Monday, June 8, 2009

The Alamo | San Antonio, Texas

When I was about 10 years old, my poor, long-suffering Pawpaw took his wife, daughters and granddaughters on a two-week car trip through the America West. For those of you keeping tally, that’s one man trapped in a full-size van with seven females. Not only did he take us through Texas – stopping at today’s topic, the Alamo – but also visited New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri and south of the border to Mexico.

Since I am alive today and here writing this, I think it’s safe to assume that Pawpaw had the patience of a saint. That’s one man against seven women, 12 states and one politically unstable foreign country. Anyone who came through the experience without maiming an obnoxious, road-weary child pretty much could be trusted to negotiate peace in the Middle East.

Alas, I digress… this is about ghosts at the Alamo.

It was during my first visit to the Alamo that I saw something unexplained. As I mentioned, I was about 10 years old during that trip. I can remember parking in an adjacent lot to square in front of the old mission and walking across to the front entrance. Things were more relaxed back then. There was no formal line like there is now to enter. You just moseyed through at your own pace. If you had a question there were several park service folks there to answer you, but for the most part it was an informal, self-guided experience.

The first thing that struck me about the Alamo was how the temperature seemed to drop when we entered. It was more like being in a cool subterranean cave than an ancient house of worship. After filing through the main building – the iconic portion that comes to mind when you think of the Alamo – we exited backside into the main complex. I can remember walking with Pawpaw to the edge of a little stream-like waterway that cut through the middle of the property. In it there the largest gold fish I had ever seen.

I’m not sure where my mother and sisters were at that point. Probably in a bathroom somewhere. I’m pretty sure my grandmother was in the gift shop. My aunt and cousin were with them so it was just me and Pawpaw walking around the mission grounds. I can remember him saying he wanted to show me the well that provided water to the Alamo. He fished in his pocket and pulled out a couple of coins for me to throw in and make a wish over.

As I was dangling over the old stone well, looking into the water and preparing to toss my coins, Pawpaw spoke.

“Look at that man,” he said in that calm, but assertive way of his.

I glanced up and looked toward the side of the building that house the gift shop and museum. Walking quickly, with purpose across the yard toward the side of that building was a man dressed how a working cowboy would. His entire body was dusty, as if he’d just ridden through the dessert. He was wearing brown chaps and had a gun slung around his hips. A cowboy hat tilted just over eyes, obscuring his features.

We’d already seen several character actors dressed as the Alamo defenders and Mexican attackers. One lady was giving a lesson on how they cooked during that era. Another man was talking about ammunition and guns near the battery. We just assumed this was another actor, reacting history. As we walked toward the man, my grandfather reached for his camera. I – being a camera hog – was going to get my picture with that cowboy, by god. Or so I thought.

Just as stepped onto the stone pathway, the man’s stride seemed to slow. He was nearing the side of the building and we assumed he was going to set up for some sort of historical presentation. But as the man approached wall he didn’t stop walking. He took one final step toward the building and disappeared. It was like he walked through a solid concrete wall.

Pawpaw and I stood there for a moment. I blinked a couple of times, assuming my eyes deceived me. Pawpaw just took my hand and led me toward the coolness of the shade. We sat there on a stone bench for a while and watched the people come and go. Pawpaw lit up a cigarette and smoked. My eyes wandered, looking for a glimpse of our traveling companions. We said nothing about the disappearing cowboy. Not that day. Not ever.

Was it the overactive imagination of a little girl? Perhaps. Something paranormal? Most would say not. In fact, I myself wrote the incident off. It was just something strange that I’d think of from time to time.

Fifteen years later I returned to the Alamo. This time I was a married woman, with a husband in tow. After a long, hot day on the River Walk, we decided to take a nighttime walking tour of the Alamo area.

Overall this was a pretty mundane event. They told us about the siege of the Alamo, the burning of the bodies in three points around the mission and all return of the Mexican Army to burn the remains of the mission to the ground.

Legend goes:

When the Mexican troops neared the church with flaming torches, six fully formed spirits suddenly appeared before the front doors of the mission, waving blazing sabers and yelling, "Do not touch the Alamo, do not touch these walls!" The Mexicans fled in fear and would not be persuaded to return regardless of threats made by their superiors. Some say these entities were Alamo defenders while others say they were monks protecting the mission.

Throughout the tour, our guide had pointed out different spots throughout the area that were thought to be haunted. A wide range of spirits are claimed to still call the location home – from Davy Crocket to John Wayne. (Read more on the ghosts here.) It was at this moment that I recalled the even from my childhood and I began listening intently to see if there was any mention of a cowboy ghost. Well, apparently there were several. One that walks through a cloister area and appears to be soaking wet and another that walks the roof line of the building.

I was a bit disappointed. Perhaps my memory had been false after all. Then as the group was about to disperse, the guide made one final comment – almost as an afterthought.

“Oh, there’s one more point of interest,” he said. “Visitors standing near the old well have reported a cowboy, in dusty clothing walk toward the secondary building. When the figure approaches the wall, he appears to walk through. If you look closely at the seams in the mortar, you can tell that a doorway used to be located there. This is the most frequently reported apparition.”

Score. I knew I wasn’t crazy.


Anonymous said...

ok, ok, being right this one time does not constitute a statement like "I am not crazy"

Jennie Hensarling said...

Wow, goosebumps!

halley said...

The Alamo is such a spooky place. Even now days, it is still easy to imagine how it looked back then.

grannybitch said...

I don't think the tourist are alone in the Alamo. The spirits are so strong there that you can feel them, and perhaps we see them and assume they are real. I love the place and it's history. And I don't think PawPaw was surprised to see a spirit.