Thursday, May 26, 2016

Haunted Texas Mission

In far south Texas 5 miles outside the city of Mission and a short distance from the Rio Grande River and the Mexican border is La Lomita Mission. The mission, formerly maintained by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Order of priests and nuns, was established to give a place of holy worship and comfort for the area residents, to "propagate the faith among barbarians" and to carry on humanitarian work. The Oblates, a French Order, built the chapel and a brick residence in 1899 and manned it with 3 priests and a few nuns. The structures were built on a large tract of land which had been deeded to the group by a Frenchman who had recently passed away. Although the site was what today we consider near the city, in those days the distance and unpaved roads proved to far for people to easily travel. Just 3 years later, the mission was moved to a new complex within the city limits.

La Lomita Mission chapel was restored in
1976 as a designated historic building of
South Texas.
According to a story handed down through several generations, there actually was a different reason the mission was moved; a much more sinister reason. This story explains that within a year after the priests and nuns moved in, isolation and human nature got the best of the holy residents. Only the nuns and priests will ever know exactly what went on during those long, dark, not so lonely nights, but remember, this was long before effective birth control. The sudden absence of individual nuns would be explained away by the priests who said they were on a religious retreat. The nun would suddenly reappear several months later, but if asked, would always refuse to talk about her absence. One of the missing nuns who was "on a retreat" was spotted by a Mexican family who came across the river in the back of the chapel. She was working in a small garden and when she saw the family, she ran away to hide in the building. Her belly was obviously large with child. Worshipers who made their way to the chapel began reporting hearing cries of babies in this place where no babies should be.

The prohibited activities couldn't be concealed forever. These people of the cloth, afraid they would be excommunicated if the children were discovered, committed the most hideous, unholy act imaginable. They began burying the children's bodies in the field behind the church.

One day a powerful hurricane hit the area bringing wide-spread flooding and much devastation. The little chapel was heavily damaged. After the waters receded, people living on the area ranches came to help repair the structure. Two families coming across the river made a horrible discovery - the bones of a baby sticking up from a washed out shallow grave. Their cries of horror brought others to the field behind the chapel and soon, more little bones were being found in little graves. The priests and nuns made a quick retreat to their living quarters and locked the door to the structure.

That very afternoon, when word spread to the ranches and through the town, the people were so horrified that they stormed the mission grounds. While the mob was breaking down the doors, one of the priests escaped out of a back window, but the other two padres were captured and beaten to death. The nuns were stripped of their religious habits and forced to cover themselves with rough muslin and potato sacks. They were placed in the back of a flat-bed wagon and taken away. No one seems to know, or at least no one will tell, what happened to the nuns after that, but neither they nor the priest who escaped were ever heard of or seen again.

The mission stood empty for a long time afterwards. Some say the bones of the priests remained laying beside the chapel as a reminder of its horrific past until the animals had eaten and carried them away. Rumors of babies cries and screams of the condemned in the night began to be reported. Soon, nobody dared venture near the site.

Abandoned ruins of the Catholic training center
for novice priests. Residents here were plagued
by cries and strange lights coming from the
nearby chapel.
Eventually, a large 3-story brick building was erected to house a Catholic training center for novice priests a few hundred yards away from the chapel. Tales of strange lights and unexplained noises emanating from the area of the old chapel plagued the center throughout its existence. It was soon abandoned. In 1974, another building was constructed on the property for use as an insane asylum. From the time it was opened, the inmates and staff members repeatedly reported ghostly apparitions and anguished cries coming from the old chapel building. On numerous occasions, uninformed visitors and passerby's reported seeing the translucent figure of a nun either standing in the window of the chapel or floating in mid-air in front of the chapel. Perhaps she was one of the disgraced nuns, the only one whose faith and honor remained true; an innocent daughter of Christ caught up in the mob's outrage that day. The people who have seen her report her head is bowed as if in prayer. Most of the time she is seen by the moonlight of night, but she has also been seen occasionally in broad daylight. If approached, the figure slowly transforms into a shapeless, misty cloud before vanishing altogether.

Finally, the evil vibes of the place became too much to bear and the buildings were permanently closed. The town of Mission has turned a portion of the grounds into a park, but it's a park no one goes to after dark.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rose of Sharon

At one time, the old home on Bryson Street in the town of Waxahachie, Texas had been charming and a welcome place to retreat from the daily struggles of life. It had been built in 1895 by F. P. Powell, a moderately well-to-do lawyer. He had recently gotten married and had it built with the idea of raising a family within its well-built walls. As it often happens though, life had other ideas.

His wife had born two beautiful daughters and their beloved home was filled with their happy laughter until 1912 when Powell was offered a great job with a large raise in Austin, Texas. The family hated to leave, but the opportunity was too great to pass up so they sold their dream home and moved away.

Unfortunately, the next owners were not as fastidious in maintaining the house. They only lived there several years before selling it. Once again, the new owners did not take good care of the place and soon they too sold and moved on. Over the next 60 years, a succession of owners moved in and out, always leaving the house in worse shape than when they arrived. At some point, the beautiful wrap-around porches, both upstairs and downstairs, were sealed in to make additional rooms and the house was turned into an apartment building. As it slowly deteriorated, the tenants did too until finally it was nothing more than a flop-house renting rooms by the week to those down on their luck. Eventually, it was abandoned.

It lay in this sad state until the early 1980's when Sharon saw it. Somehow, she could see past the sad, rundown condition it was in to the charming and elegant home it used to be. She had it inspected by a trusted builder friend who assured her the house was basically in sound condition, but it would take a lot of work to bring it back to livable condition and to meet current codes. For some reason she still can't explain, she wanted it.  A few weeks later, she became the newest owner. She began to research what it had looked like when it was new in 1892 and several months later, she had commissioned her builder to begin the restoration.

Just before the workers were scheduled to begin, Sharon was walking around inspecting each room. Without thinking much of it, she sat down her heavy purse on the floor of what used to be the dining room. As she continued on, she came to a room in the very back of the house which had stacks of old newspapers and magazines strewn around the floor. She sat down in the middle of them and began slowly flipping through the pages, fascinated by the fashions and history of days gone by. It began to get dark and she realized she had been there much longer than planned. She made her way back to the room where she left her purse and found it exactly where she had set it down. To her complete surprise though, there was something else sitting about 2 feet from the purse in totally undisturbed dust - a pair of 14 carat gold hoop earrings she had lost over a year earlier. She had loved and treasured those earrings and had searched everywhere for them for months. Eventually she had given up on ever finding them yet here they were in a house she had not even known existed 6 months ago! 

There is one room in the house, a large upstairs room which was once the master bedroom, where Sharon always feels she is not alone when she enters. She say's it's not spooky or scary, but rather warm and comforting. She also says she often catches glimpses of semi-transparent figures around her home - a woman wearing a long dress in the style of the late 1800's who usually appears to be accompanied by 2 little girls. For some reason, the small figures always appear with their backs to Sharon. She also often see's a man wearing a top hat. Sometimes all four of the figures appear together in one room or another. She has spoken to them numerous times, but they have never answered. Sometimes they stand still and the woman and man appear to look at her with serene faces, but then they either turn and walk away or they all slowly disappear as she watches.

On occasion, Sharon hears music, but can't tell exactly where it comes from. It sounds like string instruments, probably violins, playing a waltz. It's always barely heard, like it comes from somewhere far away. She often hears footsteps in the empty hallway and on the wooden stairs. She knows old wood will creak and pop, but the sounds of footsteps are unmistakable. 

In spite of the sightings and noises, Sharon is never afraid. Instead, she takes comfort in the presence of the spirits. She is convinced it is the Powell family and feels they are pleased with the restoration work which has made the house, the house they share, a lovely home once again.