I know the title should be Halloween on the Square, the event we celebrate around the Hunt County Courthouse every year. But why not throw in a few local “ghost stories” to add a little flavor?
I know of two mysterious events right across the street from the courthouse, one in the courthouse, and one a block away. Plus, it’s supposed to be dark and rainy Halloween night. What a better time for real ghost stories.
Go stand on the front steps to the courthouse. That is the Lee Street or north side for newcomers. You can’t miss Landon’s Winery in the building that still has the original name Kress on the front. During the 1930s when the economy was rotten and jobs were scarce, marriages sometimes disintegrated from the stress. Such was one couple around here that had recently separated but not started the divorce process. The wife was having lunch with another man in a booth in the Kress soda fountain when the estranged husband walked by and spotted them. He walked in, pulled his pistol, and shot the interloper before turning around. He then walked across the street and turned himself in to the sheriff. The staff at Landon’s can point out the exact spot and often report phantom figures at closing times.
Turn right and then right along Johnson Street to the intersection with Washington Street. On the opposite corner you will see My Sister’s Closet in a red brick building. That was the site of the former Ende Hotel that opened when the first trains arrived in Greenville in 1880. One evening in April 1883, a strong windstorm blew into town but caused no damage. During the night, occupants of the hotel and others were awakened by a loud crash followed by an explosion. The northwest corner of the hotel, which you are looking at, collapsed and the building was in flames. Fire spread to the east, south, and west side of the square. With no fire equipment, the citizens waited an hour for Sherman to send their fire wagon, horses, and men to help. Morning found the city in ashes, about thirteen dead from the fire, and the new courthouse destroyed. The courthouse was replaced with an almost identical structure, gradually the town rebuilt, but the insurance was slow to repay Mr. Ende.
A block down Washington Street away from the courthouse is the remains of the luxurious Washington Hotel with its lavish penthouse suites on the top floor. At the corner of Washington and St. John, look up at the window where the fire escape starts. That was the apartment of a prominent couple. On Valentine’s night she visited her mother in Dallas while he plied his trade as a gambler. After the card game he returned to the apartment. About one o’clock a shot was heard from there. The local policeman making his round ran into the hotel and with the night clerk made their way to the murder scene. Everything was in disarray, the gambler lay on the floor murdered, but his collection of diamonds was untouched. After a rather crude investigation, no murder charge was filed. The case remains open to this day.
Now, go back to the courthouse. Find a place where you can see the two jails sitting recessed a little on the roof of the fourth floor. Several years ago, a group of paranormal investigators spent a night in jail there. The next morning they reported a rash of paranormal activity, but with no names or stories. However, they swore the courthouse was awash with ghosts!