GONZALES, Texas – Getting thrown in jail is something you really shouldn’t want to cross off The Texas Bucket List, but visiting an old one that will keep your imagination locked up with curiosity is always a good verdict. So, we booked into Gonzales to get a good look at why the pokey ain’t the place for us, especially when it comes to the ghostly visitors.
Smack dab in the middle of the city where the Texas revolution started, sits the Gonzales County Jail Museum. Built in 1885, only 49 years after Texas won its independence from Mexico, its seen its share of outlaws, banditos, and bad guys over the years.
Sandra Wolf has a passion for this old prison. She knows the history of this old Graybar Hotel because she has special connection to it.
“This is where I grew up,” Sandra said. “This was my house. This was originally designated as the sheriff’s living quarters, and my dad was sheriff for 18 years. I grew up here. Moved in here when I was 6 years old, stayed here until I was 16, and I haven’t done anything bad yet. I loved it. I actually thought that I moved from the middle of the country to a three story mansion in the middle of town. So I was happy.”
Her father L.O. McGinty had a stellar reputation with citizens and even those who spent time behind bars.
“I have people who were incarcerated here during my dad’s terms, and they come back to look and see if their name is still on the wall,” Sandra informed us. “If I know when it was I ask if they knew Sheriff McGinty, and they say, ‘Oh yeah.’ They all say he was a fine fella and they respected him. The thing that makes me the proudest is they say he was fair.”
Sheriff McGinty came from a long line of lawmen that lead the long arm of the law in this little town but when the jail was built here all those years ago, some thought Gonzales might get as big as San Antonio hence the reason such a big, big house was built. Famed architect Eugene Heiner designed the jail that wasn’t closed till 1975.
“I don’t think it was ever completely full,” Sandra says. “They said it was built to hold 150 to 200 prisoners in case of a riot.”
The names of those who spent time here still tell their stories on the wall and a grim reminder of what capital punishment used to be like still stands in the jail.
“The gallows was actually stored there out of sight,”
Only three executions ever took place here, all before 1924 but for some reason you still get the heebee jeebies here.
“This is really high security. You’ve got locked doors everywhere. If you get put back here you’re not getting out,” Sandra explained. “People who were put in this section committed felony crimes. That’s armed robbery, murder, rape, bad crimes. People who hurt other people get put in these cells here.”
While sitting in these old cells, you can’t help but feel the hair on the back your neck start to rise.
“We actually have people get a little creepy feeling in here, and a lot of people that visit the jail can’t even go up the stairs,” Sandra says. “They sit there and they say that it’s just an oppressive feeling, and some of them really leave when they get to the top of the stairs and see all the cells.”
Perhaps the most intriguing Gonzales Jail ghost story took a place a few years ago in these very cells.
“We’ve done lots of paranormal investigations, and we’ve heard whistles and footsteps and seen orbs, and all the regular kinds of things that you see when you do that,” Sandra said. “But, we really had a spectacular viewing. A 17-year-old young man came up stairs. His mother stayed in this big run around area, and he went into this security section in the very back cell, which is very small and you can tell if there is anybody else there right away. He went in there. He was by himself. He saw the outline of a left hand on the wall. He put his hand in that and immediately got this feeling down his back that he wasn’t alone. He turned around, and right close to him was a smallish man who had on a blue shirt. He had a scraggly beard, and he had bruises on his neck. It scared the young man, and so he got out of that. Since it was the last of three cells he had a little ways to go to get out of that cell block. As he’s coming through the last cell, that same man that he just saw appeared on the bunk in that last cell as he’s going out the door.”
After hearing this, it comes as no surprise that this young man fled from the jail and refused to reneter.
“The young man left the jail and would not come back in,” Sandra said. “His mother eventually came back in and said, ‘I’m sorry if that was an inconvenience or if it upset anybody, but he is an empath. He sees dead people.’ He saw him, whoever he was.”
Considering I’m into history more than horror stories, we said our goodbyes to anyone from beyond. That’s when Sandra informed us that she’s never been afraid in the old building.
“I was always surrounded by deputies, and actually I usually knew most of the people that were in jail,” Sandra explained.
This old jail is more than a former lock up; it’s a story of Texas justice with connections to legendary lawmen and a few well known fugitives (perhaps even a poltergeist or two) making it well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“I do feel a presence,” Sandra says. “It’s not like a ghost presence, or anything like that. It’s just like history’s whispering to me or something and I just feel like this is what I need to do.”