So-called haunted hotel in West Texas draws Halloween crowds


A room inside the Olde Park Hotel in Ballinger, Texas. Image courtesy of Olde Park Hotel, Facebook

BALLINGER, Texas (AP) – The activity never stops at the Olde Park Hotel in Ballinger. From full-body apparitions to cold spots, this century-old hotel is a hot spot for the paranormal.

The San Angelo Standard-Times reports the two-story hotel, built in the 1880s, looks like a haunted location from a movie. Walking in, those who hope to see something spectral may even feel a spooky shift in the atmosphere.

A dull, gold-lit sign from the 1950s sits above the check-in area, where Connie and Dan LaFave can be found most weekends. The two local teachers, who used to be paranormal investigators, took ownership of the hotel a couple of years ago.

They now allow tours and overnight stays. The tours usually happen between 6-11:30 p.m., and most of the guests experience some kind of activity.

The first night they spent at the hotel, Dan experienced just how active the spirits are. They had just finished giving their first ghost tour and were too tired to drive back to San Angelo.

“Our anticipation level was way up,” Dan said. “When you are staying overnight for the first time, you’re just waiting for it.”

The two were asleep in the first-floor bedroom when Dan felt a hand massaging his scalp. He thought it was Connie, but when he saw what it was, he jolted.

“Her face was above me, looking right at me,” Dan said. He jumped out of bed, and as he landed the apparition vanished.

Dan remembered the apparition was a woman in a black 1800s dress with white and red on her sleeves. Her curly black locks tumbled down her back. Dan said she was not transparent at all.

“She wasn’t necessarily scary looking. She was a real person,” Dan said. “Looking back on it, I thought she looked like a brothel woman.”


Enter if you dare — this is a stairwell inside the Olde Park Hotel in Ballinger, Texas. Image courtesy of Olde Park Hotel, Facebook

He delved into researching more about the hotel and discovered it had served as a brothel twice.

At the end of the first-floor hallway is a workshop, and Dan said women sometimes say they feel uneasy around that room. This workshop is believed to be haunted by a man, possibly the husband of the former owner.

“I know the presence in there doesn’t like women going in,” Connie said. “He’s just a grumpy old fart and I don’t let him bother me.”

Once, when Dan was leading a tour of seven women, he took them to the workshop and the spirit got angry.

“All of a sudden, the woman in front of the group asks, `What’s that,”’ Dan said.

She saw a head peek out of one of the rooms and retreat. As they all talked and watched the door, it happened again. Then a small, shadowy figure, child-like in size, walked between two more rooms.

“It’s not over yet,” Dan said. “We have a big one … a cowboy, and his head doesn’t clear the doorway. He leaned out of that same doorway the little boy came out of and followed. He blotted out the whole hallway.”

Dan switched on the light, and the workshop ghost hurled an object that made a loud noise. One of the women fainted and several of them fled, Dan said. Four of them remained and wanted to finish the tour.

Here are the most active spirits and where to find them:

* Slim, a shadow cowboy who lurks near the steps. Enjoys whistling.

* Annie, a brothel woman on the second floor in the Traveler’s Suite, possibly murdered and talks often on EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon).

* Dennis, a blond child who enjoys popping up.

* A huge shadow cowboy who “polices” the ghosts. Appears everywhere.

* Benjamin, a 9-year-old who loves to talk and play in the play room.

* Glenn, a man who stands by the downstairs bathroom.

* Little boy, 5, who loves trains and the play room.

* Old woman, wanders the halls.

* Kay Seacrest, a stoic woman in 1800s dress.

Connie shared her knowledge of the Olde Park Hotel and Ballinger’s history.

June 29, 1886 – Over 6,000 people gathers in the budding Ballinger square to buy lots, bringing their lives and building structures to the town.

1905 – Ballinger flood takes out records

1910 – Prohibition

Late 1800s or early 1900s – Seacrest family owns the home

1922 – Keel family buys it

2016 – LaFaves buy it

“All the history of the hotel is gradually starting to come back,” Connie said. “We wanted to share what we know. It has become an icon now.”

The main part of the Olde Park Hotel was already a house in Ballinger in 1886. It started as a white, two-story house, Connie said, citing photos she found doing research.

It has been a restaurant, a brothel, a boarding house and more. The couple is continuously researching to find out more about the building.

“We decided to in order to honor the families that owned the place and to keep their history alive, we decided to name a lot of the rooms after the people that used to live here,” Connie said. “We’ve even got one named after us.”

For those interested in seeing the place at its scariest, the LaFaves are throwing their third annual Hallo-Scream Haunted House event.

“What better place to do it than an already haunted building?” Dan said. “We totally convert it. We black out the windows, have fog machines, we’ve got special effects. … We’ve got 30 scary actors, and these guys are creepy.”

The event will be 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“We close the hotel two weeks prior to finish” preparations, Dan said. “We will run hundreds of people through here each night.”

All the proceeds go toward restoration of the hotel.

The couple hope to make the Old Park Hotel into a haunted bed-and-breakfast that can be shared with the world, Connie said.

“We hope that we can build up the place and return it to its roots,” Connie said. “That’s why we have the museum to show the history of Ballinger, and that’s what we opened the gift shop, so the people who stay here … have a little something to take back with them from Ballinger.”


Information from: Standard-Times,

By ALANA EDGIN, San Angelo Standard-Times

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