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I’d heard that Seguin’s Magnolia Hotel is one ghostly getaway where eerie encounters are a nightly occurrence, so I decided to see for myself. A block east of the Guadalupe County Courthouse, I found the boxy, two-story frame building and learned that its history dates to the mid-1800s.
Texas Ranger James Campbell built a log cabin on the site in 1840, and Ranger Jack Coffee Hays married the owner’s daughter there in 1847. The hotel itself was built in 1853, and current owners Erin and Jim Ghedi saved it from abandonment after it was named to advocacy group Preservation Texas’ 2012 Most Endangered Places list.
Erin Ghedi had taken my tour reservation and met me at the door. Knowing she voluntarily lives in a haunted hotel, I was surprised when she greeted me with a calming smile. My first brush with the unexpected occurred on the first floor, which felt anything but haunted: I encountered a warm and welcoming home with bright lighting and antiques in every corner.
The tour started in the front living room, which was decorated with frontier memorabilia and a large portrait of Campbell, the supposed lingering occupant. Ghedi described how guests catch the scent of Campbell’s burning cigars or hear his boots walking across the wooden floor. Almost on cue, the rocking chair in the corner moved back and forth. “Oh, and he likes to do that too,” Ghedi said.
As we moved from room to room, Ghedi told stories of the 13 ghosts that inhabit the building. In the kitchen, guests encounter the 1850s owner and her children. Near the back fireplace, a person who had been enslaved blows out candles. To convince skeptics, Ghedi supports each story with photographs from guests and a binder full of historical research.
Upstairs, the Ghedis have transformed a portion of the second floor into an Airbnb rental, while the rest remains the same as when they bought it. Before we entered the dark rooms, Ghedi paused and said, “Remember, the ghosts cannot hurt you. While you may feel them touch you and you may feel scared, they cannot hurt you.” I had never been touched by a ghost and was not sure I wanted to start now.
Ghedi handed me a flashlight and a device with blinking lights to signify when spirits were present. Then she led me into the darkness. My flashlight beam illuminated walls with crumbling wallboard and bathrooms full of broken tiles and fixtures. Even in daylight, this place would be super creepy. Suddenly, the overwhelming scent of rose perfume filled the air. Ghedi spoke: “Oh, Rosebud is excited that a gentleman is visiting. She was a madam here for many years.” I didn’t believe my nose and even accused Ghedi of spraying the room with rose scent. She swore she had not.
Ghedi believes all the ghosts are voluntarily present and can leave at any time—all except one, known as the Murderer, who is trapped in an upstairs bedroom. I walked into the room and experienced an overwhelmingly heavy feeling. I decided to walk out before I learned more about this spirit.
I’m certainly a skeptic when it comes to haunted places, but I’ve got no explanation for the things that happened on my tour. I do know that if you’re looking for a rendezvous with the strange, the spooky and the unexpected, you need to check into this historic hotel that’s so fascinating some guests never check out.
Chet Garner shares his Texplorations as the host of The Daytripper on PBS.