Lost Souls of Treasure Island

Four years ago, on a visit to Galveston, I encountered an unfriendly entity - a spirit or energy, dark and malevolent. In my futile search to discover who or what I met in that antique store hallway, I met this week's guest blogger, Jan Johnson.

Jan is new to the Tiki Hut. She's not a blogger, but she is a writer, with two books about Galveston and some of its ghosts. Please give her a warm Tiki welcome ♥

The title of Jan's post is the same as my blog post title (I shamelessly stole it) - "Lost Souls of Treasure Island." She used Treasure Island because back in the early 1900s, Galveston officials used the term in advertising promotions, and it stuck around long enough to make an impression.

"Lost Souls of Treasure Island"

Galveston, that grand old city that wouldn't die, is home to many restless little spirits, trapped in a world between life and death.   Those who died violent sudden deaths, especially during 1900 Storm, still roam certain structures on the Island, not realizing they are dead.   These active souls interact with the living, making their presence known to a chosen few. 

One such haunting happens at the corner of 22nd and The Strand in the Mensing Building.   Build for brothers Gustave and William in 1882, this full half block, two-story building housed a grocer and a cotton factoring firm.   But immediately after the Great Storm, it served as a morgue. 

In an oral history for the Rosenberg Library, Hyman Block remembered that his brother “was made a deputy Marshal and given a bottle of whiskey” to guard the bodies stacked on the floor.  The vicious wind and water of the storm had ripped off most of the corpses' clothing, so they were modestly covered in cloth.  Legend had it that some of these shrouded bodies fell between the walls of the building.   When it was restored in the 1980's, retail shops filled the street level and loft apartments above.

During Mardi Gras 2000, Holly and Dan lived in a second story loft on the alley.  A loud crash beneath their sleeping quarters rudely awakened them in the middle of the night.  A quick glance around revealed nothing so, after securing their apartment, they went back to bed.  The next morning, they discovered a solid brass toy cannon, weighing at least 3 pounds, lying upside-down across the living room floor by the tall windows, with its wheel bent.  The night before, it had been sitting serenely on the bedroom railing 20 feet above a glass-topped coffee table.
A vacant spot in the dust confirmed its previous location but since nothing else had been disturbed, the couple concluded that the toy cannon had been thrown across the room with substantial force.  Since neither of them had, it must had been done by someone or someTHING else that could move through walls. 

Later that year, Dan snapped a photo from the upper loft of his wife watching TV below.   When the film was developed, a large transparent, whitish cocoon materialized, hovering over her shoulder. 

“The three-dimensional image appeared to be as large as a human body wrapped in something textured like cloth,” he observed.  “Even the folds were visible.  The flash I used was reflected in the glass of a framed picture, but nothing in the room was a triangular shape, so it could not have been a reflection."   Yet, there it was . . .

Carriage drivers living in a former bordello at 26th and Postoffice swear that one of its previous clients was still in residence, showing a photo as proof.  A transparent outline of a man smartly dressed in 19th Century business attire stands on the staircase landing, tipping his bowler at the photographer.  

It seems as though a prominent, married insurance man in town had a habit of having "coffee with the ladies" every morning, discretely parking his car in the alley behind.  During one such visit, he dropped dead of a heart attack at the madam's "kitchen table."  Not knowing what to do, she quickly called her good friend, the chief of police, who sped over to observe the scene.  He quickly concluded that Mr. Insurance man must be moved to protect his good reputation!

Loading his body into the trunk of his car, the chief drove the deceased several blocks down the street to Kempner Park, then propped him upon a park bench to make it appear that the gentleman had expired while feeding the pigeons. However the man, not realizing that he was dead, remained at the bordello, searching for his car and keys!

Many restless spirits choose to stay on earth eternally to protect someone, something or someplace.  These mostly benevolent spirits remain until they are satisfied that their protection is no longer needed, freeing them to “cross over” to their next level of existence.   

The current owner of a home in the Silk Stocking District reported such a presence.  When he bought the house in 1984, he used it as his weekend get-away, throwing parties there.  He and many of his guests saw not one but two distinct friendly spirits – a short older man with dark blue baggy pants and oversized short-sleeved white shirt in the dining room who was deaf and a tall, deaf and dumb woman in an upstairs bedroom.  

Curious about these lost souls, he canvassed the neighbors.  An older lady across the street remembered her parents telling her that the lady who had lived in his house did indeed take in 2 such characters whose families had perished during the 1900 Storm.   Eventually, he reported, that the two spirits departed one Sunday morning, each leaving a gift of gratitude – he, a checkerboard and she, a small Singer sewing machine.  Apparently, they felt that the house was in good hands, freeing them to "cross over."

His is but one of the ghost stories from the active Silk Stocking District which has many lost souls coming literally out of the walls (pun intended) . . . . but that is another story! 

Fifth generation BOI (aka Born on the Island), Jan Johnson has been seriously studying the rich history of Galveston as a part-time step-on Tour Guide since 1982 and direct descendants of two 1900 Storm survivors. She earned A BS in Elementary Ed at the University of Houston, Clear Lake in 1986; then a MA in Literature in 1995 with the specific goal to write.  Her first book, Walking Historic Galveston:  A Guide to its Neighborhoods, is the city's first practical, comprehensive guide to its 9 historic districts.  Completed a full year before Hurricane Ike, it appeared on bookshelves in April, 2009.  Her second book, Beyond the Beaten Paths:  Driving Historic Galveston, was published late 2012 and begins where the first left off.  From one end of the Island to the other (almost), reading wanderers will encounter infamous characters wo pepper the Island's past, set among many vintage images.

"Galveston Island Gal"
Writer/Tour Guide/Teacher

Walking Historic Galveston: A Guide to its Neighborhoods is the city's first practical, comprehensive walking guide of the Islands most concentrated historic areas with interesting anecdotes about the people of their past. Written in a very readable voice, the book is designed for the Everyman who wanders the city streets and wonders about the inside human stories of those who lived, loved, and worked in the unusual buildings that survived them.

Jan Johnson's second guide book begins where the first left off, with an ambitious goal of including all that was left out of the first in touring Galveston, Texas. Readers will travel the Island's streets from the port to the gulf, meandering in and out of the East End before walking two areas: one of the downtown "Arts and Entertainment" Post Office District and the Broadway Cemetery. Driving west to the airport through middle-class neighborhoods, the driving guide will lead you "Down the Island" to Jamaica Beach, then return you via a circuitous route to the very eastern tip of the Seawall. Along the way, happy wanderers will encounter the usual colorful and somewhat infamous characters who pepper the Island's past set among many vintage images.


Galveston sounds like a great place to visit. Not the usual tourist haven as far as us British types are concerned. Definitely worth exploring though...
That's a lot of ghostly happenings in one building. Scary to think it was a make-shift morgue after the hurricane.
Delores said…
Sounds like a couple of interesting reads.
~Sia McKye~ said…
Some interesting tales here. Mind you, I wouldn't want to encounter any of the characters mentioned, I enjoyed hearing about them. :-)

Sia McKye Over Coffee
LR said…
Wow, so fascinating. I absolutely love ghost stories.
Bish Denham said…
Ooooo. I do enjoy a good ghost story about real hauntings.
L. Diane Wolfe said…
Oh, how eerie! The house I grew up in was haunted, but I never found out why.
That's pretty creepy. I like it. Galveston sounds like a unique place to visit... which is probably better read about than visited. :)
Galblueyes said…
WOW! What a Welcome to this new blogger -- 7 comments before coffee!! (OK, I slept late this morning . . . ) I wouldn't want to experience any encounters either but, hey -- a story IS a story, right?? An old newspaper man long gone once asserted that there is more history on Galveston Island per square inch than anywhere else in the U. S. -- I am just spreading his Gospel of Galveston!!
Carol Kilgore said…
Hi, all! Hope everyone has a great week.

Alex - We once went in a Civil War Era house in Tennessee that had served as a battleground hospital. It felt strangely eerie. I can't imagine what one that served as a morgue must feel like.

Beer - Galveston is fun even without the ghosts :)
Gail said…
Enjoyed this post.

I'm what some people call "sensitive" to such places.
Mark Noce said…
Ghosts of Gavleston, I like it, Very cool:)
A huge welcome to Jan. I am intrigued and fascinated.
Some places have a feel to them - comfortable or otherwise - and I would love to know more.
Curiosity is one of my defining characteristics.
Awesome post!
I grew up close to Galveston.
My wife and I had our Honeymoon at Moody Gardens.
Stephen Tremp said…
It certainly is great to meet Jan! Very interesting post. We have a lot in common and I really enjoyed her post.
Lexa Cain said…
Thanks for the awesome ghost stories, Jan! When I was doing ghost stories for the 2014 A-Z Challenge, I researched Galveston, but didn't come up with stories as good as yours. Good luck with your books! :)
Ava Quinn said…
Some great ghost stories, Jan. I always love those true-life shivery hauntings!
cleemckenzie said…
Shiver me timbers. I love a good ghost tale. I do. And, as I've revealed to others in the past, I live with one rather annoying one. True.

I'm reading these books on a dark and stormy night.
Carol Kilgore said…
Ooh, I love knowing I'm not the only one who's met a ghost. I hope none of yours are malevolent.
Medeia Sharif said…
Oooh, I got chills reading this. I like a good scare.
Christine Rains said…
How eerie and fascinating! I've never seen a ghost but I've always wanted to.
VR Barkowski said…
I've always wanted to visit Galveston, and Jan's guides look awesome. I'll skip the ghosts though, if no one minds.

VR Barkowski
Helena said…
I've read about the Great Storm in Galveston and it's heartbreaking. I love ghost stories, and these are great. Now I want to visit Galveston and follow the tours in Jan's books.

Thanks for having such a great guest, Carol.
These are some pretty fascinating ghost stories! I think I'd be scared silly if I ever encountered a real ghost! Thanks Carol & Jan!

Hi Carol!! I've always been intrigued by Galveston and I would love to visit there someday :)
Carol Kilgore said…
It's my great pleasure to have Jan guesting here this week. I'm glad y'all are enjoying her post.

Keith - Galveston would be a cool place to share with Beate.
Welcome Jan!! Those are some seriously amazing stories. It's good to know that most of the lingering souls are here for a good cause and not out to do harm!
Jan Christensen said…
This is just fascinating. We've been to Galveston many times, but never knew about any of this. Will buy the book before our next visit.
Anne Gallagher said…
I just love ghost stories. We used to have a ghost in one of our houses. He moved with us down to NC, but I think he didn't like it so much. I haven't heard him in the house in a very long time. Too bad. I liked him.
Jo-Anne Meadows said…
Tim and I love watching shows like Ghost Hunters we find them really fascinating
Jemi Fraser said…
Very cool stories/histories! Good luck with the books! :)
oohh I love these stories. So creeptastic!
Welcome, Jan! Thanks for taking the time to tell us a little bit about the ghosts of Galveston. (Sounds like a ready-made title for another book!) For you to spend so many years learning and writing about the area, it must be a real labor of love.

Hi, Carol!
Spooky stuff!
Imagine all the restless spirits... roaming aimlessly... and maybe waiting/hoping for their stories to be told...
Carol Kilgore said…
Anne - I'd love to know if you ever learned anything about your resident ghost.
Crystal Collier said…
Awesome. I love ghost stories and used to gorge on them when I was 10 to 12. Guess those kinds of loves never really leave your system.
Galblueyes said…
"Thanks and Thanks and Ever Thanks" for all your kind kudos and welcomes! For once, I am actually VERY BUSY this week with tours, presentations, work, even a book signing in Houston on Saturday! I will be able to answer more completely perhaps tomorrow or by Sunday, I promise. I am also new to this blogging thing so please be patient!! YES, I do encourage all to travel to Galveston at least once in their lives! And YES, giving tours of our historic island and writing about it is my PASSION as well as my profession -- truly livin' the Dream!
LD Masterson said…
I've never encountered a spirit. Or if I have, I wasn't open enough to perceive it. I often wish I could but I'd probably freak and run screaming from the room. Oh well.
Galblueyes said…
Here goes individual answers:
Pat - Galveston's Strand is named after the street in London;
Alex - MANY places served as make-shift morgues as nearly 1/3 of the Island's population perished as a result
Beer and Elephant's Child - just take a tour with me!!
Mark and Susan FS - title already taken, hence: "Lost Sous of Treasure Island"
David W. - Just WHERE did you grow up?
Thanks, Lexa, Stephen, Ava, VR and Helena - COME ON DOWN!
Carol and Elizabeth - There is one malevolent spirit on the Island . . .
Carol Kilgore said…
Jan - If you're not talking about the spirit in the old, former Oleander Hotel, then there are two malevolent spirits. At least.
DMS said…
What a fascinating post! It sounds like you two met under interesting circumstances! Jan's research must be absolutely intriguing. Spooky too! :)
Arlee Bird said…
Jan, this is so cool. I'm sure I thumbed through your books when I visited Galveston a couple years ago. I remember looking at some books like this in one of the gift shops. If I had known they were yours I would have bought them.

Another cool thing is that both one of my daughters and her husband both teach at the University at Clear Lake. My SIL also runs the art gallery at that university. Small world!

Neat stories told here.

Carol, thanks for hosting Jan.

Tossing It Out
Galblueyes said…
I am giving a walking tour on the Island at 2:30 today but I still wanted to give a quick reply to all of you wonderful readers! My 2 books, a walking and a driving guide, are not exclusively ghost stories but all kinds of GOOD stories and Characters. Along the way, I've been told of many ghostly encounters. I wrote the Silk Stocking Ghost tour for another company that is regularly given. I also contributed the Hotel Galvez's Bride's story to Gary Cartwright's coffee-table book published upon its 100th Anniversary; even interviewed about that one. Carol -- I haven't and will not mention your personal ghost story! Arlee -- I graduated from UHCL, both B.S. and M. A. I would LOVE to do a book sighning there! Doing one in Houston tomorrow at Brazos Bookstore -- Come on by!!!
Arlee Bird said…
Oh, I'd love to stop by the book-signing except I live in L.A. Only get to Houston once or twice a year.

Tossing It Out
@ Galblueyes
I grew up in Mont Belvieu, but spent most of my time in Baytown, or Houston. Galveston was only a little drive down 146. Now I live in San Antonio near Seaworld, probably not too far from Carol.
Carol Kilgore said…
Arlee - My pleasure!

David - Close enough I wouldn't have to pack a lunch to visit :)
Galblueyes said…
Arlee -- Do you ever go to the Troubadour? I have a BOI friend working there as a bartender.
David and Carol -- Gene (my partner) and I did a Road Scholars trip to San Antonio. Loved every minute! 2 hour lecture on Mary Menger alone!
Just an addendum to the Mensing story: I was working with a professional paranormal/sensitive lady. Her tour included a bar downstairs in that building. We were standing behind of the the clients who had lifted his camera over his head to frame an empty part of the ceiling. I swear we saw the same image that Dan had captured with his camera in 2000!!
Robin said…
I confess I love these sorts of stories. However, I sure would hate to be a "stuck" spirit.
Arlee Bird said…
No, Jan, don't go out much at night these days and very, very rarely to bars or clubs. My wife and I have become stay-at-home fuddy duddies for the most part other than traveling when we can.

I've been to a number of clubs in the L.A. area in my 20-some years here, but never to the Troubadour.

Tossing It Out
Nas said…
Wow, it does sound interesting and intriguing! I would love to read the fulls story!
Carol Kilgore said…
Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate you stopping by and giving Jan Johnson a warm welcome to the Tiki Hut.