Ghost Stories of Jackson County
By Michael Brooks, Staff Writer Do you believe in ghosts? Did you know the first recorded ghost sighting in the United States was in 1799 in Maine? Did you know the first-ever documented ghost sighting in the world was in the first century A.D. during the Roman Empire? Is there a better time than Halloween to talk about ghosts and hauntings?
The Halloween tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, celebrated Nov. 1 as their new year. Samhain (pronounced SOW-in) marked the end of summer and brought on the winter, a time of year they associated with death.
The Celts believed that on Samhain, the boundary between the living and dead could interact and the dead could return to earth.
Over the years since then, it has changed and been modified to be about dressing up as something scary and getting candy for your effort.
But through those 2,000 years people continued claiming to see ghosts.
Most everyone in South Texas knows about the Yorktown Memorial Hospital, especially after the TV series, Ghost Hunters, did a segment on it. But there are reportedly some places in Jackson County that may have a few ghost stories of their own.
Lolita Junior High School
In 2005, Industrial consolidated all their schools in Vanderbilt and the Lolita school has not been used since. People who once attended the school still talk about the odd goings on there.
According to the stories, a majority of ‘ghostly’ activity seems to have occurred on the side of the school with the locker room.
“We were told as kids when returning after late away games to stay out of the halls,” Casey Lynn Kemp recalled. “It may have been because they didn’t want us messing around in the hallway, but we all thought it was because it was haunted.”
Another former student said, “When you were alone in the boys’ locker room, you’d hear strange noises. It felt like you were always being watched.”
While many people came forward with third-hand accounts, one teacher who retired from the Lolita school (and who wished to remain anonymous) said she saw something very strange, and so did her family and fellow teachers.
“I was there in daylight with my son. We had permission to go into the school and were doing some work for my son for college. Suddenly the hands on the wall clock started spinning around and around. We gathered our things and were leaving and it just stopped and returned to normal.”
Kemp also recalled, “I had a friend working there and she saw a spirit. It was up in the gym seats and she was on the floor and she felt something staring at her. He was dressed in all white. She said he felt he was there not to scare students, but to protect them.
Her last story talked about a teacher working late at night, who heard slamming lockers and footsteps in the hall, but nobody was there. Possibly the most terrifying sighting comes from another anonymous source.
“Some of the girls went in to put up some volleyballs on the shelf in the old gym after a practice and there was what appeared to be a human head sitting on the shelf. The girls all ran out of the locker room screaming,” said Kemp.
The House on Ash Street
From The Uninvited to Poltergeist, Hollywood has produced plenty of haunted house movies. But haunted houses may not be exclusive to the big screen.
“The house I grew up in here in Edna on Ash Street is haunted,” claimed Brenda Kelley Goldman. “The original part of the house had a screened in back porch. My parents would be awakened to the sound of loud footsteps on the porch. My dad would run out thinking someone was there but no one would be there.”
Footsteps were far from everything the house on Ash Street had to offer.
“My mother had several instances where things would fly off the wall,” Goldman continued. “Several times we would have company over and things were pushed off the top of our refrigerator onto our guests.” Goldman also recalled an event during which a television terrified a friend.
“One night I had gone to the store and a friend stayed behind. When I got back, she was in tears because the television kept changing channels and turning off and on until she screamed “Stop” and it did.
“By far the creepiest instance was when my mother received a call from a friend asking who was staying with us. The friend had called earlier in the day and a man answered the phone. The man was very rude and screamed “Stop calling here. They don’t live here” and hung up. At first, my mom thought her friend dialed a wrong number, but then she saw a message flashing on our answering machine. When she checked, the whole conversation had been recorded.
Jackson County Court House
The Jackson County Courthouse has a laundry list of spooky encounters told by officers, dispatchers and other court house workers who had the fortune, or misfortune, of working late shifts.
In one encounter, several officers heard typing in the sheriff’s office and tax office in the middle of the night and nobody was there. That same night they heard another noise and checked the hallway and found the empty elevator moving up and down with the buttons lit up as if they had been pushed.
Another time, several officers saw an old man in jeans and a work shirt at the bottom of the stairs nearest the sheriff’s office. He walked down the hall by the tax office.
Later, what appeared to be the same old man, was seen carrying a bucket and walking down the hall near the tax office in the middle of the night.
Buttons in the jail have gone haywire too.
The button in the jail courtyard has been pushed, buzzing the control officer in the middle of the night. In one jail cell that housed an inmate, the button would go off in the central room while the cell was empty.
In the second floor hallway, several deputies heard loud noises and investigated. They found a huge plant had been moved about 10 feet and nobody else was in the building.
There was also a report of hearing sounds coming from the second floor. When the area was inspected, several doors were opened. The deputies checked the opened rooms and closed the doors. After walking to the steps, a person looked back and three of the doors were open again. More Scares
A couple of Jackson County residents also shared their personal experiences.
“I worked in a nursing home in Wharton years ago,” said Melissa Porche. “I pulled my med cart next to the station and noticed a doctor was looking it over so I got up to see what he needed. He smiled and walked through the wall. He was a black man dressed in old-fashioned garb. He was dressed like someone in the Civil War.”
The ghost, which Porche refers to as the ‘Doctor,’ was a common visitor to the nursing home.
“Many people saw him,” Porche continued. “One time, I was doing a procedure on a resident and I felt a hand on my shoulder. An aide that was with me got a horrified look on his face because he could see the Doctor behind me.
“Once we heard the med cart coming down the hall as fast as it could possibly move but it was sitting there at the nursing station. It would mess with our equipment and we would have to tell it to stop.
Some of the residents at the home had eerie sightings too.
“Some of the residents swore they could see angels walking the halls,” recalled Porche. “Another resident was a screamer and one night he just started yelling “He’s coming, he’s coming” over and over. At that time in another room, a resident died. Just as the resident died, the screamer stopped screaming.”
Halloween is often a fun time for kids and adults, but it’s also a time that conjures up stories of ghosts and the unexplained, stories that have haunted us for centuries.