September 30, 2022

San Antonio's spookiest haunted locations and urban legends

Sure, you've heard of La Llorona and the Donkey Lady, but did you know that the founder of the legendary King Ranch is rumored to haunt San Antonio too? Over its over 300-year history, the Alamo City has had ample time to collect plenty of ghost stories and urban legends.

From the spirit of a murdered chambermaid to '70s-era cryptid sightings, we gathered together some of SA's most infamous spooky tales for your spine-tingling enjoyment.
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Terrell Castle, a.k.a. The Lambermont
Now home to a fancy wedding venue, this historic building was built for the influential Edwin Holland Terrell and fashioned after European castles. The property remained a source of pride until Terrell’s suicide in 1910 after years of suffering with syphilis. Unfortunately, his initial attempt failed, and it took him 10 days to die. Other tragic tales associated with the mansion include a contractor who threw himself from a balcony during construction, and a man who killed his wife and her lover when he caught them in bed together during World War II. Fortunately, the 12,000 square foot building is expansive enough to accommodate plenty of guests, so couples shouldn’t be too worried about ghastly wedding crashers. 
Photo via Instagram / sunset.in.sa
Terrell Castle, a.k.a. The Lambermont
Now home to a fancy wedding venue, this historic building was built for the influential Edwin Holland Terrell and fashioned after European castles. The property remained a source of pride until Terrell’s suicide in 1910 after years of suffering with syphilis. Unfortunately, his initial attempt failed, and it took him 10 days to die. Other tragic tales associated with the mansion include a contractor who threw himself from a balcony during construction, and a man who killed his wife and her lover when he caught them in bed together during World War II. Fortunately, the 12,000 square foot building is expansive enough to accommodate plenty of guests, so couples shouldn’t be too worried about ghastly wedding crashers.
Photo via Instagram / sunset.in.sa
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. Though there's multiple variations of the story, one version 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 go to the Old Applewhite Bridge in the Medina River Greenway, you may be able to hear her for yourself. 
Photo via Google Maps
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. Though there's multiple variations of the story, one version 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 go to the Old Applewhite Bridge in the Medina River Greenway, you may be able to hear her for yourself.
Photo via Google Maps
The Dancing Devil of El Camaroncito
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 say 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
The Dancing Devil of El Camaroncito
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 say 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
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 UTSA Libraries Digital Collection
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 UTSA Libraries Digital Collection
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 has repeatedly been voted Best Urban Legend in the Current’s Best of San Antonio poll. 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
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 has repeatedly been voted Best Urban Legend in the Current’s Best of San Antonio poll. 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
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. As the story goes, after a Navy Captain bought the house in the '20s then moved away, a couple of unusually short stature — the Gillespies — moved in with their daughters, who were of average height. 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 Flickr / Chester Paul Sgroi
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. As the story goes, after a Navy Captain bought the house in the '20s then moved away, a couple of unusually short stature — the Gillespies — moved in with their daughters, who were of average height. 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 Flickr / Chester Paul Sgroi
Huebner-Onion Homestead
This historic homestead has an accompanying tragic tale, that of Joseph Huebner, who met his untimely end in the late 1800s. According to the story, Huebner really liked his liquor, but accidentally quaffed some kerosene instead of whiskey. When neighbors found him, they weren’t sure if he was dead or passed out drunk. The neighbors decided to inter him near a creek behind the home — possibly burying him alive. When Judge John F. Onion and his wife, Harriet, bought the homestead in 1930, it was already rumored to be haunted by Huebner’s restless spirit, with tales of strange noises coming from the property.
Photo via Google Maps
Huebner-Onion Homestead
This historic homestead has an accompanying tragic tale, that of Joseph Huebner, who met his untimely end in the late 1800s. According to the story, Huebner really liked his liquor, but accidentally quaffed some kerosene instead of whiskey. When neighbors found him, they weren’t sure if he was dead or passed out drunk. The neighbors decided to inter him near a creek behind the home — possibly burying him alive. When Judge John F. Onion and his wife, Harriet, bought the homestead in 1930, it was already rumored to be haunted by Huebner’s restless spirit, with tales of strange noises coming from the property.
Photo via Google Maps
Big Bird
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
Big Bird
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
The Menger Hotel
The Gunter isn’t the only downtown hotel with ghostly occupants — there are sightings aplenty at the Menger, too. People say they see the spirit of Sallie White, a chambermaid who was shot by her husband in the 1870s because he thought she was being unfaithful. She’s been sighted wearing a uniform, holding fresh towels in her hands. There’s also the ghost of Capt. Richard King, founder of the famous King Ranch. He died at the Menger and has been seen wearing a bolo tie and black hat in the aptly named King Suite. 
Photo via UTSA Libraries Digital Collection
The Menger Hotel
The Gunter isn’t the only downtown hotel with ghostly occupants — there are sightings aplenty at the Menger, too. People say they see the spirit of Sallie White, a chambermaid who was shot by her husband in the 1870s because he thought she was being unfaithful. She’s been sighted wearing a uniform, holding fresh towels in her hands. There’s also the ghost of Capt. Richard King, founder of the famous King Ranch. He died at the Menger and has been seen wearing a bolo tie and black hat in the aptly named King Suite.
Photo via UTSA Libraries Digital Collection
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
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