Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country (America’s Haunted Road Trip)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael O. Varhola is a writer who has authored or co-authored 34 books and games―including Ghosthunting Maryland and Ghosthunting Virginia, the swords-and-sorcery novel Swords of Kos: Necropolis, and two fantasy writer’s guides―and published more than 120 games and related publications. He is the founder of game company Skirmisher Publishing LLC, editor-in-chief of d-Infinity game magazine, and editor of the America’s Haunted Road Trip series of travel guides. He has edited, published, or written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, is a combat veteran who served eight years in the U.S. Army, and lives in the Hill Country north of San Antonio, Texas. He also has an active online presence, notably through Facebook, Twitter, and a variety of blogs, forums, and sites.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 2


Downtown San Antonio

When one considers what sorts of places are most likely to be haunted, they might not necessarily think of large, public, relatively new structures like event arenas constructed during the past two or three decades. But almost everything is built where other things with their own histories used to be and on ground that may have already been a site of spiritual activity. And even places that are the brightest under the best of conditions sometimes have dark pasts of their own. Short of a battlefield, there are perhaps few places where so many people congregate in one place and express such strong emotions as a sports stadium. It should thus not be too surprising that people have, over the years, reported so much paranormal activity at the Alamodome.

Located at the southeastern edge of downtown San Antonio, the Alamodome is a domed, five-level, multipurpose, rectilinear venue that has been used for everything from basketball and football games to musical concerts to conventions and trade shows. It was designed so that it could easily be converted into a basketball or hockey arena, and, in this configuration, it can seat 20,662 spectators if only the two lower levels are used, and up to 39,500 if seats in the upper level are also opened. It can seat up to 65,000 spectators for a typical football game but be expanded to accommodate a full 72,000, meaning it is able to host a Super Bowl game if that opportunity should arise.

“The Alamodome is what is known as a ‘third-generation’ facility,” according to its official history. “It features column-free spans for unobstructed viewing and curtain wall system for configuration flexibility. [It has] the advantage of both a convention center and a dome without the drawbacks of either [and] is large enough to easily accommodate assemblies and trade shows. The column-free design makes it unlike other domes in one very important way: It has an intimate, ‘human’ scale.”

This $186 million brick, concrete, steel, and glass facility, owned and operated by the city of San Antonio, opened to the public on May 15, 1993. Among other things, it was intended to increase the city’s convention traffic, attract a professional football franchise, qualify the city to host the Olympic Games, and placate demands by the San Antonio Spurs basketball team for a larger arena.

The city did briefly have a professional World League of American Football team, the San Antonio Riders, in 1991–92, but after the organization withdrew from North America, the team collapsed and never had a chance to play in the new stadium. And, for better or worse, San Antonio has not been able to attract an NFL team. The Spurs, however, did actually play in the Alamodome for a decade, 1993–2002, but became disenchanted with it and cajoled Bexar County into constructing a new arena for them, now known as the AT&T Center and their current home. The Alamodome also has hosted many trade shows and events that include Monster Jam, Disney on Ice, and the annual Valero Alamo Bowl. Country music singer George Strait performed at the Alamodome in June of 2013 and set an all-time record for the largest concert ever played in San Antonio, with some 73,086 people in attendance.

Living beings are apparently not the only ones drawn to the Alamodome, and in the years since it opened, many spirits and episodes of supernatural activity have been reported there. A variety of factors may have contributed to this. These include skirmishes fought on this ground in the early years of the city’s history, it previously being the site of a blighted neighborhood where many people had been victimized over the years, and a number of people being killed in the Alamodome itself. Such back stories range from what sound very much like fairly universal urban legends to verifiable incidents of terrible and, in some cases, hideous deaths.

Paranormal phenomena people claim to have experienced at the stadium include inexplicable cold spots, the smell of lilacs, and the feeling of a presence in a particular section of the stadium seating; doors opening on their own and lights turning themselves on and off throughout the complex; loud pounding on one of the upper-floor windows; evidence of the presence of specific ghosts; and sightings of numerous apparitions.

In one such episode, a maintenance crew that was cleaning the windows on the ground floor reportedly saw the apparition of a distressed woman dressed in 19th-century frontier garb float toward the exterior of the front door and begin knocking on it. Other people claim to have seen the specter of a lost-looking woman wandering around the parking lot, and she has been associated with a woman who is believed to have been raped and murdered at the site years before the stadium was built. Another episode involves a construction worker who was reportedly walking on a high beam while the Alamodome was being built who misstepped and plunged to his death. People have reportedly seen his ghost gliding through the long halls of the stadium.

“When I worked at the Alamodome . . . there were always strange things going on,” a former employee of the venue told John Delgado of San Antonio Ghost Hunters. “A man died in the elevator shaft and that same elevator would show floor numbers on its digital readout that the dome didn’t have!” She also mentioned an escalator that would stop and start on its own.

One of the verifiable and especially horrible deaths that occurred at the Alamodome also has been associated with paranormal phenomena, including footsteps, moaning, mumbling, and shadowy apparitions.

“A stunt driver was killed Saturday night when the top of his car was sheared off during a planned midair collision gone awry,” the Associated Press reported on November 15, 1993. “His wife and 3-year-old son watched from the audience. Randy Hill, 49, of Phoenix died instantly when his car was struck by another car driven by daredevil Spanky Spangler, who was not injured, organizers said. Hill retired from stunt driving eight years ago and only recently decided to do the stunt at the two-day San Antonio Thrill Show at the Alamodome. The two cars were supposed to meet head-on at 50 miles per hour. Organizers did not immediately know what went wrong. The rest of the show was canceled after the accident.”

The hapless Hill’s tragic death is not the only one at the Alamodome associated with ghostly activity. “On September 21, 2006, around 5 p.m., a roof collapsed and trapped two employees under the rubble,” attorney Beth Janicek wrote for The Legal Examiner. “The men were working on a structure for the Builders Showcase Expo that [was] set to open September 28, 2006. Most of the workers had finished for the day and only the two men were left on the structure.” Twenty-year-old Andres Duran was killed by falling pieces of timber and tile, and some people believe that his unquiet spirit is among those that continue to haunt the massive entertainment venue.

Not a week goes by where something is not happening at the Alamodome, and very few of the hundreds of thousands of people who attend events at it each year will experience anything of a paranormal nature. Even those who do might not realize it or acknowledge that they have. But if you go to the stadium, be sure to enjoy the game, or concert, trade show, or whatever else has brought you there―and stay alert for whatever unofficial but very real paranormal events might be going on around you.

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