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Texas | Features | Ghosts

Chilling tales of
ghostly experiences
at the Alamo

Dawn at the Alamo
Page 2

by James L. Choron

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James L. Choron

For decades, people from all walks of life have told chilling tales of ghostly experiences at the Alamo. Strange smoky spirits that wander its grounds, screams heard from inside its walls, sounds of explosions, even faint trumpet notes of "El Deguello," the ancient Spanish call of "no quarter" that Santa Anna ordered played during the final assault on the fort.

It is important to remember that the Alamo is essentially a cemetery, a place where 182 Texans defenders died, and 1,600 Mexican soldiers were either killed or wounded on March 6th, 1836. Their remains were dismembered, burned, dumped in the San Antonio River, or simply left to the elements. It was one of the bloodiest battles in American and Texas history.


The first account of ghosts at the Alamo came only a few days after its fall. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna left San Antonio in the hands of General Juan Jose Andrade, who made camp several miles from the Alamo because of the carnage and disease born by the bodies left in the sun. When Santa Anna sent word for Andrade to destroy the Alamo, the general sent a colonel with a contingent of men to carry out the orders. The men came rushing back with a frightening story of six "Diablos" or devils guarding the front of the old mission. The specters were screaming at the advancing Mexican soldiers and waving flaming sabers in their hands. When General Andrade went to investigate the incident in person, he described six men with balls of fire in their hands, advancing on his terrified troops.



While on the subject of the six "diablos", another prominent haunting comes instantly to mind. Many people believe that all of the Alamo's 182 defenders died in the battle. This is not, exactly speaking, correct. Several of those who took part in the battle actually survived the attack. Among these, reports by General Manuel Fernandez de Castrillon, General Martin Perfecto de Cos and Colonel (later General) Juan Jose Andrarde state, was the famous Tennessee frontiersman, David Crockett. In the 167 years that have passed since the famous battle, many visitors have reported seeing the specter of a tall, stately Mexican officer walk slowly through the remaining buildings of the Alamo and around the grounds, arms clasped behind his back, slowly shaking his head in sorrow. It is believed that this is the restless spirit of General Manuel Fernandez de Castrillon, one of Santa Anna's regimental commanders, who had opposed the final assault on the grounds that it was bound to be a "bloodbath". When the firing had stopped, just after sunrise on that fateful Sunday morning, six men were brought to him, alive, after attempting to surrender. General Castrillon offered them his protection, and then petitioned Santa Anna for clemency. Santa Anna, of course, refused, and ordered the six men executed. When Castrillon refused to carry out the order, on moral grounds, since he had offered the men his protection, Santa Anna's staff fell on the men with sabers, hacking them to death, and in the process, almost killing Castrillon.

Nor were the six who attempted to surrender the only survivors of the attack. At least two messengers, John W. Smith and James L. Allen, who left the Alamo shortly before the final assault also survived, as did the Alamo's only "coward", Louis M. Rose. the only man who refused to cross Colonel Travis' line in the sand and chose to escape. Brigadardo Guerrera, a Mexican defender managed to talk his way out of being executed by claiming to have been a prisoner of the Texans, and Henry Warnell managed to escape the final assault and make his way to Port Lavaca, where he died several months later as the result of wounds that he received in the battle. The Alamo's youngest active defender also survived. Twelve year old Enrique Esparza, who had passed ammunition to the Alamo's artillerymen, managed to flee, in the last few minutes of the final assault to the room in which the women and children were sheltered. He was spared because of his age, along with the other children present. There is also the possibility of two other survivors, whose names have been lost, who appeared in Nacogdoches, Texas, two weeks after the battle, who, according to the Arkansas Gazette, of March 29th, 1836, "said San Antonio has been retaken by the Mexicans and the garrison put to the sword. if any others, aside from themselves, escaped the general massacre, they were unaware of it".



Every March, a few days after the anniversary of the battle, residents of the area surrounding the Alamo are wakened in the early morning hours by the sound of horse's hooves on the pavement. It is believed that it is the spirit of James Allen, the last courier to leave the Alamo, the evening before the massacre, trying to return and report to Colonel Travis. This incident, although glamorized and elaborated on, has been more or less immortalized by Stephen Spielberg in an episode of the short-lived television series dealing with the unexplained that he produced in the late 1980s.



Of all these survivors, only one has produced a recorded haunting. There have been literally dozens of reports of a lone man, dressed in the clothing of the time, carrying a long rifle, walking slowly toward San Antonio, from Nacogdoches. When passersby stop to investigate the strange site, they are told only that he is trying to "get back to the Alamo, where he belongs". It is thought that this is the restless, guilty soul of Louis M. (Moses) Rose, the "coward of the Alamo", who, regretting his flight, is now damned for eternity to try and regain his honor by returning to the battle.



There have also been repeated reports of a man and a small child, seen on the roof of the Alamo church, in the early morning hours, just at sunrise. In the confusion of the final assault on the Alamo, Colonel Juan Andrade and several other Mexican officers stated that they were "horrified" when they saw a "tall, thin man with a small child in his arms, leap to the ground from the parapet at the rear of the Alamo church.



At least fourteen people, almost all women and children are documented to have survived the siege of the Alamo. These include Suzanna Dickenson and her 14 month old daughter, Angelina, who has gone down in history as "the babe of the Alamo", and Colonel William B. Travis' former slave, Joe, who was, in fact, an equal defender of the Alamo. Travis freed Joe, and offered him the same opportunity to escape as he did to the rest of the garrison, when he drew his famous "line in the sand". Joe, however, remained in the Alamo, standing side by side with Travis on the Alamo's walls. He was spared execution simply because General Santa Anna thought him to still be a slave, and not a willing combatant.



Many visitors to the Alamo report seeing two small boys, about ten to twelve years old, tagging along with the tour groups who visit the grounds of what is, arguably, the holiest spot in Texas. No one seems to know where they come from, and no one sees them leave. They simply "disappear", when the tour group reaches the small sacristy room in the Alamo church. Many believe these little boys to be the sons of Alamo Artilleryman Anthony Wolfe, aged nine and twelve, who were killed in the final assault, mistaken for combatants by the advancing Mexicans, when they were discovered hiding in the Alamo church.



One of the saddest stories of Alamo ghosts is that of a little boy who has been seen for many years wandering the grounds around the old mission.

It is said that each February a small blond boy, with a lonely and forlorn look, is seen at one of the windows of the chapel areas of the mission. The window where the child is seen has no ledge and is far too high for him to climb onto. According to legend, the young boy is one of the children evacuated from the mission before its fall in 1836, and returns each February to search for his father, who was lost in the battle.

The Alamo courtyard
The fountain and courtyard at the Alamo circa 1945
Photo Courtesy TxDoT
* NOTE: The Alamo is a shrine. It is a registered historical site, and, literally, a cemetery for hundreds of people, both Mexican and Texan, and no investigations are allowed on the site. It is, in fact, a violation of the law to take photographs inside the Alamo church or the "long barracks", which are the only two original structures still standing. No cameras or other electronic apparatus, including EMF meters, are allowed to be used within the confines of the Alamo. They can be used, outside, on the grounds.

Undoubtedly, a full and proper investigation of the premises and its immediate surroundings would produce some astonishing results. This, however, is not possible. The Alamo is maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and, so far, no request to conduct an investigation on the site has ever been approved. But, ask any of the DRT tour guides if the Alamo is haunted, and their responses will surprise even the most callous skeptic.

Page 1 - A ghostly encounter
James L. Choron


See Battle of the Alamo by Jeff Robenalt
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