Haunted Capitol: Tour explores death, ghost stories in statehouse

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It happened not too long ago, in a hallway just like any other in the Texas State Capitol.

A state worker passed a woman wearing a bright red or pink dress. He thought he recognized her, but couldn’t figure out why, so he turned to catch up with her as she rounded a corner through a doorway.

When he got to where he saw her enter the door, he was shocked at what he saw — or, rather, what he didn’t.

“You are going to figure out that this is not a door,” Marilena Crouchet explained to the tour group she was leading on Wednesday morning. “She just vanished.”

The man’s encounter with the mysterious “vanishing lady” is one of many stories Capitol tourists hear on the “Rest in Peace” tours that happen every October. 

“It’s talking about dead people,” Crouchet said. “People who died in the Capitol.”

The tour takes groups all over the building, while guides still explain the basic history and show off both chambers of the statehouse. But, it’s the hidden history of the spooky and the supernatural that sets the tour apart.

There’s the story of Ed Wheeler, a 26-year-old painter who, in 1922, was re-finishing the inside of the dome. The scaffolding he was walking on shifted suddenly, and Wheeler fell past all three levels in the rotunda, crashing through the glass-pane floor and into the basement, where he died.

Tourists will also hear about the only murder ever to happen in the current capitol building.

Comptroller Robert Love was working in his office in 1903 when a former employee of his, William Hill, came to see him. Love had recently fired Hill but welcomed him cordially anyway. Hill handed Love a letter he’d written, but before he could finish reading, Hill pulled out a gun and shot him twice in the chest.

Hill ran off, leaving Love to die in his office. Another government employee gave chase, and when he caught Hill, the two fought, and the assassin himself was shot in the struggle. He died later that day.

Crouchet’s retelling of the story made Wednesday’s tour group jump.

“They were a little concerned it would be too scary, but it was the perfect amount of scary for them,” Jennifer Boyd said. She was chaperoning a collection of students from Austin’s AHB Community School.

The students, ranging from 9 to 11 years old, had taken capitol tours in the past, but not like this. They all wanted to hear the side of the Texas capitol they hadn’t heard before.

You might not believe all the stories you hear on the tour, but it makes you wonder: When lawmakers return to the capitol in January, will they be alone?

The Rest in Peace tour runs twice daily on weekdays (at 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.) and Saturdays (at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.), and once on Sundays (at 1 p.m.) through Wednesday, Oct. 31. 

There’s no need to register for the free tour beforehand; simply show up inside the south entrance — if you dare.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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