Presidio La Bahia
Goliad, Texas Oct. 12 - 14, 2016
The old fort is hard to miss as you transition from South Texas countryside to the city of Goliad. It is truly an impressive sight. Presidio La Bahia is Spanish for the Fort on the Bay. And if you're into Texas history, especially around the famed Alamo in my hometown of San Antonio, then this is a must-do on your list. A lot happened here all the way back to when the fort was founded by the Spanish Colonizer Lieutenant-General Jose de Escandon in 1749.
But the fort is best known for the crucial role it played in helping the Texans declare independence from Mexican Rule. On December 20, 1835, in the chapel, 92 men gathered to sign The First Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico.
The final attack upon the Alamo began before dawn on March 6, 1836. By 9:00 a.m. all the occupants except the women and children are dead.
On March 20, following a battle near Coleto Creek, the Texan force of about 350 men led by James W. Fannin is captured and held captive inside the small church at Presidio La Bahia.
One week after Fannin's surrender, Santa Anna bypassed General Urrea's recommendation that Fannin's men receive clemency, and orders Colonel Jose Nicolas de la Portilla, the commander at Goliad to execute the captured Texans as pirates.
Early in the morning of March 27, 1836, all able-bodied men were marched in 3 groups in different directions about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile away from La Bahia. At one point the men were lined up while Mexican soldiers stood in front of them. Without warning Fannin's men were then shot at extremely close range. Only a few were able to run and escape.
Once back at the fort, all of Fannin's wounded men (about 40) were gathered in front of the church and shot. Fannin was the last to be executed. The bodies were carried just behind the fort and hastily burned.
342 men died in the Goliad massacre.
The chapel at Presidio La Bahia was mostly intact, while many of the surrounding structures were badly damaged during the battle between the Mexican army and the Texans. The Quarters structure, which is leased on a daily basis, was badly damaged and was mostly reconstructed. However, when you lease the apartment, you will have access, during the day, to all the structures and will have free access to the museum.
The museum does hold quite a few artifacts found throughout the several acres the fort stands on. They also have a model of the battle of Coleto Creek. Darning the evening you will only have access to the Quarters structure and the grounds of the fort which are surrounded by a thick stone wall.
Behind the fort, less than 100 yards, is a marker where the bodies of Fannin's men were found partially burned. There is also a small cemetery next to it.
While there are some residential homes nearby, for the most part, the only disturbance at night came from an occasional mooing cow form a nearby ranch.
There was definitely a palpable aspect while I walked around the grounds late into the evening. I can only describe that it was a feeling of great sadness and loss. At times, I did see shadow figures out of the corner of my eyes but nothing overtly obvious.
In the quarters, where I stayed and slept, on the very first night, the side door that opens into the courtyard, kept knocking. It is an extremely heavy door, and it takes some force to latch it. So perhaps I left it unlatched. But it was a windless night, so I have no explanation for the constant knocking sounds.
There were a few times during the very early hours when I heard very loud booming sounds coming from outside of the fort. It sounded as if huge wood timbers were being dropped from a considerable height. I did feel the heebee jeebees a few times while I was in the quarters.
During my explorations over the two nights I was there I did have a few occasions where I did see what appeared to be shadow people. Two different times I saw one outside the window in the living room in the Quarters and one near the side door. On the grounds, far off away from me, once again, I was able to identify shadow play. But it always seemed to happen at a great distance from myself.
While I did record a few EVP's, they were extremely faint and low in volume, so low I was unable to isolate them and make them useful. I also captured two deep thumping sounds.
The EVPs I did capture were one in the courtyard in front of the church that sounds like a male saying, "impossible". In the main bedroom in the quarters I recorded a male voice that seemed to say, "Yes, Pat!"
Outside once again in front of the church, I was able to identify a conversation between two or more females, but this EVP was so faint I couldn't even make out what they were saying.
If anything, the spirits at Presidio La Bahia have an annoying sense of humor. On both nights, around 5:30 a.m. just as I was about to drift to sleep in the main bedroom is when I would start to hear rustling sounds in the living room, loud thumping/crashing sounds just outside in the courtyard, and what sounded like something moving very quickly from the bedroom down the hall. It was a little frustrating actually.
WHAT TO HIT: Sadly, you will only have access to the Quarters, the courtyard, and the main grounds of the fort. All of the structures are off-limits and locked up for the evening. So you will have plenty of time to explore the fort and the historical marker (where all of Fannin's dead men were partially burned and left to rot) and a small cemetery. The historical marker is just behind the fort and you can walk to the location just a few minutes.
THE FOLKLORE: The location is associated with a good amount of haunts and ghosts. As one would expect, the ghosts of the courageous Texan soldiers who were brutally executed and the spirit of Colonel Fannin have been reported to roam the grounds and specifically the courtyard in front of the chapel. Some of the reported activity includes hearing the cries from the wounded soldiers, women crying, the sound of horses galloping and neighing. A short friar and a woman in white occasionally appear in front of the chapel doors. Footsteps and knocking on the side door have been heard inside the Quarters.
IN MY MOST HUMBLED OPINION: Presidio La Bahia played a crucial role in Texas' independence from Mexico. In fact, I think Presidio outranks the Alamo in importance. Better than that, at least you can actually stay and explore the grounds to your heart's content (something you cannot do at the Alamo). I do believe the location at the very least is teaming with residual or imprinted energy from the injustices that occurred there. While I was there for 3 days and 2 nights however, it seemed rather quiet. Hey, maybe even ghosts need a little R&R and decided to take a couple of nights off.
IF YOU GO: The apartment (aka the Quarters) can sleep four very comfortably, has a good-sized kitchen and full bath, and central air and heat. But there was no wi-fi or television. So you'll be roughing it a bit with the lack of those amenities. There are plenty of restaurants nearby, some that will deliver to the fort. I took advantage of the fully functional and partially stocked kitchen for my meals. There is an HEB grocery just north of the fort in the city of Goliad.
This location is rich with history and is actually older than the United States. It has been here since 1749!
A word of caution: there is a point along the perimeter wall that has been, on occasion, breached by local teens and drunken adults. Some visitors have written about their experiences with trespassers. Have the Goliad police department's phone number programmed on your phone should an intrusion occur and they will be there within a couple of minutes and will deal with the situation immediately and thoroughly. In other words, they are fed up with folks trespassing on the fort! :)
The house is located at 1006 Holbrook Road in Northeast San Antonio off Austin Highway and Eisenhauer Road. The original structures were built in 1887 and 1901. Coincidentally, it was the site of the battle of Salado Creek. On September 18, 1842, Mexico once again tried to reclaim South Texas in an ill-conceived attempt that culminated in the deaths of at least 60 Mexican soldiers on the banks of the Salado Creek in San Antonio. It was an easy victory for the Texans who had lain on the banks of the creek in an ambush of the Mexican army. Basically, it was a massacre. Only one Texan was killed while the Mexican army retreated and never attempted to recapture Texas land. Less than 50 yards away from the battle scene is the old haunted Black Swan Inn. To this day teenagers will drive to the location, park under the old, massive oak trees, and in a puerile rite of passage, dare each other to run to the front door, touch it and run back.
The location was active hundreds of years before when Native Americans lived in the area from about 500 B. C. to 1000 A.D.
The house has changed hands more than a few times and many of the former occupants allegedly haunt the location. The original German immigrants who settled the land in 1867 - Sebastian and "Betsy" Ackerman and their children may still be around. But it is more likely that Henry Mahler and his wife Marie and four children who are occasional spectral occupants. He committed suicide 2 years after his wife died in 1923. Henry is said to be the ghost seen most often on the grounds or the milking barn behind the main house.
It is a sprawling complex of structures and land. Out front, off to the side is a flat open field where the battle of Salado Creek occurred and it is the site where most of the Mexican soldiers died. Being on those grounds and in the house can certainly evoke feelings of dread and history. The location unquestionably has a palpable haunted vibe, but for the most part, it is benevolent in nature.
I was here with friends and did not solo this location. I, however, intend to return to the Swan for a proper solo exploration as it is indeed a promising location.
I was here with my paranormal investigator friends. Michael, Destry, Me and Jen had explored Yorktown Hospital a few months earlier.
The house and the grounds could easily be the set of a Hollywood horror movie. It is beautiful, sprawling, and as haunted as you could possibly want it to be.
I wanted to make sure everyone had a solo experience and we all agreed. We were warned by the owner of the property to not be alone in the milking barn, so that's exactly what we all did at some point during the evening.
The house itself had approximately 6 rooms and a Psychomanteum, in which we all also took turns in. The upstairs is the private living quarters and is completely off-limits.
There was only one time I experienced an intense feeling of dread and it was downstairs near the hallway. I felt a good deal of dread as if someone close to me was watching me.
The milking barn turned out to be a dud for all of us while we soloed it. No one, including myself, had any personal experiences to report.
However, we all recorded EVPs both inside and outside the main house. While I was on the battleground with Michael, I did record a response when I asked, in Spanish, for a name. The response was somewhat unclear and either said "Juan" or "Who won?"
The best EVP's were captured on Destry's audio recorder outside by the swings. Desty asked, "Do you like to swing on the swing?" A very distinct and clearly heard young female answers, "I like to swing!"
While Michael was in the Psychomanteum, you can hear a very fast female voice that appears to say, "Where did he come from?"
There was a good amount of EVP's recorded at this location, but many were class Bs or Cs.
Since I can speak Spanish relatively well, I addressed the spirits of any Mexican soldiers who might have still been around on the battleground where they undoubtedly fell and died. I only was able to find one apparent response.
There were a few knocks that were recorded at different times during our exploration. One set of knocks was recorded on Jen's audio recorder in the milking barn. Another was recorded while me and Michael were outside on the battlefield.
There is an interesting EVP that was recorded while Mike and Destry were in the milking barn that sounds like, "Lo dijo tu tia!" The English translation is: "Your aunt said so."
This was my second group exploration of a haunted location. And I did have personal experiences that would lead me to believe the place is haunted. However, most of the group had doubts. No one experienced anything spectacularly spooky. I, however, did have interesting experiences while I was soloing. At one point in the main meeting room, I got a very strong sense someone was there. It was one of those moments when you get goosebumps all over. It was brief but unmistakable. While I was alone in Sophie's room for a moment there was a glowing light outside the window. No one was outside at the time and I did wait for a vehicle to drive past to see if that could have been the cause, but it was not.
WHAT TO HIT: You can hit every specific location here because of the limited access to the first floor of the house and the milking barn. Keep in mind that the milking barn is open and while we were there, we encountered a few varmints, mostly very noisy rats. You cannot hit the upstairs as those are the living quarters of the owners and family.
THE FOLKLORE: This location is a veritable cornucopia of haunts. From all the previous owners and occupants of the land and house to Native Americans who camped in this area dating back as far as 5000 B.C. It also doesn't hurt that 60 Mexican soldiers were cut down during the battle of Salado Creek. You can walk that very killing field to your heart's content. As with a lot of hauntings, there are a few ghosts that allegedly roam the grounds. One is a lady in a white dress that apparently likes to hang around the gazebo in the front yard. This may be the ghost of Jolene Woods. Her husband, Hall Park Street is also believed to be the spirit of a man wandering around angrily.
There is quite obviously the spirit of a little girl at this location, however, it is said that there are 3 distinctly different children ghosts here. Henrich Mahler allegedly haunts the milking barn. And then there are the ghosts of the Mexican soldiers that occasionally have been seen on the grounds.
IN MY VERY HUMBLED OPINION: You know how sometimes movie critics like to say stuff like, "it's a movie you'll be thinking about long after you've left the theatre?" That's exactly how I felt about the Black Swan. It definitely left an impression. It has been 3 years since I was at the Swan and I feel somehow that it beckons for my return, alone. While some of my teammates believe the Swan was a bit of a letdown, I, on the other hand, believe it is probably haunted up the a##. I mean that in a good way, of course. It's all quite benign. I never felt anything negative or harmful. I will say this, and my teammates agreed at the time, perhaps the place would be a bit more active if the owners didn't actually live on site. It was really quite odd to be in a haunted location knowing an entire family was upstairs, asleep. It was just weird to be traipsing about someone's home in the middle of the night. If it were me, I would be absolutely freaked out there were strangers poking around my house all night long, doing God knows what. Other than all that, this is a must-do location, if only for the historical significance of the location.
IF YOU GO: First a word of caution. Do not stay in any hotel/motel in the immediate area. Sorry to say, and I'm sure a few of my fellow San Antonians are going to disagree, but Austin Highway is a relatively rough area. There are plenty of fast food joints that are safe for a quick stop, grab and run like Chick Fil A, Sonic, and Raising Canes. If you want one of the best, and cleanest, BBQ joints, go up Austin Highway a bit to Big Bib BBQ.
Getting onto the actual property was a bit confusing. There is an old gate and driveway that leads directly up to the house but it was inoperable. There is a side entrance, next to the (battle) field left of the main house that leads up to the left side of the house. The road is fairly dark and it is difficult to see, I recommend you have GPS and the owner's phone number to guide you onto the property.
VICTORIA'S BLACK SWAN INN
San Antonio, Texas March 5-6, 2016
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS MARCH 5-6, 2016