Come Halloween time, the fearless will drag their easily scared friends to one of any number of haunted house attractions to enjoy the adrenaline that the body produces when its fight or flight instincts kick in and makes them briefly wonder if they've lost control over their digestive systems.
However, just like sex, Elvis concerts and humor derived from other people's pain, nothing's better than the real thing.
Like most cities with pockets of dark histories and legends, Dallas has a ton of buildings and landmarks with stories of ghostly beings wandering the halls and whispered voices beckoning to the living. Even if you're not a believer of ghosts, the mere presence of a haunting legend can turn any place into an ominous and dark environment that can render the steeliest of nerves into quivering jelly.
Dallas author and writer Rita Cook grew up with ghosts since her mother was a "ghost magnet" for spooks and specters in her Oak Cliff home. She compiled all of the spooky stories and settings she could in three books including one titled simply Haunted Dallas. She talked to Mixmaster about her five most memorable haunting investigations around town that could make the scariest haunted attraction look like a walk through Macy's linens section.
Reindeer Manor in Red Oak Horror fans might know this spot as one of the premiere scare zones come Halloween time, but that's probably because the scare actors get some unseen help from some truly spooky entities. Cook wrote in her book that the early 1900s house that sits on the property has a dark history of death and despair from a lightning fire that killed a family of Swedish immigrants to the owner's son's bizarre murder-suicide. The organizers of the Reindeer Manor haunted house refuse to acknowledge whether they think actual ghosts reside in the home, but Cook did not mince words about the haunted status of this dark place, calling it "the most haunted place I went to."
"Sometimes you just feel stuff around you," she said. "You just kind of know something is going on around you that you can't see. Out of all the places in the Dallas book that I went to, that's where I felt more negative than positive stuff. If you go there, you'll feel it if you're tuned into that kind of stuff."
The Rogers Hotel in Waxahachie
This historic hotel on the downtown square is actually the third version since the first two were destroyed in fires in 1881 and 1911 and has since carried a long history of spooky behavior and stories of ghosts and voices calling out to the living in the dark. The most famous happened under owner Tony Cimino's tenure when a handyman named Melvin claimed that a ghost told him that "it was an evil place," according to Cook's book.
Cook said she never confirmed the presence of pure evil during her visit but there were some strange goings-on when she visited the hotel for her book.
"We picked up some orbs there or my photographer did," she said. "Again, you can just feel there's a presence there."
The Adolphus Hotel
Cook wrote in her book that every time she visits this historic downtown treasure, she gets "a sense of the past living right alongside the present in this old landmark built in 1912."
Maybe that's because the past is still there among the living on a metaphysical level. Ooooooooo.
The haunted legends of this home away from home tells stories of guests hearing the sounds of a swinging party in a part of the hotel where there used to be a ballroom on the fabled 19th floor. Some employees have also said they have seen ghosts of former customers hanging out at their favorite tables and even an eerie bride suddenly popping in on guests and the staff.
"I was never there to hear it myself," Cook noted, "but there's something there."
Chestnut Square Historic Village in McKinney McKinney's historic preservation hub has so many interesting ghost stories that it's become a prime attraction for local ghost tours and hunters. However, Cook said that one building in the compound stands out in her memory as being slightly more haunted than the others.
The Two-Bit Taylor Inn has long carried a spooky legend of a Civil War soldier who mysteriously appears in front of guests and the staff and simply looks out a window before disappearing into the netherworld.
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"When I was in the Inn just looking around, it just felt very crowded and suffocating," Cook said, "even though I was in there with just one person."
The Coombs Creek Trail in Oak Cliff Cook called out this popular trail as one of her most memorable haunted places because she grew up not far from it and still lives near it along with all the spooky legends that come with it.
Local stories claim that the spirit of a little girl who drowned in the creek could be seen riding her bike at night. She described it in her book as "always scary" that she would drive an extra five or 10 minutes around just to avoid moving through its ominous aura.
"My mother was always like, 'You can't walk down that road alone,'" Cook said. "She felt something without even understanding why."