Archive for Ghost Week

Ghost Week: Musica Fantasma

It’s Halloween Eve, and that means it’s time to wrap up this series of ghost stories about the Hub City.

Lubbock is a musical town, and it’s not at all surprising that there would be some local ghost stories that would tie in to music.

Back in the always-glorious 1980s, there was a graduate student at Tech, majoring in music, who decided to compose, for her thesis, an opera about La Llorona, the “weeping woman” of Mexican legend, who drowned her own children and was doomed to roam the rivers of the West, looking for more children to kill.

So the student does a ton of folklore research and puts together something midway between Italian opera and traditional Mexican folk music, actually written in a mixture of Spanish and English. Her initial drafts get high praise from her thesis advisor and from her friends in the department who’ve heard it.

But while she’s writing it, she’s having bad dreams about drowned children, about being trapped by a rapidly rising river, about being stalked by La Llorona herself. Her more superstitious friends worry that the Weeping Woman really is after her, but she dismisses it. She tells them, jokingly, that she’ll avoid rivers and streams.

The funny thing is that the other people who’ve read her composition — her advisor, a few music professors, a few friends — have similar dreams. One of her profs had a backyard swimming pool, and the dreams made him so nervous, he had it drained — what if the grandkids came over and fell in? Or were pulled in…?

By the time she got the composition completed, she was getting about two hours of sleep a night, thanks to the nightmares. Her apartment was also suffering an unusual number of broken light bulbs, leaking faucets, aggressive mildew. Her neighbors told her they thought someone had broken into her apartment, because they could hear a woman crying inside when she wasn’t at home.

She finally got the opera completed, but she never even got close to bringing it to a full performance. One morning, the students downstairs from her apartment had water leaking in everywhere. The landlord unlocked her apartment and found that the spigots on the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the bathtub had blown off overnight and flooded the entire apartment.

The student was nowhere to be found, and she’s never turned up since.

Her composition is still around, but it’s never been performed. It probably never will be — it’s believed that it may be bad luck.

Or worse.

Hope you enjoyed Ghost Week. We’ve got a fairly normal Friday Night Fights coming up this evening, then we’ll catch up on a few comic book reviews next week, plus the latest news about the West Texas Comic Con. Y’all have a Merry Halloween, and be careful you don’t knock on the wrong doors while trick-or-treating…

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Ghost Week: Spiders


Okay, here’s what you do: go find one particular old, deserted building out in the country somewhere to the west of Levelland. Not gonna tell you exactly where it is, but look for the place with the near-total lack of insects around it. The window frames used to have some flaked-off red paint on them, but I don’t know if the paint, or the frames, could have survived to the current date.

You’ve heard of a blue moon, right? That’s when you have two full moons in a single month. Now you’re actually going to have to wait for a month where there are two new moons — where the moon is completely shadowed over. These only happen every two or three years — check a good calendar that lists phases of the moon, and you should be able to find one.

Go to the house on the date of the second new moon. Try to get there between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. You should bring the following items: a metal whistle attached to a cord; about two ounces each of fresh ginger, garlic, and marjoram; a broom; a good flashlight; and a pint jar filled with dead flies.

Once you get to the house, turn on the flashlight and sweep the front room. It doesn’t have to be spotlessly clean, but sweep most of the dust out the front door. After that, sit down and mix the ginger, garlic, and marjoram together. Eat about half of the mixture and drop the rest into the jar with the dead flies. Leave the lid off the jar.

Now sit quietly, put the cord around your neck and the whistle in your mouth. Don’t blow on it hard — just breathe through it, so it makes a light, quiet, rasping whistle.

If nothing happens after 10 minutes, pack up and go home. You’ve picked the wrong house, or the wrong night.

However, if you’ve done everything right, someone is going to enter the room after a few minutes. He’ll be wearing a long black coat and a black hat. Shine the flashlight in your own face and then into his. Prepare for a shock — he will be almost completely covered with live, scurrying spiders.

Do not, under any circumstances, react in any way. Don’t scream, don’t flinch, don’t smile. Show no emotions.

He will sit down on the floor across from you and ask, in a whispering, quavering voice, what you are doing here. You should answer, “I come bearing gifts for a fellow seeker of wisdom.”

At this point, a large number of spiders will leave the man and swarm over the jar of flies. After a few minutes, they will remove all the flies from the jar and take them back to the rest of the body.

And after that, an even larger number of spiders are going to swarm all over you.

Do not react. Keep your eyes and mouth closed. You will get spiders up your nose, in your ears, under your clothes. But do not react. If you react in any way beyond breathing heavier or having an elevated heartbeat, the only way anyone will see you again will be in this house, at another new moon, with you as the new host for the spider spirit. So do not react.

After about a minute, assuming you’re able to keep from screaming or flailing, the spiders will leave you and return to the host body.

“We regret we cannot use your second gift,” the voice will whisper. “But we thank you for the kind offer.”

At this point, you should stand up, briefly express your thanks for the audience, and leave the house. Remember to bring the whistle with you. You can leave the broom and flashlight if you want, or you can bring them with you. They’re not important — the whistle is.

As long as the whistle was hanging around your neck while the spiders were crawling on you, it will have absorbed a little something extra for the experience. Not a whole lot — it’s just become a nice little good luck charm. Sure, that may not seem like much, but it’s got more good-luck oomph than that artificial rabbit’s foot you been keeping around. We’re not talking about your superstitions about your lucky penny or wearing dirty socks for Tech games. This is the real deal.

Hang it on your wall if you want. Wear it around your neck if you want. But never blow on it. And never return to that old deserted house.

Don’t ask me how I know this stuff.

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Ghost Week: Devil Doll

I know, I know, the “Evil Creepy Doll that Says ‘Mama’ and Chases You Through the House with a Knife” is a bit of a silly horror stereotype. I’m not even going to pretend there’s something that Twilight Zoney happening in Lubbock.

But I am acquainted with someone in town who owns an antique store. She does decent business, but there’s one item she’s been trying to sell for years but just can’t get rid of.

It’s an old Madame Alexander doll — the kind of doll that would normally be considered very collectible. But this one has a severely cracked face — the only feature that’s really recognizable is the left eye, and other than that, it’s just a maze of cracked and warped plastic.

It’s not a very attractive toy to show off, so she prefers to keep it out of the way — either stored in the back or inside a box.

But it won’t stay there.

Every evening, she puts the doll away in the back room. In the morning, it’s out on the shelves. She moves it into a box. By the afternoon, it’s back on the shelves again.

She’s thrown it away. And it still ends up back on the shelves. She even sold it once. It still ended up back on the shelves.

It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t walk around. It doesn’t talk. It’s just creepy. And she can’t keep it from showing up inside the store.

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Ghost Week: Walking Dead


Ever since the late ’60s, the zombie movie has been the king of the horror-movie heap. Dozens of well-made and very scary movies have been made, and the genre has spread to books, comics, video games, and beyond.

Zombies are so popular, people make up rules about how to survive a zombie apocalypse and fantasize about how long they could last when the dead rise, despite the complete improbability of animated, flesh-eating corpses. I mean, a virus can’t affect a dead person at all. They’re dead, they’ve got no blood pumping or respiration or brain activity for a virus to take advantage of.

Still, bet you didn’t know Lubbock had a zombie connection, didja? Way, way back in the 1920s, there was a small mortuary that, one day, turned up with an unexpected deficit of dead people — they’d had six the night before, but when they got in the next morning, they were all gone.

The initial assumption was that someone had broken in and stolen the bodies — the back door was open, the place was a mess, and it looked like an unusually weird burglary. There were no leads, and the authorities weren’t able to find any of the bodies for a day or two.

After that, all the bodies turned up within hours of each other. One was lying on the porch of his family home, one was lying on her bed at home, one was on the floor of the office he used to work, one was inside the sanctuary of the church she attended, one was found at the home of his mistress (!!!), and the last one was found seated at the wheel of his new automobile.

None of them were ambulatory, none of them ate anyone. No one knew how they got there, and the police never found anyone they could say was responsible for the burglary of the mortuary. The police and the rest of the community wrote it off as a sick prank, and that’s what it might have been.

But it’s interesting that all of the bodies were found at locations that had been important to them in life. That isn’t the type of thing you expect a bunch of high school pranksters to come up with, is it?

Ultimately, there was no real explanation offered by anyone for what happened. Were they zombies? Probably not, I guess — it does sound an awful lot like a really tasteless joke — but there’s no way to be sure, is there?

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Ghost Week: A Steer Called Murder


If you’ve just got back from a weekend of galivanting about, making silly chicken noises, refusing to wear pants, and not reading my blog, here’s the extremely complicated summary of what happened yesterday and Saturday — I’m telling y’all some of the Lubbock ghost stories I know about. We’re not talking about well-known stuff like the Lubbock Lights or the Levelland UFO or the sightings at St. John Neumann Catholic Church or the Blacke Asylum. This is the stuff that doesn’t make it to the tourism brochures.

For the next one, we gotta start kinda far afield. We start out way, way back on January 28, 1890 near Alpine. A bunch of small-time ranchers were rounding up unbranded cattle to fill out their herds. And there’s this one steer they find that’s really something else — huge, black as night, an absolutely magnificent animal, and completely brand free. An animal this big ending up without a brand at all is an almost impossible stroke of good luck.

Unfortunately, two of the ranchers want this steer bad. Henry Harrison Powe and Fine Gilliant want to stake their claims and get their brand on this animal. They argue, the argument escalates, and the friendly communal roundup ends with Powe lying dead with a bullet in him.

At that point, the other ranchers don’t much want the steer in their herds any more. Might be bad luck or worse. So they brand the steer on one side with the date: “Jan 28 90” — and on the other side, in big, bold letters:


And they set it free.

It took a few days for Fine Gilliant to get caught, and in the ensuing shootout, he ends up with a bullet in him, too. And off in the distance, someone sees the steer watching the whole thing.

And they say it still shows up from time to time in the West. They call it the Steer Called Murder, and it seems to function as an omen of death. It’s not all that well-known, not compared to some of the legendry out there, but it’s a legend with a decent bit of class going for it.

Okay, that was the backstory. No, I ain’t wasting your time with Big Bend folklore.

So a while back, in the “early aughts,” as I like to call ’em, there was this little family living out in the sticks a little south of Idalou. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant family. They were close to dirt-poor, living out of a single-wide. And the husband was a drunk and an abuser. The whole awful stereotype.

The wife took it for years, ’cause she didn’t think she had any other options, and ’cause he didn’t bother the kids, just her. She put up with it for years, and covered for him, and bandaged herself up, and told the sheriff everything was fine, she just ran into the wall now and again.

She put up with it until the night he came home way drunker than usual, knocked her around good, and chased one of the kids outside, roaring that he was gonna kill them all. She wasn’t gonna put up with that, and she got the shotgun off the wall, went outside, and blew her husband’s head most of the way off.

She turns around to go back inside and call the sheriff, and right next to the trailer, there’s a huge, doom-black steer standing there looking at her. And she can see, written across its side in letters so red and bloody they almost glowed in the dark, a brand that said “MURDER.

The cops came out and snooped around, the ambulance took her husband away, relatives and the CPS came and fussed over the kids, and no one ever saw any steer anywhere around the property.

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Ghost Week: Club Dread

So let’s sum up briefly. We’re a week away from Halloween, and I decided, starting yesterday, that this would be a great time for me to tell you some of the lesser-known stories about the Hub City in the decade-or-so I lived there, and in the multiple decades that my family has lived there. Let’s keep that train a-runnin’.

And speaking of trains, our next story is set in Lubbock’s Depot District. It didn’t really become an entertainment and clubbing area ’til the early-to-mid 1990s, but there was an incident in the early ’80s where a couple of strange disappearances were tied to a mysterious bar in the eastern side of the downtown area.

Some Tech students entered a bar near what’s now Buddy Holly Avenue one night in September — it was described as a pretty grimy place, marked by nothing more than a “Bill’s Bar” sign on a wooden door in an alley. They went through a long, low-ceilinged stone corridor to reach the bar itself. It was a small place, only a dozen or so tables in the room, with a small stage on one end of the room.

The bartender was a grim-faced woman who served drinks without a word. There were no waitresses and no music. The other customers were vaguely odd looking and quiet, later described as “like the Addams Family without the funny stuff.”

After the students had been in the bar for about a half-hour, a cabaret show started on the stage. I haven’t yet managed to find a detailed description of the act, but two of the three students found it disturbing enough to prompt them to leave immediately. The third student said he wanted to see the end of the act.

The third student wasn’t ever seen again.

While investigating the disappearance, the police realized there had been a similar incident that had happened three years earlier. In the prior case, a group of office workers had gone out for drinks after work and stumbled across “Bill’s Bar.” Their descriptions of the bar were identical, but they said the door was located three blocks away from where the college students had placed it, and in the front of a building, instead of in an alley.

As with the college students, the office workers described the same bar, the same weird patrons, the same bizarre cabaret show that squicked out all but one member of their entourage — the office secretary, who stayed for the rest of the show and vanished.

The college students’ description of the dour female bartender perfectly matched the description of the missing office secretary.

And no, the cops have never been able to locate the entrance — anywhere — of a place called “Bill’s Bar.”

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Ghost Week: The Traditional Haunted House


It’s officially one week ’til Halloween, so we’re in our final countdown to the best holiday of the year. And I’m in a mood to back off the comics reviews for one little week and tell some stories.

It’s funny about moving out of a town you’ve lived for a long time — it occupies your thoughts a lot more than you ever expected it to when you left. You get the usual nostalgia for what you’ve experienced, of course, but you also start remembering all the stories you’ve been told about, even if you didn’t experience them yourself.

That’s what it’s been like for me since leaving Lubbock. And I’ve had family living in the Hub City for at least 80 years. I’ve heard interesting stories from all my relatives, many passed down through generations. I’ve heard stories just living in town, stuff that doesn’t necessarily make the Chamber of Commerce brochures.

Here’s a story I heard:

There’s a haunted house in Lubbock. There may be — probably is — more than one, but this is the one I know of.

Not telling you where it is — I actually contacted the owner a few years back asking questions about it. He owns the house but lives elsewhere. He asked me not to publicize where it was at, and he asked me nicely. He doesn’t want a bunch of wannabe ghost-hunters snooping around his property, and I don’t blame him. So we’ll strip out as much of the identifying information as we can.

So like I said, there’s a house in Lubbock — not particularly noteworthy from the outside — that is haunted. As far as anyone knows, the haunting started some time in the late 1940s, when the owners, an elderly couple who had lived in the house for decades, began hearing disembodied footsteps and catching glimpses of figures in black out of the corners of their eyes. The couple died of mysterious circumstances in the early 1950s.

The next owners of the house heard the same disembodied footsteps, but the figures in black were less of the “catch ’em out the corners of your eye when you’re not looking” camp and more of the “show up looming ominously at your bedside late at night” camp.

The recently-deceased elderly couple also made some spectral appearances. They were seen occasionally huddled together in one of the closets, unnaturally pale, shivering violently, silently screaming.

The owners of the house vacated the premises one night after being awakened by flashing lights inside their bedroom. In fact, they left the house by the bedroom window and had to rely on neighbors and friends to get their belongings out over the next few days, as they refused to set foot back inside the house.

The house was empty for years afterwards. The next family who bought it thought it was a charming old house for about a month. After that, they spent some time getting awoken every night by malign whispers in the darkness. They moved out as soon as the whispers were replaced by bloodcurdling shrieks.

After that, the house was empty for quite a bit longer than before.

The current owner spent part of one night in the house. He was aware of the previous stories about it, but figured he should try to sleep in his own property. He wouldn’t tell me why he left before the night was over, but he said he wouldn’t spend another minute inside for any amount of money.

He’s attempted to rent it a couple of times. Everyone who he showed the house to thought it was unnerving and somehow “off” and they wouldn’t sign a lease. In fact, his leasing agent once brought her young son along with her for a showing — the kid piped up while she was showing off the kitchen and said, “Mommy, the bloody man says we should go upstairs now to see his axe.” The whole group went straight out the front door, and the owner hasn’t attempted to rent the place since.

It’s out there. It doesn’t sound like it’d be a good idea to go inside.

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