GRANBURY, TEXAS — Boo! Ghosts of the past are said to be present in the town cemetery, happily roaming the town square buildings and adjusting window shades at the Nutt House Hotel.
The hotel, owned by Melinda Ray, is open for business and records 102 years of continuous operation.
Visitors are often amused at the hotel's name, but it's the real thing.
Jesse Nutt and his brother Jacob Nutt built the hand hewn stone hotel on the town square. Though blind from childhood, the early entrepreneurs are said to have turned thirty dollars into a successful business career — beginning in 1867.
Granbury, friendly and prosperous, is located in Hood County, 41 miles southwest of Fort Worth on U.S. 377. A steady tourism business is built on their wild and wooly town history.
Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tours are very popular and Frommer's Travel Guides lists the tours as among the best in the country.
Granbury, called the jewel of the Brazos River Valley, is a prime destination for heritage tourists. The Granbury Square was the first in Texas to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Famous names such as John Wilkes Booth and Jesse James spent time in Granbury, and their spirits are said to roam their former haunts.
“Guests at our hotel tell of hearing footsteps, or finding their towels moved or the shades opened,” Ray said. “We have a lot of fun here and it's just pesky stuff with the benevolent spirits.”
Ray said she thinks the hotel spirit is Mary Lou Watkins, 1918-2001, the grand matriarch of Granbury historic preservation and owner of the Nutt House Hotel for 41 years.
A statue of Mary Lou ringing her dinner bell is featured in the town square. She was known for her chicken and dumplings, hot water cornbread, and black-eyed pea salad.
Julia Pannell, historian and volunteer guide at the 130-year old home where the Dora Lee Langdon cultural center is located, said the city lends itself perfectly to tales of ghosts and goblins, because decades ago it was a nitty-gritty, exciting place.
“There are good things and bad things that linger from the past,” Pannell said. “This city was a focal point for the wilder part of Texas, and a nesting place for unsavory characters. It once was very hard to get to and outlaws found a home here surrounded by the river.”
Many of those outlaws landed in the Hood County jail, now a museum. The Old Western jail built in 1885 is a bleak structure and served as the jail until the 1970s. Historians there have many stories to tell of ghosts banging and clanging their way through the old building.
The Nutshell Eatery Bakery is down the street from the jail on the town square. Kay Collerain has owned the restaurant for 33 years and once lived in rooms above the restaurant.
She said voices often drifted up the staircase. When Collerain investigated, there was no sign of anyone. Others have said they see a woman painting murals on the walls.
Collerain is known for the best pancakes in the county and the restaurant is worth visiting whether or not ghosts are of interest.
People have shown up in Granbury with ghost meters and it's said there are 89 ghosts in the old bank.
A spooky nighttime cemetery tour takes visitors out in the dark where it's easy to imagine the crack of a tree branch is an approaching spirit.
The outlaw Jesse James, who died at 104, is buried in Granbury and his family still maintains his grave. Visitors regularly place small bottles of Jack Daniels on his grave, as well as coins that are said to buy his way to heaven.
Guide Boots Hubbard has a sense of humor, knowledge of the area's history and leads a fun and friendly tour. The town of 8,000 has more than enough sites to visit alone or on a tour.
Go ahead and meet the ghosts of Granbury and pick a favorite.