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Passing down ghostly stories

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Posted: Monday, October 31, 2016 1:00 am

SANTA MARIA — Our Lady of the Visitation is one of the many places in the Valley thought to be haunted.

Legend has it that when people walk up to the church past midnight, they can hear sounds of a congregation sitting in the pews from the distant past, while nobody is inside.

“You hear things and if you get into the church, more often than not it’s empty,” said Ken Hudnall, an author and paranormal researcher. “Quite often the hauntings have nothing to do with the buildings that are there, they have to do with the land.”

The church is one of the many haunted locations in Hudnall’s book, “Spirits of the Border V: The History and Mystery of the Lone Star State.”

The church has been abandoned for more than 40 years. It sits off the side of the road on Military Highway in the Santa Maria Park. It was built by the original Oblate priests who came to Texas in the 1800s.

“I don’t have any stories I have found of the ghosts actually hurting somebody,” Hudnall said.

He said the ghosts make you hurt yourself.

In the Valley, the old church is just one of many urban legends and ghostly stories passed down from generation to generation.

“Urban legends are popular stories alleged to be true and passed from individual to individual,” Hudnall said.

He said the stories are like the telephone game. By the time the story gets to the last person, it has been completely changed.

“Sometimes that is what you find in theses stories,” Hudnall said. “And other times you find that it’s pretty close.”

Hudnall said there are two types of hauntings.

“There is an intelligent haunting that reacts to you,” Hudnall said. “And there is residual haunting that does the same activity over and over and over.”

He said certain people have the ability to play back the hauntings like a video recorder.

Hudnall said the theory behind Halloween and ghosts is that certain times of the year there is a barrier between what was and what is that gets very thin and sometimes you have more activity at that time.

Ghostly soldiers

The last battle of the Civil War at Palmito Hill is less than 30 miles from the old church built by the original Oblate priests.

Retired professor of anthropology and sociology Dr. Tony Zavaleta and his son were walking outside their ranch at Palmito Hill in 2006. While walking the property, they came across an American penny from the Civil War era dated 1863.

He said the two didn’t realize at the time it was the anniversary of the battle of Palmito Hill that had happened after the surrender of the Confederate Army.

“It just so happened it was on May 12, that day of the battle,” Zavaleta said. “It appeared and materialized out of the material world.”

He said the only explanation for the penny is a ghost of a combatant soldier from that era placing it there for his son to find.

He said, “Where would we have gotten a penny from 1863? We would have not put it there.”

Neither of the two had ever seen the coin before.

He said in the 1980s it was reported that a group of 25 men dressed in uniform on horseback were seen marching across the lawn of Texas Southmost College.

“That was a ghastly apparition,” Zavaleta said. “Very often on Civil War battle fields there are apparitions of ghosts.”

Fort Brown was a Civil War base that had changed hands from the Union and Confederate army during the war.

“The janitorial staff have heard and seen many things on the campus,” he said.

Zavaleta said he has never seen a ghost, but some urban legends are told as cautionary tales.

He referenced the story of a young girl who danced with the devil at a dance her mother told her not to attend. She sneaks out of the house and goes to the dance.

And the most handsome man dances with her and whirls her around and around the dance floor. But at midnight she notices he has changed.

“He now has hooves and changed into the devil,” he said of the story about the tale of the girl who danced with the devil.

“We tell that story because the moral of the story is if you disobey your mother or your father, then something bad could happen to you and you might encounter the devil,” Zavaleta said.

Urban myths

Ghostly hauntings in Cameron County, from “Spirits of the Border V: The History and Mystery of the Lone Star State,” by Ken Sharon Hudnall.

Rio Hondo

When Rio Hondo High School was being constructed, a workman was accidentally electrocuted and died. Now the janitors working late at night claim to see the shadow of the man. Teachers who work late at night claim to hear unusual sounds and steps in the halls.

San Perlita

In the late 1800s or early 1900s, a horse-drawn carriage is said to have accidentally driven into Devil’s Lagoon and everyone riding in the carriage was killed. Now on certain nights around midnight, it is said the carriage will come out of the lagoon drive around it and return into its watery grave.

Santa Rosa

Long ago a restless spirit haunted the town. She was called “la llorona” or weeping women. She would walk down the streets of one of the villages called “el rincon del Diablo” she would wrap for her children who had drowned in a canal near the village.

Santa Maria

Witnesses have reported that inside the old Iglesia Antigua church you can hear noises as if the congregation is sitting in the pews, even when the church is empty. It’s known the that the old building has a lot of secrets, such as the existence of a tunnel that begins somewhere inside the church. Others say that the church was built on a very old cemetery.

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