Hauntings at the Holiday Inn Express

When guests get a lot more than they bargained for at this former jail...

In San Antonio, Texas, experiences which deal with the paranormal are pretty common. Security guards who work at the Alamo, for example, are the first to admit that when the sun sets and the tourists fade away from the mission’s front wooden doors, they can still hear the footsteps and battle cries of the long-dead Alamo Defenders.

As for the city’s hotels? Well, most of those are haunted too. Establishments such as the Menger Hotel, the Crockett, and the Emily Morgan have all accrued a reputation that is as much tied to the property’s historical significance as it is to the hotel’s resident ghosts.

While these hotels regularly make the lists for Top Haunted Hotels in San Antonio, there is one hotel that often is skipped over and often forgotten …

Which hotel is that? Well, none other than the Holiday Inn Express.

Last year, we wrote up an entire article about the hotel’s history as the worst jail in San Antonio’s past. We uncovered the secrets that this hotel, once the Old Bexar County Jail, kept close to its guarded hearts. Hangings and poor living conditions were tragically the norm here, so much so that in the twentieth century, the prisoners actually revolted.

While we visited San Antonio, we even met up with the hotel’s General Manager and other staff members to really learn what paranormal activity occurs at the Holiday Inn Express on a daily basis.

The stories we were given . . . Well, they certainly weren’t for the weak of heart, and you can read these accounts in detail here.

But more recently, we had someone reach out to us via our website contact form. And the story that we were given is certainly one for the books.

Arriving at the Holiday Inn Express

Emily and her boyfriend were heading down to San Antonio for a wedding. They were destined for the Holiday Inn Express - through Emily’s job, she was able to select cheaper rates from all hotels, and the Holiday Inn met the mark.

They arrived on Saturday. Waltzed in through the front doors. Checked in at the front desk. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary--not yet, anyway.

After finalizing check-in, they were shown to their room on the third floor. While Emily readied herself for the wedding, her boyfriend looked up the address for the hotel so that they could call a cab.

He paused, staring at his phone, and then glanced over his girlfriend. “Did you know that this place was an old jail?”

No way had Emily known that the Holiday Inn Express was the same building as San Antonio’s most horrific jail. If she had, she told us at Ghost City Tours, she certainly wouldn’t have booked the night there.

“Go check at the front desk,” Emily said, “Ask them for any ghost stories.”

So, he went downstairs and asked the front desk attendant, who told him a rather “tame” story of the hotel’s general manager making the beds. He pulled up the sheets, tucking them firm against the mattress. But upon turning away and glancing back . . . the sheets were undone.

Just a little bit spooky, that’s for sure.

After thanking the attendant, Emily’s boyfriend went back to the third floor, where he repeated the story. “Did you know this place was haunted?” he asked Emily again.

Definitely not.

As they headed out for the wedding, neither of them knew that their night at the Holiday Inn Express would prove to be life-changing.

Night Sets in at the Holiday Inn Express

After the wedding, the couple returned to the hotel and prepared for bed. It was around eleven p.m. when they hit the sack, but Emily couldn’t get to sleep.

Now that she knew that the hotel was haunted, it was hard to stop thinking about ghosts and hauntings. She tossed and turned for hours, until at 3:30 a.m., the feeling of overbearing heat woke her up. It was so hot, and the sheets tangled about her body.

But then there was something else … her subconscious whispered for her not to look around the room.

Don’t do it.

Emily gave in.

Her gaze traveled to the wall, climbing up, up, up to where the ceiling and the wall met. There was something there. Something she couldn’t quite see clearly, but it looked like a set of curtain drapes. Like something was coming out from the window.

With her heart beating out of her chest, Emily clambered out of the bed and turned the air conditioning on. She was burning up. The sensation in that room felt foreboding.

She got back in bed, leaving the lights off. She didn’t dare turn it off.

She scrolled through Facebook. Surfed the Internet.

Maybe it was the light, but soon after her boyfriend woke up. “Are you still awake?” he asked.

“I can’t sleep,” Emily whispered, “I feel really uncomfortable.”

For the next few hours, the couple dozed in and out, until at around five a.m., the sound of the air conditioning kicking on woke them up. Well, the sound of the air conditioning, and then something else.

It was loud, and Emily and her boyfriend both jerked away.

“What was that?”

Neither of them knew.

There was another thunderous noise, and then a sound that echoed exactly like chains rattling across the floor. It grew louder and louder and louder, piercing the otherwise silent night, until with just as much abruptness . . . the rattling stopped.

“Did that sound like keys to you?” Emily asked, frozen in the bed.

“No,” her boyfriend told her, “it sounded like chains.”

The Next Morning

At breakfast the next morning, Emily decided to do a little research on the Holiday Inn Express -- which is how she discovered Ghost City Tours, and how she discovered the tragic past to the hotel that they had just slept in.

Back during the jail’s heyday, the third floor (which is where their room was) once functioned as the hanging floor. Chains were latched onto criminals’ ankles, so that as they made their way to the block, the chains scraped the floor as they did so.

The third floor of the Old Bexar County Jail featured a square in the center. Designed as it was, the prisoner would stand on the third floor, the noose encircling his or her neck. When that time came, they stepped off the ledge and dropped through the third floor to the second, where criminals and the media watched the proceedings.

It was brutal. Horrifying.

And yet, it completely matched up to what Emily and her boyfriend had heard the night before. The sound of chains scraping across the floor, the sensation of being watched …

In the past, guests of the Holiday Inn Express have experienced similar activity, some so poignant, so absolutely startling, that they have fled the hotel in the middle of the night.

Is this ghostly activity a good case of residual energy, where the spirits of these long-ago criminals are repeating the same march to their death?

The night that Emily and her boyfriend stayed at the hotel, there is no reason to suspect that anyone else heard the loud noises in the depth of the night -- at breakfast, no one else said anything, or even insinuated that they had been visited by the ghosts of the hotel.

As Emily skimmed over our article on the Holiday Inn Express, she felt the strongest urge to cry. The chains, the overbearing heat, and the ghostly mist at the top of the wall were all too much for someone who couldn’t even bear to watch horror movies.

Quietly, Emily and her boyfriend packed up their belongings. They didn’t tell the front desk attendant about what they had experienced. Nor had they spoken to anyone else at breakfast to find out if someone else had heard the clanging chains in the middle of the night.

They left, and they had no plans on returning.

It's Not Over Until It's Over

It wasn’t that long into the drive home that Emily’s boyfriend glanced over at her. “Something else happened at the hotel,” he said, “but I didn’t want to freak you out.”

“What do you mean?”

According to Emily, who we spoke to over the phone, her boyfriend had gone to take a shower on Saturday. He, too, experienced that weird feeling of being watched, and when he stepped out of the shower stall, it was only to look down and realize that he had red marks clawed across his chest.

Was the entity which scratched him, the same one that woke the couple up in the middle of the night?

The truth is, we may never know.

But, we do know one thing -- the Holiday Inn Express has more spirits than either its staff or the guests know what to do with.

We asked Emily if she would return at any point.

Simply put, all she said was “No.”

Staying at the Holiday Inn Express Riverwalk

Are you visiting San Antonio, Texas, sometime soon and have decided (after reading this article) that you’ve got your heart set on staying at the Old Bexar County Jail? If so, be sure to follow this link to get more information about your stay at this very haunted and historic hotel.

And if you’re keen on learning more about Haunted San Antonio, be sure to take our Ghosts of Old San Antonio Tour, where The Jail is one of our regular stops!