paraphrase a quote by the Marquise de Deffand in 1774, I don't believe
in ghosts, but I have a healthy respect for them.
You would, too, if you've ever stood on the banks of Bouton Lake
when the fog rolls in from the Neches
River bottomlands. Looking across the still, tree-shaded waters,
you can almost see the outlines of a young girl wearing a long flowing
The ghost of Bouton Lake is one of several with whom I have developed
close friendships over the last 30 or so years. I don't necessarily
believe in them, but they've become as much a part of East
Texas as the pine forests they haunt, so I accept them in the
same way that I accept the fact that gravity works.
Lake's ghost is as old as the lake itself. The story goes that a man
and his daughter were hauling cotton
to town when the earth collapsed beneath them. He and his daughter
disappeared forever. Bouton Lake's ghost is mild compared to Oonie
Andrews, the ghost who lives in Lady Bird Johnson's family
home at Karnack.
She is as much a part of the old mansion that Jett Jones, who grew
up with Oonie, simply considers her "a lady who lives in the house
that nobody else can see."
In 1843, Milt Andrews built a splendid plantation-style mansion near
in the l880s, Andrews' 19-year-old daughter, Eunice, sat alone in
an upstairs bedroom when bolt of lightning from a stormstruck the
chimney, raced down a fireplace, and hit Oonie. She was burned to
Over the years, stories arose that the ghost of Miss Andrews never
left the bedroom. Eerie noises, odd happenings, and ghostly apparitions
soon became common. When the Andrews family sold the house to T.J.
Taylor -- Lady Bird Johnson's father -- in 1902, the ghost
went along with the sale. While Lady Bird said she never saw or heard
the ghost, she admitted feeling a sense of apprehension and unease
in the house as a child.
more contemporary ghost -- an East Texas phantom of the opera nicknamed
Chester -- haunts the Turner Fine Arts Auditorium on the campus
of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
No one has ever actually seen Chester, but dozens of students and
instructors swear they've felt his presence with signs like rustling
stage curtains, footsteps on the scaffolding, dust sifting down on
the shoulders of actors, and cold fingers on the back of the neck.
Chester apparently tried to make himself visible in a 1987 production
of Macbeth. In a scene where eight ghosts were projected on a stage
screen, a ninth face somehow appeared.
Texas' most beautiful ghost may be Diamond
Bessie, who was murdered at Jefferson
in 1877, supposedly by Abe Rothschild, although he was acquitted after
two controversial trials. For years, there have been reports of Diamond
Bessie's ghost rattling around the Excelsior House, but
it certainly hasn't hurt business at the old hotel. When Bessie isn't
haunting people at the Excelsior, she can usually be found at Oakwood
Other cemeteries in East
Texas also have their special ghosts.
Dabb's Cemetery, near Frankston,
there's the story of "the cage," where legends claim that a man was
buried twice, once alive and the second time dead.
Locals claim the man was buried the first time because he was thought
to be dead, but dug his way out of his earthen tomb and crawled to
a nearby home, where he died. To assure he would not be able to crawl
out again, a cage of wooden stakes was built around his grave. It
apparently served its purpose, but there are still stories of a ghost
roaming the graveyard late at night.
Texas' best-known "ghost light,"
belongs to Bragg
Road in Hardin
County. There, Big Thicket
residents have consistently reported sightings of a strange red light
in the forest, supposedly the lantern of a railroad switchman who
was killed by a freight train more than 50 years ago.
ghost haunts the banks of Popher Creek. The story goes that
an old Indian chief named Popher had a son who killed
a white man in an argument and was scheduled to be hanged. Popher
went to the white men and pleaded, "I am an old man, and my son is
still young with his life still before him. Please let me take my
son's place." The old chief was hung along the creek which bears his
Oct. 21, 2001 Column, updated February 19, 2012
More Bob Bowman's
column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers