We’ve been adventuring here in Austin and one of the first places you hear about is the old Driskill Hotel, which is reputed to be hugely haunted.
The Driskill first opened in 1886. It opened and closed many times over the years, but has much history, including LBJ’s stints there watching the returns come in from his various elections. For years, until the event outgrew the hotel, the Governor’s Inaugural Ball was held in the Driskill’s Ballroom.
There’s the story of the old vault that still stands in the lobby area. In March of 1933 FDR put a temporary halt to all banking activity in the land, leaving the Driskill guests stranded without cash. Hotel manager W.L. Stark opened the vault to let guests take some out temporarily, asking only that they repay it (he did not even make them sign promissory notes.) The guests not only repaid the money they had borrowed, they put more back, besides.
Then there is the Maximilian Room, which was formerly a smoking lounge. The room’s enormous Carlotta mirrors were intended as a gift from Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian to his wife, Carlotta. After years of civil war in Mexico, conservatives attempted to replace the elected President Benito Juarez with the Emperor Maximilian, but this effort, backed by the French, failed. Carlotta fled to Europe and never saw her husband again. Nor did she see the mirrors, which are coated with diamond dust and bear her image atop each of the 8 mirrors, which the Driskill picked up in San Antonio when they learned of their history. Ghosts are supposedly frequently seen in their reflections.
Probably one of the most interesting ghost stories involves a little girl whom the restaurant manager referred to as “Samantha.”
Her portrait hangs on the 4th floor and is very odd, with what appear to be shadows behind her. (My husband says, “That’s just your flash reflecting,” but you decide.) Samantha was in the hotel waiting for her father, a Senator, to finish a meeting when she followed a bouncing rubber ball and fell to her death down the steep stairs pictured.
Stay tuned for more unearthly tales of this and other Austin haunted sites. It is one of the most haunted cities in America according to the experts.