When we were in Galveston one year during October, we took a special tour of the Ashton Villa. After the 1900 hurricane (which killed probably around 8000 people) they raised the grade of the island and built the seawall. The story always was that the short wrought iron fence in front of the Ashton was actually eight feet tall, with most of it being buried when they raised the street level, and that there was a basement to the house that had been completely filled in. (This made sense at the time, because the Moody Mansion and the Bishop's Palace on that street both have large stone basement areas. The Bishop's Palace's basement (which is built like a bomb shelter) was restored after hurricane Ike, but the Moody Mansion's basement was damaged and still weeping water a year later.) No one was sure what was in the Ashton's basement, but everyone assumed it was a kitchen.
Most of the stories surrounding the Ashton Villa were about Miss Bettie, who lived there with her sisters and nieces and nephews, was very rich, and did whatever the hell she wanted. There's also a story that during the 1900 storm, she stood out on the balcony with a pole and a rope and tried to rescue people who were floating by in the storm surge. (I don't know if it's true, but there are a lot of stories about people being rescued this way. There's one about the convent near the house during the hurricane, where the nuns took the nun who was the best swimmer, tied a rope around her and when they saw a body in the water, threw her out toward it. She would swim to it, grab on, and they would pull her back in.)
Then hurricane Ike happened in 2008 and the Ashton Villa was flooded. While restoring the first floor, they found a rock tomb under the house. We saw the opening in the floor while we were there, but never did hear anything else about it. The historical society doesn't have much money after Ike and they don't do tours of the house anymore. But it sure did put a different light on why the family might have let them fill in the basement after 1900.
They told us some ghost stories about the Ashton, but I had never heard any stories about it before that Halloween, and the house never did feel spooky or haunted to me. It felt like an old, well-cared-for house, even with the dark gaping hole down to the basement tomb in the dining room. This was while being there in the dark, with only a few people, with the lights mostly turned off and a security system's motion detector that kept going off for no apparent reason.
But the tour guide we had that time had actually been in Galveston during Ike. He told us that right after it, after a day of trying to triage the damage on the historic houses, he found his apartment was full of mud, so he and another guide stayed the night in the Menard House, the oldest existing house on the island, which had come through the hurricane in good shape and really is supposed to be haunted. The guide said he laid there trying to sleep, watching the pendant lights sway to the left, pause, sway to the right, pause, then stop in the middle, then start again. He said that after a while he just didn't want to see what else was going to happen, and he was so exhausted, he told the house to please leave him alone and got up and took a valium.
Bounty Sinks Off NC Coast This is why they didn't try to move the Elissa out of Galveston before hurricane Ike. They're still dealing with the repercussions of it (the sails were rolled up and secured to the spars, but the wind still shredded them, and the hull was damaged and now has to be repaired) but it's still intact and nobody died.
Geek Tyrant: Creepy Halloween Photos from 100 Years Ago
Mirage by Jenn Reese. This is the sequel to her MG SF novel Above World.
On Kirkus: The Book Smugglers 10 Recommended Halloween Reads
October 31st, 2012