Jacob Johnson believes Fort Worth’s Stockyards is a gold mine for ghosts.
On a dark and frigid night he reached into his backpack and pulled out a remote-like device with red, green and yellow lights that looked like something straight out of “Ghostbusters.”
Johnson, a tour guide in the Stockyards, said the device is an EMF detector, which measures electromagnetic fields.
“There’s a belief that ghosts give off an electromagnetic field and that is what the EMF detector is for,” Johnson said. “It’s commonly used by electricians to detect electricity in an area.”
The Stockyards is one of US Ghost Adventures’ newest tours, said Johnson, who
explores the hauntings and mysteries of the longtime tourist destination on the Northside. These ghost stories, though, are about much more than scaring tourists — they’re about teaching Fort Worth’s history and roots in the Wild West.
With his detector in hand, Johnson sets forth on the cobblestone streets of the Stockyards, intent on exploring its hauntings and mysteries.
“Fort Worth is like the epitome to the stereotypical Wild West history and culture,” Johnson said. “Lots of violence, lots of suffering and whenever you have that mixed with a city as old as Fort Worth is, this place is like a hot spot for hauntings and ghosts.”
When the company picks locations there is extensive research that combines local legends, history and first-hand accounts, said Lance Zaal, president and founder of US Ghost Adventures.
“It’s fun and interesting and people tend to enjoy it,” Zaal said. “It’s got a little bit of history behind it, and then also unexplained things that happen to people today.”
Miss Molly’s history
Johnson ventured across Main Street and turned down the west side of Exchange Avenue. The area was silent. The few street lights lining the street were dim to fit the surrounding darkness.
A bright yellow light flashed, a sign the EMF reader picked up ghostly energy in front of a pastel pink door, Johnson said.
“This is one of the most haunted places, not just in Fort Worth, but in all of Texas,” Johnson said. “This place definitely has the darkest past.”
Nestled beside Star Cafe lies Miss Molly’s Hotel. Established in 1910 as a boarding house, bordello and later turned into a bed and breakfast, Miss Molly’s has seen the prohibition period and a glimpse of the Wild West.
Miss Molly’s dark past included disease, poison, crime and prostitution, Johnson said. Several children died from pneumonia and other diseases, he said. The ladies who worked at the hotel also died from diseases and unsafe abortions, he added.
Paula Gowins, the general manager at Miss Molly’s Hotel, which is now a historic hotel, has encountered her fair share of the hotel’s hauntings, she said.
While working one night, Gowins said she saw a man walking into one of the guest rooms. She assumed he was a guest. She followed him — then he disappeared after he entered the room, she said.
“The spirits come and go as they please and are more scared of us than we are of them,” she said.
Guests have reported seeing the spirit of Josie King, the former madam of the hotel, Gowins said. Other reported hauntings include Jake the Cowboy, a ghost that walks around the hallways, and the tipping ghost who leaves spare change for the housekeeping staff, she said.
A duel inside White Elephant Saloon
Across the street from The Stockyards Hotel lies the whimsical and lively White Elephant Saloon where the spirit of Longhair Jim Courtright can be found playing cards or sipping a drink at the bar among the living, Johnson said.
Timothy “Longhair Jim” Isaiah Courtright was a crooked marshall of Fort Worth who abused his power to instill fear into residents, Johnson said. Courtright died in the saloon after losing a gunfight against the owner, the tour guide added.
Visitors have reported seeing Courtright’s spirit waltzing around like he is still the sheriff ready to pick a fight, Johnson said.
As the tour neared its end, the EMF reader blinked green and yellow.
Johnson glanced at the reader, laughed and shook his head.
“Hmmm,” he said, with a chuckle. “Looks like a ghost might be following us.”
Taylor Coit is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Know before you go
What: US Ghost Adventures’s newest tour called Cowtown Ghosts.
Where: The Stockyards. Groups meet in front of the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange.
When: Check Cowtown Ghosts tour’s calendar. Generally, tours occur every night.
Ticket Prices: Tickets are $25 for adults and $16 for children under 13