Haunted houses are easy to find this time of year. It is, after all, Halloween.
But the haunted attractions that promise shocks and scares for a walk through a decorated warehouse or graveyard with costumed vampires and zombies are entertainment.
In McKinney, paranormal investigators and some business owners say the city’s hauntings are the real deal.
“There are ghosts in this building, yes,” says Bonnie Shaw, owner of Orison’s Boutique, a 23-year fixture on McKinney’s square.
Shaw says at night she senses someone in the back of the store. “It’s not scary, but it is a presence.”
Orison’s is next door to the site of one of McKinney’s worst tragedies. In 1913, a wall collapsed between two buildings and sparked a fire. Eight people died and more than a dozen were injured. The buildings that were constructed on or near the site of the collapse have similar tales to Shaw’s.
Chris Gracy, owner of The Main Street Magic & Fun Company, says he hears footsteps on the second floor mezzanine late at night. Gracy’s store sits on part of the site where the collapse occurred. It’s also part of the annual Legends of McKinney Ghost Walk, a self-guided tour of haunted buildings and houses near downtown.
During the tour, Gracy told a small crowd gathered in front of the store that at first he thought his employees were playing a prank.
“One night, I heard someone matching my steps,” Gracy said. “I turned around to push them, but no one was there. I took a few steps forward and turned around again, but no one was there. This happens all the time.”
Six additional downtown buildings are also on the ghost walk, including the McKinney Performing Arts Center, the crown jewel of the square. That building is said to be haunted by a lady in white. For maximum effect during the tour, an image of a lady in white is projected in one of the top corner windows, but paranormal investigators believe they’ve captured an authentic image of a ghost on film walking on the first floor.
“We got one of the best apparitions moving across the stairs this year,” says J.J. Rice, founder of TexPart Paranormal.
Rice shows tourists a 12-minute collection of video and audio recordings she and her nine-member team have gathered in McKinney over the last 10 years. Some of the recordings are hard to hear and see, but the image of a small white figure is clear. Rice says the city is a hotbed of paranormal activity.
“Downtown Denton and Dallas are haunted, but we find our best results in the McKinney area,” Rice says. “I don’t know why. The only other place where the vibe is off and more creepy is Mineral Wells.”
Rice estimates TexPart has investigated 89 percent of downtown McKinney and Chestnut Square Historic Village, which is where the self-guided ghost tour starts. Aside from the McKinney Performing Arts Center, Rice says Chestnut Square is one of the more active spots for paranormal activity.
During the day, Chestnut Square doesn’t look haunted. It resembles a small town from the late 1800s. There are six historic homes, a school house, chapel, a blacksmith shop and an old inn. The village stays busy with school tours, the weekend farmer’s market and holiday events such as the ghost walk.
Two structures at Chestnut Square are part of the ghost walk: the Faires House and the “Two Bit” Taylor Inn. The Faires House is the oldest standing home in McKinney. Built by John Faires in 1854, the house was moved to Chestnut Square in 1979. Bullets from the Civil War era were found in the long-leaf pine siding on the house.
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Soldiers’ voices are said to echo throughout the grand white house, and docent Laura Forsythe says doors open and close on their own and a chandelier in the kitchen swings back and forth with no wind. “This house, you get a very creepy feeling,” she says.
The “Two Bit” Taylor Inn sits across from the Faires House, and is much smaller. The brick red two-story salt-box style structure was owned by cabinet and coffin-maker Armstead Taylor. Taylor, his wife and their seven children lived on the second floor. The first floor was reserved for traveling salesmen. A Civil War solider is said to appear on the second floor of the inn. Docents also say a rope used to cordon off the second floor swings back and forth on its own frequently.
McKinney’s haunted history is intriguing but not surprising, says DeeDee Ramsey, a paranormal investigator with TexPart. “Here in McKinney, we have so many buildings close together,” Ramsey says. “And every building seems to have some residual spirit left over.”
Skeptics and believers can take the ghost tour this weekend.