The Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
The most haunted building in Austin and the most haunted hotel in Texas -- perhaps the U.S.
Cattle baron Colonel Jesse Lincoln Driskill made his fortune selling longhorns on the Chisholm Trail as famine swept across post-Civil War America. In doing so, he was also very instrumental in helping the breed garner their world-wide fame. In 1885, Driskill decided to change careers and construct the finest hotel west of the Mississippi River. He chose his favorite city -- Austin, Texas. Buying the plot of land on Pecan Street (now 6th) and Brazos, the Colonel spared no expense and spent every penny he had. The hotel opened with great fanfare on December 29, 1886. Featuring steam heat and hydraulic elevators, it truly was the crown jewel of Austin. The rooms themselves were extremely lavish, with 20 foot high ceilings and 18 inch thick brick walls.
For many years the Driskill was the center of Austinâ€™s social scene. Graduations, evening balls, and weddings have been traditions for decades. For about a year, the Texas Senate even met on the mezzanine floor during the State Capitol's construction. During Prohibition, in the 1920's and early 30's, the hotel housed the finest speakeasy Austin had to offer. An addition was completed on the north end of the block in 1930 and the original 60 rooms were converted to each include its own bath. In November of 1969 the Driskill became a national historic landmark and was saved from being torn down to make room for a parking garage. Over the years, 23 different owners have held the deed. It's currently owned by a southern California based company that has restored it to its original grandeur. In the lobby you will find the portrait of Colonel Driskill, painted from life by William Huddle and hung in 1890.
JUST A FEW OF THE DRISKILL'S HAUNTINGSâ€¦
* Colonel Driskill himself is said to wander through the original side of the hotel. His ghost is marked by the smell of cigar smoke and a fascination with bathroom lights.
* The spirit of a young child bouncing a ball haunts the first floor lobby, the ladies bathroom on the second floor near the bar, and along the stairs leading to the mezzanine. In 1887, while the Texas Senate was in session, the daughter of a Senator fell to her death while chasing a ball down the grand staircase. Her death was the first at the hotel. Within a week she was back running around and playing. Her spirit is also the first recorded ghost at the Driskill.
* Singer Annie Lennox and her band, the Eurythmics, enjoyed more than just "sweet dreams" during a stay in the 1980s. In her room before a show she laid out two dresses on the bed. Unable to decide which to wear, she decided to take a shower. After nearly 45 minutes of primping, she stepped out of the bathroom to discover only one dress left lying on the bed. The other was hung up nicely in the closet! Taking the recommendation of her visitor, she wore the dress on the bed. What's even more interesting is that her room was locked, and she was the only one with the key. Also, she had not yet unpacked, and the closet was completely empty except for the dress.
* During a conference held by IBM, a man returned to his room to find that his bathroom was full of steam, as though someone had taken a shower. The pad of paper next to the phone had been moved and was covered with illegible scribbling. Only a few years later, in 1998, the exact same haunting was reported by a couple staying in same room.
* In the first floor lobby, usually in and around the elevators, can be seen P.J. Lawless. Lawless was a ticket agent for the International Great Northern Railroad (later merging into the Missouri Pacific Railroad -- the MoPac Austinites know today.) Perhaps unable to get out of his lease, he actually lived in the Driskill for about 31 years, even while it was closed and between owners. He is easily spotted amongst guests due to his early 20th century ticket taker's uniform and is known to check his railorad watch as though still tracking phantom trains! Lawless will look at and acknowledge the living, unlike other spirits who don't seem to be aware of us.
* Room 525, which in 1998 re-opened after years of unuse, is one of the hubs of ghostly activity in guest rooms. For years the Driskill staff had closed the room and used it as storage. The doorway leading into the bathroom had been bricked up due to an Austin urban legend known as the "suicide brides." This legend claims that two women had committed suicide in that bathroom 20 years apart to the day. This is far from confirmed. Although a woman is known to have ended her life on the 4th floor, room 525 is one floor up and had already been closed off by then. The exact history of 525 may never be known, since the room's closing predates all current staff members. When reconstruction forced the re-opening in 1998, many strange things happened. The room needed to be painted four times, as the walls kept peeling. An air conditioning vent that was left lying on the floor blew cold air. When it was moved the blowing stopped. One of the workers described an unusual but distinct humming in his chest upon entering the bathroom. When the brick was torn down, the bathtub was full of crystal clear water. The faucet was not dripping, the floor was dry, and that room had been closed off for years!
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(Entered in the National Register of Historic Places, 1969)