Texas is no stranger to haunted hotels, but one just might be infested with more ghosts than all the rest. According to Business Insider, Hotel Galvez and Spa in Galveston is the most haunted hotel in the state — and between the island’s tragic history and numerous reports of paranormal activity from guests, this could very well be true.
Once referred to as the Playground of the Southwest, this 226-room hotel conjures images of Galveston’s gilded age – when Galveston was once the Vegas of the South, frequented by Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, and Dean Martin. The Hotel Galvez even operated as a temporary White House for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Galvez Hotel History
Designed by Mauran, Russell, and Crowell of St. Louis, Missouri, the Hotel Galvez applies a combination of Mission Revival and Spanish Revival styles. It’s a spectacular structure that stretches 9,328 square feet.
(Fun Fact: although Galvez began as a 275-room hotel, and ended up with 226. The reduction was to accommodate the inclusion of in-room bathrooms, which had become an anticipated amenity!)
The Hotel Galvez derives its name from Bernardo de Galvez, a hero of the American Revolutionary War. Yet Galvez never visited the island, making his namesake an eccentric addition to this historic structure.
Established at the price of one million dollars, the Galvez Hotel was decidedly decadent, outstandingly opulent. Its creation was, however, slow to start.
Although civic leaders decided to build the hotel as early as 1898, their progress was lackadaisical. Yet the urgency for the hotel accelerated after the Hurricane of 1900: Galveston thought the hotel would galvanize the island, bolstering tourism. The hotel was constructed by June 10 of 1911.
This haunted hotel wasn’t always open for visitors. Acquired by William Lewis Moody, Jr. in 1940, the United States Coast Guard commandeered the hotel during World War II.
The hotel became barracks. This obstruction was temporary, of course, and Hotel Galvez resumed public patronage by the early 1950s.
The Hotel Galvez reached prominence once gambling became particularly popular on the island, leading to Galveston’s moniker, the Vegas of the South.
Notable inhabitants of the time include American Presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson and celebrity personalities such as Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, and Howard Hughes.
The Hotel Galvez depreciated in the mid-1950s once gambling was outlawed.
The hotel received a major renovation in 1965. Six years later, Harvey O. McCarthey and Dr. Leon Bromberg acquired it.
Although it encountered a boom in business, it then changed hands throughout the seventies and eighties – undergoing various refurbishing and rebrandings. It even became a Marriott in 1989!
Luckily, the Hotel Galvez was again purchased in 1995 – though this time by George P. Mitchell, a Galveston native. Mitchell chose to restore the hotel to its 1911 appearance, preserving and restoring this historic structure.
The Hotel Galvez now features 226 rooms and suites and reflects Galveston’s gilded age.
Despite its celebrity guest list, the Hotel Galvez is better known for its less temporary tenants. Guests who checked in yet never checked out.
From Galveston’s Lovelorn Lady (a bride-to-be who met her grisly end in the hotel) to the Sisters of Charity (Sister Katherine perished in the hurricane alongside ninety orphans tied by a rope at her waist), the Hotel Galvez is crawling with paranormal activity. If the deaths from the 1900 hurricane aren’t enough, this hotel may stand above a mass grave.
The Lovelorn Lady
Room 501 is where the most notable unexplained phenomena take place.
Supposedly, in the 1950s, a woman named Audra hung herself in the bathroom after receiving a letter saying her fiancé died at sea. Even more heartbreaking, the message was incorrect—he returned so they could be married, only to learn of the tragic fate that befell her. Staff members say she still inhabits the room today; they report that she causes electronic keys to malfunction and turns lights and televisions off and on. You’ll know it’s her if you feel a sudden, unexplained cold draft.
Audra was a twenty-five-year-old bride-to-be in the mid-1950s. Young, exuberant, optimistic. You know the type, soon-to-be-newlywed.
Audra’s husband was a mariner who often sailed in and out of the Port of Galveston, leaving Audra occasionally alone. During his offshore excursions, Audra would rent Room 501 at the Hotel Galvez. Room 501 was in particular proximity to the elevator, which Audra would use to access the ladder.
Audra would climb this precarious ladder to the red-tiled rooftop, where she would await the ship of her fiancé. Wakeful, watchful – wild with love, Audra sat inside the hotel’s rooftop turret, impatient and persistent.
After a catastrophic storm, Audra was informed that her fiance’s ship had capsized – that all hands were lost. Inconsolable and overcome with despair, Audra hung herself in the west turret of the hotel.
If that’s not tragic enough, her groom arrived at Galveston a few days later. He had survived the collapse, eager to re-encounter his bride. Audra, of course, had been recently interred.
Visitors to the Hotel Galvez claim that Audra frequents the fifth floor, though her most famous residence remains her matrimonial room.
Some claim to feel the sudden chill of her specter, while others hear the inexplicable slamming of doors. Televisions turn off and on without explanation; lights, too, flicker back and forth. A housekeeper once reported a strange light emitted from the vacant room.
Attendants at the front desk have a challenging time making electronic keys for the room. They claim that an unseen force interferes with the equipment, making the cards unreliable or unreadable.
When Audra does venture out of Room 501, she roams the west turret. Visitors occasionally witness light there, though neither candles nor flashlights are the explanation.
These reports frequently occur while renovations are underway, though the turrets remain unlit. Although the hotel staff once investigated the claims, no electrical sources were discovered.
The Nun Sister Katherine
Sister Katherine belonged to the Sisters of Charity, which, at the time, oversaw the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum.
The Hurricane of 1900 ravaged the Island of Galveston and the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum. To save as many as possible, the sisters cut cloth into rope, which they then tied to the children.
These ropes were then attached to the waists of the sisters, who hoped to withstand the storm’s belligerent winds. Some suspect that the ropes were counterproductive – actually leading, or at least contributing to the deaths of the orphans.
Ninety children and ten sisters perished in the hurricane. Still attached, their remains were found along the beach of the Hotel Galvez.
Their bodies were buried where they were discovered, leading some to suspect that the Hotel Galvez stands above their mass grave. It’s no surprise that visitors claim to catch their apparitions.
The Hotel Galvez also safeguards a small, ghostly girl. Visitors witness this unexplained apparition near the hotel lobby, gift shop, and staircase. Often seen bouncing her ball, guests report that she wears nineteenth-century clothing.
Even construction workers have claimed to see this ghoulish girl. They didn’t know that she was a ghost at the time, of course, and notified the front desk that a child was playing near the construction area.
Guests hear other phantom children running and laughing throughout the hotel—playing the piano in the lobby or running amok through the halls. You can listen to the sound of their laughter if you look closely enough, though the children themselves remain unseen.
Some suspect that these are the orphans killed during the Hurricane of 1900. If so, perhaps Sister Katherine accompanies them?
The Hotel Galvez Today
The Hotel Galvez offers short-term lodgings and spa. It’s the only historic hotel on the beachfront, making it a popular tourist destination.
Whether you’re investigating the once bride-to-be or Galveston’s ghastly girls, the Hotel Galvez is a must-see. Plus, it was added to the Historic Hotels of America in 1994, so it’s a fascinating stopover for the skeptics and superstitious alike.
Visiting the Hotel Galvez
You can find the Hotel Galvez at 2024 Seawall Blvd. Whether you’re strolling through the strand or alongside the seawall, stop by the Hotel Galvez. Do let us know if you encounter any paranormal activity, of course.
Until Next Time,