Also called the Chisholm Trail Building, this 3-story building is said by many to be harboring spirits from years past. Is the Jett Building really haunted?
Since its renovation in 1985, the Jett Building has been home to many stores and restaurants. Few businesses have survived very long at the prime downtown location. You could blame the owners or say it’s just bad luck, but some business owners have cast the blame directly on the building’s ghostly residents.
Cold spots, unexplained noises, lights turning on and off are all common occurrences. Frozen drink machines have operated seemingly at random. Mike Leatherwood, a successful restaurateur, couldn’t replicate his success in the Jett Building. He would later state:
I just think the spirits were against us.
Even today, the Jett Building’s tenants say it’s haunted. The radio station KFWR 95.9 operates on the property and has invited ghost hunters on two separate occasions to investigate reports of supernatural occurrences.
There seems to be at least one female specter haunting the upstairs floors of the Jett Building, usually on the 3rd floor. The nature of encounters with this particular phantom varies - a ghostly woman in the windows of unoccupied rooms, the sound of high heels with nobody around, a lady appearing in a mirror, only to vanish when you turn around.
Some even say they’ve heard a woman crying for help. All of this would make sense if rumors of a murder, or possibly a double murder, that happened in the 1940s or 1950s turned out to be true.
A former manager of one of the ill-fated restaurants described an encounter with a poltergeist on the 3rd floor. It was around 3 am, she was in the basement and heard a crashing noise on the floor above. When she went to investigate, the sound had moved to the second floor, and then the third.
When she got to the third floor, she found the source of the noise. There was a wire rack housing unused wine glasses. The glasses were being flung from the shelf, one by one, by an unseen hand. Could these sightings and encounters be tied to the spirits of two women murdered here, whose stories are tragically lost to time?
Another common supernatural encounter in the Jett Building is what is described as a
pale cowboy, often dressed in black. He is sometimes described as only being a shadow, dissolving immediately after being seen.
Ben Ryan, a radio host with KFWR, claims he regularly gets chills and feels like he’s being watched. When he turns around, he sees the shadow of a cowboy standing in his doorway. Ben also claims to have picked up disembodied voices while recording bits for radio shows.
In 2017, Mystic Ghost sent a team to investigate the radio station. Using a specialized sensor, they were able to capture images of what appeared to be a tall man manipulating some audio recording equipment. Perhaps this cowboy spirit is just curious about the many changes in the world since his death.
One especially chilling occurrence in the Jett Building didn’t involve any ghosts. A woman was exploring the Jett building as a possible residence. She told the owner that she loved the view she’d seen of Main Street from the 3rd floor. The owner explained that all of the windows on that floor were boarded up.
The woman, having just seen the view herself, demanded the owner go back up to the 3rd floor with her, and he obliged. Upon arriving, the woman’s skin turned pale. All the windows were, in fact, boarded up.
What happened? Did this woman somehow step back in time, or into another dimension entirely? It’s common to come across stories of shadowy specters or unseen poltergeists in haunted locations, but rarely does the building itself spook its visitors.
Maybe the Jett Building has a mind of its own, picking and choosing its occupants by way of scare tactics. If that’s the case, then it must not mind radio stations or Jamba Juice, which appear to be its longest-lasting tenants.
How could so many different and unique ghostly manifestations occupy a single building? A look into the history of the Jett Building may hold the key…
The three-story building at 400 Main can be traced back to 1902. It was built as a home for the Northern Texas Traction Company, which operated streetcars in Fort Worth as well as trains between Dallas and Cleburne. The upstairs rooms were largely offices and apartments.
It operated in that capacity until 1934 when the small rail company was put out of business by the rising popularity of automobiles. At that point, the ticket office was converted into a candy store, while it’s rumored that the upstairs area became a brothel. That could help explain the various reports of female spirits haunting the Jett Building.
At some point the rumored brothel seems to have vanished.Over the years, numerous storess opened and closed their doors at street level, while various businesses operated offices on the 2nd floor. The 3rd floor doesn’t seem to have had much occupancy at the time and was probably just used for storage.
Little changed until 1979 when the ailing city of Fort Worth was in desperate need of revitalization. Enter Sundance Square Project: a movement designed to bring life back to this famed cow town.
The building at 400 Main was vacant for a few years leading up to 1979. That was when a real estate broker by the name of Jett sold it to the Sundance Square Project, resulting in the building’s current moniker.
Restoration efforts began in 1985, culminating in the 1988 unveiling of the now-iconic Chisholm Trail Mural on the back of the Jett Building. Painted by Richard Haas, the mural commemorates the cattle drives which helped put Fort Worth and many other cities on the map.
The mural technically spans the entire length and breadth of the rear wall. The Jett Building was originally adjoined to a smaller building behind it, so when that building was demolished, the rear of the Jett Building was blank and featureless. Haas painted windows and other features in the trompe l’oeil style to make it look three-dimensional.
The Chisholm trail played a massive role in Fort Worth’s history, and indeed the history of Texas. It was named for Jesse Chisholm, a half-Scottish, half-Cherokee trader, and negotiator between Indian nations and the US Government. The trail was originally a trade route spanning from the most southern parts of Texas to rail yards in Kansas.
During the Civil War, Texas ranches were unattended, and the famed Texas Longhorn cattle were free to roam and reproduce. At the same time, larger cities in the east were depleting their beef supplies, leading to shortages.
Just like that, there was a great demand for beef in the east and a great supply in the west. While one steer might be worth $2 or $3 in Texas, the same would be worth up to $30 in Kansas, and as much as $60 in large cities back east. The trouble was figuring out the logistics since no railroads connected the larger cities with any Texas town.
Teams usually consisting of 10 to 12 drovers joined up, gathered over 2,000 head of cattle at a time, and drove them from the Texas plains, through the Indian territory now known as Oklahoma, and to the railyards in Kansas. Everywhere they stopped (including Fort Worth), they resupplied and spent their wages. All the while, they were following the trail outlined by Jesse Chisholm.
Life on the cattle trail was difficult, to say the least. The drives could easily take up to 3 months, and there was a constant threat of deadly stampedes. River crossings also often proved fatal. It’s no surprise that most drovers quit after one or two cattle drives, that is if they managed to survive.
cowboys and Indians trope might make you believe that Native Americans were a constant threat as well. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Even though the Chisholm Trail cut straight through their territory, they saw it as a business opportunity, often bartering with the teams as they drove cattle.
The towns marking stops along the Chisholm Trail grew quickly, and many became known for their new regular visitors. These were young men, most just teenagers, and they could get a bit rowdy at times. Fort Worth’s history is littered with stories from this legendary time, and the property where the Jett Building now stands was no doubt involved in some of those stories.
In doing our research, sometimes we come across a story that’s just too entertaining not to share. One such incident occurred in 1891 at the corner of 3rd and Main, just outside the property where the Jett Building is today.
Richard Barbour had agreed to sell a horse to another man. When the deal was just about done, the buyer decided he wanted to see how the horse would handle a carriage harness. The horse didn’t seem to react well to its new situation. Barbour commanded the horse to
get up, and well...I’ll let the original author tell it:
The animal got up on his hind legs and raised himself so straight that he fell over backwards, his head striking the curbstone, splitting his skull and causing death. It looked like a remarkably cool attempt at self-destruction, and the bystanders declared it was an actual case of suicide.
At the time of writing, we’re unaware of any reports of a ghostly horse haunting the Jett Building. Hopefully, his spirit found greener pastures.
In 1884, John P. Sheehan opened up the Cabinet saloon on the present Jett Building site. A newspaper in 1910 tells of a killing that occurred there in 1898. The decedent, as described in the article, was Mike Crummer, alias
The Colorado Kid was a well-known gambler with a short temper staying in Fort Worth for a little while. He found himself in quite a bit of debt and got into a spat with Charley Walker, a dealer in a local gambling den. One day, the Kid was drinking and decided to visit Charley at his work.
After a brief exchange of words, Crummer charged at Walker with a knife. Walker was able to grab a revolver from under the table and shot the gambler twice. From his deathbed, Crummer stated he didn’t want Walker to be punished, saying
I tried to cut his throat, and he would not have been game had he not defended himself.
The Colorado Kid died a day or two after the incident. Walker was arrested, but only as a formality, as everyone knew he’d acted in self-defense. He was acquitted, and though he lamented killing the Kid, Walker knew he had to defend himself.
As it turns out though, the writer of the 1910 article was mistaken. This shooting didn’t take place at the Cabinet saloon, but rather the Corner saloon, about 3 blocks up Main Street. It also happened in 1897, not in 1898. However, that property doesn’t appear haunted, and the Jett Building may still have a connection to this story.
Around that time, there seems to have been an undertaker operating out of a location at the corner of 3rd and Main, very likely the same property where the Jett Building now sits. Could this undertaker have been summoned to handle the Colorado Kid’s corpse? Could this man, described as being
as pallid in death as in life, be the pale cowboy that still haunts the Jett Building to this day?
The job of the undertaker in the 19th century was not an easy one. Usually, they were carpenters, their woodworking skills coming in handy when it came to making coffins. The role extended to making funeral preparations and getting the body ready for viewing if a wake was requested. Undertakers also usually dug graves for the deceased.
An undertaker’s job was very involved and very personal. If an undertaker was on the property, that could contribute to the location being haunted. Mix that with the Chisholm Trail mural, acting as a lightning rod to the lost souls of cattlemen, and there’s no telling what spirits may be lingering around the Jett Building.
You’ll find the Jett Building at 400 Main Street, on the corner of 3rd and Main. Take some time to check out the KFWR lobby; they have a great display about the building’s history and plenty of ghostly tales to tell.
It’s a building that will stop you in your tracks in downtown Fort Worth.
If you’re visiting Fort Worth, this steakhouse is known for their bloodier fare.