At 28,000 square feet and four-stories high, the Moody Mansion makes for a spine-chilling spectacle. It even features everything that you’d expect from a “haunted house.” Towering turrets – wide, eye-like windows. Pitched roofs are offset by otherwise asymmetrical architecture, ornately arranged, eerie and extravagant. Yet this late-Victorian home is somehow spookier inside. Visitors claim to overhear disembodied footsteps; photographs bare unaccountable or unidentifiable apparitions. You would never imagine that Galveston’s Moody Mansion was once commissioned by a nineteenth-century socialite… And at the price of her estrangement.
Built 1895 for Narcissa Willis, the Moody Mansion was, first, the Willis Mansion. Yet Narcissa had called for the opulent estate much earlier: a Galveston socialite, Narcissa wanted a sizable, stately home to impress her ever-growing social sphere. Her husband, however, declined her entreaties.
Not from lack of funds, of course. Richard had been a prosperous cotton broker who could afford the mansion. Yet unlike Narcissa, Richard preferred to liquidate his assets. Cash was easier to inherit than property, especially whenever you were dividing it amongst ten children.
Regrettably, the Willis children would never receive their inheritance: Richard died in 1892, and Narcissa funneled his fortune into the Moody Mansion. Narcissa even commissioned the home within a year of his death. For this, Narcissa was estranged from her family.
Although Narcissa thought that the extravagance of the estate would encourage her children to bury the hatchet, her children never forgave her. Avoided, abhorred, and alienated from her offspring, Narcissa remained in the Moody Mansion. Outside of the housekeeper, Narcissa was the estate’s only occupant.
Narcissa’s isolation was nevertheless short-lived. Narcissa died in 1899, and her daughter, Beatrice, put the Moody Mansion for sale.
The Moody Mansion was then sold to Libby and William Moody, where it acquired its namesake. Yet it wasn’t a difficult acquisition for them. The Hurricane of 1900 had devastated Galveston, obliterating the value of the estate. The Moody Mansion was once valued at $100,000 – William obtained the Moody Mansion through a bid of a mere $20,000.
Libby and William’s tenure at the Moody Mansion was otherwise unremarkable. Members of the Moody Family remained in the house until 1986 without scandal or slander – unseemly or otherwise. They were, however, advantageous – operating or supervising everything from the manufacture of cotton to the management of hotels. The Moody Family even established the Moody Foundation, which funds programs involving social services, children’s needs, community development, and education.
Their enterprise, and “empire,” was so esteemed in Galveston that the Moody Mansion became the Moody Museum in 1986. The museum commemorated the achievements of the family while preserving the historic home.
While there have been no specific hauntings, guests have overheard disembodied voices alongside unidentified footsteps. Perhaps Narcissa still considers the Moody Mansion her own?
Yet the most common phenomenon appears within photographs: pictures that are taken at the site often reveal unaccountable “guests.” These “guests” are blurred or otherwise indistinct, leading some to believe that they’re apparitions. Spirit photography is particularly popular at the Moody Mansion. Visitors have even sworn to see faces appear in their pictures. Are these portraits of the paranormal – or something else?
Although the Moody Mansion has less notoriety as a “haunted house,” this extravagant estate is worth the stop. The unearthly appearance of the property is peerlessly matched, foreboding and phantom-like. It’s sure to spook the skeptic and superstitious alike. Plus, your camera may catch what the naked eye couldn’t.
This Romanesque 31-room mansion was designed by the architect William H. Tyndall. It features stained glass windows, hand-carved woodwork, and rounded arches among brick walls and limestone dressing.
Tyndall designed the estate specifically to Narcissa’s tastes, which may explain its singularity. Tyndall likewise utilized cross-culture features, making the Moody Mansion difficult to categorize or classify. Anachronistic, extravagant, eclectic – the Moody Mansion is one-of-a-kind. The Moody Mansion was also considered the first in Texas to be built on a steel frame.
The mansion’s interiors were designed by the New York Firm of Pottier, Stymus, and Company, who likewise worked for Thomas Edison, William Rockefeller, and President Ulysses S. Grant. The interiors reflect popular themes of the turn-of-the-century. Furnished with collectibles from the Moody Estate, they make for a strikingly sophisticated setup.
The Moody Mansion was dismally damaged in 2008 by Hurricane Ike, which flooded the basement while devastating the kitchen, servants’ quarters, and potting room.
Luckily, the City of Galveston was able to save the basement and later convert it to the Galveston’s Children’s Museum. Hurricanes continue to shape or shift the history of the Moody Mansion, yet the Moody Mansion remains.
The Moody Mansion Museum was opened to the public in 1991, though it set to recreate the personality of the property from 1911. Special effect lighting was likewise installed to emphasize the exhibits, which depict the daily ongoings of the Moody Family. Family papers and photographs are on display amidst period interiors, allowing for an interactive, immersive experience.
The Moody Mansion’s archive is also available to scholars for study. At 1,500 feet of linear material, it’s a remarkable collection of turn-of-the-century paraphernalia. The archive includes – but is not limited to – familial documents, architectural blueprints, postcards, catalogs, and trade cards.
Today the Moody Mansion operates as a museum, though only twenty of the mansion’s thirty-one rooms are available for tours. Events, as well as art exhibits, are additionally held at the Moody Mansion.
The Moody Mansion likewise acts as a venue for parties, weddings, and meetings. Bolder brides will love this haunted house. Bewitching banquets, spooky soirees… The Moody Mansion will keep your company captivated. (It’s beautiful to boot.)
The Moody Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 13, 1994.
You can find the Moody Mansion at 2618 Broadway Avenue J in Galveston, Texas. Guided tours are available on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 to 5. You’re sure to love this spooky, sprawling estate. Oh, and do let us know if you encounter any paranormal activity.