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  Texas : Features : Ghosts : Baker Mansion

THE BAKER MANSION
Weatherford , Texas

by Bob Hopkins

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Background:

It was a time when horses, buggies, buckboards and steam locomotives were the only transportation available. Texas was less than fifty years old and the town of Weatherford, younger still. It was a time ripe with opportunity for those souls brave enough to take their chances in a new world born of the industrial age and decorated with Victorian style.

A man, if he set his mind to it, could make a good living in a land of unlimited opportunities such as north Texas. Gone were the savage Indians and the uncharted territories. Plenty of farm and ranch land along with an ever-growing population.

The City of Weatherford, just 26 miles west of Fort Worth, was established in 1856, just before the Civil War. The downtown area of the city was the center of activity for all of Parker County and soon became a prime area for the dry goods business.

Mr. J.D. Baker, who found success in the merchandising business in Hood County, moved his business to Weatherford in the 1880's because he believed it to be a better market for his inventory. He was right and by 1890 had established a successful business that blossomed into a chain enterprise covering several western counties of north central Texas.

The gamble had paid off for Baker and it seemed as if all was going well for his family at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1894, the successful Bakers began construction on a beautiful 6,000 square foot Victorian home at 704 South Lamar in Weatherford. They had four Children - Charles, Harry, Mary, and Ethel. Ethel unfortunately, died at the age of twelve. That would be the first family tragedy.

Mr. Baker past away on Easter Sunday, 1899, during the wealthiest years of his life. Unfortunately, he never witnessed the completion of the beautiful home.

In 1908, another tragedy struck the family. A strange tale that remains unsolved to this day. Charles Baker, who grew to be an intelligent man and business wise, became a buyer for the Baker Company. In the early spring of that year he embarked on a buying trip for the stores and was last seen leaving San Francisco en route to Seattle where he was to order goods. He was never seen nor heard from again.

A year later his family put out a large reward for any information that would help them find Charles. A poster was circulated all over the southwestern states in hopes that he would be located. The poster read as follows:

$ 5,000.00 REWARD.
A reward of $5,000.00 will be paid by the undersigned for the body, dead or alive, of Chas. R. Baker, last heard of March 9th, 1908, in San Francisco, Cal., and supposed to have gone to Seattle the following day.

DESCRIPTION
Age 29 years, height 6 ft., weight about 150 lb.., hair light, eyes blue, sharp features, smooth shaven. Has a very perceptible limp in walking, caused by rheumatism, affecting feet mostly. He is a constant sufferer of this disease. Has scar on the first finger of right had caused by a severe glass cut. Holds finger in crooked position. Dry-goods merchant by occupation. Well versed in business matters generally. Very quiet and gentlemanly in demeanor. Not dissipated.
(signed) Harry Baker

Address all communications to Harry Baker, care of Baker, Poston & Company, Weatherford, Texas.

The First National Bank of Weatherford, Texas, guarantees the payment of the above reward.
(signed) W. S. Fant, President.

To no avail, no word of Charles was ever heard of and the money was never collected. In 1936, Charles's sister, Mary had his will probated assuming him to be long dead. The Parker County courts agreed and the long unsolved mystery was put to rest.

A short time after the disappearance of Charles Baker, his brother, Harry was on a business trip to Chicago where he was suddenly struck with a ruptured appendix and tragically died.

The last of the Baker children, Mary, married and moved to Oklahoma City. Mrs. Baker continued to live in the Baker home until she got too old to take care of herself and moved to Oklahoma City with her daughter to live out the remaining days of her life, keeping the home in Weatherford until her death in 1942.

Mrs. Mary Baker Rumsey, the remaining Baker child, sold the huge home to Mr. & Mrs. George Fant in the early 1940's. Mr. Fant happened to be the President of the First National Bank of Weatherford, the bank that backed the $5,000.00 reward for the whereabouts of young Charles Baker in 1908. The Fants owned the house until the late 1970's, long after the death of Mr. Fant.

When the Fants moved into the home, nothing seemed out of place for about a year. Then their teenage niece, whom I will call Helen to protect her privacy, came to visit. Most of the following accounts in the home are recalled from Helen. She, out of fear of what others would think of her, never told anyone of the strange happenings until now.

The Ghost:

In a letter, dated September 2000, she wrote: "My aunt and uncle bought and restored the old Baker house in the early 1940's. Now, I know this sounds crazy, but I also know what I have seen. The first time was during W.W.II. Sometime during the summer, I was staying with my aunt and uncle along with another aunt. I was about 14 years old. She and I were sleeping in the easternmost bedroom downstairs. This bedroom has a door leading to the southern side of the verandah. Only the screen door was latched and I remember all was quiet and everyone was asleep. I was awakened by the sound of someone very quietly and slowly walking down a small hall on the south side of the house that connected an inner bedroom with the bedroom my aunt and I were sleeping in".

"I closed my eyes, afraid to look up. When I finally got the nerve to open them, a figure was standing at the foot of the bed. I screamed loudly enough to wake the dead and the figure immediately disappeared. Naturally, everyone in the house descended upon our bedroom and the consensus of opinion was that I was merely having a nightmare, but I know it was not a nightmare because I was very much awake when I heard him."

"That was the only time he ever appeared when anyone else was around and the last time that I screamed. I didn't spend the night in that house again for a long while. My parents and I moved out of town and I didn't return to the big house until the early 1960's. In the meantime, my aunt built a smaller house near by leaving a gate between a brick wall for easy access to the big house, which stood empty for a short while.

"One night, before I was married in the mid 1960's, I was reading in my bedroom, which was on the second floor. My aunt was still living there at that time and was in her bedroom-den downstairs. It was again, a warm night but not warm enough to turn on the window air conditioning units so my aunt had turned on the huge exhaust type fan in the upstairs window over the stairway. I suddenly heard a loud cry-not like crying actually-more like someone wailing or moaning".

"I ran out of my bedroom to the top of the stairs thinking my aunt had fallen and was crying out for me but her lights were out and I could see nothing. I realized that the crying was not coming from her part of the house. It seemed to be emanating from the area near the front of the house close to the dining room. The wailing went on for at least five minutes. Being your basic coward, after the wailing stopped, I went back to my room, locked the door and tried to sleep".

"The next morning at breakfast my aunt said nothing and I decided I had best keep my mouth shut. If you had known my aunt, you would understand why I make this statement!"

"My aunt went on to work and I was getting ready to do the same when her maid started yelling at me to come down to the dining room. In the downstairs part of the house, between the dining room and the hallway are heavy wooden sliding doors. Lying next to one of the doors was a huge dead bat. We were never able to determine where the bat came from or how he got into the house".

"The front of the house was always kept closed off and locked from the back of the house because we had plenty of room in the back after my uncle had added a huge den so it was easier to cool and heat by closing it off from the front. The maid; however, inspected and cleaned the front of the house every day and the bat was not there the day before. Even though I know what I heard the night before was certainly no bat, I still tried to write it all off as a vivid imagination".

"Most of the strangeness occurred in this house when I was alone. I think that is why I never mentioned it to anyone. There was always a pocket of cold, not cool, but extremely cold air in the downstairs hallway close to the living room. No matter how hot the day, when I would walk down that hall, there was about five feet of cold, cold air. I was always startled by it. Yet if someone was with me and we walked down that hall, the air was always normal, cool or warm, depending on the time of year".

"One day, in the mid 60's, I was with my aunt shopping at stores on the Weatherford Square. We were in a boutique called "Sturges-Allen". The elderly owner of the store, Mrs. Bozelle and I were having a conversation about the old house. She told me that sometime during the 1920's, her aunt attended a party at the house given by Mrs. Baker. At some time during the festivities a loud noise emanated from a large armoire, located on the first floor that had belonged to Charles Baker. The door of the armoire slowly opened and an old starched collar fell out and rolled down the hallway to near the large wooden sliding doors and came to a stop. She said the party goers were more than mystified by the event".

"I thought deeply on what she had reported and it gave me quite an uneasy feeling because the collar stopped in about the same place the dead bat was found".

"In 1970, my husband and I moved into the house with plans to purchase it. My husband worked a lot at night and sometimes traveled so I was in the house alone for five to seven days at a time. After living there for about a year, the visitations started".

"Our bedroom was upstairs on the south side. One night, while alone in the big old house, I woke up and was sure that I heard something on the stairs. The dogs were outside and one of them started howling. Then I saw a shadow along the wall of the stairwell rising toward my bedroom. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn't reach the phone, I couldn't say anything - just lay there. Once again I closed my eyes and kept them closed. I heard the footsteps enter my bedroom and approach my bed then I felt a hand gently touch my shoulder. I opened my eyes and jumped up very quickly but nothing was there. I don't know what the neighbors thought but I immediately got up and turned on every single light in the house and left them on until daylight. In the bright light of day I did my best to convince myself that I had had another nightmare like the one 30 years earlier".

"This event happened to me at least six or seven times during our years in the house, always with the same result. Someone came upstairs, walked into my bedroom, put his hand on my shoulder and then disappeared. Unnerving to say the least. Still I never told anyone, not even my husband".

"There were times when I felt someone was watching me. I felt what ever it was, wasn't exactly friendly. I did not feel potential violence as much as plain malice. This almost became a daily feeling. Anywhere I went in the house, someone was watching me and I became extremely edgy and frightened, afraid to leave and afraid to stay. Then, for a period of months to a year there would be no feelings of being watched and I would relax".

"The worst incident of all happened one night about 1976. It was in the spring of the year and I was alone in the house late one night. One of those Texas spring storms blew up with its usual violent winds, rain, hail, lighting and thunder. At that time there was an electric transformer on a pole about 20 yards east of Lamar on Columbia Street. The transformer would blow every time there was a drizzle and of course, it blew in this storm. I had no lights".

"I was upstairs in the bedroom, thunder crashing, lightning flashing, wind blowing something fierce. Suddenly, I heard loud pounding on the door from the basement to the hallway downstairs. This door was always securely locked and there was no way out of the basement except through the hallway downstairs and likewise, there was no way to the basement from the outside except through the house and hallway".

"I first tried to tell myself that the wind was causing the door to rattle, but a rattle didn't sound like that. Someone was loudly and furiously pounding on that door from the basement side. Thinking about it now is sending chills up and down my spine. I managed to get to the telephone and contact my aunt next door. She immediately knew I was frightened out of my wits and said she would meet me at the gate".

"I ran downstairs in my nightgown not even stopping to get my raincoat or shoes. The second I passed the basement door, the pounding stopped. I went through the kitchen, locked the kitchen door and started across the screened-in porch to leave the house. By the time I got to the screen door to leave, the pounding on the basement door started again, louder and angrier than ever. I ran across the parking lot to the gate where my aunt was waiting for me. I can honestly say that I have never been more afraid than I was that night, before or since. I still didn't say anything, only that the storm unnerved me".

" I was never again comfortable there. A year later, my husband and I divorced and I left that house for good. I truly believe that the ghost, spirit, figure that appeared to me in 1942 was that of Charles Baker and I don't think he liked me even one little bit. Since no one else, that I am aware of, ever saw him, I can only assume that I was the catalyst that aroused his ire. I can still feel the touch of a hand on my shoulder, Ugh!!!"

So, did the ghost of Charles Baker return to the house? Was he upset that he was unable to find the familiar surroundings left by his loving mother or was he reaching out for help from a place he disappeared from a long time ago? Anything is possible in a house familiar to tragedy.

The present owners of the home, Rhonda and Michael Lasely report they have had no strange encounters and have lived in the beautiful Victorian home for over 16 years. Oh! There was that time that their maid, who spoke little English, was very upset, and assured them that a "ghost" or "something" tried to push her from the stairs on the second floor.

As for Charlie Baker, we hope he has found peace and for all those who may live in or visit the home we hope they enjoy all the beauty and elegance the glorious home has to offer. For some, it will always be a place of deep mystery.

October 2002
Bob Hopkins, Weatherford


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Author's Note: I am a professional Firefighter with a degree in Fire science and a certified Fire Investigator, therefore, I believe just about everything can be explained if one looks hard enough. That was before I began to research a few north Texas ghost stories that are difficult to explain.

I have researched about 30 north Texas haunts, many of which have never before been documented or researched. They range from the hauntings of the old Baker and Crazy Water hotels in Mineral Wells to a haunted plantation near Tyler. I have researched each as to the best of my ability for authenticity and historical accuracy. I would be more than happy to share some of my research with (your readers). Thank you very much. - Bob Hopkins, Weatherford.

WEATHERFORD, TEXAS

Getting There

From Dallas - Take I-20 West through Fort Worth
to US 180 West to Weatherford. 57 miles

The Weatherford Chamber of Commerce
located in the restored Santa Fe Depot
two blocks east of the courthouse:
401 Fort Worth Street
817-596-3801

See: Trip to Palo Pinto Country

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