Galveston Island is one of the most "spirited" towns in Texas. From the old community cemetery on Broadway to several stately homes and residences on the east end, Galveston is said to be filled with Gulf Coast ghosts after sunset.
Carl Wade is was said to be one of several folks over the years to see for himself evidence of one of Galveston’s well known specters – the ghost of Miss Bettie Brown, the flamboyant hostess of Ashton Villa. Ashton Villa is a marvelous example of Italianate architecture built in 1859 by James Moreau Brown. Today the magnificent house on Broadway is a museum home open to the public.
Though strongly denied by management for many years, it has been rumored for years that the spirit of Miss Bettie is still very much "alive" and well at Ashton Villa. "While my brother was a docent at the house he told me about straightening a bedspread in Miss Bettie’s sitting room at closing time only to find it rumpled the next morning as if someone had sat or slept on it during the night," reported Carl’s sister Adrienne.
The rumpled bed linens were just one of the more regular occurrences referred to by staff members over the years when speaking of Miss Bettie’s spirit. It was reported that a caretaker sleeping in the carriage house adjacent to Ashton Villa was awakened late one night by the sound of a piano playing. He reluctantly entered the house and is said to have seen the faint image of a woman sitting at the keyboard of the home’s beautiful antique piano. An instant later the music stopped and the apparition vanished. Needless to say the flustered caretaker slept with the lights on in his carriage house apartment for the rest of the night.
There are stories of ceiling fans and lights that mysteriously turn off and on, burglar alarms sounding while in the "off" position during the day, and a trunk belonging to Miss Bettie that locks and unlocks itself without a key. There was an alleged sighting of Miss Bettie during Galveston’s annual Dickens Christmas blow-out in 1991. An unidentified woman in a nineteenth century turquoise gown was seen by a docent standing at the top of the home’s grand staircase. What made this so odd was that Ashton Villa had not yet opened to the public, and no staff person working in the house was dressed in a turquoise gown that day. The incident was written off as nothing more than Miss Bettie overseeing the final preparations for the holiday festivities.
Though there have been many unexplained happenings reported throughout the years, no one has ever had an ill-feeling about the house or its resident spirit. Ashton Villa’s former manager Lucy Testa summed it up best saying, "Several of us have had different feelings while in the house, but never anything spooky or gloomy. It’s a happy house, and we were never afraid of the presence that we all knew lived there," she said.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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