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Ghosts of Galveston
With Special Guest: Kathleen Shanahan Maca, the Tombstone Tourist
They say you can’t swing a stick without hitting a ghost on Galveston Island. The place is thick with ‘em. I guess on some level, I always knew this, perhaps this is the energy that keeps drawing me back to the island. I love the history of this quaint Victorian town. The island is only 27 miles long by 3 miles wide. That’s pretty small considering how tall the tales are.
Both my mother’s parents grew up in La Marque, a small refinery town only minutes from the coast. If you’ve driven to Galveston with me, you know the story I can’t help telling as I cross the Causeway Bridge. The one about my grandfather being left for dead after an evening of rowdy hoopla with his buddies. Or the story about my mom and her friend and how they had to coax the friend’s lion back into the car with a cheeseburger…. seriously, a cheeseburger!
My grandparents used to tell us stories about their nights at Galveston's Balinese Room
, a swank nightclub located at the end of a 600 foot pier. It seems the Who’s Who of the 1940’s and 50’s frequented this chic little joint like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Howard Hughes, Groucho Marx, and George Burns. Legend has it, the bartender created the first Margarita for famous starlet, Peggy Lee. This historical, mob affiliated hotspot
survived raids and fires, but finally was destroyed by Hurricane Ike. During WWII, my father’s dad was in the US Coast Guard. He patrolled the beaches on horseback. Seems they were keeping an eye out for spies coming ashore from German submarines. Yep. I love this place. My family tapestry is woven with quite a few threads from this little island.
Imagine my intrigue when I came across a book who's front cover featured a huge moon hanging over the Hotel Galvez, and the word “ghost” in the title! (My husband and I had our wedding reception in one of the hotel’s ballrooms). I think I read half the book while standing in the aisle… I just couldn’t put it down. This is how we met the fabulous Kathleen Shanahan Maca
, author of Ghosts Of Galveston
. To give you a taste of the book, I’ve included the blurb on the back cover:
“One of the oldest cities in Texas, Galveston has witnessed more than its share of tragedies. Devastating hurricanes, yellow fever epidemics, fires, a major Civil War battle and more cast a dark shroud on the city’s legacy. Ghostly tales creep throughout the history of the famous tourist attractions and historical homes. The altruistic spirit of a schoolteacher who heroically pulled victims from the floodwaters during the great hurricane of 1900 roams the Strand. The ghosts of Civil War soldiers match up and down the stairs at night and pace in front of antebellum Rogers Building. The spirit of an unlucky man decapitated by an oncoming train haunts the railroad museum, moving objects and crying in the night.”
~excerpt from the book Ghosts of Galveston
by Kathleen Shanahan Maca
See what I mean? It’s a wonderful read and the photos are incredible. So many of the places Kathleen includes in her book, I’ve either been to or have heard about. What I didn’t realize until almost the end of the show, was how thoroughly Kathleen researched each story she included in the book. Each ghostly tale required many hours spent researching names and dates. If you read it, it happened. I LOVE this fact.
Tiffanie and I decided to take a JoyRide to the island to take a tour of the places in the book hoping to have our own ghostly encounter. We called Kathleen and ended up spending most of the day with our new friend. We began our day with a tour of the Galveston Cemetery, located on Broadway (the main drag).
Kathleen has been dubbed the Tombstone Tourist and loves to haunt the historic cemetery and reveal the real-life stories that make up the dash on someone's headstone. Galveston's rich history is recorded in her other book Galveston's Broadway Cemeteries. She has a gift of bringing these interesting characters to life (there's a fried chicken lunch under that hat!!).
Kathleen showed us around the incredible Rosenberg Library
. Oh, I have to add that we did in fact have a ghostly encounter while at the library. While standing in front of the painting of Mr. Frank Patten
, Tiffanie quietly said “Oh, Hello Mr. Patten” to which he replied by rapping three times on the wall. We all heard it. There was only one other person in the giant room. Pretty cool!
We visited what’s left of Jean Lafitte's, the notorious pirate, "Maison Rouge" house on his “Campeche" compound. We drove by the Silk Stocking District, Postoffice Street (former home of 30 bordellos!) and Hendley Market. At one point, we drove around just to admire the incredible architecture. This was MY KIND OF DAY!
Kathleen is currently working on a book focusing solely on the Ghosts of The Hotel Galvez. There is so much history in this historic hotel that an entire book is required to get to it all. We will definitely have her back on the show when this one comes out.
We hope you enjoy this show as much as we do. Thank you, Kathleen for sharing your love of history and reminding us of the riches in our own backyard! What unexplored gem do you have on your doorstep? Get out there on your own joy ride and tell us about it!
Peace and Love! Kerry