Haunted Hooch

Drink and be scary: Austin's first haunted bar crawl

Drink and be scary: Austin's first haunted bar crawl

Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_Driskill 125anniversary_Nov 2011_exterior
The Driskill Photo by Adrienne Breaux
Austin Photo Set: News_Shannon_haunted bar crawl_oct 2012_maggie maes
Maggie Mae's Courtesy of Monica Mendes
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Back staircase of Buffalo Billiards. Photo by Shannon McGarvey
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 Historical market outside of the Jackalope. Photo by Shannon McGarvey
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_Driskill 125anniversary_Nov 2011_exterior
Austin Photo Set: News_Shannon_haunted bar crawl_oct 2012_maggie maes
Austin Photo Set: News_Shannon_haunted bar crawl_oct 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_Shannon_haunted bar crawl_oct 2012_2

Halloween, if nothing else, is a great excuse to drink. While you’re at it, why not take in some Austin history, chat up a few bartenders, and scare yourself silly with some local otherworldly lore? If you’ve never gone on a haunted bar crawl before, use this list — a true labor of love for all things schlocky and Halloween — to boldly venture where only the drunkest nerds dare.

Think of this list and the accompanying stories as “historical entertainment.” Meaning, try not to take it too seriously. I’m not purporting or refuting the existence of ghosts or life after death or the string theory or quantum mechanics.

The following bars are situated in an area that comprises the highest density of supposedly haunted locations in Austin. These bars are walk-able, historic, and all around the Sixth Street area, which means you might want to avoid this adventure on a weekend night.

Everyone that I talked to, even the tough-guy skeptics, seemed more than willing to dish about the ghoulish gossip of the area, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, walk around, and tip your bartender. Now, let the fun begin!

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth Street

A Google search for “Casino el Camino Austin haunted” yields several accounts of a ghost named “Mary,” although some members of the bar staff refute these claims. One skeptical bartender negated all supernatural tales associated with the establishment, while another wholeheartedly believes the bar is haunted.

“Either there’s people walking on the roof,” said a bartender named Ivy, “or the place is haunted.” She went on to state that she refuses to close the bar alone after the back door of the Diablo Room opened and slammed inexplicably one night. Ivy also recounted lore about a man who hung himself from the second floor balcony when the bar was once a barn. Sanborn insurance maps from June 1885 show the Curtis House Boarding facility sat on the grounds where the Casino el Camino now resides.

MugShots
407 E. Seventh St.

A bartender at this East Seventh mainstay claims a prostitute died on the grounds at some point during its history. Although he has never actually seen a ghost, he claims to have heard unexplainable noises and felt an ongoing sense of general uneasiness. A different Sanborn map cites that the location was a private dwelling up until the turn of the century, although the bar’s website states it was also used as a boarding house and hotel.

The Jackalope
404 E. Sixth St.

The Jackalope is situated in the Maroney-Isaacs building, which has a varied history as a drug store, Chicago House Saloon, boarding house and billiards hall. A long-time bartender nicknamed “Trans Am” reports random cold spots and strange movement in the office area, as well as shadowy figures in the kitchen.

When you leave the Jackalope, be sure to make a quick stop at the neighboring Museum of the Weird, which boasts ghostly activity surrounding the recent acquisition of a human skeleton.

Maggie Mae’s
323 E. Sixth St.

Next to the Driskill Bar, Maggie Mae’s is perhaps the most architecturally interesting stop on the crawl. The structure touts an open-air, New Orleans-esque courtyard, rooftop patio, and a room full of Gibson guitars, the latter of which is supposedly super haunted. Employees report being touched and witnessing the full-body apparition of a woman.

Buffalo Billiards
201 E. Sixth St.

As bars go, Buffalo Billiards is one of the most haunted locations in Austin. Staff reports claim a laundry list of paranormal activity ranging from disembodied footsteps to electrical mishaps, unexplained mists and several full-body apparitions. The sight has been the subject of a string of recent paranormal investigations, the results of which yielded several EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) as well as some photographic anomalies.

A psychic claimed that the site houses as many as 16 ghosts, including a young boy, a blond woman in Victorian dress and a large man in 19th century military clothing. Sanford fire maps from 1877 and 1885 list the location as a millinery (hat maker), grocery store and the Missouri Boarding House, respectively. There are also claims that the site once housed a brothel. 

The Driskill Bar
604 Brazos St

The Driskill Hotel has a reputation for being one of the most haunted locations in Texas, and the Driskill Bar, situated on the Brazos side of the hotel, is no exception. Visitors have reported seeing the spirit of a child in the first floor lobby, second floor women’s bathroom and along the stairs leading to the mezzanine.

Employees believe that this is the ghost of a young girl who supposedly fell to her death while chasing a ball down the grand staircase of the hotel. Other reports claim phantom cigar smoke, flickering bathroom lights and the ghost of P.J. Lawless, a ticket agent who lived at the Driskill for 31 years.