5 Texas Ghost Stories to Give You a Fright

Updated July 2, 2021
Abandoned cabin

Texas is the second largest state in the United States, and it has a rich history. With tales of the old West, skirmishes between colonial powers and indigenous people for territorial dominion, and a rich and diverse population and history, it's no surprise that Texas has its share of creepy ghost stories. So settle in and discover why everything's bigger in Texas, including its terrifying tales of ghostly experiences.

The Cursed McDow Hole

In the 1850s, Charlie and Jenny Papworth settled into a cabin on the east side of a creek in Alexander, TX. It was difficult living, as these settlers struggled with droughts and flooding, depending on the season. They were involved in the community and had a number of good friends in the local area.

After about five years, Charlie's parents passed away, and he was informed that they'd left him the family furniture. In order to retrieve the furniture, Charlie needed to make a 200-mile trip by wagon. While he was gone, Jenny lived at the cabin by day, but traveled every evening, with the children, to the cabin of their friends, the McDow family.

After a month of such difficult living, Jenny and the kids didn't arrive one night at the McDow's. By the following day, the McDow's and other neighbors became concerned and checked the Papworth cabin, only to find small signs of a scuffle and some blood on the floor. During their search, they discovered one of the young children hiding under the bed. The community organized a search party but the search party wasn't able to locate Jenny's body. One member of the community, an obnoxious man named Brownlow, accused the local tribe, the Comanche Indians, of killing her. Local members of the community began suspecting Brownlow himself, especially when one of his belongings was discovered near the Papworth cabin. However, no one could ever prove that Brownlow committed the horrible crime.

After a few problems with Brownlow and the town, Charlie and his son left the cabin forever. However, that's when the hauntings began. A neighbor, Keith, and his son stayed at the cabin one night and heard scratching at the door. Upon opening the door, he saw Jenny Papworth and her baby. She screamed and disappeared, scaring the two so much that they left through the back window. The next resident of the cabin, a skeptical man named Charlie Atchinson, lived there for a short period. Local men arrived one day to find the doors and windows locked from the inside. Upon breaking in, they found Charlie lying dead, on the floor, with a horrified look on his face. Years later, two young men took up a bet with the Saloon bartender that they could stay at least three nights at the cabin without running away. When the locals checked on the boys in three days, they found bullet holes in the walls and discovered that the brothers had run away.

Many other people witnessed the ghost of Jenny through the years. In 1890, a young man fired his gun at the ghost who was approaching him after he'd crossed the creek near the McDow place. Engineers and travelers of the local train witnessed seeing Jenny multiple times, standing near the tracks, just holding her baby. Two boys fishing at the McDow hole saw her apparition rise out of the water. Jenny and her baby were even reported to appear at the foot of Brownlow's deathbed, after which he finally admitted to the killing. Locals continued reporting countless sightings of the apparition at McDow hole throughout the years. Presumably, the ghost of Jenny Papworth has never found rest.

Dark silhouette of a cowboy in a Stetson shooting his gun

The Black Hope Horror

The Black Hope Cemetery is an old burial ground where slaves were laid to rest for generations. Unfortunately, residences in this Newport area were built over the old cemetery, making the spirits of these slaves restless. Stories of poltergeist-style hauntings were outlined in various articles throughout the 1980s in the local and national newspapers.

A number of residents of the subdivision on Hilltop Drive reported what they considered "evil" activity, including apparitions and much worse phenomena. One particular family described some of the horrible phenomena that took place in their home. Ben and Jean Williams became unnerved when they discovered ants colonizing their dishwasher. While this event was odd, it was only the beginning. Their toilets would flush on their own, objects would move on their own, pets would act crazy, birds would appear to attack them, and worst of all, their friends and other local residents would grow sick of diseases that ended up fatal.

Residents all confirm seeing the ghosts and shadows throughout the neighborhood and in homes. Ben and Jean eventually wrote a book titled The Black Hope Horror about their experiences. A TV movie titled Grave Secrets was created in 1992 based on the events in this community. Countless residents have fled their homes after realizing what living in this Hilltop community entails.

Maxdale Cemetery

The Maxdale township's cemetery is very old and believed to be haunted. The apparition of an old man with a limp is rumored to be the deceased cemetery caretaker who is still working long after his death.

The ghostly stories surround the cemetery don't stop with the caretaker's ghost. To access the cemetery, you must drive over an old iron bridge that spans a river. It's said if you park your car in the middle of the bridge and turn off your lights to the count of ten when you turn the headlights back, the swinging corpse of a hanged man will be in their beams. The man, supposedly distraught over the drowning of his beloved, took his own life on the bridge. Another story of tragic loss has the man driving his truck off the cemetery side of the bridge to his death. Travelers report a phantom old truck chasing them across the bridge into the cemetery.

Two wooden cross grave markers overlooking sunset over hills

The Killer Ghost of Bexar County Hospital

While many hospitals are rumored to be haunted, most of these hauntings, while creepy, are benign. Not so with the ghost of Bexar County Hospital. Not only is the hospital rumored to have had a ghost, but that ghost was a killer. Not the ghost of a killer, but an actual ghost that killed people. It's said the ghost of a nurse went from room to room in the hospital, killing patients there.

Patients in the hospital frequently questioned staff about a nurse wearing some rather old-fashioned clothing. Unaware of who that might be, staff checked security cameras and saw the patients who had complained having conversations with someone that wasn't there. This was strange behavior, indeed.

But even more frightening was the rash of patient deaths that went room by room, starting with the lowest room number. One death after another occurred in numeric sequence, with no one able to discern what had killed the patients. Was there an "angel of mercy" in the hospital? Nobody knew. However, the mysterious deaths continued until the next room in the line was unoccupied. With the gap in the rooms, the deaths stopped, and killings no longer occurred.

While this is most likely a legend, chances are it was sparked by true events that occurred at the Bexar County Hospital in San Antonio. For a nurse in the hospital, Genene Jones, is a convicted serial killer who worked there as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN) and likely killed a number of infants and children under her care during her time there. She is known as the Texas Baby Killer. And in this case, while the ghost story is frightening, the truth is even more terrifying.

The Tale of El Muerto

Did you know Texas has a headless horseman? He's known as El Muerto, which is the Spanish term for "the dead."For more than a century, people that live in or visit the South Texas area between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River--a place called "No Mans Land"--have seen a ghostly headless rider perched atop a horse. It's said that on a moonlit night, his horse can be seen galloping through the mesquite, just a torso with no head on its shoulders.

So who is the mysterious headless rider? It may be the ghost of a horse thief named Vidal who ran afoul of the Texas Rangers one hot summer day in 1850. It seems he stole horses from the wrong man, a Texas Ranger named Creed Taylor. None too happy with the theft of his prized mustangs, Taylor gathered a posse and went after Vidal. When they found him, they killed him and cut off his head. Then, they placed him on a wild mustang, tying his upright torso to the horse and his hands around the saddle pommel. Next, they used rawhide to affix his head and sombrero to the saddle behind him. They set the horse free with Vidal's decapitated corpse meant to serve as a warning to all would-be bandits in the area.

For weeks, people spotted the gristly sight of a headless rider on a horse. Terrified, they shot at it with arrows and bullets, but much to their shock, they couldn't seem to stop it, and the horse and rider went on. Thus began the legend of El Meurto and his evil deeds. Finally, after months, a group of men captured the wild mustang and found, tied to its back, the dried and decaying corpse of Vidal, riddled with all the bullets people had shot at him.

Even after the discovery and disposal of the body, however, Texans in No Mans Land reported seeing the ghostly vision of a headless corpse thundering past, and sightings remain until this day. So if you're in No Mans Land in Southern Texas, and you spot a horse with a headless rider, remember the warning against thieving. For while Vidal's body no longer rides headless on the back of a wild mustang, his spirit still gallops through the South Texas mesquite as a warning to all who would run afoul of the Texas Rangers.

Cowboy on a horse riding across a river

Spooky Texas Ghost Stories

Like many other places, Texas has its share of ghost stories. But those from Texas seem bigger somehow--stories as grand, wild, and untamed as the state itself.

5 Texas Ghost Stories to Give You a Fright