Key card in hand, I stepped into the elevator and mindlessly pushed the number five as I offered the obligatory smile to the other guests of the Hotel Galvez. For a few seconds, the elevator echoed with the typically polite silence of an elevator ride, but a man’s voice in the back of the elevator broke the silence. “Looks like you are staying on the haunted floor,” he said with a skeptical tone. I offered a skeptical joke in return, and another smile as I stepped off at the fifth floor. Of course, I had heard the buzz that the Hotel Galvez was haunted, but I’ve never believed in such things as ghosts or haunted hotels. To me, it was just another bed in another room.
~A Long Hallway Reminscent of the Past~
Exploring the Hotel Galvez with Kids
There was very little time to ponder the conversation in the elevator, or even sit for a moment in the historically appointed, but very small room on the fifth floor. As the sole adult traveling alone with four busy kids, it was my job to get them out of the room and into the pool.
We passed through the elegant lobby and traveled down one of the long corridors that extended like outstretched arms from the center of hotel. Evidence of the antiquity of the hotel was everywhere, and I tried to soak in the details of the gold leaf tipped columns and mahogany floors while simultaneously keeping up with swimsuit wearing kids hightailing it down the hall. The details were nothing short of exquisite and expected in what I had learned was an AAA Four Diamond Hotel. As I stopped to grab a pair of goggles dropped in the rush to the pool, I grabbed a brochure detailing the history of the hotel and vowed to read it between splashes at the pool.
~Secluded Pool Oasis at the Hotel Galvez~
A Little Bit of History by the Pool
Although the hotel lobby was almost too sophisticated to welcome a bunch of little boys, the pool was the haven we were hoping to find. The chill in the air of a late spring cold front was far too nippy to coax me into the water, but the kids were undeterred. Fortunately, the pool oasis was heated to 80 degrees, so the water was warm enough for the kids to play, giving me the chance to tuck away into a private nook and dig into the history.
Plans for the Hotel Galvez began in 1898, but were quickly accelerated to boost tourism after the great hurricane of 1900 destroyed the island. The hotel opened its doors in 1911 and quickly became known as the "The Playground of the Southwest" because of the wealthy socialites, businessmen and celebrities who frequented the rooms. American Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson stayed at the Galvez, as did General Douglas MacArthur. Other notable names include Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra, and Howard Hughes.
~Romantic Outdoor Colonnade~
As I began to feel quite comfortable relaxing in the playground of the rich and famous, I read a bit more about the restoration of the hotel as I imagined the likes of Frank Sinatra and FDR strolling the outdoor colonnades. After 100 years, the hotel had been through many million dollar renovations to bring it back to its splendor, including painstaking attention to preserving many of the original details. The sarcastic and clearly sadistic part of my brain immediately recalled the conversation in the elevator, and I wondered if some of the original details also included a ghostly spirit or two. I reminded myself that I did not believe in ghosts, and turned my attention to the daunting task at hand of wrangling four wet kids back to the room.
~A View of the Beach from the Wedding Pavilion at the Hotel Galvez~
Hotel Galvez After Dark
After a late afternoon stroll along the beach, we returned to our room sandy and ready for some rest. After each child was tucked into bed, I settled in for a call to my husband at home and some much needed work catch up. My littlest boy fell to sleep immediately, while the older boys stuck in their headphones and checked into a world of electronic bliss. I was deep into plowing through my overstuffed inbox when my four year old bolted stiffly out of bed with a high pitched shriek that could only be described as terrified. I immediately began fumbling for the necessary trick to comfort my scared baby, but as the screaming escalated in both intensity and volume. Even my other kids were lulled out of their electronic-induced coma to examine the ruckus.
While the screaming was alarming, the behavior was even more disturbing. With eyes wide open, he darted from one end of the room to the other, stopped briefly to look in the mirror and try to reach into in, shriek again and then darted back towards the bed. “What is wrong with him?” one of the older boys asked, more out of annoyance than concern. I scooped him up and held him close in an effort to calm whatever was troubling him, and the screaming quieted into a whimper. With a deep breath, I placed him on the bed to try to get to the bottom of what was bothering him. As I spoke soothingly, he continued to whimper softly while reaching and staring past my left shoulder. Instinctively, I glanced over my shoulder twice to see what he was seeing, but, of course, there was nothing.
Getting to Know the Ghost on the Fifth Floor
As quickly as the screaming started, it stopped, and my son was sleeping soundly in his bed again. Only after quiet was restored to the room, did I start to really think about what I had just witnessed. Although, I firmly wanted to stay in my skeptic’s corner, I couldn’t help but consider the suggestion that we were staying in a haunted hotel, on an apparent haunted floor.
The burning question to Google or not to Google was the next that popped into my mind. I will freely admit to having a very active imagination, so adding fuel to the fire with more details seemed like an ill-advised idea in the middle of the night. On the other hand, a little bit of information-information I expected to be far-fetched, could put the matter (and me) to bed quickly. I weighed the options briefly, but curiosity won out and my fingers were quickly typing “Hotel Galvez Ghost” into my search bar.
In the mid-1950’s a 25 year old bride-to-be named Audra was a frequent guest at the Hotel Galvez. Legend has it that she checked into a room on the fifth floor (some say 501 or 505). That’s when tragedy struck the young woman. Audra was engaged to a mariner who sailed out of the Port of Galveston. According to the tale, Audra would climb to the top of one of the turrets in the Hotel and watch for her love whenever he was expected to return from sea. From the turret she watched in horror as a mighty storm battered the port. With great hope, she continued to climb the turret day after day, but never saw the ship. Finally, word came that the ship had sunk and all aboard had perished. In despair, Audra hung herself. The legend varies here to whether she hung herself in her bathroom or in the turret, but that is only half the tragedy. A few days later, her mariner arrived at the hotel, very much alive, and ready for the wedding that was never to be.
There were many “sightings” and stories of contact with Audra, but even curiosity couldn’t get me to read them while sitting just three doors down from the tragic room. Before slamming my laptop shut, I noted that Audra was said to wander the fifth floor at night searching for something or someone.
Putting the Ghost to Bed Once and For All
Instantly, I felt a chill and my heart began to race. There was nothing that made me think I was being visited by a spirit. I knew exactly what was happening. I was scared. My imagination was in hyper-drive and the only way to stop it, I decided, was to put my overactive imagination to bed.
I shuffled off to the bathroom, making concentrated effort not to make eye contact with the mirror. On my way back to bed, I stopped and double checked the locks on the door, bemused by the irony that I was both locking out something I did not believe in and something that likely would not be deterred by locks if it were, in fact, real.
With a click, I turned off the lights. The ambient light had barely faded from the room when my soundly sleeping little guy sat straight up in bed, eerily raised his chubby hand to point across the room, and screamed. I immediately clicked the lights back on and jumped into the bed next to my son, reminding myself that I was the grownup. With me next to him, his body relaxed and he went right back to sleep. I channeled the skepticism I had held so tightly earlier in the day and reminded myself that there were plenty of non-spectral explanations for this odd bedtime behavior. Just to be safe, though, we slept with the lights on.
~Hotel Galvez provided complimentary accomodations during my stay. They did not require that I express a particular viewpoint and all opinions are my own.~