By Linda Kirkpatrick
I figured that the best way to approach this month’s article was to talk about the ghosts of Texas. No matter if you believe or not, ghosts stories in October is a fun way to pass the time. I must admit that when I started researching ghosts, I didn’t realize that I would be opening a Pandora’s Box. I have always wanted to use this next word and now I finally am able to do that. There are a plethora of ghosts in Texas. So I will only be able to touch on a few and will include our own local lore as well. And for the safety of everyone, please don’t read these in the dark of night around a campfire. My nephew, Connor, can attest to this, because sometimes you can hear them.
Texas is a large state and to address just a few of the favorites has been almost impossible. For the record, always keep this in mind, that when you hear stories of old, folklore or ghost stories for that matter, at the root of the story is a smidgen of truth. So never say, “That ain’t true,” because it probably is, just what part? Ghost stories are passed from one storyteller to another and with each telling a new twist is more than likely added. And not all ghost stories are intended to scare the “begeezers” out of you even though those are the most fun.
Pecos Bill is one of those; his story can be told to children of all ages and is only as scary as the teller makes it.
I guess, in my opinion only, one of the most popular unexplained mysteries is the Marfa Lights. I have witnessed these and believe me, I kept looking over my shoulder the entire time I was there.
On a more local level, the Headless Horseman of the Nueces is a gruesome, bone chilling and humorous story of two old codgers, Big Foot Wallace and Creed Taylor. In reality, these two were pals and Creed Taylor did have horses stolen from his ranch in Kimble County. From that point on who knows? Did they really capture the horse thief, behead him and tie his headless body to a wild mustang and just turn it loose? And does that horse continue to race on the hills between Camp Wood and Leakey with a headless body bobbing on his back? Well, go out and sit, by your self is best, on that range of hills and relive the legend of El Muerto, the headless one.
Then there is the story that has grown from a sad family story but through it all the Kirkpatrick humor has prevailed. My great great grandfather, Jehu Kirkpatrick was born in 1825 in Tennessee and migrated to Texas in the 1850’s. He married and settled in San Saba, Texas. When he died in 1871 he was buried in the Old San Saba Cemetery, across from the Methodist Church. His in-law’s are buried there too. As far as ghost stories go, matters were going along pretty good until the 1930’s. The land for the cemetery had originally been donated to the community of San Saba by a Doctor Rogan for the specific use as a cemetery and the Methodist church was to maintain the upkeep and pay the taxes. So when the cemetery had long gone to ruin after a new cemetery had been built the Rogan descendents took the cemetery back and decided to give it to the city for a recreational area, but it is a cemetery! Well ok, but this is only the beginning of the ghost story. The city did give the families the opportunity to move their loved ones and many did. Records indicate that there were twenty graves in the cemetery. Of the twenty only sixteen were moved so that leaves four that remained.
Jehu’s daughter is said to have cried as she sat on her front porch and listened to the bulldozers as they plowed under the four remaining graves. The families had suffered greatly during the great depression and did not have the necessary funding to move poor old Jehu’s grave. It is written, “There was much discussion, dissent, grief and regret over this matter. Much historical information was erased when this little cemetery was invaded and abased…a great many people believe that sacrilege and violence has brought dishonor to this sacred spot…”
Now after all the remaining head stones were crushed and buried, the land was smoothed and sod was laid and next thing you know, San Saba School has a football field. Yep and the fact that this now football field was once a cemetery has become a tool that San Saba football players use to intimidate the opposition. Yep they have spread the word about how those that still rest below the ground are known to cause tackles and sudden falls during a game. It got so bad that a rule was put into place that San Saba could not present the story to the other players but that still didn’t stop ole Jehu from taking part in the football games, even today. When you attend a football game at Rogan field and notice a player or two from the opposing teams just trip for no reason at all, well now you know the reason, Jehu just having a bit of fun.
One of the most popular ghost stories in the state is that of La Llorona, there was even a documentary about this story. It is a story about a Hispanic woman who walks the rivers, weeping for her children who drowned in a river in Texas. Another story of a ghostly owl like creature called Lechuza. This story is retold to children to keep them from wandering out at night, there is more to the story of course but lack of room in this article prevents telling the entire story.
Another great story that I enjoy was told to me by local friend and storyteller Lora B Garrison. The world lost many tales the day that she passed. The story is a true story about an early Texas settler by the name of Josiah Wilbarger. Josiah and some companions were attacked by Indians. He was shot and scalped and left for dead but when the Indians were gone he managed to crawl towards the river and finally could go no further. He leaned up against a tree and there a vision from his sister back in Tennessee came to him in a dream.. She instructed him to go no further as help would come. Meanwhile during the night his neighbor, Sarah Hornsby had a dream that he was still alive. She had a hard time convincing her husband to gather a group and go hunt him. But they went where she instructed and they found him! He and Sarah shared their visions and he decided to write his sister and tell her of his dream of her. However, before he could get his letter in the mail, he received notice from his family that his sister had died the day before he and his friends were attacked by the Indians. Now how did that happen?
But of all the Texas ghost stories, I must admit that my favorite is our very own here in the Frio Canyon, the White Lady of Rio Frio. The legend grew from a true story. Maria Juarez was a beautiful, young Mexican woman who loved children and she couldn’t wait for the day when she would marry and have children of her own. But alas, it would never be because her brother in law was jealous and wanted her for himself. When he discovered she was engaged he knew he had to do something but she told him that her love was for the young cowboy, Anselmo. With no way of winning her love he shot and killed her. But her love for children has never let her soul rest. Her spirit roams the Frio taking care of the children. She has been known to cover a child as he sleeps on a cold night or just sit on their bed watching them as they sleep. It is said that you can sometimes see her as a wisp of fog as she floats along the Frio. Watch for her on cold nights.
Recently someone ask me about the haunting in the courthouse. Yes that is what I said. People have heard footsteps and wondered who could it be? Who could be there when the courthouse is supposed to be empty? Could it be the soul of an inmate that hung himself years ago? Could he be trying to find his way out? I guess I need to check into that tale a bit more.
Land & Ranch Realty, LLC agent Linda Kirkpatrick grew up on the upper H. W. Lewis Ranch in north Real County. She spent her time exploring and helping her dad manage the 2000 head of angora goats, 2000 head of sheep, cattle, and enough horses to work the stock. Later she managed a 2000 acre cow/calf and white tail deer operation. She knows the land, the animals, and the wildlife.
Linda followed in her mother and brother’s footsteps and became a licensed real estate agent in 2002. When her mother retired, Linda moved her own license to Land and Ranch Realty and she has been there ever since.
She is an author and poet known for her writings on local and area history, including a regular newspaper column. Among her books are Somewhere in the West, Tales from the Frio Canyon, and a forthcoming book about the John Leakey family and the settlement of Leakey.
Somewhere in the West can be purchased directly from Linda
Tales of the Frio Canyon can be purchased from Linda or www.amazon.com
Her poetry can be read at
She is expertly qualified to help you find a ranch, hunting or riverfront property, or just a place to call home.
Linda Kirkpatrick, Agent