Haunting Happenings Pop Up At East Texas Houses, Open Areas
By KELLY GOOCH
It was about dusk, Patricia Heaton had locked up the 1859 Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum in north Tyler and was in her upstairs office, researching and organizing, when she heard music downstairs.
"It was a waltz or something that would have been played on a string quartet. I looked over the banister and said 'Hello...'" said the museum curator and organizer, who was a volunteer then. "It really made an impression on me."
So she talked to the city's parks director but ultimately tried not to think about it.
However, four years later, in 2000, she said she heard the same type of music. It happened a third time in 2008, when she was hired as curator.
This time, though, Ms. Heaton didn't rush out of her office. She simply walked out to the landing and stopped.
"It was almost like someone was telling me, 'Welcome back.' ... I'll never forget that," Ms. Heaton said.
Since then, she said she worked to transform the house by replacing old carpets and making other improvements. She has not heard the music again.
The Goodman-LeGrand home is one of many reportedly haunted places that can be found in East Texas. And in August, a paranormal group is holding its first East Texas convention in Marshall.
Stories about these East Texas haunts range from strange sounds to unexplained movement.
In Henderson County, Fuller Park has long been a source for these kinds of stories.
Henderson County Historical Commission employee Phyllis Vermillion said the area reportedly was a man's home, and at one time, he kept monkeys.
According to her reports, in the 1960s, it was one of the few areas in Athens left untouched because the city parks and recreation board wanted it to remain an area of natural beauty.
"Back then, (the park) consisted of 21 acres, and they were hoping to enhance it and develop it into a nice East Texas park," she said, adding that plans were to haul rocks from the Big Rock community to Fuller Park, south of Athens near Gibson Road.
Ms. Vermillion said a newspaper report from the 1980s references a cemetery "somewhere just off an oil top road south of Athens near the airport," where it is reputed that Medford Fuller, a former Athens Baptist Church pastor, and his wife, Virginia Fuller, are buried.
She said an article she has states that although Fuller reportedly wanted the area around the cemetery to be a park, legends were created as well about the area.
One legend, she said, is that ground turns over on Halloween night while others will say monkey skeletons walk the area at night.
Additionally, there are stories of a ghost-like figure that can be seen floating around at certain times and reports of bodies lying near the road at night, according to documents at the historical commission.
She also said there have been reports of monkey cages in the Fuller Park area.
In Rusk County, the Howard-Dickinson House in Henderson is a subject of interesting tales.
Built in 1855, the home was the first brick house in Henderson, according to the city. It was built by brothers Dave and Logan Howard, brick masons and carpenters who came to Texas and settled in Henderson.
Main Street coordinator Cyndi Walker has said they made their own bricks on the premises, and a lot of old buildings in downtown were made from their bricks.
The family, including the brothers, Dave Howard's wife Martha, and their children, lived in the house 50 years before Kate Dickinson bought it in 1905.
Ms. Dickinson, who also lived there about 50 years, had a boarding house there during the oil boom years, Ms. Walker has said. However, by 1950, the house was empty and abandoned for years.
According to the East Texas Historical Association, Mr. and Mrs. Homer Bryce purchased the property in 1964 and donated the house to the Rusk County Heritage Association. The association opened the house as a museum in 1967.
Throughout the years, stories of strange happenings have been told.
Among those stories is the tale of Maida Jaggers, a big name in local preservation efforts who helped save the Howard-Dickinson House. Ms. Jaggers recalled being in the house and seeing a ghostly woman dressed in white go up the stairs.
The house also has been used for many receptions and parties, and legend has it that if someone carries a plate from the dining room to the library and a fork is resting on the plate, the fork will fly off of its own volition, Ms. Walker has said.
Additionally, two siblings who lived in the house, Pat and George Howard, supposedly were cleaning guns in the basement when Pat accidentally shot George.
Ms. Walker has said George then ran upstairs to his mother's bedroom, where he died on the floor, and what is supposedly a blood stain remains in that bedroom.
It's stories like these that led an East Texas paranormal group, Unknown Paranormal, to investigate the house last year.
The investigation yielded some interesting findings, and the group reported that it did encounter spirits, said Judy Sewell, executive director of the Henderson Area Chamber of Commerce.
"What stood out was just the fact that we've had paranormal groups come before and had people spend the night in the house a long time. They never did encounter anything, but they never have come with equipment this group had," she said, adding that Unknown Paranormal also brought a medium.
Ms. Sewell said the group did say the spirits were not hostile but friendly. She said what stood out to her was supposedly there is an older man and a little boy spirit, who is 9 or 10 years old.
"The home is a very old and beautiful house. It is very neat and organized. The initial feeling was there was something there energywise, but it wasn't that strong in the beginning," the group wrote in its report, which was given to the chamber.
According to the group's investigation notes, an initial psychic reading showed that a woman was the prominent spirit there, and one member made contact with a woman named Harriett. The report also states that a spirit indicated that the lady in white on the balcony is Mrs. Dickinson.
Residents can check out the house for themselves during ghost tours this fall.