Demon Road. Black Jesus. Prison Cemetery: supposedly some of the creepiest places in Huntsville. On Tuesday night, I set out with few good friends to experience what all the hype was about. Fear and lawlessness aside, we traveled to these places with open minds and open eyes to understand what Huntsville residents and students cannot stop talking about. What did we find? Absolutely nothing.
Formally known as Bowden Road, “Demon Road” is basically a dirt path in the middle of nowhere. Homes and farmland line the windy road and at night, Demon Road looks like the place to be if you are into the whole alien abduction thing.
With its own small cemetery and stationary 1950s car crash, a trip to this haunted road is rumored to leave you with the feeling that someone, or something is watching you. Witnesses over the years have reported seeing apparitions, hooded figures, satanic rituals and having phantom handprints all over their cars when they leave. Others have sworn they saw people or apparitions cross the road in broad daylight, almost causing them to crash.
While enjoying tasty pancakes at the International House of Pancakes after our adventure, our waitress could not help but share a few of her own stories about Demon Road. Her brother and a friend were recently cruising down the road when they swerved to miss the apparition of a little boy. She also said that during her high school party years, people would see victims hanging in the trees and barn.
What we experienced: We got lost. After driving around for over an hour on “Demon Road” looking for the turn-off to the cemetery, our A.D.D. set in and we decided to give up. The scariest part of the trip was my friend’s attempt at driving on a dirt road. After leaving, however, we did discover small handprints on the outside of his windows and a small face-print. After trying to debunk the phantom child-like prints, we decided to leave it to our imaginations and move on to the next location.
Destination Two: Prison Cemetery
There was not much there. Located on Bowers Boulevard, the prison cemetery is a historical part of Huntsville where the bodies of unclaimed prisoners are laid to rest. Filled with white crosses and small tombstones, the prisoner’s cemetery has been the setting of several ghostly sights, sounds and experiences for students looking for a fright.
What we experienced: Not much. I found that the lights of surrounding businesses distracted us from any “eerie” feelings. The Native American burial ground in the center of the cemetery was a little creepy though. That is, of course, one of my friends decided to disrespectfully lounge on the sacred burial grounds.
Destination Three: Black Jesus
Ah, the infamous “Black Jesus!” Looming approximately nine feet in the air with its hands spread wide in a classic sacred pose, the statue was erected by the family of a five-year-old boy in honor of his memory. Looking over a small garden setting, the bronze-colored statue soon turned black, thus earning the name “Black Jesus” by college students.
Legend has it that the hands of Jesus are turned up during the day but then mysteriously turn down during the night. Either the creators made the statue with revolving hands to scare unintelligent residents or something creepy is going on in Oakwood Cemetery.
What we experienced: The hands of Jesus were surprisingly different than I thought they would be. They were neither up nor down but were instead facing the graves. Whether this is the normal pose for Black Jesus, I do not know, but something in me hoped he would shake them around a little bit.
Sadly, our ghost-hunting journey failed to produce any ghostly experiences. That does not disprove any of the stories, however. It does prove that when a group of sleep-deprived college kids on a Tuesday night get bored enough, a trip to the scariest places in Huntsville is one of the best ways to create memories and internally appreciate Huntsville’s rich historical past.
Demon Road, Black Jesus and the prison cemetery are only a few of the so-called “haunted” locations in Huntsville. The Sam Houston State University campus is home to several of these spooky places.
The Peabody Library Museum, located next to Austin Hall and the Dan Rather Communications Building, is considered to be the “most haunted” building on campus by some members of the SHSU faculty.
The ghost of a serene woman has been seen by many members of the library staff in the one-room library, and there are rumors that the woman is a spirit of one of the first librarians or early-day professors.
Barbara Kievit- Mason, University Archivist and Library Associate to the Peabody from the late 1990s to 2004, said that she had several unexplainable experiences while her office was at the Peabody. While working alone, she said that the blinds on the 10ft windows would move up and down, things would be moved around and the alarm would constantly go off for no reason. Kievit-Mason also said that she and several student assistants often saw apparitions of woman in Victorian clothes watching them work.
“There was always stuff going on in the Peabody,” said Kievit-Mason. “One of the reasons [for the haunting] is probably because the building at that time was the closest to what the original was like.”
Some people also believe that the historical Austin Hall has some sort of ghostly inhabitant. Montgomery Count Deputy Sheriff David Tanner was on patrol several years ago when he heard tapping on one of the windows of Austin Hall. When he started to walk toward the communications building, he said he felt like someone was watching him. When he looked up at one of the second-story windows, he said it looked like someone had just let the curtain down.
In 2004, “The Huntsville Item” hired a “ghost hunter” to investigate Austin Hall. According to the director of Public Relations, Frank Krystyniak, the man entered the attic of the building with a candle and a bottle of holy water to investigate.
The man claimed a ghost blew out the candle and stole his holy water, so he ran scared out of the building. The bottle of holy water was recovered and his claims were never validated.
The faculty members are not the only ones with stories about ghostly experiences on campus though. Over the years students have reported ghostly activity in several of the dorm halls. Belvin-Buchanan is the location of several ghost stories. The Smith-Kirkley Hall has had its fair share of rumors as well. Students in both halls claim that doors slam and books fall off shelves for no apparent reason.
Huntsville is known for many things, but its prison systems and the history of its prison systems seem to outshine any other aspects. The Walls Unit is part of one of the oldest prisons in Texas. Even though the Walls Unit is no longer in use, several restless spirits still supposedly haunt it.
Chief Satanta is one of the most well known ghosts at the Walls Unit. After plunging to his death from a the third level of the prison several years ago, inmates on the cell-block and correction officers have reported seeing his apparition walking up and down the halls and through walls.
“The story goes that there is a ghost of a Native American chief that haunts the unit. Correctional Officers, when the building was still in use, have sworn they have seen his figure running around the area,” said Michelle Lyons, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. “It’s spooky. There’s no doubt about it. I swear I’ve heard noises in there before, when there’s nothing other human being around.”
The Huntsville Public Library in town is rumored to be haunted by a ghost named “Menard.” Before the library, there was a house that stood on the property. A man died in the house and allegedly haunts the Public Library to this day. According to librarians, books fall off the shelves, the copy machine makes copies by itself, the alarm has the tendency to go off without cause and the door will even open by itself.
The Steamboat House, where Sam Houston met his untimely demise in 1863 from pneumonia, is believed to by haunted by his ghost according to some students and residents. Gene Pipes, Curator of Education for the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, said that in order for there to be a haunted building, it has to have at least one factor.
“To have a haunted place, you have to have someone die there,” said Pipes. “The Steamboat House is a likely place.”
Huntsville, Texas is a town with plenty of history. It is also a town with plenty of ghost stories. If ghosts do exist, Huntsville’s 127 year-old college campus, memory of Sam Houston and the extensive historical prison system should be enough to earn a few of them.