Tag Archives: Ghosthunting Austin

Jacob’s Well—A Mysterious Place in Texas

Ghost Hunting San AntonioMichael O. Varhola, author of Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country, takes us to the mysterious Jacob’s Well in Hays County.

Peering into the mysterious and ominously beautiful depths of Jacob’s Well, it is almost hard to believe that it is not haunted. Native Indians certainly held this natural artesian spring, which rises up through a limestone tube from the unmeasured depths of the underworld, to be sacred and inhabited by elemental spirits of the land. Beyond its appearance and hallowed nature, however, it is also the site of numerous drownings, and there are those who believe the ghosts of those who have perished at this spot continue to haunt it.

Jacob’s Well, the mouth of the spring that forms the headwaters of aptly named Cypress Creek northwest of the village of Wimberley, has traditionally served as a swimming hole for locals living on the adjacent properties. Today it is a natural area that is open to the public and still a popular swimming spot—albeit one that is closed for several months a year so that it can recover from the environmental damage inflicted by people who use it.

While the spring coming up through Jacob’s Well remains a significant source of water for people living in the area, its flow is by no means as profound as it once was. In 1924, for example, so much water surged up through the spring that it shot 6 feet into the air and its discharge was measured at 170 gallons per second. Today, however, as the result of development in the region and the heavy burden placed on the local aquifers, the flow of water from its depths manifests itself only as a faint ripple on the surface of the pool. It has even stopped flowing twice in the past couple of decades, the first times it has done so in recorded history, first in 2000 and then again in 2008. In an attempt to help protect the viability of the spring, Hays County purchased 50 acres of land around Jacob’s Well, and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association subsequently transferred an additional 31 acres from the natural area to the county.

Jacob's WellAt its mouth, Jacob’s Well is 12 feet in diameter and descends vertically for about 30 feet, at which point it disappears into the darkness of the limestone caverns from which it issues. Thereafter it descends at an angle through a series of four silted chambers separated by narrow passageways to a depth of about 120 feet. The first two chambers are relatively safe and manageable for trained divers, but the next two are increasingly dangerous, with hazards that include loose debris in both and a dead end in one that can be confused with the exit tunnel and led one diver to become trapped and killed in 1983. After the fourth chamber, the cavern becomes a tunnel that continues for about 4,300 feet (e.g., more than 0.8 mile). At least one large secondary trunk splits off from this main passageway and extends for about another 1,000 feet.

Many divers have been drawn to explore and map these water-filled subterranean tunnels, but, because many of them do not have the necessary experience or equipment and the area is inherently hazardous, at least nine of them have died here since the 1970s.

“This is the horror story side of it,” Don Dibble, a dive shop owner with more than four decades of diving experience, said in a 2001 interview with writer Louie Bond. “Jacob’s Well definitely has a national reputation of being one of the most dangerous places to dive.”

“Dibble has pulled most of the victims’ remains out of Jacob’s Well himself, and he nearly lost his own life in a 1979 recovery dive,” Bond wrote. “Dibble was attempting to retrieve the remains of two young divers . . . when he became trapped, buried past his waist in the sliding gravel lining the bottom of the well’s third chamber. Just as he ran out of air, Dibble was rescued by other divers but suffered a ruptured stomach during his rapid, unconscious ascent.”

Dibble tried to block access to the entrance of the third chamber by constructing a grate made from rebar and quickset concrete in early 1980. Six months later, however, he discovered not just that the barrier had been removed but that the well-equipped people who did so had taken the time to taunt him.

“You can’t keep us out,” they wrote on a plastic board that they left behind for him. Perhaps not. But, in the case of some of them, inexperience, bad luck, the guardian spirits of the spring, or some combination of those things have ensured that they did not leave.

“We were not looking for human remains,” Dan Misiaszek of the San Marcos Area Recovery Team wrote in his account of a 2000 foray into the perilous fourth chamber. “I first noticed one femur bone, then a second, and as I descended into the keyhole-shaped tunnel, I could see a heavily corroded scuba tank and wetsuit. It was obvious we had stumbled upon some human remains . . . The tank was still attached to a [wet suit] with weight belt.” Nearby he found a human skull and, farther on, evidence pointing to the identity of the person who had suffered a terrifying death there, alone and in the impenetrable darkness that would have been imposed by the disturbed silt.

Ironically, it is the reduced force of the spring that has in recent times allowed people to dive into it; prior to the 1970s, the flow of water would have largely prevented them from doing so. People using makeshift gear attempted to descend into the spring in the 1930s, for example, but the deepest they were able to go was about 25 feet. None of them is reported to have been killed. It is almost as if a reduction of the striking site’s inherent power has led to a proportionate increase in its lethality.

“It’s a very mysterious place, a place of constant sensation,” said author Stephen Harrigan, who wrote an acclaimed 1984 novel titled Jacob’s Well that explores the death of a diver at the site.

I can only agree with Harrigan. Staring into Jacob’s Well when I visited the site in early September 2014 was like looking into an eye that was the window to the soul of the Texas Hill Country itself. After a point, it was hard not to blink or look away, and I half expected to see the shadows of the dead or elemental spirits of the land swimming up toward me from the primordial depths. That they reside there is something I do not doubt.

Haunted Indigo Hotel

 

Sounds of cannon fire heard in haunted historic Indigo Hotel

Haunted Indigo HotelThis historic hotel is located at what had once been the northwest corner of the Alamo compound, site of the bloodiest fighting when Mexican troops overran the mission and slaughtered its Texian defenders on March 6, 1836. Garrison commander William B. Travis was among those who fell here (the front desk being located at the spot where he was believed to have died), and the area was so packed with mangled bodies in the aftermath of the battle that the ground was said to have been saturated with blood.

In the years after the battle, Samuel Maverick, who left the besieged Alamo four days before it fell to serve as a delegate to the convention for Texas independence, built his home at this location. Then, in 1909, Southern Pacific Railroad executive Colonel C. C. Gibbs built the first skyscraper in San Antonio on the site. The Gibbs building still stands today and houses the beautiful Hotel Indigo San Antonio Downtown-Alamo.

Paranormal activity that people have claimed to experience at the hotel includes hearing the sounds of gun and cannon fire and the agonized wailing of wounded and dying men; seeing spectral figures moving a cannon along the adjacent streets; hearing strange voices and disembodied footsteps, particularly in the basement; seeing people getting on and off the historic and now out-of-service elevators; and witnessing figures in 19th-century clothing walking down the halls, entering rooms, and then disappearing.

Ready to check-in?
Hotel Indigo San Antonio Downtown-Alamo
105 N. Alamo St.
San Antonio, TX 78205
Tel: 210-933-2000
Website Hotel Indigo San Antonio Downtown- Alamo

For a journey to some of the most haunted and fascinating places in San Antonio, Austin, and the Texas Hill Country, check out Michael O. Varhola’s book Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country.

The author at Ye Kendall Inn
The author at Ye Kendall Inn

About the author: Michael Varhola has authored or coauthored 34 books and games — including the swords-and-sorcery novel Swords of Kos: Necropolis and two fantasy writers guides. He has also published more than 120 games and related publications. He is the founder of the game company Skirmisher Publishing LLC, editor in chief of d-Infinity game magazine, and editor of the America’s Haunted Road Trip series of ghosthunting travel guides. He has edited, published, or written for numerous publications, including The New York Times. He also has an active online presence, notably through Facebook and a variety of other blogs, forums, and sites. He lives in the Texas Hill Country.

About the series: America’s Haunted Road Trip is a one-of-a-kind series of haunted travel guides. Each book profiles 30-100 haunted places that are open to the public. From inns and museums to cemeteries and theaters, the author visits each place, interviewing people who live and work there. Books also include travel instructions, maps, and an appendix of 50 more places the reader can visit.

St. Anthony Hotel Downtown San Antonio

Ghostly activity at the luxurious St. Anthony Hotel in Downtown San Antonio

St. Anthony Hotel Downtown San AntonioThree ambitious cattlemen, A. H. Jones, B. L. Naylor, and F. M. Swearingen, opened the St. Anthony Hotel in 1909 in anticipation of San Antonio becoming a tourist destination, and it quickly became a popular place for visitors to stay. It is located near San Antonio’s River Walk and the Alamo.

“Not only was it the first luxury hotel in the city, but in the early days it was also the only inn with air conditioning, a drive-up registration desk, and sophisticated automatic doors and lights,” the official history of the hotel states. “In fact, St. Anthony was so technologically savvy that it was considered among the world’s most modern hotels. By 1915, the hotel charged guests $1.50 per night, and booming revenues allowed the owners to double capacity to 430 guestrooms.”

Many rich and famous Americans were among the visitors to the St. Anthony, its restaurant, and its bar. They have included Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, George Clooney, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Judy Garland, Greer Garson, Rock Hudson, Betty Hutton, General Douglas McArthur, Matthew McConaughey, Demi Moore, Gregory Peck, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Mickey Rooney, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Wayne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Patrick Swayze, and Bruce Willis.

Paranormal phenomena people have experienced at the St. Anthony Hotel include seeing strange shadowy outlines, feeling unseen presences, seeing doors opening and closing for no apparent reason, and hearing disembodied footsteps following behind them.

Ready for some ghosthunting combined with a luxurious stay?
St. Anthony Hotel Downtown San Antonio
300 E. Travis St.
San Antonio, TX 78205
Tel: 210-227-4392
Website: St. Anthony Hotel

For a journey to some of the most haunted and fascinating places in San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country check out Michael O. Varhola’s book Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country.

The author at Ye Kendall Inn
The author at Ye Kendall Inn

About the author: Michael Varhola is a writer who has authored or coauthored 34 books and games — including the swords-and-sorcery novel Swords of Kos: Necropolis, and two fantasy writers guides. He has also published more than 120 games and related publications. He is the founder of game company Skirmisher Publishing LLC, editor in chief of d-Infinity game magazine, and editor of the America’s Haunted Road Trip series of ghosthunting travel guides. He has edited, published, or written for numerous publications, including The New York Times. He also has an active online presence, notably through Facebook and a variety of other blogs, forums, and sites. He lives in Texas Hill Country.