Wedding bells are often ringing at Thistle Hill, also known as the Wharton-Scott House in Fort Worth. The impressive Cattle Baron-era mansion is one of the most popular places in the city to get hitched.
Unexpected characters are often spotted partaking in the bride and groom's special day. Often mistaken for costumed actors, the ghosts that crash the celebrations are said to appear shockingly similar to the mega-rich socialites who once called Thistle Hill home.
Who are these celebrant specters?
Rumors of supernatural experiences and ghost hunts escalated at Thistle Hill when the property was renovated by a non-profit group in the 1970s. The workers were determined to restore the decaying building to its original glory. The home was not only restored, but made to look exactly as it did back in 1912.
Did this blast from the past wake up some of the mansion's former residents? The number of individual accounts of paranormal activity on the property is chilling.
In 1997, a group of young ghost hunters was brave enough to stay overnight at the Thistle Hill Mansion. According to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, the ghost hunters wanted to investigate reports of unexplained orchestra music, singing, and dancing coming from the third-floor ballroom.
While investigating the third floor, the ghost hunters claimed to have discovered a single antique rocking chair, sitting in the middle of the room. A sheet that was meant to cover the chair was laying on the ground next to it. When the young investigators returned to the room later that night, the chair was mysteriously covered by the sheet.
The group also reported that some of their personal belongings had been mysteriously moved to different locations throughout the night.
A lady in a white with a flowing lace gown is said to appear often on the landing of the mansion’s main grand staircase. A similarly-described woman wearing 20th-century attire has also been seen sitting by the window in the upstairs changing room.
Interestingly, a wedding photographer claims to have captured the same ghost on camera. In the picture shared on Facebook, a modern bridal gown is hanging in the room on display.
To the right of the dress is a mirror. In the reflection of the mirror, there appears to be the silhouette of a woman sitting on a pink bench wearing a long, dated dress.
Another woman claims her friend came face to face with a ghost at Thistle Hill, who believed at the time that the woman was a costumed actress at the mansion.
The blog post from 2007 narrates how her friend was a bridesmaid at a wedding, and while on her way to the bridal room upstairs, she passed a woman dressed in a long lace gown, who acknowledged her with a nod.
When the bridesmaid made a comment to the event manager about the actress, she was informed that there were no employees dressed in period clothing at the mansion’s events.
According to a 1981 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, the figure of a man sporting 1940s attire was regularly spotted by workers renovating the mansion. They claimed to see the apparition strolling down the staircase wearing black and white wing-tipped shoes and a grey sweater.
In the same article, a man named Larry Hoskins, who worked as an architect there said he never saw an apparition but that things would move by themselves when no one was looking.
Hoskins claimed that while the house was being renovated, huge cardboard boxes that were too heavy to move easily never stayed in one spot. He said in a separate instance, all the contents of one of the boxes had been emptied.
So who could be haunting Thistle Hill?
As the only daughter of Tom Waggoner, one of the richest cattle barons in the United States, Electra Waggoner was known as the Princess of the Panhandle.
Spoiled since the day she was born, she continued to live a life of luxury unlike any other in Fort Worth. She was treated to a trip around the world as a young woman, and while hiking the mountains of Nepal, she met the dashing Albert B. Wharton.
Wharton was also from money which met the Waggoner family’s approval. The two were wed in what was described in newspapers as an outstanding social event of the state. Electra’s wedding veil remains on display inside Thistle Hill to this day.
The couple’s wedding present from Daddy Waggoner? An 18-room mansion located just down the street from his own home. Electra named it Thistle Hill.
Electra lived the high-life. She is said to be the first customer to ever ring up a tab of $20,000 in a single day at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Keep in mind, that amount would be equivalent to half a million dollars today.
She required fresh flowers to be delivered to her mansion daily. This could explain why in the 1980s, museum employees said they would often catch unexplained whiffs of fresh flowers.
Was Electra’s ghost still set on keeping up her home’s reputation?
Electra loved getting samples of the latest fashions from Paris and France. She wanted to be the first to try on any garment and never wore anything twice. According to Thistle Hill: The Cattle Baron’s Legacy, Electra had one closet filled with fur coats, another with 350 pairs of shoes, and a final closet with her gowns.
Pictures of Electra from newspapers and Thistle Hill museum share a glimpse of her elaborate gowns. Just like the one wedding guests report seeing her in today.
Electra Wharton, Courtesy Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 28 Nov 1913
While living at Thistle Hill, Electra loved throwing themed parties that would include dancing on the third floor. Is that the source of the unexplained sounds people report hearing in the mansion?
Electra did not die at Thistle Hill, in fact, she only lived in the mansion for a few years before her father gave her a ranch, which she moved to after selling Thistle Hill in 1910.
By the 1920s, she earned the reputation as Texas’ most infamous socialite with three divorces within a very short period. Her health declined, and when her brother Guy discovered she didn’t have long to live, his legendary race to her deathbed made newspaper headlines.
According to the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Guy chartered a special train for $14,000 that broke a time record for travel during that period. His race was successful, and he was at his sister’s bedside when she died a few weeks later of cirrhosis of the liver. Electra was 43 years old at the time of her death.
Many believe it’s the ghost of Electra and her famous parties haunting Thistle Hill today. The spike in activity that came from the home’s restoration and joyous modern wedding ceremonies which some believe served as fuel for the residual hauntings.
Thistle Hill was purchased by one of the richest men in Texas, Winfield Scott. Scott’s story is quite different from the inherited privilege of Electra. A self-made millionaire through purchasing cattle and real estate, Scott grew up unable to read or write.
When the successful man purchased the home, it was only 10 years old. Apparently, in the millionaire world, that meant the home deserved a total makeover. Scott spent the equivalent of 5 million dollars to purchase and renovate Thistle Hill. Sadly, he never got to live inside it.
Winfield Scott died suddenly in 1911 of a health issue.
Scotts widow Elizabeth and their young son Winfield Scott Jr. moved into the home and became long-term residents. Her husband’s death however made her a regular in the newspapers at the time as a nasty fight over his inheritance went on for years in court.
Winfield Sr. had a daughter, Georgia Scott Townsend, from his first marriage. His first wife died only a few weeks after his daughter’s birth. The court battle portrayed the inheritance scandal as a
the Wicked Stepmother story.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, there was clear hostility between the two women. Georgia took her stepmother to court over accusations she had forced Scott to cut his daughter out of his will.
Witnesses claimed that Elizabeth Scott also often pestered her husband to make his will. Several years into legal proceedings, Georgia won the case and took back a fourth of her father's estate.
Elizabeth Scott and her son Junior lived happily at Thistle Hill for 26 years. The widow enjoyed a lavish lifestyle until she died in 1938. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram article about her death noted that she was known for her clothes and jewelry, including a diamond dog collar her late husband had bought for her on a honeymoon trip to Paris.
After Elizabeth died, the very first public reports of hauntings at the mansion were published. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram article interviewed a bank clerk who had moved into the mansion during Elizabeth’s final years as a form of security from the constant burglary attempts at the time.
The bank clerk lived in the mansion alone up until 1941 and said the big oriental gong on the lower floor took spells of vibrating and moaning to itself.
Winfield Scott Jr. was not as good with money as his late father was. In fact, he managed to lose all of the family money. When his mother passed away, he spent some time on the run from law enforcement to avoid paying alimony to his former wife.
Around this time, he sold the home to a non-profit called the Girls Service League. They got a bargain, paying only $17,500 for the abandoned mansion, the market value was about $100,000.
Is Winfield Scott Jr. the ghost in 1940s era attire? Perhaps his guilt about losing the family fortune and reputation ties him to the home, watching over the place where he spent most of his life with his mother.
A combination orphanage and finishing school, the Girls Service League was said to serve girls without guardians too old to be placed in a home, and too young to make her way in the world.
The mansion became a home for 35 girls of high school age until 1954 when the organization moved to a different location.
Thistle Hill sat vacant, vandalized, and on the selling block from 1954 until 1976. Just days before it was scheduled to be torn down, it was purchased by a new owner.
A group named Save the Scott House, purchased the home in 1976 and began renovations to restore the mansion to the way it looked in 1912.
Most of the hauntings and reports of objects being mysteriously displaced occurred around this time. The first weddings were held at the estate in 1976.
Thirty years later, in 2005, the board of directors for the non-profit announced they didn’t have the money to pay for the upkeep of the aging mansion. Ultimately the property was gifted to the Historic Fort Worth organization.
The elegant, historic mansion is currently open for tours and party rentals.
The rental website boasts that the wedding venue includes one and a half acres of green space and an elaborately decorated interior with original wall finishes and period fixtures.
What they don’t mention is that you might also get a few ghosts included in that wedding package. Lucky for you, if the friendly ghost of Electra Warton shows up, you know she’ll make sure it’s a good party.
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