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Haunted Fort Worth

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Built in the early 1900’s for A.B. Wharton and his young bride, Electra Waggoner, the 11,000 square foot Southern mansion has been home to some of the city’s most elite families and venue for the most extravagant parties.

Popular legends include sightings of a ghostly woman in a white dress and a handsome young man who wanders the grounds as well as unexplained knocking, footsteps and music coming from the third-floor ballroom.

In 1906, the local newspaper reported a Halloween “phantom dance” lit by jack-o-lanterns. Autumn leaves were strewn about and apples hung from the ceiling. Upon arrival, couples were separated and draped with sheets. Before the last dance, guests should have correctly identified the person with whom they came.

Brian Rhodes, director of Thistle Hill said that dance and a Halloween “haunted house” later hosted in the basement may have contributed to the stories.

Rhodes said the legendary woman in white is most likely attributed to the fact that the mansion’s stately appearance and lush garden makes it a popular wedding venue.

He doesn’t put much stock in the legend of the young man either, who is said to be the ghost of another local legend, Winfield Scott. The Scotts undertook a major renovation when they bought the property in 1911. But shortly before the remodeling was complete, Winfield died unexpectedly. A year later Mrs. Scott moved into the house, where she remained until her death 26 years later.

On the second Friday of each month, the mansion hosts a flashlight tour that includes areas of the mansion normally off-limits: the basement, third-floor ballroom, servants’ quarters and carriage house.

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Named one of the Top 100 Most Romantic Places to Stay and one of the Most Active Paranormal Sites in Texas may seem unusual to some people, but Paula Gowins, the innkeeper at Miss Molly’s Hotel, said that sounds about right. The bed and breakfast is located in the historic and if you believe the stories, most haunted part of town, the Fort Worth Stockyards.

In 1910 the location was a respectable boarding house for the salesmen, cattle buyers and cowboys who worked along the Chisolm Trail. By the 1940s, the hotel had changed hands a few times. Fort Worth had a booming meat packing industry, and was a premiere destination on the rodeo circuit. Sensing an opportunity, Josie King took over the house and reopened it as a bordello. Guests were entertained in one of the nine bedrooms, and there was an elegant parlor at the top of the stairs where clients socialized and waited for their girls.

Gowins said she has experienced paranormal activity all over the inn but all the rooms have a different feel. “Miss Amelia’s room has the kindest energy,” she said. “It has a sweet and gentle spirit about it8212;almost like an innocent little girl is there.” Gowins said she tries to keep a sense of humor about it, but sometimes it can be unnerving.

“Sometimes I wake up at night and hear voices in Miss Josie’s room, or I will be cleaning one of the rooms and see an apparition of Jake, the resident cowboy,” she said.

The hotel welcomes overnight guests with room rates from $125.

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Not far from the infamous gangster hangouts at Casino Beach, a dilapidated castle on the shore of Lake Worth shares a sordid history.

The original farmhouse was built in 1860. Legend has it a young man built the house as a gift for his bride-to-be, but on the morning of her big day, she was found floating face-down in the lake. The groom married her sister a few weeks later, and shortly thereafter witnesses began reporting a woman in a white gown running from the house and vanishing at the water’s edge.

In the 1920s, Samuel Whiting reportedly won the property in a poker game. He built the castle, which he named Inverness, onto the original farmhouse. When it was finished, the house was around 6,000 square feet and is rumored to have an underground tunnel to the lake.

While living in the castle the Whitings suffered a number of tragedies. Their son committed suicide in the home, and the castle was completely gutted by fire in 1939. In the 1940s and 50s, the castle was leased to the Vultee Aircraft Corporation. During this time, Jimmy Stewart and Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed at the castle. In the 1970s, Tony Vann and Marion May renamed the property Castle St. Michael. It served as a retreat for clergy and catered to guests who were interested in exploring the metaphysical. In the late 1980s the property went into foreclosure and was soon deeded to the city of Fort Worth. The city then sold the property at auction to a group of Houston investors for $270,000.

Currently, the castle is boarded up and has been damaged from multiple fires throughout the years. Razor wire surrounds the structure and signs warn against trespassing.

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The hustle and bustle of University Drive all but disappears in the historic Log Cabin Village. The village’s schoolhouse, gristmill, smoke house and cabins were all occupied by Texas settlers and some of them have a tragic past.

In 1836, the Parker family fort near present-day Groesbeck was invaded by Comanche Indians. The ensuing massacre left most of the residents dead and nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker missing.

More than two decades later, Parker was married to a tribal chief and a mother of three when she8212;along with her young daughter, were arrested by Texas Rangers and returned to relatives they scarcely knew. Parker was taken against her will to the Parker Cabin, then in Birdville, where she reportedly wandered in the forests and slashed her breasts, yearning for the husband and two sons she would never see again.

A longstanding rumor is that the second floor of the Foster Cabin sometimes smells like lilacs which is said to be a remnant of Mrs. Foster’s perfume. One of the few remaining Texas plantation homes, the two-story cabin was built by slaves who hand-hewed and stacked the logs from oak and cedar timbers along the Brazos River.

Kelli Pickard, museum director, is a skeptic, but said she did have an uncomfortable experience several years ago in the Howard Cabin. Pickard said she and an intern felt a presence and heaviness in the air that made it hard to breathe. She also remembers a young girl and her grandmother who were the sole visitors at the Howard Cabin one afternoon. The child asked her grandmother if she saw them too. When her grandmother quizzed her, the girl said she had seen people inside the cabin and that they smelled like oranges.

The village is open Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and weekends 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $4.50 for adults $4.00 for children.

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