They may not catch ghosts like the famous ghost-busting trio, but the workers at Austin Ghost tours know the history of all things haunted in Austin and offer a peek into the many supposedly haunted buildings downtown. For more than a decade, Austin Ghost tours has been offering year-round tours filled with historical information and paranormal stories of the most haunted places in Austin.
Tour guide Corissa Chopelas, a ghost believer even before working with Austin Ghost Tours, has led patrons through Austin’s haunted streets for about a year. On her tour she explores downtown, taking guests to haunted locations including Moonshine Patio Cafe and Grill, Buffalo Billiards and The Handlebar.
Moonshine Patio Cafe and Grill
The ghost tour, led by Chopelas, began at Moonshine. This building is one of the oldest buildings in Austin and used to be a gathering area for town members prior to the mid-1900s. Chopelas said this might be why the building is haunted.
“Waller Creek and the Colorado River make a triangle that has a ton of flash floods that scoured this area for a long time until they put in a dam,” Chopelas said. “At some point, the dam broke and caused a giant flood that went all over Austin and destroyed everything around [this building], making it one of Austin’s oldest buildings.”
Chopelas said because so many died around this popular building back in its heyday, there are many ghosts that haunt it.
“One thing I’ve experienced personally is I sit in my office upstairs, and we have blinds. Sometimes it will sound like they are rattling as if a window is open,” said Jordan Baxter, business administrator at Moonshine. “Then I’ll turn around but the windows appear sealed shut. The blinds are exactly where they’re supposed to be. It’s just the noise.”
Baxter said it’s also common for guests to have encounters with the ghosts at Moonshine. The interactions are harmless The stories include things such as customers believing someone is licking the back of his or her neck, wine bottles shooting across the room and mirrors on the wall moving to the center of the floor with no explanation.
“There used to be a table where guest would always call the manager over to complain that our staff kept tapping them on the shoulder,” Baxter said. “That would happen all the time, and we’d have to assure them that the staff was not tapping them on their shoulder.”
Unlike Moonshine, Chopelas said a single ghost haunts Buffalo Billiards.
“Buffalo Billiards was the Missouri Hostel when Austin was quite literally a one-horse town,” Chopelas said. “People were always going in and out. So many that we really have no idea who it is there that haunts it, but the staff likes to call him Fred. He’s a very active ghost.”
Fred is thought to have caused many mysterious occurrences over the years. He has been known to throw “parties” late at night and unstack chairs among other activities.
“My manager and I were at work, there were a few people here that night, and he asked me if I’d broke the exit sign on the back door,” said Aquilla Dewbre, Buffalo Billiards staff member. “I told him ‘no’ so he went back and watched the video. In the video the sign is just shaking and all of the sudden it kind of exploded in a way.”
Chopelas said Austin Ghost tours had one particularly weird experience with Fred when FOX News interviewed long-time employee Monica Ballard.
“One of the questions they asked was ‘well what does Fred want?’ and again we just had to say ‘We don’t know. We don’t know anything about him,’” Chopelas said. “[FOX] was viewing the footage and a voice showed up that was not there at the time of the filming, and it showed up only on Monica’s personal microphone. It said in a heavy Irish brogue ‘All I want is a wee bit of attention.’”
In the early 1900s, the HandleBar used to be a funeral parlor, which, with the help of neighbor’s large furnace next-door, held Austin’s first cremation — a practice illegal at the time.
“Late at night they take the body out of the handlebar, the funeral parlor, and they bring it into this building and are about to put it into the furnace when the Austin police show up,” Chopelas said. “Approval was finally given by the authorities, but by that time there were hundreds of Austinites gathered outside the building to witness the first cremation.”
Patrons and employees at the HandleBar believe there to be two ghosts haunting the building: An old man and a young girl whose identities are not known for certain.
The bar has experienced everything from inexplicable children’s handprints, to hearing voices in the basement that shares a wall with The Onion pizza shop.
“There is a little hole in the sheetrock [and our employees) message with each other through it sometimes,” said Alexander Hamilton, head bartender at HandleBar. “I went downstairs and I hear ‘Hey’ and I’m looking around, and there’s no light on, so I’m like ‘Yeah, hello?’ I walk away from where the hole in the wall is to the other side of the basement and it’s louder. I hear ‘Hey’ loudly, right next to me.”
Hamilton said he went next door to ask the woman there if anyone else was working that day. Hamilton said the women said no, and when he told her about the voice, her response was “I see him in the corner of my eye all the time.”