Along with the usual amenities, your guest experience at these two Texas landmark properties might come with possessed paintings, enchanted elevators, and ghosts of the Alamo. Ready to check in?
A hotel with the reputation of being haunted is faced with two options: It can downplay supernatural speculation to avoid scaring off potential guests, or it can embrace its spooky legacy and promote potential ghost sightings alongside other amenities like free Wi-Fi.
Such is the dilemma faced by the general managers of the two most haunted hotels in Texas, the Driskill in Austin and the Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio. A quick Google search returns dozens of provocative claims from both guests and employees of sights and sounds that cannot easily be explained. Does that boost business, or scare it away?
Exterior of the Driskill Hotel
“We do not actively promote the hotel's haunted reputation as it has happened organically. However, we do not deny it either,” says Kole Siefken, general manager at the Emily Morgan. “If guests ask about the hotel’s history, we are honest with them about the rumors of hauntings. We hear about strange occurrences every now and again but certainly not on a daily basis.”
“It’s been good!” says Driskill general manager Markus Puereschitz. “We receive a lot of interest from paranormal experts and enthusiasts who want to stay a night in the hotel. In terms of business, we certainly see an uptick around October, leading up to Halloween.”
Exterior of the Emily Morgan Hotel
Step inside — if you dare.
In 1886, cattle baron Jesse Lincoln Driskill opened Austin’s most opulent hotel on land purchased for the grand sum of $8,000. He died just four years later, though whether he ever left is an open question. Driskill’s portrait hangs in the hotel’s grand lobby, and guests, especially young women, have reported catching a whiff of his cigar smoke when no one around them is smoking.
The Driskill Hotel lobby (Photography by Jane Yun)
Those seeking a supernatural encounter in what Yelp! has dubbed the most haunted spot in Texas are given a room on the hotel’s fifth floor. “That’s the historic side of the hotel, [and] where we typically try to accommodate ghost-hunters,” Puereschitz says.
Some have reported feeling uneasy before even arriving at their rooms, while walking down corridors lined with staring visages within Victorian-style paintings. One in particular, depicting a little girl holding a letter and a bouquet of flowers, may be haunted by the spirit of Samantha Houston, the young daughter of U.S. Senator Temple Lea Houston. They were guests at the Driskill in 1887, when Samantha died after chasing her ball down the hotel’s grand staircase. The girl in the painting is not Samantha, but some visitors claimed to have seen her expression change or experienced the sensation of being levitated. Others have reported hearing the sound of a little girl giggling, and a ball bouncing down the stairs.
The fifth floor is also where two women — either about to be married or on their honeymoons — took their lives on the same day, 20 years apart. Facts have mingled with legends over the decades, but stories abound of the hotel’s “suicide brides” and how guests have reported seeing them in the elevators and passing through the door of room 525, where at least one of the deaths took place. Singer Annie Lennox claimed that one of the brides helped her choose a dress after she laid two options on her bed before taking a shower. When she returned, one of the dresses had been put back in the closet.
Puereschitz became the Driskill’s general manager in 2023 and is still waiting for his first supernatural encounter. Most of his guests check out with more agreeable memories of their stay, such as dinner at the Driskill Grill, where President Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird had their first date, a tasty Texas-shaped waffle at the 1886 Café & Bakery, or listening to live music over Tournedos Rossini at the hotel’s famous bar.
Even if there are a few inexplicable moments during one’s stay, Puereschitz seems confident that the spirits don’t mean any harm. “We have received feedback from guests who claim they’ve seen partygoers dressed in ball gowns and tuxedos that look like they’re from a different era … and on nights when there haven’t been any galas on the property!” he says. “It seems that if we’re haunted, we have a playful bunch.”
The Driskill Hotel ballroom (Photography by Trey Freeman)
The Emily Morgan Hotel
Looking back on the chronology of events and decisions that shaped the Emily Morgan, it’s almost as if someone was determined to build a hotel that would one day be named one of the five most-haunted hotels in America (according to USA Today).
First, pour the foundation on a battleground where more than 600 men lost their lives, as Mexican forces battled Texans in the Long Barracks of the Alamo in 1836.
Include in your Gothic building design a succession of creepy terra-cotta gargoyles along the exterior walls.
Then, open your doors first (in 1924) not as a hotel but as a medical building, complete with a morgue and crematorium.
Now, 100 years later, long after the last surgery was performed and more than a decade since the property underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation by the Doubletree-Hilton organization in 2012, it cannot shake its spooky reputation.
“The most commonly reported occurrences are seeing shadows or orbs. We have also had reports of objects moving on their own and of guests being woken up by the telephone ringing,” Kole Siefken says. Some of the orb sightings have been captured on the phones of ghost-hunters and by hotel security cameras.
In the rooms that face the Alamo, guests have reported looking out the window and seeing the ghosts of long-dead soldiers. But it’s the building’s history as a medical facility that has generated the most supernatural speculation.
A view of the Alamo from the Emily Morgan Hotel
On the 11th floor, guests claimed to have witnessed an elderly woman in a hospital gown weeping in the hallway, and some have reported hearing sounds of a hospital gurney rolling past their door in the middle of the night.
“If a guest wants to have a better chance of having a haunted experience at the Emily Morgan, I would recommend staying on the 14th floor,” Siefken says. “This is the floor where the surgeries were performed, and it is said to be one of the most active areas of the hotel. [Guests] have reported that they will sometimes open their guest-room door to see a surgical floor, only to close it and open it again to see the hallway of the hotel. One thing that we hear quite often is there is a ‘hospital’ type smell in the hallway. I don’t smell it, but guests swear they do.”
If that floor is booked, you can always try the 12th floor, where the lights and bathroom faucets allegedly turn on and off on their own, or the 7th floor, where a family reported seeing a dark shape gliding through the room and through one of the walls. Or just take a ride on the elevators, which have been known to stop at different floors that no one requested or to move back and forth between the 6th and 7th floors even when they’re empty.
As with the Driskill, the AAA Four-Diamond Emily Morgan Hotel has much more to offer its guests than a haunted reputation. It has been designated one of the Historic Hotels of America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Alamo Plaza.
“We have received positive reviews both from guests who were interested in ghosts as well as guests who were impressed with the hotel's history and architecture, and because of the story of Emily Morgan, as many believe her to be the ‘Yellow Rose of Texas,’” Siefken says.
But if floating orbs and undead spirit brides are more to your liking, October is the best time to book your stay. That is when the Driskill typically includes a Ghost City Tours package, while the Emily Morgan offers a Halloween-themed “Room With Your Boo” promotion. Now, as a famous ghostbuster once asked, “Who you gonna call?”