The Haunted Texas Governor’s Mansion: Politics and Suicide
Located in Austin, TX
Texas has a long, colorful, and turbulent history; from Mexican province to independent republic to the tragedy of the Civil War, Texas history features quite a bit of turmoil, violence, and death.
Small wonder, then, that the state capital boasts plenty of hauntings and stories of bloody tragedy in the Texas Governor’s Mansion.
First, let me take you back to the beginning of the house still standing at 1010 Colorado St in Austin, TX. Construction on the house began in 1853 or 1854, completed in 1856 by master builder Abner Cook. The Texas legislature originally earmarked $14,500 for the building of the structure, with an additional $6,000 appropriated to fence in the property and add furnishings. Now, back in the 1850s, these were princely sums indeed.
The Greek Revival style white house is the 4th oldest existing executive residence in the United States, and the oldest one located west of the Mississippi River.
Although several illustrious historical figures have visited or sat in office in the haunted Texas Governor’s Mansion, one of the best known by far is Sam Houston – don’t forget about the huge statue of him standing near Interstate 45 in Huntsville.
Houston was elected as governor of Texas and served from December 21, 1859 to March 16, 1861, when he was ousted for refusing to swear an oath to the Confederate States of America. Sam Houston had long been a vocal opponent of seceding from the Union, and some say that being ousted early from his term as governor is one of the reasons his spirit haunts the mansion. After his death in Huntsville, TX on July 26, 1863, staff in the governor’s mansion in Austin began reporting sightings of his spirit around the beautiful four-poster mahogany bed that he bought and had installed in the southeast bedroom of the mansion. Although his spirit frequently makes an appearance, staff report that it disappears if spoken to; it seems – rather curiously perhaps - that the revolutionary and statesman has no desire to speak from beyond the grave. Or is it that he just hasn’t found the right person to open up to?
The most widely reported and seemingly best-known story about the haunted Texas Governor’s Mansion is the story involving Governor Pendleton Murrah, who, like Sam Houston, also left his term as governor early.
There’s some disagreement among accounts of this story as to exactly who was involved and the exact relationships among those involved, but as far as I can tell, there was a young man attached to the Murrah family in some way. He was 19 at the time of the incident and apparently fell in love with a young woman who was also attached to the Murrah family (some say the girl was Mrs. Murrah’s niece and that the young man was her cousin, but nobody seems to quite know for sure). The young man was rejected by the young lady, and he ended up committing suicide in the small guest room on the north side of the mansion. I did not find any account confirming it was a gunshot, only that the room was bathed in blood and the staff flatly refused to clean it because they said they heard moans and wails immediately after the young man killed himself.
The disturbances in the room expanded to include doorknobs rattling, cold spots, and mysterious banging noises. Another governor, Andrew J Hamilton, sealed the room but the staff working in the house still reported feelings of dread when working in the north part of the mansion.
This room was unsealed in the twentieth century during renovations, and there are still reports from mansion staff claiming to hear odd, unexplained noises from the bedroom – especially on Sunday, which is supposedly the day the young man committed suicide.
Some paranormal tales attached to the mansion also include a haunting by Governor Murrah himself – perhaps due to his leaving his appointment so early, or maybe he’s still in turmoil over the circumstances of the suicide.
Another story in the haunted Texas governor’s mansion tells of a young woman, a maid, who may have become pregnant by someone in the mansion and was dismissed for the indiscretion. This woman is seen outside the house, as though yearning to be taken in again and exonerated in some way for the past. It could be that she is still waiting to be acknowledged by her lover, waiting for someone to do right by her and her baby.
Civil War, unrequited love, suicide, jilted lovers, and heartbreak …. It certainly seems there’s quite a bit of intense psychic energy clinging to the seat of the state government of Texas, no?
Check it out for yourself – the mansion hosts tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 2-4pm. Maybe old Sam Houston will share a message with you, or maybe you’ll hear the anguished screams of the poor young man whose heart was broken….
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