Colonel Jesse Driskill, a wealthy cattle baron, built the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, in 1886. The Driskill has welcomed high society and historical political events over the years. For example, in 1934, Lyndon Baines Johnson met his future wife, Lady Bird, at The Driskill. Johnson later used the hotel as his headquarters for the White House Press Corps.
Even though The Driskill has welcomed its share of celebrities, it seems the hotel’s ghosts are everyday people who checked in and never checked out.
Room 525 seems to be a particular hotspot of activity. The tale is that of two jilted women who roam the hotel from different times in history.
- Little is known of the first dead bride. The only thing confirmed is that she killed herself in Room 525 after her fiancé called off their wedding and that she mournfully walks the halls in her Victorian gown.
- The second bride is the more famous one. This may be because she is an apparition from the rare Gen X generation. She died in 1991.
Legend is this ghost was a Houston socialite who left the hotel after being jilted at the altar and went on a massive shopping spree with her lover’s stolen credit card. She was last seen carrying several bags into Room 525. Later that night, the bride (in the bathtub) put a gun in one hand and a pillow in the other, then shot herself. Since then, Driskill guests have claimed to see her carrying packages or a pistol down the hall before she vanishes into Room 525 without ever opening the door.
- A child meets an untimely end and continues to play among some of the hotel’s most storied features.
If a ghost bride isn’t enough to peak a person’s interest, a ghost child may do it. Legend says that a girl, rumored to be named Samantha Houston, was playing with a ball on the grand staircase. Samantha tripped and fell to her death. Since her death, a child giggling and a bouncing a ball are reported to be heard on the steps. Samantha’s father paid for someone to paint her portrait shortly after her death. It now hangs on the fifth floor of The Driskill. Some say she tries to communicate through it. People say once in a while, you can catch her smiling and her expression changes in the painting.
- The ghost of a Texas cowboy reportedly haunts traveling female rock stars.
A cigar-wielding male ghost dressed in cowboy clothing from the 19th century has materialized before many a female musician. Annie Lennox claimed he selected her stage outfit while she showered, and Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde wrote the song “Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man” after a night of enduring his ghostly shenanigans. He also touches women on the arm or back, proving himself more a gentleman than a scoundrel.
- Then, there is Colonel Driskill himself, said to haunt his creation. He was known as an avid cigar smoker, and at times, guests report the smell of cigar smoke despite the fact that the hotel has been smoke-free for several years. They also say Colonel Driskill has a fascination with lights.
- A railroad man named Peter Lawless is also said to haunt the Driskill. Lawless lived at The Driskill for 31 years until his death in 1917. Guests and employees have reported seeing Lawless in hotel lobby elevators. He has been seen walking out of the elevator, checking his railroad watch, nodding to the staff, and then disappearing.
There are also reports that the elevators have minds of their own, taking guests to the correct floor without anyone pushing a button.
Are these hauntings happening? I don’t know. The Driskill offers a glimpse into Texas’s past, even if you aren’t looking for ghosts. That is worth the trip by itself.
Sources: Austin Monthly: https://www.austinmonthly.com/driskill-hotels-haunted-history-fact-vs-fiction/
Until Next Time,