One of the most popular features about Galveston this time of year is that its ghosts seem to outnumber the living. As the former business district of the island, The Strand has been affected by many things over the years including the 1900 Storm, Yellow Fever, Spanish Flu, and a Civil War Battle. Apparently, the spirits from some of those events are hesitant to leave.
Customers can find goodies from all over the world at Hendley Market (Hendley Row, 2010 Strand), but they might find other-worldly things there as well. Through the years, numerous ghostly sightings have taken place both in the market and the apartments upstairs.
Owner Cheryl Jenkines shares, “The newest weird thing that’s been happening is in one of the apartments upstairs. I could distinctly smell cigarette smoke in room 302 repeatedly when I would go in it during doing the recent renovations. At first, I was mad at the workers because I thought they had been up there smoking, but they hadn’t. It was a sort of stale, old smoke smell.”
Other employees have had the same experience in a couple of other rooms, including 201. “It doesn’t happen every time,” Cheryl continues. “We haven’t allowed smoking up there for years, so anything that would have had a smoke smell on it should be gone. There should be no residual smell.”
Still, she is not bothered by the thought of someone revisiting the building after they have died. “Thanks for coming back, if you’re happy here. Just hang out—we’re good,” she says with a smile.
Madeline, a young intuitive who works part time at the Market, feels that the spirits are almost always there. When asked if she can sense when they are around, she replies that she “feels little tingling in my hands and tiny sparks. If I hold out my hand sometimes it feels like someone is touching it.”
“One day the lights started flickering, and I noticed what looked like two people having a conversation right over there,”Madeline remembers, pointing to a corner of the store.
“About a week later I started noticing an odd energy, and feel chills down the back of my legs. At the same time a rock was tossed, out of nowhere, and hit the wall and bounced off.”
The teenager was not frightened by the odd occurrence, but she started paying closer attention to things happening around her in the space. She senses that a couple of the ghosts are twin boys and has come up with pet names for the two entities, Blue and Pluto, joining the tradition along the Strand to assign names to otherwise unknown spirits. “They seem very friendly.”
Each year, a Dia de los Muertos altar is placed at the front of the store. It takes days for Cheryl and Amanda Hannie to assemble, and they welcome the community to bring photos of their loved ones to add to the display. They start the process the last week of October, and it is displayed through the Dia de los Muertos holiday.
“One of the first years we did it, a candle lit for Dr. Webber was blown out but later relit itself,” Jenkines remembers.
“Almost every year since, even though we take extensive measures to make sure each candle is out at the end of the day—including using water—one of the candles is burning when they return the next morning.” A visiting psychic once told Cheryl that all of the spirits at Hendley are happy just like the customers.
Over at the Old Strand Emporium, also located in Hendley Row, Kristen Tigrett has been the manager for about a year and a half. “We have a little boy in a grey jumpsuit and hat,” she describes. “Sometimes when we’re closed, we’ll find candy or spin tops on the floor.”
“There’s also a taller boy, who I’d say is in his 20s, in a military uniform with boots,” Kristen says. “I don’t see him too often, which is fine because he’s not too friendly. I’ve seen him walking down the hallway, but you can also feel his presence because the hair on your arms and the back of your neck will stand up. He’s not somebody you want to mess with, for sure.”
Even when the staff cannot actually see a presence, they know someone is there. “Every once in a while, the bell in the back will go off by itself when there’s no one there, and I’ve heard laughing,” says Kristen.
When asked if these occurrences make her uneasy, she replies, “No, as long as I don’t see the older guy, I’m O.K. The little boy leaving candy on the floor is fine.”
Inside the Haunted Mayfield Manor & Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast, not all of the ghosts are part of the show. General Manager Jackie Moore says, “We have had several different paranormal investigations here and that’s where we’ve gotten the names of our spirits. We have who we call our ‘big three.’”
“The first is Thomas who likes to mess with everyone a bit. Investigators have said he’s between the ages of 16 and 19, and he’s very much a prankster,” Jackie explains.
“For a while the photo booth was his favorite thing. We would turn off the booth at night, and we would come in the next day to find strips of new photos waiting at the machine. One time when we had an employee at the front desk about 10:30 in the morning, the booth unexpectedly kicked on and printed photos even though there was no one inside.”
When asked if there was anything visible on the photos, Jackie replies with a smile, saying, “There was. I have them on my fridge at home. You can see a hazy silhouette of a head and shoulders in the corner. We tried sticking our arms and shoulders in to see if we could duplicate it, but we couldn’t.”
“Then there’s our little guy Ben who is between the ages of five and eight. He’s mostly heard on the pirate side of the exhibit,” Jackie explains.
“After hours that pirate ship is his domain. If we are in there cleaning after the exhibit has closed, we’ll hear the floorboards creaking, giggles, and whistles.” Staff has even had to check the hallways to make sure all of the customers have left when they hear a little boy playfully shout.
Jackie continues, “Our third one is Alexander, a middle-aged man, who is the only one who has been visible. He’s a tall, slender man in a suit and top hat with a very strong presence. Alexander hangs out in one specific closet and hallway of the pirate exhibit. I’m one of the only people who will actually go into that closet,” she chuckles.
“I do a little knocking game with him sort of as a greeting in the morning. Sometimes he knocks back, sometimes he doesn’t.”
He is also heard talking to Ben, mostly shushing him when people are in the area. “We’ve experienced so many different things here,” Jackie concludes.
Ghostly stories might seem out of place in a cheery Christmas shop, but co-owner of Strand Brass and Christmas on the Strand (2115 Strand) Ginger Herter has a few tales of her own to share. “The story goes that this building was originally a brothel,” Ginger begins.
“The madam, who we have named Helen, is who we have experiences with all the time. There are three floors in this building,” she explains.
“You can still see the door that was at the top of the stairs (leading from the second to third floor) where her office was, and rumor has it that when prohibition was coming into Galveston, she hung herself up there. Supposedly she’s still here.”
Besides hearing things like footsteps, the employees have to deal with Helen’s taste in merchandise. “We carry a line of handbags, and she’s not of fan of them,” Ginger says.
“More than once—and even customers have seen it—bags will fly off the shelves onto the ground. I have had several employees also say that they’ve been touched on the shoulder or brushed against their hair, but I have not.”
“But we’ve never had any bad experiences,” she attests. “I remember there was a time I was at the front of the store when I heard one of my girls walking down the ramp at the back, clear as day. When I called to her by name, I realized she was somewhere else and there had been no one there.”
Two blocks down at Tina’s on The Strand (2326 Strand), Manager Boyce McComb Pryor and Assistant Manager Christina Lewis have experienced so much spirited activity, they can finish each other’s sentences as they share the stories. The store is known for their beautiful clothing, popular candles, and stunning seasonal décor collections including this month’s Halloween display.
One of the display pieces may come with its own spirited prankster. Push a button on the faux Victorian doorbell and a large eye opens to sounds of a doorbell, spooky voice, creaking door, and evil laughter. That is all fun until it happens when no one visibly activates the device.
“Two staff members were closing up and getting ready to set the alarm, and all of a sudden the eyeball prop went off,” Pryor shares. “Nobody was there to touch it.” The staffers failed to see the humor in the unexpected event.
“We call the little boy in our building Daniel, and he’s very mischievous,” she continues. Recently, a necklace was displayed on a hanger with a jacket, and the link unhooked causing the necklace to dangle from the hanger. One of the chain links was actually pulled apart.
“I had just walked past it a few minutes earlier and it was fine,” Pryor maintains. “There were no customers in the store that could have caused it.”
“I had a handbag designer here for ArtWalk, and set up a six-foot table with her bags,” she remembers. “I kept putting one purse at the end of the table, and it kept falling off. I stuffed it several times to make it sit evenly on the surface, but when I’d walk away it would fall over.”
Lewis continues, “A woman came in that same day and said, ‘He’s a busy one.’ I asked who she was talking about, thinking there was actually a child running by the racks. She said that there wasn’t actually anyone there, that we just couldn’t see him.” Lewis immediately called for Boyce.
While they were waiting for the manager, the woman shared that she was a medium. She called Daniel by his name and also said she was aware of the lady spirit that is supposedly upstairs. “She called him by his name,” Lewis reiterates in surprise.
“I don’t know how she would know that name, because Daniel is just what we call him,” added Pryor. “Just as I turned around the woman said ‘He’s right behind you. He keeps knocking that purse off the table.’ She said she actually saw him.”
“To us now, it’s just old news when this stuff happens. Sometimes you can be the only person in the bathroom and the door to the stall you aren’t in just slams shut,” Pryor says with a chuckle. “We say that lately Daniel must be bored because a lot of these type of things keep happening,” she grins.
Mike and Cathy Catching, owners of Mysticatz (2021 Strand) are often asked about the unexplainable video they have posted online of a pink pair of pliers that seems to work their way off of a tool pegboard in the workshop area of their store all by themselves.
“They’re still here,” Mike replies. “The pliers have fallen 139 or 149 times since we’ve been tracking it. I feel like it’s the spirit of a little girl playing with them.”
Cathy adds, “We’re assuming it’s a girl because [the pliers are] pink. The blue ones have fallen a few times and there are other colors on the board back there, but it’s usually the pink ones that fall.”
The Mysticatz inventory includes a wide variety of rocks and crystals. “Lately, we’ve heard rocks move in the display baskets after the store has closed. It has a very distinct sound, not the sound of things settling, but of them moving,” says Cathy. Mike clarifies, “Like a child is reaching their hand into the baskets and moving the rocks around.”
Mike and his friends even have an investigation team that helps other island businesses check into suspected hauntings.
“A Holistic Solution (another Strand business) contacted us because they were having issues with what they thought were spirits moving things around the shop. I brought my ghost box, and [my friend] Keith brought his, and we found out that it’s a little girl or possibly multiple children. It made the shop owner feel more at peace knowing it was children and not something evil.”
The investigator feels they correctly identified them as children because of sounds they captured on their “ghost boxes” which are a popular device used by ghost hunters. His version is basically guitar pedals and a guitar amplifier, and then you take chopped up recordings of backwards speech from radio or apps and play it as the input instead of a guitar.
“The spirits can manipulate those sounds and that energy to communicate with us,” Mike explains. He feels he has had success using the ghost box, but Cathy prefers other tools and methods to connect with the spirits.
“I think the Kinect camera is harder to debunk,” she says, referring to a purported spirit detection device that displays invisible energy in the form of stick figure-like shapes. “You can use it any time during the day. Spirits don’t just wait until it’s dark to come out and play.”
“We were doing a mini-investigation here and set up my video camera behind it positioned to capture the Kinect screen and the area it was covering,” Cathy remembers.
“Mike was standing at the end of the counter with his left arm extended out to the side, and the Kinect showed a small figure move its arms upward toward it. When Mike moved his arm up, the figure looked as if it was hanging on, even drawing its legs up.” The couple feels that this session may have detected the spirit of a playful child.
“You should always try to debunk these things before you accept them,” Cathy cautions. “But I also like to figure out why something is happening—if it has a purpose. I think our society has instilled so much fear that anything that goes bump in the night is evil. I don’t believe that. Perspective is huge.”
“Our employees have had many different kinds of experiences in the store over the years,” relates Wendy Morgan, co-owner of The Admiralty on The Strand (2221 Strand). “Including things flying off the shelves and ending up on the floor unbroken. One time the phone even ended up in the middle of the floor. It leaped over a podium with a guest book on it. There’s no way it could have fallen all the way to that spot.”
“The staff affectionately calls our ghost Charlie,” says Wendy. “One day I was standing by our knife case about to show a customer a knife. When I looked down, one of our packages of knives fell over. Just as I jokingly said that it must have been our ghost, all of the hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood up. The customer’s daughter matter-of-factly said, ‘Yeah, he’s standing right here.’”
“I’ve heard of our employees upstairs in our storage room hearing someone walking on the floorboards along with them,” she continues. “And one night, two employees could hear distinct rapping on the glass all along the back side of the store even though there was no one there.”
The Admiralty is located within Old Galveston Square that has multiple shop spaces, all of which seem to have their own spirit activity. “One of the security guards told me that one night, the alarm was beeping in an unoccupied restaurant upstairs by the trumpet sculpture,” Wendy reports.
The guard went to check the panel, and the panel said a door was ajar in the restaurant. He went to check that door, and as he turned around, he saw a man run across the balcony area to the other side of the building. Then the man ran in the other direction. The guard was certain he saw the man upstairs, even though he was the only person in the building at that hour.
“Another time, the guard was here unlocking the doors very early one morning, and as he was undoing the chains, he heard a little girl’s voice softly saying ‘Hi,’” Wendy shares. “And he turned around and there was nobody there.”
She concludes, “We’re just kind of resigned to the fact that we are not the only presence here, and they’ve been here a lot longer than we have. Nothing ominous or scary happens, just a little bit mischievous. We don’t mind.”
Tommy Wade, owner of the 3 Doors Down Bar between Strand and Harborside (102 20th Street), explains the reason why the workers at the bar call their resident ghost “Jack.”
“We had a retail space with name lanyards, and every morning my employees would find one of them just placed randomly around the store area,” he tells. It was always a lanyard with the name “Jack” on it.
“My partner and I were in Austin about three years ago, and there was a bartender here on duty,” Tommy says.
“I was watching the cameras to check in while she was icing down the beer at closing time. There’s a little bird statue that sits by the glasses on the shelf. As soon as she came around the corner with the bucket of ice, the bird came off the shelf. It didn’t fall like it just toppled off the shelf, it looked like someone picked it up and dropped it. I had to rewind the footage to look at it again to make sure that’s what I saw.”
Recently, Xfinity was working on a project in the office above the bar, and the cable rep asked one of the owners if there were ghosts in the building. When asked why he was curious, the man related that he felt a cold chill and the hair on the back of his neck starting standing up and sensed someone was there.
Though incidents like this can sometimes surprise the employees, they occur often enough that they take them in stride. Wade shrugs, “Every morning something different has happened. It doesn’t bother me.”
Garcia Ramon Coles, a maintenance engineer at the Galveston Railroad Museum (25th & Strand), will be the first to tell you that shops are not the only buildings along the Strand that experience unexplained activity.
“On Halloween night in 2017, I was in the theatre building locking the doors. Just as I was approaching theater number 3, I heard a loud crackling sound. It sounded like a lot of people opening cellophane candy wrappers.”
He continues, “I knew I was in there by myself, so I went to investigate. I went around the corner and there was a big display case full of china. The doors were blown outward about two feet, and the glass top part was just disintegrated into pieces. The sound that I heard was the pieces of glass moving around and making popping noises, but it did not damage one piece of china. They caught it happening on the security camera. We watched it over and over.”
“A similar incident occurred down in the depot building in the map room with another glass display case,” says Coles. “That one had two shelves and the top one shattered in the same way but didn’t damage anything inside. There were just hundreds of little pieces of glass left. I wasn’t afraid, but I was quite surprised.”
Even outside of the buildings, workers witness unusual occurrences. Garcia shares, “One time I was in the green display railcars locking up, and I heard the sound of a lot of stuff fall. Being a maintenance man, I thought ‘Now what?’ When I went to check nothing looked out of place, so I locked up and left. The next night the same thing happened, so I didn’t even investigate it. I just locked up and went home.”
He recalls another incident that happened on the tracks behind the museum. “A couple of years ago, there were some guys working on the tracks close to 28th Street in the early morning before the museum opened. When I got there, they were gathered around this brown caboose, and one guy told me he had seen someone standing inside. The odd thing was that he appeared like a flash on a camera and then disappeared. That worker didn’t come back anymore,” Coles says.
“Another guy working on the track told me he had the same experience, and even showed me a framed picture hanging inside the caboose and identified one of the men in it as who he had seen. The picture isn’t there anymore, but the caboose still is."
This Halloween, visitors can take their pick of almost any building along the Strand for their own chance at experiencing the ghostly side of Galveston.