I have always been fascinated by ghost stories so when I got the chance to stay at The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s said to be one of the most haunted places in Texas if not the country. What’s weird about it is that I have been afraid of ghosts my entire life. I remember as a little girl I would keep the covers over me as I was going to sleep, sweating, thinking the covers would protect me. I guess it’s just the curiosity and wanting to know if they actually exist. I think most people believe they do but there’s always skeptics of course. There’s always an explanation for everything right? I watch all of those ghost shows and they never really see or hear much of anything but that’s not the case here. Let me first give you a brief history of the hotel.
The hotel was built by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who spent his fortune building this hotel. He actually only had the hotel for about a year; losing it in a game of poker to his brother-in-law; the second owner. Originally the hotel was four floors and 60 rooms. Of the 60 rooms there were 12 corner rooms with their own restrooms which was not common at the time. The rest of the guests shared a community restroom. Today there are 189 guest rooms with a new 30 story tower that was added in 1930. Well I guess it’s not really “new” but they call it the new tower.
In 1934, future President Lyndon Johnson met his future wife, Claudia Taylor, for their first date at the Driskill dining room. The Johnson’s continued a lifelong love of the Driskill, and stayed there dozens of times for the rest of their lives. It became his campaign headquarters during his congressional career especially during his famous 1948 Senate race, and became a favorite place on return trips to Austin during his presidency. He watched the results of the 1964 presidential election from its presidential suite and addressed supporters from its ballroom after his victory.
So let’s move on to the scary stuff. The Driskill is said to be haunted by many ghosts but there are a few ghosts that people report seeing quite often. When you check into the hotel, they hand you with a fact sheet at the front desk that contains many ghost stories. They are true stories not urban legends. For some reason I didn’t take the sheet home with me. Maybe subconsciously I thought if I took it home the ghosts would follow me there. Or I just forgot. Either way.
One of the true stories on the fact sheet is about Samantha, the daughter of a senator who was living at the hotel in 1887 while the Texas senate was in session. She fell to her death while chasing a ball down the grand staircase. Her death was the first at the hotel. Within a week she was seen back running around and playing. Her spirit was the first recorded at the hotel. She is seen and heard bouncing a ball haunting the first floor lobby, the ladies bathroom on the second floor near the bar, and along the stairs leading to the mezzanine. She has also been seen and heard haunting the hallway where her painted portrait hangs, and shakes the doors of the Yellow Rose Suite which is near the painting. I personally spoke to a lady at the front desk who has seen her many times. She says at first she was very frightened but then realized she wasn’t evil and wasn’t going to hurt her so she just got used to it. That’s basically the ongoing theme at the hotel. She is also said to be very mischievous as are the other ghost in the hotel as well.
Another true story is the “suicide bride.” A Houston socialite was left up by her fiancé in 1989 ,so she decided to steal his credit cards and head off to Austin for some r&r at The Driskill. She was last seen coming out of the elevator with an armful of shopping bags, heading to her room. Room 29 on the fourth floor. After not being seen for 3 days, the hotel staff went to her room to check on her. They found her in the bathtub. She shot herself by in the stomach through a bed pillow. She is seen often by guest coming out of the elevator with her shopping bags and it’s reported that she actually answered a guest once that asked her a question. They obviously thought she was a “person” not a ghost when speaking with her. The room was closed for years and the bathtub sealed up. They had many problems while trying to restore the room. The walls had to be painted 4 times because the painted kept peeling off. When they un-sealed the bathtub there was crystal clear water. The tub hasn’t been used in years.
While speaking to the hotel manager, he informed me that just a few weeks ago during SXSW, two women checked in and said they heard the hotel was haunted but didn’t want to know anything about it. They didn’t want to read the fact sheet nor did they want to hear any stories from anyone. It made them feel very uneasy. Soon after checking in the girls informed the front desk that there was a man who passed them in the hallway dressed in “vintage” clothing that didn’t say a word and just had a weird feeling. The manager takes out the fact sheet, flips it over and says ” you mean him?” The story about him and his story was right there on the page that they knew nothing about. Also while speaking with a housekeeper, she stated that about a week ago someone checked in the room we were standing directly in front of and was startled when they opened the door to their room and found a man sitting on the sofa. They quickly said sorry and shut the door and went to the front desk to inform then that someone is already booked in their room. They said no there isn’t and walked with them to their room to find nobody there.
After speaking with many of the employees from the front desk to the housekeepers; they all stated they have at least heard things and have seen lights turning on and off. Many of them have actually seen ghost as well. They all say they aren’t scared and it’s no big deal. You just get used to it.
Friday night March 30th, 2012. My friend Markelle booked a room for Saturday and Sunday night, to attend a wedding here. Friday night she stayed in the Cattle Baron suite with the bride and other guests. This is said to be one of the most haunted rooms at the hotel and right outside of the room are the stairs where Samantha died. She slept about an hour that night. Her along with about six other people went exploring on the 4th and 5th floor which are the only floors with rooms in the original hotel. As they were walking toward the Yellow Rose Suite where the portrait of Samantha hangs, the double doors of the room began to shake like someone was trying to open them. It stopped then happened again. Then they heard a girl’s voice say “who is it!” As they were basically screaming, the housekeeper that was walking down the hall was laughing saying, “don’t worry, she won’t hurt you, she’s just playing with you.” Yeah no biggie… Saturday morning, the shoes left by her bed and the room key left on the corner of the desk were missing. The group headed to breakfast. When they arrived back to the room, the shoes and the key were in the same spot they left them the night before. As Markelle was explaining this to the manager; he said oh yeah they are very mischievous. They move people’s items around all the time it’s normal. Normal?! So anyway, we did not stay Sunday night. They let her cancel with a full refund with no problem! WOW! They said they understand and it happens all the time. The manager said some people are just really sensitive to these things and can’t handle it. I still can’t believe they refunded $350 with no problem. Oh yes this hotel is pricey.
Sunday morning after we checked out we decided to explore and take some photos. We were told most of the activity happens at night but the halls were still very creepy. It’s such a weird uncomfortable feeling being in there. You feel like you’re being watched. It’s hard to explain. It’s just a fear that overcomes you. I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked to because my phone was almost dead but I got some good ones of the fourth and fifth floors. I’m planning on visiting again soon and will definitely take more and post them.
Though The Driskill is not modern or really my style; it’s pretty amazing and something you should check out if you have the chance. You feel like you are stepping into the 19th century. Like I said earlier it’s pretty pricey and I wouldn’t stay there again due the fact that I was too afraid to sleep but get a few friends and go on an adventure. If anything it’s very interesting. The staff is pretty amazing as well.
Comment? Questions? Please ask! Thanks for you support.