What better way to begin Halloween week than with a dark rainy weekend and a visit to a haunted hotel! In the middle of old downtown Seguin on South Crockett Street sits a two story structure that resembles a box, something created without much thought of architectural loveliness. It is the Magnolia Hotel, an establishment that began as a stage coach stop with a couple of rooms and evolved into a full fledged hotel when a second story was added. Opened in the eighteen forties, the hotel has a colorful history that is the stuff of dark secrets and rumors. Although it was at one time a gathering place for parties and other celebrations it was also the site of some of Seguin’s most tragic moments and thus over the years the stories of ghosts and hauntings in the place grew. By the nineteen nineties the Magnolia Hotel had been abandoned and boarded up. Only critters and drifters inhabited its rooms and, some say, a long dead tortured soul or two.
The stories of life in the Magnolia Hotel tell of characters who lived on the fringes of society. One such person was a beautiful woman named Rosebud who plied her trade as an “entertainer of gentlemen” in a room that she regularly rented. Rosebud had a home of her own just a short walk from the Magnolia but she preferred doing her work in the privacy of the hotel. She was known and mostly shunned throughout the town but those who were her friends described her as having a heart of gold. She often cared for a little girl, Itsy, while the child’s mother went to her job. When Rosebud was not available to care for Itsy, the young girl’s mother locked her in the room where they lived together. Eventually Itsy died in the hotel under very questionable circumstances that may have included murder.
There was also an African American psychic, Idella, who had a tiny room in the back of the hotel property. She had a knack for seeing the future with an uncanny accuracy, at least that’s what those who frequented her services seemed to believe. She both soothed and frightened the people of the town but much like Rosebud she was essentially just a well meaning person trying to eke out a living. She still has descendants in the area and it is said that some of them inherited her gift of seeing into the souls of the people that they meet.
For quite some time the Magnolia Hotel was the center of celebrations in Seguin. People held parties there and it even became a favorite spot for weddings. It was a lovely setting with its elegant rooms, sunny views, and warm wooden floors beckoning visitors to forget their troubles and just have a good time. There was hardly a soul in Seguin who had not enjoyed a day of revelry at least once inside the establishment.
Sadly, not all of the stories of the Magnolia Hotel were happy. In fact, many of the whispers and legends surrounding the place revolve around a number of tragedies that occurred with its clients. One notable tale involves a traveling salesman who was a regular customer of the Magnolia Hotel as he made his way from one small town to another hawking his wares. At some point life became too much for him and he devolved into the throes of a deep depression. He checked into a room in the hotel as was his usual habit but this time his plan was not to sell his products. It was far more foreboding. During the night he silently took his own life, creating quite a stir once his body was found.
Perhaps the most horrific tale from the hotel centered on a quiet and unassuming druggist named William Faust. Mr. Faust had immigrated from Germany and eventually found his way to the area where he settled down with his wife. He and his spouse were estranged mostly because William had only married her for her money and he was actually madly in love with her sister. More than anything William wanted to finally enjoy a relationship with his true soulmate but he didn’t want to surrender the wealth that his wife provided him. He hatched a diabolical plan that he believed might allow him to get the best of all worlds.
Knowing that his wife would not want to accompany him, Faust planned to secure a room at the Magnolia Hotel pretending that he was in Seguin on business. Just as he had hoped, his wife chose to stay with friends in New Braunfels rather that go with her husband. William knew that whenever his wife stayed with the Voelkers, she would sleep in the same room as their daughter, Emma. The usual arrangement was that his wife would take Emma’s bed and the child would sleep on the floor. For some reason on the night that Faust had chosen to rid himself of his unwanted married partner, the woman and the little girl had decided to change places.
William Faust arose from his own bed at the Magnolia Hotel in the middle of the night and rode his horse to the Voelker home armed with an evil agenda. He snuck into the room where his wife and Emma slept. He was cradling an axe. It was dark and he was barely able to see but he worked quickly. He hacked away at the person sleeping on the bed. Sadly it was not his wife, but the little girl, Emma. When his wife awoke and sat up on the mattress that lay on the floor, Faust realized his horrific mistake and swiped his axe across his wife’s face. At that very moment Faust’s son entered the room and the horrified man fled before he might be recognized.
Faust rode quickly back to the Magnolia Hotel, snuck inside without being seen, and pretended to be fast asleep in his bed when word of the terrible tragedy reached him. The suspicious lawmakers arrested him immediately nonetheless. Faust staunchly maintained his innocence and used his stay in the hotel as an alibi. His wife remained uncertain as to who had blinded her and murdered Emma because it had been so dark in the room. The townspeople were unwilling to give Faust the benefit of the doubt even with his alibi and no accusations from his wife. In fact, the people were enraged over the killing of an innocent child. Even before William Faust went to trail, a viglante exacted “justice” by shooting Faust through the head as he stood in a window of the jail. He died and his name went down in infamy.
By the nineteen nineties the old Magnolia Hotel was in a state of ruin. It had long been abandoned and forgotten by the people of Seguin. It stood as an eyesore and gathering place for drug dealers and even homeless individuals who found their way inside when the weather was frightful. One such hapless man regularly slept inside the decaying structure. For an unknown reason he was eventually unceremoniously murdered by person or persons who would never be found.
When the present day owners of the Magnolia Hotel purchased the property it bore none of its original glory. The structure was a wreck and seemed to have little worth or potential but the new proprietors lovingly decided to repair the crumbling walls and the scarred and damaged floors so that they might turn the place into a museum. While they were researching the hotel’s past and working on its interior they began to believe that the old place was indeed haunted. There was one room where they heard children’s voices. When they put toys in the room strange things began to happen. A ball would suddenly roll across the floor. They wondered if perhaps the ghosts of Itsy and Emma were there. In William Faust’s final quarters one woman had her eyes scratched. There were reports of screams and faces peering from the windows. Many believe that the place is haunted, inhabited by those who figured so prominently in the history of the establishment. The Magnolia Hotel has been the subject of books and even television programs like Ghost Adventures. A number of people who believe such things have traveled to Seguin to verify the hauntings.
I’m a bit of a doubter but I do think that it is fun to allow the imagination to go a bit wild and so this past weekend Mike and I drove throught heavy rain to reach Seguin so that we might take a tour of the hotel and hear about its history from actors playing the parts of the major characters from the Magnolia’s past. Among them was my granddaughter, Abby, playing the part of Emma, a sweet child whose life was so tragically cut short and whose spirit is believed to roam the halls of the hotel looking for her killer. My daughter was also there in the silent role of Faust’s wife, Helena. Also playing a small part was my grandson, William.
It was an entertaining experience, especially hearing the stories of the various people who had once been there. Since the weather was windy and stormy the atmosphere was absolutely perfect for having a spooky time. It was a great way to launch Halloween week.
For those who are interested The Haunted Magnolia Hotel has a Facebook page that lists the may activities that take place there. On Friday and Saturday the managers will host an event for those who want to visit a real haunted house for Halloween. The Magnolia Hotel is worth a stop on your way to San Antonio or the Hill country if nothing else but to view it from the street, but check first to see what is happening and when you might be allowed inside. That’s where the real fun is.