Is it or isn’t it? If you live in Austin—or even if you’ve only visited—chances are you’ve heard about Austin’s downtown, historic and “haunted” Driskill Hotel. But what’s up with that? Is this simply an urban myth because all cool cities have at least one ghost story to tell? Have there been actual, documented ghost sightings at the Driskill? Your friends at SEED are here to unpack the mystery for you…or at least as best we can without a degree in paranormal activity.
First, the Driskill facts…
- Architectural style: Romanesque Revival
- Completion date: 1886
- Historical significance: the oldest operating hotel in Austin and a member of the Historic Hotels of America.
- Celebrity sightings: Senators, musicians (including Annie Lennox, Roy Orbison and Jerry Garcia) and Hollywood stars (Matthew McConaughey and Luke Wilson) have all been spotted at the Driskill. The low-light, wood-paneled bar is just the place for celebrities to quietly disappear.
- Other fun facts: in 1898 the first long distance telephone call in Austin was made from the hotel’s lobby, and it’s also the site of President Johnson and Lady Bird’s first date.
… and the Driskill rumors:
Ghost No. 1:
The story goes that in 1887—just one year after the Driskill opened its doors—the four year-old daughter of a U.S. Senator fell to her death when she tripped and tumbled down the grand staircase in the lobby while chasing a ball. Visitors have reported the sound of giggling and a bouncing ball as evidence that this young lady haunts the hotel. Is it true? The death was reported at the time, and according to Haunted Places, there was a documented sighting of this young girl playing with her ball at the hotel one week after her death. SEED assessment: It’s a haunting.
Ghost No. 2:
The first of the so-called “suicide brides.” Here’s the story: a young groom cancelled his wedding, which was scheduled to take place in the hotel, the night before the ceremony. Distraught and heartbroken, the bride-to-be retreated to her room where she hanged herself. Guests of the hotel report sightings of this ghost bride, who is reportedly seen wearing her wedding gown while wandering the halls of the fourth floor. While we would love to indulge in this creepy tale, one has to wonder—why would she be wearing her wedding gown if she never actually got married? SEED assessment: Not a haunting.
Ghost No. 3:
The second of the “suicide brides,” yet we’ve had trouble uncovering the details of her story. The gist of it is this: exactly twenty years to the day and in the same hotel room as the original suicide bride, a second young bride took her life in the bathroom while on her honeymoon. After this second rumored death gathered some attention the hotel’s room 525 has become notorious for its bad karma. However, we’re a little suspicious of these coincidental suicides. SEED assessment: Not a haunting.
Ghost No. 4:
Colonel Driskill himself. Passing away just four years after the completion of his beloved hotel, it is believed that Jesse Lincoln Driskill’s spirit remains alive in his namesake hotel. Over the years both staff and guests have reported the smell of cigar smoke wafting through the air and lights flickering on and off on the hotel’s upper floors. The lead singer for the group Concrete Blonde wrote the song “Ghost of a Texas Ladies’ Man” after her supposed encounter with the Colonel while staying at the Driskill. SEED assessment: It’s a haunting.
Intrigued by Austin folklore? If you’re ready to settle down in this fun-loving city, give us a buzz at SEED Property Group. We’ll even meet you for a drink at the Driskill if you’re in the mood for some ghost hunting.