San Antonio's creepiest haunted spots and urban legends
San Antonio loves spooky shit, and we love it too.
From the Alamo City's most notorious urban legends to its many spooky hauntings, there are more than enough (supposedly) true paranormal happenings here to sate the appetites of even the biggest horror hounds.
While it's likely y'all have heard of legends such as the Donkey Lady and Ghost Tracks, some of these tall tales have flown a little further under the radar.
Read on if you dare.
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Victoria's Black Swann Inn
Tucked off of Austin Highway, Victoria’s Black Swan Inn is considered one of the most haunted places in the country, and is a destination for ghosthunters and thrillseekers alike. While people claim that ghosts from as far back as a Native American encampment, as well as from The Battle of Salado Creek — in which the Mexican Army and Texans clashed in 1842 — more recent ghosts also apparently haunt the property. A couple, Jolene Woods and Park Street (yes, that was his real name), previously lived here. Jolene died of cancer and Park later killed himself. Jolene can be purportedly seen walking to the gazebo in the front yard. There’s also a girl named Sarah who’s said to communicate via Ouija board. If you don’t believe in ghosts but like creepy fun, the Inn often hosts supernatural and spooky-themed events.
Photo via Instagram / erikjongustafson
The Ghost Tracks
You can’t talk about urban legends in San Antonio without covering the Ghost Tracks. This long-dispelled myth is still a local favorite, and was voted Best Urban Legend in the Current’s Best of San Antonio poll for the past three years running. As the story goes, you can park your car at this spot on the train tracks and get “pushed” forward by some spectral helpers. As a bonus, if you put flour on the back of your trunk, you might even see their little handprints. The push purportedly comes from wee ghosts of children who met an untimely end in the early 1900s when a train rammed into a bus at the location. However, in 2003, archivist Matt De Waelsche traced the story's origin to a 1938 bus accident in Salt Lake City, Utah. Even worse, the tracks were "exorcised," if you will, by a construction project. When Union Pacific added a second track to the intersection, they levelled out the elevation, removing the downward slant that vehicles would gently roll down when they were supposedly being "pushed" by the ghosts. Turns out it was just a trick of physics the whole time.
Photo via Google Maps
Bigfoot Sightings at Kelly Air Force Base
Some of y’all may think bigfoot only hangs out in the PNW, but the gargantuan apelike cryptid has been spotted all over the U.S., including Texas. In the 1970s, Sasquatch apparently swung down to SA, where he was spotted multiple times near Kelly AFB. According to cryptozoology blog Cryptomundo
, the San Antonio Light
ran an article in ‘76 covering the sightings. One man claimed to see a 7-foot tall furry monster run out of his backyard after being scared by a train whistle, and later a neighbor claimed she saw a smaller, similarly-furred creature that ran on two feet. Was Bigfoot taking a South Texas vacation with the kids? We may never know.
Photo via Instagram / dailybigfoot
Gillespie Mansion, a.k.a. "Midget Mansion"
While its name certainly hasn’t aged well, this myth still endures. According to local legend, the Gillespie Mansion was located on the Northwest Side off Medical Drive. Home to a little person who moved to SA in the ‘20s with his wife — also a little person — the mansion was specially built to match their shorter stature, with their two daughters, who were of typical human stature. The home reportedly had lowered fixtures and ceilings to accommodate its occupants’ height. Though all versions of this tale have a grisly end, the details vary — some say the husband killed his family then committed suicide, while another version goes that a servant snapped after enduring abuse from the family, killing them with an axe and hiding them in a closet as well as setting the home on fire. Though it was a popular haunt for ghost-seekers for a while, it has since been demolished.
Photo via Instagram / ghoulsjustwannahavefunpodcast
Donkey Lady Bridge
You can’t live in San Antonio long without hearing a version of the city’s favorite creepy legend: the story of the Donkey Lady. The story goes something like this: In the 1950s, a young woman attempted to save her children from a house fire (that some say was lit by her sociopath husband) — but failed. The event left her horribly disfigured, with her fingers and toes melted together to create hoof-like nubs and her head warped into an elongated, donkey-like shape. She was promptly cast out of town and banished to live in the woods. Ever since, the Donkey Lady has roamed the woods of Bexar County, crying out for her children and generally pissed off. Want to meet her? It’s said if you stand on a stone bridge in the Medina River Greenway and call her name three times, she’ll appear.
Photo by Justin Moore
The Institute of Texan Cultures is haunted AF
People say the Institute of Texan Cultures is one of the most haunted places in San Antonio, with tons of ghost sightings attributed to the location. One notably haunted object in the museum’s collection is Castroville’s Horse-Drawn Hearse. James Benavides, the institute’s senior communications specialist, shared a spooky story about the hearse with the Current in 2020: “So, one night, a guard was on duty, making his regular rounds. When he gets to the exhibit floor, he finds the hearse doors open,” Benavides said. “He thought some of the senior officers were playing a joke on him, so he closes the doors and goes about his business. Coming up on the end of his night shift, he’s making his last sweep of the exhibit floor and he finds the hearse doors open again. He laughs to himself, then realizes, he was the only person in the building. ... The doors don’t open easily; they take two hands to work a latch and pull open. But stories persist, that from time to time, the guards will find the hearse doors open.”
Photo courtesy of Institute of Texan Cultures
Fang Baby of Old Pearsall Road
In a tale that supposedly originated in the 1960s, a group of young guys were driving down Old Pearsall Road after a night of drinking when they had a creepy encounter. The driver saw something in the road that looked like a toddler, which appeared to be hurt, with blood around its mouth. He swerved to avoid the maybe-baby, but didn’t stop. The friends argued about what it was, and the driver ultimately decided that they should just go home. However, once home, he felt guilty that he had possibly left a baby in the middle of nowhere. Armed with a cooler of beer, he went back to Old Pearsall Road. Unfortunately, he got a flat, and found two small puncture marks in the tire. After replacing the tire, he cracked a beer and chilled in his car for a while before falling asleep. A sharp pain in his neck woke him up, where he found the fanged baby in his lap with a bloody mouth and shirt.
Photo via Google Maps
No, we don’t mean the friendly yellow muppet from Sesame Street
— think more along the lines of a dinosaur. In the ‘70s, a slew of sightings of a massive airborne creature were reported in South Texas. The majority of the flap took place in 1975-76, where a so-called “Big Bird” was spotted in San Benito, Brownsville and the Alamo City. According to Jerome Clark’s book Unexplained
, three San Antonio teachers claimed to see a giant creature with a wingspan of 15-20 feet that swooped over their car. In the scholarly spirit of their profession, they checked an encyclopedia once they reached their school, and came to the conclusion that it was a pterodactyl, the long-extinct flying reptile.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons / Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman
Gunter Hotel Room 636
With a story this grisly, it’s no wonder people claim this room at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel is haunted. The tale goes that a man named Walter Emmerick checked into the hotel under the alias “Albert Knox” in early 1965. Though he checked in alone, he was seen with a woman. A few days later, a maid entered the room to discover the man standing next to a blood-soaked bed. He then gathered the sheets and fled the room. Upon investigation, employees discovered that the entire room was covered in blood. Some say Emmerick butchered the woman in the room, while others allege that there wasn’t enough blood to substantiate that claim. Police later found the man at the St. Anthony Hotel, where he had killed himself. True crime fans and ghost hunters alike can get more details about the crime, and subsequent sightings of spirits, from a 2013 post
on the hotel’s blog.
Photo via Instagram / thegunterfilm
The Dancing Devil of El Camaroncito
We’re not sure why, but apparently the ‘70s were a banner decade for spooky happenings San Antonio. According to this satanic tale, on Halloween 1975 a handsome man clad in white made quite the entrance at El Camaroncito Night Club. Legend says he was an amazing dancer, and wooed women left and right. As the night wore on, one of the women glanced down at the man’s feet and, instead of stylish shoes, saw that he had clawed chicken’s feet. Some people says she actually saw a goat’s cloven hooves. Either way, people claim he was the devil himself. The story goes that he fled to a bathroom and escaped through a window, leaving behind a cloud of smoke and a sulfuric smell. We’re not sure why Beelzebub himself would feel the need to sneak out like that, but whatever.
Photo via Google Maps