Tag Archives: April Slaughter

El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

April Slaughter, author of Ghosthunting Texas, shares with us the tale of El Muerto—The Headless Horseman of West Texas

We’re all familiar with the legend of Sleepy Hollow and the terrifying headless horseman who stalked the local community in the story, but did you know that Texas has a headless horseman of its own?

The legend of El Muerto, or the “Dead One,” stretches back to the days of cattle rustlers and outlaws, dirt trails and cowboy fights. While some believe him to be merely a product of myth, there are those who claim he might have actually existed.

In 1850, one of the most famous of all Texas Rangers—Bigfoot Wallace—allegedly captured a Mexican outlaw simply known as Vidal, who had been raiding ranches and stealing cattle and horses. Texas Rangers had long been working to keep the incidents of theft at a minimum, but outlaws continued to sweep across the south. Rangers had done everything they could to send a clear message that thievery would not be tolerated, but their efforts had been largely unsuccessful.

Bigfoot Wallace reportedly executed Vidal upon his capture, tied his decapitated head and sombrero to the saddle horn of a wild mustang, secured his body in the animal’s saddle, and sent the horse out to roam the plains. Cowboys began to see the horse and its unfortunate rider aimlessly wandering through the hills and became so afraid that they shot at it with their guns. Over time, El Muerto became an omen of bad things to come and was credited in stories of the misfortunes of others. Once the horse had been cornered in present-day Uvalde, Texas, the body of the one-time rustler was finally laid to rest. This, however, would not be the last time El Muerto was seen. Stories began to spread like wildfire that he was still riding in the hills and among the ranches he had once stolen from.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

The legend of the headless horseman of Texas is still alive and well today, as many ranchers and travelers throughout west Texas have reported seeing the ghostly apparition on clear and moonlit evenings; a large and foreboding presence, seemingly destined to an eternity of riding headless through the plains on a wild mustang.

The Lone Star State is so vast it includes just about everything—including ghosts! In her book Ghosthunting Texas, April Slaughter explores more than 50 spooky sites.

About the author: As an active paranormal researcher for nearly 20 years, April Slaughter has delved into almost every facet of the unknown, from spirits and psychic phenomena to UFOs, Cryptozoology, and more. She is one of America’s leading researchers into the study of Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC), and is the first to introduce her personal experiences with Induced After Death Communication (IADC) to the paranormal field.

She began her journalism career in 2006, writing and working for TAPS Paramagazine—published by the SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters. In 2008, she cofounded The Paranormal Source, Inc., a nonprofit research and education corporation.

Millermore House Dallas

April Slaughter Encounters Ghost at Millermore House

MillermoreThe Miller cabin and Millermore house sit among 25 additional historic structures in the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park. My husband and I cannot resist a good ghost story, and after I had learned about the experiences of others at Millermore, Allen and I were eager to visit.

Our attention was immediately drawn to Millermore as soon as it came into view. It’s a majestic and beautiful home located close to the park’s entrance.

For as long as Millermore has been in the Dallas Heritage Village, there have been stories of apparitions moving about in almost every area of the house. The odd movement of inexplicable lights on the top floor has also often been reported.

Several paranormal teams have conducted investigations at Millermore in hopes of capturing the various phenomena, and many believe the ghosts of several children may be playing on the property. EVP recordings captured children’s laughter when no children were in or near the home. Many paranormal investigative teams have been allowed onto the property to see if they could capture anything anomalous on film, but the Village and its staff never participate in the investigations. They believe it is important not to sway their visitors one way or another.

I spoke to a volunteer at the Village who has been assisting on the property for more than 13 years; on the day we arrived to walk through the historic home, she was conducting the visitor tour. It was obvious that she thoroughly enjoyed her volunteer time relaying information to guests eager to learn more. At one point during the tour, a young woman asked the volunteer if she believed the home was haunted. “I’ve often heard strange noises,” she answered. “This is an old house and the floor creaks a lot. I don’t know if it is anything paranormal. I just carry about my business and try not to pay too much attention.”

millermore-house-interiorI was particularly intrigued when we reached the upstairs level and stood in the large open breezeway running through the center of the house. There are several shadowbox frames showcasing intricately woven human hairpieces hanging on the wall, collected by a family in the Dallas Metroplex. While not historically tied to the house itself, they are beautiful yet eerie, ornate artifacts that made me uneasy. I wasn’t sure what they were at first glance, and upon closer inspection I realized that I had never seen anything like them before.

As I stood there staring at the unusual pieces, I felt the distinct sensation of someone brushing my hair away from the back of my neck. Allen hadn’t been near me, as he was busy wandering around the bedrooms taking pictures, and the remainder of the group had already moved on down the hallway. I stood there doing my best to keep still, hoping the experience would repeat itself, but it didn’t. My initial uneasy feeling soon melted away.

The tour guide gathered our group in the hallway where she pointed out a small day bed situated just below a window at the rear of the house. She explained that it was a piece originally owned by William Miller and that he often enjoyed an afternoon nap there, cooled by the breezes that flowed through. When we had first ascended the staircase, the quilt lay neatly atop the bed, as though the bed had just been made. After spending approximately 20 minutes upstairs, we all made our way back to the staircase and past the day bed. I noticed that in the middle of the bed, a slight yet noticeable impression had been made in the quilt as if someone had been sitting on it. I made no mention of it at the time, hoping someone else would point it out and validate my thoughts. But no one else seemed to notice, and we all shuffled back down the stairs to the main floor.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

My experiences at Millermore impressed me, as I had constantly been aware of the movements of the people in the tour group and yet, something unseen had approached me. I believe without a doubt that someone wanted us
to notice that they were there. While I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to the other visitors individually, I had the sense that they, too, felt a spiritual presence in the house. They walked through the home with quiet reverence and continually looked backward as if they were expecting to see a spirit from the past walking along behind them.

As we descended the steps of the front porch, I turned around to take another look at the house. I wondered who had touched my hair and if that person had been the same individual who sat on the day bed. I felt a reverence for the history of the house, for the work that went into both building and preserving it, and for the family that may still call it home.

April Slaughter explores more scary tales from the Lone Star State in her book Ghosthunting Texas. Join her from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the travel guide and her ghostly resources.

Marfa Lights Unexplained for Decades

The Mystery of the Texas Marfa Lights

Marfa lights
Marfa lights observation deck

In the 1950s, reports of a strange phenomenon occurring in Presidio County began to attract a lot of attention. Strange balls of various colored light appeared at night—sometimes moving erratically or hovering completely still in the air. Witnesses have often reported that these balls of light appear in pairs or even larger numbers and can be seen ranging from a matter of seconds to hours before finally disappearing.

The Marfa Lights, also known as the Marfa Ghost Lights, have never appeared in the daytime and seem to be a strictly nocturnal phenomenon. No clear explanation has ever been provided, but many believe the lights to be a manifestation of spirit activity and contend that they are indeed a paranormal occurrence. Skeptics often attribute the phenomenon to passing vehicles or lights from nearby homesteads or changes in atmospheric conditions, but the strange and unpredictable pattern of movements make it difficult to say one way or another.

The lights appear randomly in the nighttime hours, and they occur year-round. They are not easily approached, however, as they appear above private property. They are often seen at varying distances and have been captured over the years in both still photography and video footage. Some visitors contend that upon witnessing the Marfa Lights, they have had profoundly personal spiritual experiences and do not believe they should simply be dismissed as a scientific mystery.

april-slaughterWhatever the explanation may be behind the Marfa Lights, they continue to attract curious onlookers and visitors from all over the state of Texas. A fascinating display of color and movement, the Marfa Lights may indeed be something purely environmental, but what if they’re not? Perhaps the ghosts of Presidio County often gather together in an attempt to make themselves known in the late-night hours. We may never know what the lights truly are, but as long as they continue to appear we are sure to be continually mystified by them.

April Slaughter explores more scary tales from the Lone Star State in her book Ghosthunting Texas. Join her from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the travel guide and her ghostly resources.

Hell’s Gates, Texas

April Slaughter reports about something dark and sinister lurking in Hell’s Gates, Texas

A small piece of land in northwest Texas near the Lubbock Cemetery has earned a reputation over the past three decades for being an area rife with paranormal activity—resulting from years of reported accidental deaths, suicides, murder, and even Satanic worship.

A wooded area littered with biking and hiking trails, the area has become known as Hell’s Gates. In recent years, it has attracted many people interested in practicing occult rituals. The occurrences of séances and various other attempts at contacting the dead have led many to believe that paranormal activity was summoned to Hell’s Gates rather than having originated here.

Locals and ghosthunters alike have dozens of stories they are more than willing to share with anyone interested in hearing them. Legend has it that a young woman was once hanged from the train trestle that runs through the property, and that she can be heard crying in the night. Some believe they have captured her apparition in photographs during their investigations of Hell’s Gates, often looking as though she were hanging from a rope or simply floating in mid-air just below the trestle. While there is no official record of her existence or death here, her alleged presence continues to attract the curious.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

Psychics have often reported the impression of something dark and sinister lurking about the area, angry and defiant, not at all welcoming of nighttime visitors and investigators looking to capture evidence of its existence. Equipment failure is fairly common due to odd battery drainages and rare malfunctions that are often associated with paranormal activity. The area’s atmosphere is said to change almost instantly from calm and serene in the daylight to uncomfortable and frightening at night. While many are attracted to Hell’s Gates when the sun goes down, not many attempt to stick around to see the sun come up.

April Slaughter explores more scary tales in the Lone Star State in her book Ghosthunting Texas. Join her from the safety of your armchair, or hit the road using the travel guide and her ghostly resources.

Ghost Dogs of Orozimbo Plantation

Ghost Dogs spoil escape of Mexican President Santa Anna

Ghost Dogs
Antonio Lopez Santa Anna

The Battle of San Jacinto occurred on April 21, 1836, and lasted a mere 18 minutes. Sam Houston led the Texas army to fight Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, resulting in the loss of hundreds of men, only nine of which were Texas soldiers. San Jacinto was the victory that ended the Texas Revolution and secured Texas’ independence from Mexico. Santa Anna was caught dressed as a common soldier the day after the battle, and he was held prisoner at several plantations in the South while his captors negotiated his fate.

He was eventually transported to the Orozimbo Plantation on the Brazos River, less than a dozen miles north of West Columbia. A Mexican officer accompanied by several of his men made plans to advance on the plantation and free their president. The thick trees bordering the river provided an excellent cover as they advanced one stormy evening, taking advantage of the sound of the pouring rain  to conceal their approach to the farmhouse in which Santa Anna was held prisoner. Just as they were about to rush the guards, an eerie and unmistakable sound of howling dogs came quickly towards them, and the Mexican men were forced to retreat. Those keeping guard at the farmhouse went to investigate, but they found no animals in the area.

The howling dogs had been heard by many, yet no one could explain where they had come from, as they had not been seen. Speculation arose that they may have belonged to a man who went off to war and never came home, forever leaving his faithful friends to search for him.

It has been well over a century since Santa Anna was held at Orozimbo, yet stories of the phantom dogs never seem to fade away. In fact, many people still claim to hear the pack roaming through the dense jungle of trees near the property, letting out an eerie howl as they approach. While Santa Anna was eventually allowed to return to his country, the ghosts dogs are still—and might forever be— keeping watch over Orozimbo Plantation.

The Lone Star State is so vast it includes just about everything — including ghosts! For more haunted stories, check out April Slaughter’s book Ghosthunting Texas

Photo credit:
By Yinan Chen [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Oaklea Mansion

Oaklea Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Winnsboro, TX

 

Oaklea MansionThe colonial-style home was originally built in 1903 by Mr. Marcus Dewitt Carlock, Sr. He was a successful attorney who had been involved in many political ventures, and often entertained the politically elite of the time. The Carlock home was recorded as a Texas Historical Landmark in 1966; a marker bearing a brief history of the house is proudly displayed beside the front door.

Current owner Norma Wilkinson was born and raised in Winnsboro, and knew the Carlock family prior to purchasing the home in 1996. Norma and her husband live in the home, but have also opened it to guests as the Oaklea Mansion Bed & Breakfast.

Many visitors to the mansion and its grounds have reported strange experiences during their stay, and paranormal teams have also investigated the home, finding that legitimate activity was indeed occurring there.

 

The author of Ghosthunting Texas, April Slaughter visited the Oaklea Mansion with her husband and stayed in the “English Rose” room, which was richly decorated in floral décor and had access to the balcony. After a few hours’ sleep, April’s husband Allen was jolted awake by the feeling of a hand gripping his left ankle. He sat up in bed and saw no one there, but maintains that someone or something had touched him. He waited for awhile, but sleep ultimately found him again and the remainder of the night was uneventfully peaceful.

Norma treated April and Allen to an elegant breakfast the next morning while they discussed their experiences from the night before. April and Allen wholeheartedly believed that they were not the only guests of the Oaklea Mansion. It is a lovely mansion and no real surprise if a member of the Carlock family regularly comes back to check on the home they once owned

The Lone Star State is so vast it includes just about everything — including ghosts! For more haunted stories check out April Slaughter’s book Ghosthunting Texas

 

Dabbs Cemetery

Blog by Keen intern Sarris Balcerzak based on April Slaughter’s book Ghosthunting Texas

Dabbs Cemetery
African-American side of Dabbs Cemetery

As a young child, April Slaughter, author of Ghosthunting Texas, would request to go to local cemeteries rather than normative childhood venues…you know, like playgrounds. She claims they left her feeling tranquil and curious about their mysterious histories.

In truth, cemeteries have always held historical artifacts that anyone paying attention would find interesting. In certain places of the world, people spend full days touring graveyards. In Edinburgh, Scotland, for instance, you can find many of the names for the Harry Potter series on headstones. As a young girl, J.K. Rowling too would explore the cemeteries.

By nature people associate cemeteries with ghosts for the obvious reasons, says April, and it makes sense that the place with the most dead is a prime haunted spot. But Dabbs Cemetery in Frankston, Texas has a new story, one that isn’t as commonplace as death.

An east Texas historian and author, Bob Bowman, claimed that a man who was mistaken for dead was buried alive in this cemetery. This would be enough, but the story doesn’t stop there. The guy dug himself out…then on his way back home died.

Now, let’s stop to examine the realistic scenario here. What do you do when a man you thought was dead is found dug out and dead on the way home? (Wouldn’t that be a great Family Feud question?) Well, naturally the general public was a little bit spooked. In an effort to make sure this incident would not happen a second time, the locals “constructed a cage of wooden stakes directly above his burial site.”

Currently there are many accounts of shady activity at the graveyard: a woman in a white dress, fast inexplicable shadows, these things give people the scare they had hoped for and they leave in a hurry.

Dabbs Cemetery
Caucasian side of Dabbs Cemetery

So, April Slaughter and her husband ventured up the unpaved road to Dabbs to see for themselves. What they encountered was a segregated graveyard, with unmarked and unruly grass marking the African American side and nicer head stones and a trimmed lawn marking the Caucasian side.

April and Allen started on the unkept side of the yard where April felt a definitive presence. She pressed record on the digital recorder and asked, “Is anyone here with us that is willing to say hello?” The playback revealed a small girl and a heavily southern male voice, both of which sounded welcoming. April and Allen walked around the cemetery recording. They heard approaching footsteps that were not their own.

April suggests that not all graveyards are haunted simply because of dead people or in the case of the buried-alive man, traumatic stories. Sometimes people don’t stick around after death, clearly there were a few spirits hanging around Dabbs, but don’t be discouraged if every graveyard you encounter isn’t a mosh pit of ghosts. Take a voice recorder, ask some simply friendly questions, wait for the playback, and if all else fails enjoy the silence the cemetery has to offer.

For more stories, check out April Slaughter’s book Ghosthunting Texas.

Lady of the Lake

Spotlight on Ghosts: The Lady of the Lake

As far back as the 1930s, stories have circulated throughout the Dallas area about a spectral women wandering in search of help.  She is reportedly seen by many people near White Lake, though no one knows exactly who she is.

One of the most common experiences reported is that of drivers in the area who happen to see a wet and stranded girl near the lake in search of a ride home. Several drivers have stopped to offer the poor girl some assistance, only to have her disappear a short while later, leaving nothing behind but a damp mark in the vehicle where she had been sitting.

Lady of the Lake

This vanishing hitchhiker has fascinated people in the area for decades. Some think she may be the spirit of a young women involved in some sort of fatal accident on the lake where she and others may have died.  Desperate to get home to her family, she provides the driver with an address before suddenly disappearing from the car.

Those who have taken it upon themselves to locate the address found that, indeed, the family living there had lost a young woman to a tragedy on the lake.

The ghostly apparition witnessed by many at White Rock Lake may actually be more than one female spirit. Other accounts tell of at least two other women who perished in the water between 1935 and 1942 due to suicide by drowning.  Visitors to the area have not only seen the figure of a woman hitchhiking for a ride, but also rising up out of the water before vanishing into thin air.

This legend had survived for nearly a century. Is the lady of the lake still wandering the night asking passersby for help? Could there be several female spirits destined to roam the area for eternity? The only way to find out is to take a drive out to White Rock Lake and see for yourself. You just might end up with and extra passenger…or two.

Ghosthunting Texas
Ghosthunting Texas

In her book Ghosthunting Texas, author April Slaughter puts the spotlight on many ghosts that roam the State of Texas. Enjoy Ghosthunting Texas from the safety of your armchair or hit the road using the maps and ghostly resources of her book. Either way buckle up and get ready for the spookiest ride of your life.

About the author: April Slaughter and her husband Allen are the founders and executive directors of The Paranormal Source, Inc., a nonprofit research and education corporation based in Dallas, Texas.

Photo of White Rock Lake courtesy: Mahanga (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons