I spent the night at the most haunted hotel in Texas and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Story and photos by Niki Jones
When I heard there was a very haunted hotel less than an hour away from Austin, I knew I had to check it out, and I decided to bring along the most scaredy-cat friend I could find. So, I called up Austin Woman’s very own managing editor, Chantal Rice, and told her she was the lucky one. After much protest, she gave in and we headed down to Seguin, Texas, to the Haunted Magnolia Hotel.
“Remind me why I’m doing this,” Chantal said as we rolled through the sleepy little town, minutes from our arrival.
“Because you needed a fun little getaway!” I answered, pretending not to notice the daggers she was shooting me with her eyes.
The Haunted Magnolia Hotel sits on a sleepy corner in Seguin’s historic district, just off the town square, and looks like a haunted hotel right out of central casting. It also looks abandoned, complete with a “Closed. Will return at…” sign (with no hands on the clock) dangling from the front door. But when we walked up the path and knocked on the door, Owners Erin O. Wallace and Jim Ghedi welcomed us with big smiles.
Erin, a museum curator and the author of Haunted New Braunfels: A True Wild West Ghost Town, has been interested in ghost stories since her childhood, and when she and Jim learned the historic Magnolia Hotel was sitting abandoned and in disrepair in Seguin, the Austin couple decided to convince the owners to sell it to them, thus beginning the painstaking and years-long process to preserve the property using original items found in the depths of the building itself. The couple split their time between Austin and living on-site in a small apartment on the ground floor of the hotel.
Ready for some action, Chantal and I set about on the guided ghost tour, during which Erin took us room to room, offering up some history and introducing us to the specific ghosts that inhabit each area of the historic building. (There are at least 13 ghosts haunting the Magnolia, according to Erin.) Erin explained the ghosts could be seen, felt, heard and sometimes even smelled, and that each likes to interact with guests in a different way. She also said the ghosts take photos on guests’ phones. I figured that would be a good gauge to prove this place was the real deal since a photo I didn’t take would surely be solid evidence of ghost activity.
The tour included the unfinished half of the building upstairs, which looks like it is straight out of a horror movie. While Erin was telling us about one of the ghosts named Rose, Chantal and I suddenly smelled a strong powdery odor wafting through the hot, stagnant air.
“Yup, that’s Rose,” Erin confirmed.
This was the moment we really realized just what we were in for.
As the hour-long tour wrapped up, Erin and Jim handed us two electromagnetic field radiation detectors, said good night and then casually mentioned they would not be on-site that evening, that Chantal and I would be all alone—in that big, scary building where no one could hear our screams. As Erin and Jim bid us adieu, an antique rocking chair in the corner began to rock on its own.
“The rocking chair!” I yelled and pointed, while Chantal exclaimed, “It’s rocking!”
“Oh, yes,” Jim shrugged. “Good night!”
We headed upstairs to our well-appointed and newly renovated apartment, where I settled into my bedroom and Chantal settled into her adjoining one. I sat on the bed and loudly invited the ghosts to interact with us “in a friendly way, please,” until Chantal begged me to ask them to please not interact. We sat on the bed and watched the EMF meter, which stayed lit on blue, indicating no paranormal activity—until it began maniacally flashing orange, one step away from its highest level of red. We screamed and turned it off.
It was only 6 p.m. and we already needed a break, so we set out through town to find some food (and, let’s be honest, a stiff cocktail). While guzzling some drinks from a nearby bar, we reviewed the photos we had taken so far. To our astonishment, we saw three photos on my iPhone that I did not take. Two images were simply black, but the third one showed the staircase that led up to our apartment. By checking where in the order of photos the staircase image fell, we were able to deduce that it was taken as we were leaving to go to dinner—while the phone was in my pocket and locked!
As the sky got darker by the minute, Chantal and I walked back to the Magnolia, terror building with each step. Our plan was to go to bed early in hopes that morning would come quickly and our exploit would end with us unscathed. But as I began to settle into my bedroom (where, by the way, an older woman named Amelia had once perished in her sleep), Chantal relentlessly beseeched me to sleep with her in her bed.
Worn down, I agreed, and after checking the lock on the door leading to the ridiculously creepy unfinished half of the second story of the building and choosing which rooms’ lights to leave on overnight, we felt confident enough—erroneously, as it turns out—that we could try to get some sleep.
From my side of the bed, I had a view of the living room, where, Erin had told us, the ghost of a traveling salesman haunts. While Chantal and I were chatting as we desperately begged for sleep to take us, I saw a slow-moving orb of light tumble across the living room and then disappear. I tried to convince myself it was just the reflection of a car’s headlights passing by on the street below, but then I realized I hadn’t heard any activity outside. And if a car had passed by the hotel, we absolutely would have heard it since our room was pin-drop silent. Also, to say Seguin is a sleepy town is an understatement; we hadn’t seen any moving vehicles, save for one slow-rolling police cruiser, since we had begun to walk back from dinner.
I was successful in concealing from Chantal the fact that I’d seen the orb, lest she jump out the window and sprint back to Austin. But the fear in me was real, and three hours later, while I restlessly waited for sleep to come, I saw it again. As I lie awake, Chantal, next to me, was in the same boat, so when we heard the loud and distinctive sound of a Champagne cork popping, we both sat up in bed, terrified.
Morning couldn’t come soon enough, but finally, the sun rose and we realized we had made it through, despite being bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived. It wasn’t until Chantal and I were safely in the car headed back to Austin that I told her I had seen a ghostly orb twice in the night. She thanked me for not telling her at the time. But what she didn’t know is the real reason I didn’t tell her: I was absolutely sure she’d have taken my keys, stolen my car and fled into the night. She also didn’t know that just in case, I had hidden my keys.
Check our Instagram in October for a chance to win an overnight stay at the Haunted Magnolia Hotel.