to get a bit creative. What better way to get the scoop on these Native American cannibals than to go on a ghost tour?
“If you’ll look across the street—” Our guide points to Hudson’s Whitehall House, a two-story home built in 1895.
Whitehall House was, in 1933, a funeral home. A funeral home that now has a designated ghost room on the second story. Many sightings have been reported of a man walking across the balcony at night, or a couple swinging together on the porch swing. In the years since, the home has changed hands numerous times.
One story goes that a new owner decided to renovate the ghost room, disbelieving the spirited history of the house. Just an FYI, ghosts don’t like most decorators. Especially not in their private quarters. The owner experienced “violent spirit activity,” and it took many years for the ghostly couple in the upstairs room to calm down and return to their quiet ways. Now there are two clauses in the rental agreement for Whitehall House: the ghost room is not to be disturbed, and renters are not allowed to break their lease because the house is haunted.
Our guide leads us farther into the town, pointing out the site of a Civil War battle—a spot known to be haunted by a mischievous ghost who throws acorns at unsuspecting visitors (though it may have been a squirrel).
Down the street, our guide stops in front of a large tree.
I look from her to the tree to our guide, wondering what I’m missing. It’s a tree. A big, beautiful tree.
I should mention here that Susie, who writes fantasy and ghost stories, is a sensitive . . . and this is not her first ghost rodeo.
Our guide stammers, clearly taken aback that Susie can sense something. “That is the hanging tree.”
Goosebumps trace my spine.
We back away.
To the other side of the street.
The tree, while beautiful, served as a form of justice for violators of early Texas law. One of the local judges hung more than sixty criminals on that tree in his time, a very high hanging rate by anyone’s standards.
In fact, he still hangs around. (See what I did there?)
I, clearly, am not a sensitive and would be oblivious to a ghost walking through me. But my writing buddy is pretty freaked by the tree, and our guide mentions it’s her least favorite part of the tour. We move on.
After a few more stories and stops on the tour, one including a bank robbery suspected to be done by Bonnie and Clyde, I still haven’t heard anything about the Akokisas. Not what I expected when we started the evening. Not for a town cursed by a defunct cannibalistic tribe.
Finally, we ask our guide about the trees growing through many of the buildings in town.
“Oh, that,” our guide says in her lilting voice. “That is because of the curse.”
The curse? Could it be? What I’ve been waiting for? The connection of the cannibalistic Akokisas to Old Town Spring?
“The Akokisas cursed this land when the settlers pushed them out.”
Bada-bing, bada-boom. Check, please!
Our guide ignores my big I’m-happy smile and continues. “Any shop owner who has cut down a tree to make improvements or build an addition has experienced fires.”
“Fires?” We exchange worried glances.
“Yes. Multiple. Unexplainable. To the point that some have had to shut down their businesses and move on.”
Whoa. But, really? A three-hundred-year-old curse still causing fires?
At least two buildings have experienced recent fires: the well-known Wunsche Bros. Café & Saloon and an old ice house with a violent spirit past.
The Wunsche Bros. Café, a staple in Old Town Spring for more than one hundred years, is haunted by the original owner, Uncle Charlie Wunsche. Before the fire, servers reported silverware that had been moved, chairs flipped over, and footsteps on the off-limits second floor. The second floor is Charlie’s domain. Even the curtains remain untouched. But Charlie is one of those friendly prankster ghosts that are more annoying than scary. None of the servers or managers of the Wunsche Bros. Cafe believe Charlie to be the arsonist. Perhaps the curse is in play, due to the new addition to the restaurant?
For me, the creepiest stop on the tour was the ice house. It has burned countless times over the years, and when you get close, even the insects go quiet. There’s a heaviness in the air surrounding the small building, and a warning flutters under my skin to stay away. I got close enough for a picture, but, even in daylight, the place is creepy. Turns out, the ice house would occasionally be used as extra storage. In the 1800s, corpses were kept on ice until room could be made for them in the funeral home. No one is sure who or how many spirits reside in the building, but one thing is clear. They do not like visitors.
Maybe the three-hundred-year-old Akokisas curse is still affecting this town. There is a fearful respect for the land and the trees here. Fear being the key word. I’d even go so far as to call many of the shop owners “tree huggers,” especially the ones who have built their stores around the trees to avoid the curse.
The tour ends back where we started. The streets are empty. It’s eleven o’clock at night. We are covered in chills, both from the humidity in the air and the tales we’ve heard. Before we head home, we say a prayer to protect us from any spirits who might have decided to hitch a ride.
The next day, when my clothes dryer pops open mid-cycle all by itself, I refuse to believe a spirit has followed me home. I refuse.
And then I hop on Amazon and order some holy water.
Source: Christina Delay took the Houston Ghost Tour. For more information, go to www.houstonghosttour.com.
* All photos taken by the author