We’re known for a few things here in Texas – fried food, friendly people, and football, to name a few. Mysterious happenings are probably pretty far down on your list of ways to characterize our state, but you’d be surprised at how much weirdness we have going on. From random sinkholes that swallow half a town to underwater caves to ghostly children saving you from your demise, this list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unusual places Texas has to offer.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Witch's Grave (Liberty Hill)
The seemingly serene small town of Liberty Hill harbors a dark secret. It is said that in the 1800s, a slave girl was accused of witchcraft and hung in a tree in a desolate graveyard. She was buried under that same tree with the words "whoever passes over this grave shall die as I died" encrypted on her grave. They say if you go to the cemetery at night, you'll see the girl's body hanging from the tree and hear her cries. Would you dare to make the journey?
2. The Orange Show (Houston)
It doesn't get much weirder than this exhibit dedicated to...that's right, oranges. Jeff McKissack may have been a bit off his rocker when he built this attraction, claiming it was due to his failure to create a functioning juicer for oranges and because he was inspired by a handshake he shared with Thomas Edison (from West Orange, NJ.) Resembling a circus of sorts, The Orange Show is adorned with seemingly random objects like a scarecrow, butter churn, mosaics - all able to be linked back to oranges. McKissack envisioned his attraction to be more popular than Disneyland, and while that couldn't be farther from the truth, it spawned the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and has attracted more than half a million visitors since his death.
3. Ghost Tracks (San Antonio)
A long time ago, a bus full of schoolchildren was going out of town for a field trip. Their vehicle stalled on railroad tracks where it was struck by a speeding train, killing everyone aboard. Today, if you visit the same railroad tracks, hidden in a heavily wooded area, and turn off your car, it will start to mysteriously roll forward until it no longer sits on top of the tracks and you're safe from harm. And apparently, covering your car in baby powder will result in dozens of tiny hand prints appearing on it after you've been pushed to safety. Is the movement some coincidental gravitational force, or the work of several kind, youthful spirits? Are you brave enough to find out for yourself?
4. Old Rip (Eastland)
You're all familiar with the age old story - a demolition worker pries open a cornerstone to find a frog that springs to life and starts singing jazz. The man attempts to make use of the frog's abilities for money only for it to refuse to perform. But did you know this story is based on an event that occurred in Texas? It was said that Ernest Wood, the county clerk at the Eastland courthouse, placed a live horned lizard (that could live for years without food, water or air) inside its cornerstone. When the building was being torn down, spectators from all over gathered to see if the tale was true - and it was! The toad was named Rip van Winkle and can be viewed in the remodeled Eastland courthouse today.
5. Jacob's Well (Wimberley)
This may seem like an ordinary spring, but if you look below the surface, Jacob's Well has a dangerous secret. This swimming hole extends hundreds of feet into the earth, branching off into numerous underwater caves. Most visitors, no matter how thrill-seeking and adventurous, don't venture that far down and stick to admiring the well from above ground. However, some self-proclaimed "experienced" divers take the plunge - never to resurface. At least 9 people have made the grave mistake of trying to navigate one of the largest underwater cave systems in Texas, either to realize the sediment buildup is too great to see properly, or succumbing to nitrogen narcosis, a mind-altering effect that happens when divers breathe at depths below 100 feet. Don't let this deter you - Jacob's Well is a beautiful hidden gem. Just be cautious.
6. Bexar County Hospital Angel of Death (San Antonio)
Something strange was going on at the Bexar County Hospital. Patients in the oncology ward were dying consecutively by room number. Several patients, before meeting their demise, would ask who the woman in white who came in their room in the middle of the night was. Some of them had video monitors and could be seen conversing with someone unseen on the monitor. The mysterious deaths stopped when the next consecutive room was vacant. Were the deaths a coincidence? Or was something more sinister claiming the lives of the patients?
7. Smiley Tombstone (Dallas)
Lie down in front of Smiley's grave - and never stand up again. This grave holds an entire family who died on the same day - some say it was a murder-suicide at the hands of the father. Legend has it that if you lay down in front of the tombstone at midnight, he'll wrap his arms around your neck, holding you down from beyond - and the longer you stay there, the harder it will be to sit up...you may end up joining his ghostly family. Scared yet?
8. Kissing Statues (Beaumont)
While these aren't the same statues you'll find at Forest Lawn Memorial Cemetery, they convey this eerie story just as well. A couple is buried together in this Beaumont cemetery, and statues of the lovers standing side by side have been erected above their graves. Legend has it that if you visit the sculpture at midnight, the woman will turn her face towards her husband, and he'll wrap his arms around her in a loving
embrace while the two share a ghostly kiss. Is it a trick of the night - or something more?
9. Wink Sinkholes (Wink)
I couldn't find pictures of the sinkhole that occurred in the West Texas town of Wink, but imagine this multiplied by about 100. In June of 1980, a contractor was doing an inspection for an oil company and discovered a 20-foot wide hole that seemed to appear out of nowhere...and continued to grow, reaching a diameter of 100 feet within two hours. By mid afternoon, it doubled. By the next day, it was 350-feet wide. Chunks of earth continued to crumble and get swallowed by the depression, but luckily it slowed enough to never reach the surrounding highway. The town's citizens finally relaxed...until a second, larger hole emerged in 2002. This one grew to a diameter of 750 feet, expanding by roughly 10 feet every day, gobbling up fences put around it to attempt to rein it in. It even took the town's City Hall down with it. Theories are numerous: over-drilling for oil, a connection to Carlsbad Caverns - or just a mysterious freak occurrence of Mother Nature. What do you think?
10. Enchanted Rock (Fredericksburg)
This beautiful formation of pink granite harbors numerous ancient mysteries and secrets. Its name can even be attributed to the Native Americans' belief that it was haunted. The Tonkawa tribe saw ghostly fires burning at the summit and heard the mountain moan in the darkest hours of the night. Scientists have gathered that these legends stem from how the rock glitters after rainfall and the settling noises it makes when there is a large temperature shift from day to night. There is, however, an unexplained phenomenon nearby. Not far from the rock, a ghostly light called the Six-Mile Light can be seen. It is most likely a manifestation of the strange energies that create the Marfa and Bragg Lights, but get this - all these similar eerie light formations occur at the exact same latitude of 30 degrees N, which is also the latitude at which Enchanted Rock lies. Freaky, right?
As you can see, there’s no shortage of weirdness in the Lone Star State. What are your thoughts on these places? Have you visited any of them? What about any other mysterious spots I left off? Tell me everything in the comments below!