SAN ANGELO, TX – The buildings in downtown San Angelo are rich with history, and in every crack and crevice exists a story that even technology and progress can’t destroy.
Of course, San Angeloans love to tell the story of Miss Hattie’s, built in the late 1800s, and a place that once entertained the men of San Angelo. However, now it's a museum. Not to mention, when one walks into Miss Hattie’s Restaurant, they can't help but feel a sense of pride at the gleaming polished wooden floors and lights that gleam with a natural phosphorescence. Miss Hattie’s is a great place overall to step back in time and bask in the warmth of the souls who dwell there--living and dead.
Because of the history of San Angelo, it’s little wonder many people report the strange and unusual, especially in places like Miss Hattie’s. In fact, many people who never believed in the paranormal claim their experiences in San Angelo changed their perceptions. While for others who believe, something about San Angelo has compelled them at some point to explore the strange and unusual.
This includes Ray Theiss.
Ray no longer lives in San Angelo, but he said he was lucky enough to call it home for almost six years. He said he has always been fascinated by ghost stories, and one experience at Miss Hattie’s Museum was “immensely strange.”
“I’ve always been a history nut, and I’ve always enjoyed being a reenactor,” Ray said. “When I moved to San Angelo in 2008, I started looking for a reenacting unit to join. There was the one at Fort Concho, but I wasn’t real sure I wanted to join that one or not, so instead, I found the Concho Cowboy Company.”
Ray said he was invited to a Christmas social hosted by the CCC at Miss Hattie’s Museum in December of that year. He went dressed in his best Old West outfit, and he noted everyone was having a great time. The party went into the late evening hours.
“We were all taking pictures in the museum, really adding an Old West flare to the place,” Ray continued. “Not long into the photo sessions, two guys were asked to pose for a photograph near the stairwell that heads down from the second floor to Concho Avenue.”
Ray noted that the woman taking the picture was using a digital camera and snapped a shot of the two reenactors with the top of the staircase behind them.
“When reviewing the picture, the lady’s eyes got real big,” said Ray.
When asked what was wrong, the woman said there was another man in the photo.
“We gathered around her, looking at the screen, and sure enough, just behind the two reenactors was another guy dressed in Victorian/Old West clothing,” Ray explained. “He was wearing a black vest with a white shirt, which was pretty common apparel for San Angelo back in the time that Miss Hattie’s operated.”
Ray added that the unidentified man in the picture had his back turned to the camera, and was on his way down the stairs.
“He was plain as day in the picture, and looked as if he were a part of the reenacting crowd,” Ray said.
He said later, when the group showed the picture to the curator of Miss Hattie’s, she knew right away who he was.
“I can’t recall his name now, but he was once the caretaker of the women at Miss Hattie’s,” Ray stated. “Only problem is, he’d been dead for almost a hundred years prior to that picture!”
The museum isn’t the only place where the strange and unusual have been reported.
Brenda Gunter, owner of Miss Hattie’s Café and Saloon, said so many people, including her staff, have witnessed strange events.
Brenda said six or seven years ago, a woman with a group of people taking a tour stopped at the main door and said, “I can’t go in there.”
The woman said she could sense all the spirits in the building, and it was so overwhelming. Thus, she refused to proceed.
Brenda also said once Bishop Michael Pfeifer was at Miss Hattie’s, and she, the Bishop, and her husband were standing near the bar area. He asked the couple, “Do you realize there are two ghosts at the bar having drinks with us?”
He said both the ghosts were male, and the couple didn’t have to worry because they were friendly.
“And he had never heard the story about the ghosts,” Brenda said. “It wasn’t like someone led him to come up and say that kind of thing.”
Brenda added that it’s normal for people to tell her these types of things.
“As they say, if the rock walls could talk,” Brenda laughed.
Another time, Brenda said her kitchen staff reported being in the kitchen area getting ready for customers, and all of a sudden the radio came blasting on.
Gabriel Chavez, 30, who has worked for Miss Hattie’s off and on since 2001 said one night, he, Chef Mike, and a man named Gary were standing in the bar area. It was late at night, and the only light that on was in the bar area.
“All of a sudden, it sounded like something was getting dragged across the floor,” Gabriel said. “This was like at 12:30 at night.”
Gabriel said there was no one else at the restaurant, so there was no valid explanation for the sound. He said it sounded like something heavy dragging across the floor, but nothing was physically there.
Gabriel also said one of the manager’s brothers used to work at Miss Hattie’s when it was Spaghetti Western, and he reported hearing similar things. Too many incidents have occurred.
“This happened the other night,” Gabriel continued. “The dish washer was in the restroom, the manager was in the office, and I was back there wiping tables; so I’m wiping [one table] down and I hear by the side door somebody whispering.”
Gabriel said he thought it was the dish washer messing with him, so he turned, but didn’t see anything. Thus, he continued wiping, and that’s when he heard whispering right behind him.
Once more he didn’t see anyone, so he asked his fellow colleagues if they had been near him, or if they had whispered something to him. They said no.
“It’s just things like that,” Gabriel said, in regards to the types of strange things that happen.
Gabriel said these occurrences happen occasionally, and lately, staff have been seeing a lot of shadows in the kitchen.
Gabriel noted that he hasn’t seen anyone in dated clothing, but overall, the events that have taken place have indeed been strange.
Brenda said she hasn’t witnessed ghosts per say, but the people who tell their stories are so convincing that you would be hard pressed not to believe them.
“It’s something that you can tell by their expression that they believe it,” she said.
Additionally, one person took a picture of an area of the restaurant and captured something interesting on film. She also said a waitress who said she was at the restaurant late one night closing up saw something “flash” right by her, and it was cold. Brenda added that was a time where cold wasn’t part of the climate, so there was no explanation for it.
Brenda said there are just some stories people can’t make up.
“It’s real,” she said.
To add to that, Brenda said some early morning cooks will be in the kitchen, and all of a sudden they’ll feel cold air go through the kitchen, and they can hear pots dropping.
“There was no reason for that pot to fall,” she noted. “It wasn’t in a location, or anyone going by, that would cause that pot to drop.”
With all the stories told, however, no one has reported the spirits to be malevolent or evil. Also, with all the stories told, many paranormal groups would contact Brenda to come run tests at Miss Hattie’s, but she said that doesn’t happen as frequently as it used to.
Ghosts or no ghosts, Brenda said she loves knowing that people can sit at Miss Hattie’s and know that way back in 1884, there were people who physically walked and worked in the same building, making a living. Newly constructed buildings have no history, but buildings like Miss Hattie’s are priceless when it comes to that. Every space has a story.
Speaking of historical spaces, Brenda also showed LIVE! the area in the restaurant where the underground tunnel is located (see image above with a table). The hollow echoes filled the room as she knocked on the areas.
“Without a doubt, that tunnel was used,” she said. “It’s kind of neat just knowing it’s there.”
Of course, that tunnel opens up even more possibilities to the strange and unusual.
If you have a story you would like to share about the strange and unusual in San Angelo, contact me at [email protected].