Boston has Back Bay and Beacon Hill, New Orleans has the French Quarter and San Antonio has the King William Historic District. And much like Beacon Hill or the French Quarter, San Antonio’s King William District is known for its majestic mansion, trendy restaurants and its many hauntings.
Originally farmland nourished by the San Antonio River, the area was once owned by the Mission San Antonio de Valero (better known as the Alamo). By the mid-eighteen hundreds, the process of developing the beautiful landscape was well underway.
The development of the land was ushered in by German immigrants like Carl Guenther, who established the Pioneer Flour Mills. Guenther's success brought in a wave of German settlers to the area, these immigrants built a great number of the mansions that still line the streets of the King William District today. The first person to build on what would become King William Street was Ernst Altgelt. Altgelt named the street in honor of King Wilhelm I of Prussia (anglicized to King William). Soon the neighborhood itself took on the street's name as its own.
Once a neighborhood reaches historic status like King William, the title of recognition usually just highlights the great things that has occurred throughout its past, but as is the case with most historically significant areas, if you scratch at its walls, you'll soon discover its many haunting tales.
The King William District is no exception.
The King William Historic District got its start in the 1790s, when land belonging to the Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo), became available to native settlers. By the 1860s, the land was divided and mapped out (the original street names are still in use), and soon immigrants of the era (mostly German) began settling in the area.
At the time, the neighborhood was not treated with the same esteem that it holds now, as it was referred to as the "Sauerkraut Bend." The anti-German sentiment only increased during World War I, with the community being renamed "Pershing Avenue" (after US Army General John J. Pershing). After the war, the community was able to restore the King William name.
After World War II, a number of the German settlers began to leave the neighborhood, perhaps soured by the anti-German sentiment that plagued the community during the months and years following the end of the war. As a result, many of the houses suffered, turning the once grand neighborhood into the setting of a Stephen King novel. Fortunately, a revitalization movement began in King William during the 1950s.
In the year of 1967, the non-profit King William Association was founded to oversee the preservation of the neighborhood. Five years later in 1972, King William was honored by way of becoming the first official historic district in San Antonio; it was also named the oldest historic district in the state of Texas.
Thanks to preservation efforts, many of the Greek Revival and Victorian style homes built in the nineteenth century by the German immigrants still illuminate throughout the King William District to this day.
Like the French Quarter in New Orleans, the King Williams District is known for its ghosts. The district's history of hauntings even predates its conception, reaching back to when the area was nothing but farmland. Like the French Quarter that rests alongside the Mississippi River, the King William District also lays along a river (the San Antonio River). The reason why this is important to note is because most spiritual experts say that ghosts can not cross over water. Thus, it's reasonable to believe that many of the departed souls that passed away throughout the history of the area remain trapped in King William, making it the most haunted district in San Antonio.
The Wulff House was built by Anton Fredrich Wulff (in 1869-1870), and is located on King William Street. The house is widely believed to be haunted and was even used as a haunted house attraction during the early 70s. A couple of years later, the house was almost turned into a funeral home but a campaign quickly popped up to buy the house, and in the fall of 75 it became the new headquarters for the San Antonio Conservation Society.
During the 70s, the Johann William Schuwirth House was home to an elderly lady. The neglected two-story house on Madison was in desperate need of a little TLC. As for the elderly lady, her name was Anita McLean, the granddaughter of Johann William Schuwirth. The house was built for Schuwirth in the late 1870s, and was passed down from generation to generation. After Anita's death, the house sat abandoned and quickly gained a reputation in the neighborhood for being haunted. In the late 90s, the house was bought and renovated by Marc Lunardon of France. Now, however, the home is owned by the McCardle family.
The Old Fire Station #7 (now the Fire Museum), houses the San Antonio Fire Department's collection of equipment, pictures and renovated trucks that have been accumulated from over the years. In one of the pictures, firefighters of Station #7 are gathered around—alongside them can be found a woman standing in a white dress. The caption below referred to her as "an unknown lady." Some believe she was the wife of one of the firemen, others say she was a widow of a department fireman, who would stop by from time to time as way to cope with her husband's death. It's been said that the ghost of this woman appears regularly at Station #7.
The Oge House (now a bed & breakfast) was built in the King William District during the mid-1800s. The house has withstood quite a lot, from storms to floods. But, there was something more to the house than its will to withstand any and all elements. Over the years, people have experienced paranormal activity, while straying at the house.
In 1991, Sharrie Magatagen bought the property, with the goal of turning the house into an inn. Shortly after, she began the process of renovating, Sharrie could sense something supernatural was deep within the Oge house's walls. The feeling only intensified from there, as she soon began capturing shadowy images out of the corner of her eye, and reflections when in the kitchen.
It is believed that the kitchen was originally the bedroom of Mrs. Oge. The widow Mrs. Oge lived in the house until the year 1942, when the property was purchased by Lowry Mays, who converted the residence into apartments. Reports say that Mrs. Oge passed away in her bedroom, which is why her spirit has stuck around over the years.
Sharrie, a cooking enthusiast (a plus when running a bed & breakfast), recalled a time when she was preparing one of her favorite dishes, when in an instant her collection of herbs and seasonings were mysteriously blown away. Sharrie stated that this became a common occurrence in her kitchen, and that she was greatly perplexed, as there was no exhaust fan, no draft, no explanation whatsoever.
On one occasion, a local psychic visited the house in which she confirmed that there was indeed a presence in the house. She promptly assured Sharrie that the spirit was more of the friendly sort. Perhaps Mrs. Oge just preferred a pinch of salt and a little lemon on her chicken.
Mrs. Oge isn't the only ghost that is believed to haunt the house. The spirit of a young girl (around ten or so) often stops by as well. Some say the little girl drowned in the San Antonio River. However, there are no newspaper reports to verify the spirit's back story. Another ghost that supposedly haunts the Oge House is particularly fond of the Mathis Room, and many guests who have stayed the night in this room have had run-ins with his spirit.
None of the presences felt at the Oge House are malevolent, so, if you find yourself spending the night at the Bed & Breakfast, and have a paranormal experience, don't worry, it's nothing to lose sleep over.
The narrow Victorian style house on 123 Cedar was built in the year of 1903. Betty Gatlin the owner of the property, turned the house into a bed & breakfast, which she dubbed the Galtin Gasthaus (the German version of an inn).
Over the years, there has been a great deal of paranormal activity here. One of these strange happenings occurred during the evening hours: Betty had just placed a vase of flowers out, when a guest took particular notice. The guest marveled at the beauty of the arrangement, and picked the vase up for a closer look. It was at that moment the flowers began to shake on their own volition. The guest was a young woman in her twenties with a steady hand; there was no physical reason for the flowers to move about in such a manner.
Apparently, the lights in the house cut on and off throughout the day, all year round. But, during one Christmas, things were kicked up a notch. Betty had her family over for a Christmas dinner, and they were all gathered around the table awaiting the feast. Betty had lit candles around the dining room to create an added layer of yuletide flare. Like most families gathered together after months apart, they all quickly began sharing tales of the past.
The joyful glee was short lived, for suddenly the front door (which had been locked) flew open, with a gust of wind barreling through the entrance, and onward to the dining room. Every candle was blown out, the whole room was a complete mess. Yet, despite the strength of the wind nothing actually broke. Betty believed the strange occurrence was her Christmas-lovin' late husband, whose spirit desperately wanted to be a part of the celebration.
Curious to whether or not this spirit was her late husband, Betty invited a psychic over to her house to communicate with the spirit. The psychic confirmed what Betty believed. The psychic told Betty that her husband (a former military man) was sticking around the house in order to watch over her, as a guardian angel of sorts. Her husband passed away shortly after the couple had bought and renovated the house, so, she found comfort in that his spirit was still around.
In a strange twist, this was a common theme found with all of the previous owners. In each case, a couple bought the house, with the husband passing on a short while later. A bizarre coincidence, or could it be a curse?
Perhaps Betty's husband decided to stay behind to protect his wife with good reason. Maybe there is something with less than good intentions lurking in the house—a force that her husband's ghost works to keep in check.
1150 S. Alamo might just be the most haunted property in King William. The building originally was the Alamo Methodist Church, designed by South Texas born architect Beverly W. Spillman. Church services began at the building in January of the year 1912, and continued on until the 70s, when attendance became too low to justify its operational status. The church merged with another congregation and the building was put up for sale.
In the year 1975, 1150 S. Alamo found a new purpose in life by becoming the Alamo Street Restaurant & Theatre, and later (in 1979) the property made the National Register of Historical Places list. The revival of the building soon attracted more than the living, as it became very active with paranormal occurrences.
The people behind the revitalization of the building were Bill and Marcie Larsen. The Larsons bought the abandoned property on impulse, (well, after Marcie persuaded Bill). From the beginning, Marcie envisioned the building as a theatre, and to the delight of the King William community (living and ghostly alike) the Larsons opened up the new Alamo Street Restaurant & Theatre. Two of the building's better known disembodied spirits are Little Eddie and Miss Margaret.
The spirited (pun intended) ghostly Little Eddie, arrived at 1150 S. Alamo, when a wheelchair and other items were brought to theatre as props for an upcoming performance. The wheelchair was believed to have belonged to a little boy named Eddie who had died from polio. It was said that Little Eddie enjoyed his new lease on life at the theatre. No longer confined to his wheelchair, he is free to run around and pull all kinds of shenanigans on the building's grounds, and that's just what he's been doing ever since his arrival.
The other side of 1150 S. Alamo's paranormal coin is the ghost of Margaret Gething, usually referred to as Miss Margaret. Margaret was a San Antonio socialite, who moved to New York and performed on Broadway. When she returned home to San Antonio, Margaret became a proud advocate for the community of the King William District. Following her death, her ghost began appearing at the Alamo Street Theatre, in which she often frequented when alive. Miss Margaret's ghost was immortalized, when a visiting couple was able to capture her image on a Polaroid. The photo of Miss Margaret was displayed in the building’s dining room for many years after.
1150 S. Alamo now operates as a gourmet hotdog place called Frank. Daniel Northcutt, the co-owner of Frank, has confirmed that the spirits are still around, saying that there have been "a ton" of unexplained occurrences to happened since Frank has opened. So, when you stop by the establishment for a gourmet dog, don't be shocked if Miss Margaret judges your taste, only then for Little Eddie to come along and knock your hotdog right outta your hand.
The centuries-old houses and businesses that line the streets of the King William Historic District are not your average popular tourist attractions. While San Antonio offers a blend of art and culture, King William transports you to years gone by, with signs of San Antonio's history gathered all around you. But, this historic district is more than just a relic of the past: it is a true haunting ground in which the ghosts refuse to leave. So, when visiting, bear in mind to be respectful of all the lost souls of the King William, as you should never give a ghost a reason to become vengeful.