14520 Stewart Road, Galveston, TX 77554
Galveston isn’t for the faint of heart – or the weak of stomach. From decapitated train travelers to plank-walking poltergeists, the island has seen it all. Yet Stewart’s Mansion is the most wicked site by the seaside, haunted by murderers and madmen alike. According to local legend, one proprietor killed his wife and children before burying their bodies in the walls. Even the grounds are gruesome, having witnessed Jean Lafitte’s massacre of the Karankawa tribe. Piracy, smuggling, cannibalism – this once-abandoned attraction isn’t for everyone.
Once the campsite for a coastal tribe that practiced ceremonial cannibalism, this property later witnessed warfare, massacres, and murder. It's a hair-raising history that you're sure to remember long after you've left. The poltergeists are just another perk of the premise. What's the story of Stewart's Mansion? Are there really bodies buried in the walls?
The site's earliest occupants were the Karankawa, a nomadic tribe that traveled in small bands of thirty to forty members. The Karankawa were known for their athleticism and migratory lifestyles, though they were also known for their ceremonial cannibalism. Evidence shows that they would eat the flesh of their traditional enemies, consuming bits of their bodies in the ultimate act of revenge. They may have engaged in ceremonial cannibalism to absorb the properties of their opposition, such as their vitality. Yet these were no flesh-eating fiends. It was a ritualistic practice, though sensationalists sometimes exploit the Karankawa for creative license.
The Karankawa did rely on crude weapons and modes of transportation, putting them at a disadvantage against colonial intruders. Jean Lafitte's Pirate Colony found them particularly hindered against modern warfare.
In 1821, Lafitte's men kidnapped a Karankawa woman. Understandably, Karankawa warriors retaliated. The Karankawa killed only five of Lafitte's men, yet Lafitte's corsairs returned with two-hundred men and two cannons, decimating the Karankawa. Their arrows were no match for Lafitte's contemporary weapons.
Is that why visitors allege to see poltergeists of either side? Phantom pirates patrol the perimeters. Apparitions appear from indigenous tribes. The property's caretakers overhear cannon or musket fire alongside spectral screams and ghoulish ongoings.
One visitor to the premise witnessed the apparition of a woman in rags. A necklace of bones accentuated her neck, leading some to suspect that she was a Voodoo Queen. Lafitte did traffick enslaved peoples throughout the property, so this specter may be the victim of the transatlantic smuggling operation. This woman may also be the Priestess of local legend: Laffitte demanded a canine pack from a Voodoo Priestess, yet the Priestess cursed them upon their release. These became known as the “Campeche Devil Dogs,” a popular poltergeist of Galveston’s Maison Rouge. It’s now a common superstition that seeing a pack of dogs is an ominous omen, foretelling tragedy or trouble.
Maco Stewart offered much more than the property’s namesake. He also provided the property’s most petrifying poltergeists. Legend says that Marco murdered his wife and children within Stewart Mansion, later interring them within the walls. Maco allegedly committed suicide after the massacre.
However, records prove that this is verifiably false. The Stewart Cemetery also debunks the myth, showing the Maco and his family underwent traditional interments. Maco didn’t murder them, either. Maco died before both his wife and children, suffering a heart attack in 1950. His (very much alive) wife later donated the property to the University of Texas Medical Branch, who repurposed the mansion into a convalescent home for ill or disabled children. In Stewart’s case, fiction is stranger than fact.
In "Pioneers of West Galveston Island," Roberta Marie Christensen described the abandoned attraction through "the once beautiful plaster walls, the architecture of the second-floor balcony," and "the Spanish tile work [of] the four bathrooms." Christensen detailed how the marble walls were "covered with vivid, larger than life murals of pirates," and how a "huge leering pirate" guarded the entranceway. The opposite wall depicted another pirate bearing a bandana and sword. It was a striking sight, made spookier by its state of decay.
George Mitchell and Norman Dobbins purchased Stewart Mansion in 1968, intending to develop the property into a resort. This was never actualized, and the mansion remained as it was. Stonehenge Real Estate Investment Company now owns Stewart's Mansion, and are repurposing the structure into timeshares. Will they hire ghost hunters to cleanse the condominiums?
Although neither Maco Stewart nor his family died within the house, the property is a hotspot for paranormal activity. After all, it does have a history of piracy, cannibalism, smuggling, and slaughter.
Stewart’s Mansion is located at 14520 Stewart Road. Let us know if you encounter any paranormal activity.