The Lone Star State is known for stranger-than-fiction history and larger-than-life characters, so it seems fitting that Texas is also home to an abundance of haunted locales, where departed Texans manage to remain colorful even in the afterlife.
North Texas has more than its share, and we've compiled the spookiest for those times when you're gathering around the campfire to tell ghostly tales.
Here are 10 spots to put on your haunted Halloween to-do list:
The Lady of the Lake / White Rock Lake
She's the grand dame of local ghosts and sightings vary, but usually go something like this: A distraught young woman in a drenched party dress (sometimes an old-school prom dress, sometimes a dress from early 20th-century Neiman Marcus) flags down a passing car and asks to be taken to a nearby home.
When the driver arrives, they discover that there’s nothing but a damp puddle in the back seat, and when they knock on the door of the house to report the incident, a resident (usually the girl’s father) sadly informs the Good Samaritan motorist that the girl they describe died years ago, on that very night.
The Lady in the Lake is Dallas' version of the "vanishing traveler" urban legend, which has existed in one form or another around the world for centuries.
But don’t let me burst your bubble. If your friend has a neighbor who has a third cousin who has a co-worker who swears they have actually seen her, I say go with it. It’s a delightfully spine-tingling tale in a just-about-perfect spooky setting. For many Dallasites, hanging out at the lake while telling ghost stories is a rite of passage; I myself always drop by around Halloween to bid the Lady in The Lake a seasonal hello.
The Baker Hotel
The ghost of a glamorous past haunts the long-vacant Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, whose exterior and backstory is so classically ghost story-ish it almost seems scripted — which is appropriate, since the Baker was once a destination for Hollywood’s Golden Age elite (Clark Gable and Judy Garland are both said to have stayed there).
In the late 19th/early 20th century, Mineral Wells was famous as a resort town, drawing posh guests from around the world eager to sample the town’s eponymous healing waters (still sold in bottles by Texas grocers today, under the brand Crazy Water"), as well as the elegant lodgings at the modern amenity-packed Baker Hotel.
Though it's been shuttered since 1970s, the hotel is still a premium destination — for ghost hunters, that is, lured by tales of disembodied dinner party sounds, the unexplained aroma of cigar smoke, and spectral sightings of former hotel guests and staff.
Until recently, you had to risk arrest for trespassing to explore the Baker, but soon we’ll be able to book a legit visit — the hotel was recently purchased and is undergoing a full renovation back to her days of glory.
Sons of Hermann Hall
The Sons is one of the few Deep Ellum destinations that retains the original flavor of the district. It's the oldest free-standing wood structure in Dallas, the oldest bar in Dallas, and it's still headquarters for the German fraternal order that constructed the building in 1911.
If you dig live music, dancing, and a vintage-soaked vibe, I highly recommend a visit — especially this time of year, when you just might witness strange occurrences like falling paintings, footsteps in empty spaces, and children’s laughter with no kids in sight — or maybe the formally-dressed couple a film crew once saw stroll down a hall and vanish.
Arlington Music Hall
Arlington’s first movie theatre (today a live performance venue) is allegedly the afterlife address for a ghost named Fred who likes to turn on the lights or wander next door to Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, where he once visited with the owner for a few minutes before disappearing. There's more about Fred in this fun little video from the City of Arlington.
The Hotel Lawrence/La Quinta Inn & Suites
Another noteworthy member of the North Texas family of haunted hotels is the La Quinta in downtown Dallas, formerly the Hotel Lawrence, which is said to be spooked by spirits who met tragic ends while staying at the historic hotel in its earlier decades.
Visitors and staff have reported ghostly activity throughout the property but especially on the 10th floor, including cold spots, a feeling of being watched, calls from rooms with no occupants, and sightings of a well-dressed gentleman believed to be a gangster-era gambler.
Chisholm Trail Mural Building
Downtown Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Stockyards served as backdrops to many a shootout and bordello brawl back in the day, so it's not surprising that ghost stories abound in Cowtown landmarks such as the Chisholm Trail Mural Building, which originally housed the ticket office for the first intercity rail line between Fort Worth and Dallas.
Inhabitants have reported the usual flickering lights and strange cold spots, along with a woman who appears in mirrors and the sound of a child rolling a ball. One visitor even claimed to have enjoyed a memorable view of Main Street through windows that were later found to be boarded up.
Downtown McKinney/Chestnut Square Historic Village
One of DFW's coolest Halloween happenings is the after-dark Legends of McKinney Ghost Walk, especially if you're a ghost chaser who appreciates proximity to quaint places to eat or drink afterwards. Buildings in downtown McKinney are said to be rife with spooky goings-on, such as a swaying-for-no-reason chandelier, flying objects, and apparitions of a lady in white and a Civil War soldier.
Plano Masonic Lodge
One of the anchor buildings of downtown Plano’s historic district is Plano Lodge No. 768. Given the building's history and the Masons' penchant for mysterious symbols and secret ritual, I'm not surprised to find out it's believed to be haunted. Among the eerie occurrences are heavy footsteps and a little girl's laughter heard at night when the building was unoccupied (except for a frightened lone Mason), and objects that seem to move of their own volition.
Bruce Hall, University of North Texas in Denton
According to campus legend, UNT’s Bruce Hall is home to Wanda, a prank-loving spirit who generally keeps to the attic where she purportedly passed away, but sometimes emerges to mess with the lights and turn on showers. Like any self-respecting college campus, UNT is home to a host of good ghost stories, you can bone up (get it?) via this archived section of the university’s website.
The Raphael House
The stately Raphael House (call it "Ray-fill" if you wanna sound like an Ennis local) is a historic landmark that was once the home of a rather infamous wealthy family that eventually fell on hard times; the spirit of one of the family members is believed to still toil in his beloved garden.
Rhonda Aghamalian is a North Texas-based freelance writer and lover of all things local history (and spooky).