Monday, May 19, 2014

The Ghost of Delores Mountain

Dolores Mountain
Just outside of Fort Davis, Texas is a mountain where mysterious flickering lights are often seen on dark Thursday nights. Even though they can come up with no valid scientific reason, skeptics insist there must be some natural explanation for the strange lights. There are others, however, who know better. The lights are a sign that poor heart-broken Dolores is still looking for her slain lover.

Delores Mountain is named for a tall, dark-haired, beautiful woman named Dolores Gavino Doporto. Although very beautiful, Dolores was a sweet, simple village girl who took a job as a servant in the large house of a prosperous rancher. In the year 1854, Dolores met and fell deeply in love with Jose, a handsome shepherd boy who tended a large herd of sheep in a nearby valley. The two seemed made for each other and they planned to marry and raise a family.

The only thing that kept the couple apart was Jose's job. He had to spend many days and nights tending the sheep, guarding them from wolves and moving them from pasture to pasture so they could graze. Sometimes it would be weeks between the times the young lovers could be together in each other's arms. To show their continuing love and devotion to each other, every Thursday night, Dolores would climb to the top of the mountain near the ranch house where she worked and light a fire of brush and fallen tree limbs. Jose would build an answering fire in the valley. The fires let each know the other was safe, still very much in love, and anxiously waited for the day they would have saved enough money to begin their life together and never again be apart.

One Thursday night, Dolores climbed the mountain and lit her fire, but there was no answering fire from the valley below. Dolores stayed all night, feeding her fire with a dwindling supply of tree branches, but when the morning sun began to peek above the horizon, she knew without a doubt that something horrible had happened to Jose. She rushed back to the ranch house and with tears streaming down her face, begged her employer to mount a hunt for her betrothed.

It took two days, but the group of hired hands and other local ranchers found the mutilated body of Jose several miles from his flock. It was evident the Apaches had also seen the fires and had attacked, tortured and killed the hapless sheepherder.

Dolores was heartbroken and utterly despondent. She lost all joy in life and although she managed to go about her daily chores, there was no life in her eyes. The villagers prayed for Dolores, that her heart might one day begin to heal, but their prayers went unanswered. Several months later, there had been no improvement in her demeanor when one Thursday night, she stole away, climbed the mountain and lit a fire for Jose. It became her sad ritual to again climb the mountain every Thursday as she had when her love was alive, to build a fire and sadly stare off into the distance waiting for an answering flame which would never come. 

Top of Dolores Mountain
For 40 years, Dolores continued her forlorn ritual. She grew old and gray, but never recovered from her loss. When she died, she was buried in a simple grave near the path she had worn from her weekly trips up the mountain. It is in her honor the mountain where she lit her fires is known as Dolores Mountain. 

Poor Dolores has been dead for many years now, but on those Thursday nights when nothing, not even a sliver of a moon lightens the dark sky, the flickering light from her fire can be seen on top of Dolores Mountain. If you climb to the top of the mountain the day after the fire is seen, you will find the ashes of her fire scattered about by the strong West Texas wind. And if you look closely, perhaps you will also find bits of wood charred and blackened by the fire kept burning by a sad woman whose love will never die.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Haunting of the Alamo

One of the earliest pictures of the Alamo - 1858.
There are few people who grew up in America that do not know of the Alamo and the battle that took place there between February 23rd and March 6, 1836. All 182 Texans, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, were killed while defending the Alamo garrison and approximately 600 Mexican soldiers were killed or wounded while trying to take it. Bodies of the Texan dead were dismembered and burned, the ashes left to be blown away by the winds. Today, the Alamo is a shrine, a registered historical site and the literal cemetery of those hundreds of men killed in the battle. Is it any wonder there are many chilling stories of ghostly experiences there? For almost 200 years, there have been reports of strange, smokey spirits floating around the grounds, of screams heard that seem to come from inside the sacred walls, and sounds of gunfire and explosions echo between the buildings in the dark of night.

The Alamo in 2012
The first ghostly encounter is recorded as happening only days after the final battle. General Santa Anna, commander of the Mexican troops and ruler of Mexico, quickly left the scene of the carnage. He placed General Juan Jose Andrade in charge of the battle site and town of San Antonio. Because of the stench of blood and death and the grizzly work of retrieving the Mexican bodies for burial, he made his camp several miles from the Alamo. Santa Anna had ordered him to destroy the Alamo so as soon as the last Mexican body had been buried, Andrade sent a colonel with a contingent of men to destroy and burn what was left of the Alamo garrison. They soon returned telling a story of 6 "ghost devils" guarding the front of the building. As the Mexican soldiers approached, the specters emerged from the walls with flaming sabers in their hands, screaming and charging at them. The men fell back and ran away without fulfilling their orders. General Andrade, scoffing the men's tale, took along members of his staff and went to investigate in person. In his official report he described seeing with his own eyes, 6 men with balls of fire in their hands who screamed and began advancing upon him and his terrified staff when they approached. Andrade hurriedly marched his army out of the city, leaving the Alamo as it was.

Most people believe all 182 Alamo defenders were killed during battle, but after-battle reports from Mexican Generals Castrillon, Perfecto de Cos, and Andrade state that 6 men, although all were wounded, survived the final bloodbath. At least one report states the body of Davy Crockett was found surrounded by 16 dead Mexican soldiers, but the General's reports indicate Davy was one of the survivors who surrendered against the impossible odds. Supposedly, the 6 survivors were brought to General Castrillon who gave them his protection. However, Santa Anna refused clemency and ordered them killed. When Castrillon refused to carry out the order, Santa Anna's staff followed his orders and, with bayonets and sabers, hacked the men to death. Over the years there have been many reports of the ghostly figure of a tall, stately man dressed in the uniform of an officer in the 1830's Mexican army who slowly walks around the buildings and grounds of the Alamo, his hands clasped behind his back, sadly shaking his head back and forth in sorrow. Upon being shown a picture of Castrillon, people who have seen this apparition immediately identify him as the "man" they saw. Could the 6 "diablos" (devils) who protected the Alamo against destruction by Andrade and his men be the 6 massacred survivors whose promise of clemency and protection were so cruelly rescinded?

The Alamo Cenotaph  in front of the Alamo in
San Antonio, Texas - 2012
The night before the final assault, the commander of the Alamo defenders, William Barrett Travis, gathered his men together and told them the end was probably near. They were facing overwhelming odds and the arrival of reinforcements which might turn the battle in their favor was doubtful. He offered any man who wanted to save himself the opportunity to slip over the Alamo walls and try to escape. Only one man, Louis "Moses" Rose, chose escape over honor and sure death. He became known as "the coward of the Alamo" and lived the rest of his life with the shame. Over the years, there have been hundreds of separate reports of a man dressed in "old west clothes," buckskin pants and a dirty cotton shirt, who is seen walking along in open fields and sometimes along the side of the road leading from Nacogdoches to San Antonio. When people ask him what he is doing or where he is going, the answer is always the same - "I'm trying to get back to the Alamo where I belong." The man then disappears, much to the astonishment of the person who was just talking to him.  It is thought this is the restless, guilty soul of Moses Rose, damned for all eternity to try to regain his honor by returning to die in the final bloody battle at the Alamo.

The author's wife & young daughter in
front of the Alamo, 2002. This was
taken with a high-end Nikon camera.
No "smokey apparition" was evident
when the picture was taken. One other
picture taken at the Alamo showed the
same smokey affect, but over 100 other
pictures were taken during the trip and
all others were sharp and clear. 
Numerous visitors over the years have reported seeing 2 small boys who appear to be about 10 and 12 years old tagging along with their tour group. Nobody knows who they are or where their parents are and nobody sees them leave. They never speak and seem to just disappear as soon as the tour group reaches the sacristy room in the Alamo chapel. This is the room where 19 women and children took shelter, seeking safety from the raging battle. It is thought the two boys must be the sons of Anthony Wolfe a defending artilleryman who was killed in the final battle. The boys, age 9 and 12, ran from the sacristy into the chapel during the final seconds of the fight, apparently seeking their father. When the Mexican soldiers entered the chapel, the boys tried to hide, but caught up with the fear of battle and fueled by adrenaline, the soldiers mistook the boys for combatants and killed them.

Each March, for a day or two after the anniversary of the battle, people who live and work in the area around the Alamo report hearing the sound of a single horse galloping across the pavement. Many are of the belief this is the spirit of James Allen, the last courier sent out of the Alamo with a letter from William Barrett Travis requesting aid. Allen left in the darkness in order to sneak through the Mexican lines just several hours before the final early morning assault. Evidently he is still trying to return to report back to Colonel Travis and to fight and die with his friends and compatriots.

For many years during the month of February, a small, blond-haired boy with a sad, forlorn look has been witnessed by numerous visitors to be peering out from one of the chapel windows. The window has no ledge and is too high for him to climb up to. It is said he is one of the children who was evacuated from the Alamo the day before the Mexican Army laid siege to it. He returns every February looking for his daddy, one of the brave men who died in the battle.