So many people died in the Great Galveston Storm of 1900, there was not enough time nor manpower to bury them all. Within days, the victims were piled like cordwood onto barges for a quick burial at sea. However, the currents in the Gulf of Mexico are so strong that many of the bodies wash back onto Galveston Island and other Texas beaches. Some books, about the Great Galveston Storm, claim that for several weeks pyres of bodies could be seen burning on Texas beaches day and night. When found, many of the dead, were still tightly clinging to each other for support (the support that had failed them in Life).
This is Audio Stories with J.B. Simien and this is the story of "A Stormy Night at the Courier Inn. Please visit www.jbsimien.com to download this and other Audio Stories for later consumption. Also, please show you support for this show by purchasing a copy of my latest book Paranormal Mystery from Amazon. There are links in the story notes. Now our story.
Galveston Island was originally inhabited by members of the Karankawa (Car-Ran-Cow-Waa) and Akokisa (Ahh-Coke-kesh-Shaw) tribes who used the name "Auia" (A-OO-I-A) for the island." The first Spanish settlements begin on the island in 1816. The Port of Galveston was established in 1825 by the Congress of Mexico (not long after Mexico won its freedom from Spain). When Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, the city became the capital of the Republic of Texas. From 1836 through 1900, Galveston was a city built upon international trade. When the Republic of Texas joined the United States in 1845, Galveston, became one of the busiest seaports in the United States. It was a prime commercial center, Texas' largest city and the home of the wealthiest citizens in Texas.
At the start of September 8, 1900, Galveston, Texas had a population of 36,000 people. At its highest point, the city measured nine feet (three meters) above sea level. That elevation trivia is important because, on September 8, 1900, Galveston was completely destroyed by a category four hurricane. The hurricane caused a 20 foot (seven meter) surge of sea water (driven by 145 miles per hour winds) to washed over the island and destroy everything along its path. It's estimated by historians that up to 12,000 people were killed by the storm. By mid-month September 1900, the city existed only in name. In the United States, that Storm still holds an infamous record for the largest loss of human life by a weather event on a single day.
The City of Galveston eventually rebuilt and erected a protective seawall. However, it never recovered as a major population center. In the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, it became known as "Sin City on the Gulf." It was a major tourist destination for illegal gambling and prostitution. In the 1950s, those illegal businesses were closed by a wave of social conservativism that grabbed Texas and the United States. When those illegal businesses closed, tourism and the economy died in Galveston. In the 1960s, the economy recovered when the city re-emerged as a tourist destination. This time the attraction became history, historical buildings, and beaches.
Very few buildings survived the Great Galveston storm. It is in one of those surviving buildings, in The Strand District, that the Courier Inn (my hotel) is located. Originally, the hotel was built in the antebellum days of the old south. Outwardly, it appears to be unchanged and well preserved. However, that is deceptive. Inside, it has all the modern conveniences of a first class hotel. The original name of the hotel was "The Grammar." That hotel is legendary in Texas for its service and for its infamous owner Dr. Gunderson Tibbets.
Tibbets was said to have departed New Orleans a few hours ahead of a lynch mob (in 1889). Those who claim to know him in New Orleans and later in Galveston said that when he departed New Orleans he was Thomas Herbert a nearly white creole barber. When he arrived in Galveston, he was Dr. Gunderson Tibbets (alumni Harvard University). In that one voyage, he gains a new profession, a prestigious education, a different name and a new racial identity.
Tibbets established a lucrative medical practice. He also managed to acquire several state contracts that eventually made him and his supporter's very wealthy men. It is said that Tibbets was not a good doctor but he was a hell of a business man. For almost a decade he earned a fantastic living off of the state of Texas. Then in 1898, he backed the wrong political allies and he lost his state contracts.
When the money was flowing from Tibbets businesses, the first property of importance he purchased was "The Grammar" hotel. He lived in a suite on the third floor and he operated his medical practice and businesses from an office in the lobby. Under his guidance, that hotel became the gathering spot for wealthy Texans and international visitors to Galveston. On the night of the storm, September 8, 1900, the three-story hotel was fill to capacity and the lobby was packed with hundreds of refugees from the storm. There were more people seeking refuge than could be safely accommodated.
All the glass windows in the hotel were shattered by the force of the wind and motion of the building. Since the storm came on unexpectedly, there had not been time to place wooden planks across the windows and doors. The wind, the rain, and the sea came whipping through the now open windows and doors. No one’s voice could be heard above shouting. Everything and everyone was soaked and the interior of the hotel was as dark as the night outside. A few lamps illuminated parts of the interior. When the crowd looked outside, no land could be seen (only ocean). Galveston had become part of the Gulf of Mexico. People were crying, praying, begging and offering bribes to be saved. Meanwhile, fish and sharks were swimming in the rising water among the desperate people.
The storm surge would eventually cause the first and then second floor to fill with sea water. Survivors say Dr. Tibbets had earlier station trusted gunmen at the stairwells of the hotel to keep people who were not his paying guests, invited friends or hotel staff from accessing the second and third floor. The men were instructed to kill if necessary.
As the water level got higher, the hundreds of people still crowded onto the first floor panicked and attempted to force their way onto the higher floors. The gunmen killed and wounded enough people to temporally calm the crowd. The people begin drowning. Everywhere there was screaming, curses and sounds of people dying. These end of life sounds could not be blocked by the noise of the storm. The people on the higher floors listened to death claiming hundreds of souls on the first floor and prayed their time would not be soon.
On the first floor, any still living children were held above the rising water by their fathers and mothers. Tibbets was begged to allow the remaining women and children still alive to be saved. He refused. He said that the upper floors couldn’t hold any more people. Physically, the building was swaying under the force of the surging sea water and the high wind. If the motion continued to intensify, the building would collapse. It seemed moving to the higher floors only delayed death by minutes or hours at best. The city was now part of the Gulf of Mexico. Only creatures who could breathe water were assured of survival that night.
The desperate situation caused the remaining people on the first floor to gained new courage. They attempted to force their way once again to the next level but they were not successful. The water level was now above the heads of the tallest men. In under half an hour, hundreds of people were dead and the water was still rising.
It again became necessary for Tibbets to repeat that gruesome selection scene from the first floor as the rising sea level begin to consume the second floor. The third floor was already packed beyond capacity. No people from the second floor (guest nor staff) were allowed to move to the third floor. Tibbets repositioned the armed men and himself to block access. The hundreds of people on the second floor begged to be allowed onto the next floor. Some just accepted the coming of death and prayed, screamed, or remained silent until the end. Some were killed by the gunmen.
It is estimated that the dead on the first and second-floor number more that than seven hundred people. After the storm passed, there were so many dead in Galveston that no one cared what had transpired at the Grammar Inn that night. No one was put on trial for murder and, certainly, no one was praised for the decisions made by Tibbets. The people of Galveston encouraged Tibbets to find a new home. The Hotel was eventually rebuilt and reopen with a new owner and a new name "The Courier Inn."
"In September 2000, I was attending a business meeting in Houston, Texas. I had some free time over the weekend. So, I decided to visit Galveston to enjoy the beaches." Said Michael Gannon of Tacoma, Washington. "I was given a haunted guide to Southeast Texas by one of my business associates because he knew that I enjoy staying in unique places. That my thing."
The guide's writer recommended a stay at the Courier Inn. She recommended the rooms on the third floor (preferably in stormy weather). The guide promised that under the correct conditions a ghostly experience would be guaranteed. She also, said that the hotel employed a holographic machine (purchased from and maintained by Disney Company) to ensure its guest experienced the legendary event for which the hotel is famous (when the conditions are not right).
I have been interested in paranormal events since my first unexplained experience as a child. In 1983, my two cousins Gene and Sue Gannon disappeared one night inside their home in Seattle when they were just kids. For days my uncle and aunt could hear their voices calling for help in the hallway that connects the bedrooms. Still, not they nor the police could find them. After two weeks, my uncle and aunt committed suicide when my cousins couldn't be heard anymore. In 2013, the bodies of my cousins were found in the hallway of the house in which they had disappeared thirty years earlier. They were still little kids. An author named J.B. Simien wrote about the incident it in his book "Paranormal Mystery." It's on sale at Amazon.
Friday, my first night at the inn, I checked into a comfortable room on the third floor as recommended. However, I was more interested in checking out the bar scene in Galveston that night. I drank quite a bit of liquor. It was after two a.m. when I return to my room. As soon as I laid my head on the pillow, I was asleep. When I awoke the next day around eleven a.m., I didn't recall any paranormal incidents. That afternoon, I hung out on the beach for a while then I checked out some of the city's historical venues. Coincidentally, it was Saturday, September 8. The one-hundredth year anniversary of the Great Galveston Storm.
Later that night, I decided to hang out at the Inn because of a sudden thunderstorm. In Texas, thunderstorms are how Mother Nature cools off the countryside after a hot day. They are very frequent on the Gulf Coast. In the Inn's bar, I made the acquaintance of a local woman named Jennifer. Texas women are so beautiful. I'd like to pack her up and take her home. We talked about the history of the city and the history of the hotel (as the storm got stronger). At ten-thirty the Inn lost electrical power and switched to emergency lights. Jennifer supplements her income by entertaining tourist like me. For a reasonable fee, she accompanied me to my room.
We had been in bed for almost an hour, vigorously, enjoying each other's company. Then, for a short while, we were just quiet and resting for the next round. That's when we both heard just below the noise of the storm the distant sound of distressed people. They seemed to fill my room and fill the hallway. They sounded very far away but at the same time all around us. We could hear them praying, cursing and begging god to be spared. Then the room was suddenly filled with fireflies. There were so many fireflies that they illuminated the darker room. Jennifer said that the hotel must have turned on the holographic machine to simulate the ghostly experience. She had seen something like this before with other clients in the hotel but she thought this time it was more detailed and really very entertaining.
I got out of bed. Still nude, I put on a house coat. I stuck my head out of the room door to discover where the sound and fireflies were originating. I wanted to see how the machine did this cool holographic trick. The hallway was filled with fireflies too and the distance sounds of desperate people dying in water. I could see other guests were, also, peeking out of their doorways. The guy across from me asked, "Where is the noise and all these firefly's coming from?" Then we heard gunshots and everybody closed and locked their doors.
Were we under terrorist attack? I thought. Jennifer said it was part of the show. I called the front desk to see what was going on. I told the desk clerk that we had heard gunshots coming from the hallway. I also told him that there was fireflies and the sound of a crowd in the distance coming from the hallway and my room. The clerk replied calmly, "Sir, please don't worry, it's just our legendary ghosts. They won't hurt you. They don't even know you are there. I asked if they were using the machine. He replied, "The electrical power is out sir. We can't use the machine while we are on emergency power." The ghost's sounds you are hearing are real. The fireflies are actually orbs (the souls of people who died in the hotel)." I asked him to send somebody up.
The bellhop didn't appear to be upset or surprised as he calmly said, "You needed something sir?" "Don't you hear and feel what's going on?" I asked him. "Is this some kind of Hollywood special effects that the hotel employs to frighten guest?" The bellhop told us that what we were hearing and experiencing is a type of paranormal recording that is imprinted on the building because of the tragic incident that happen there one-hundred years ago. He called it a residual haunting. The incident plays when conditions are just right. Just what the guide book said. The hotel is haunted.
Jenifer and I set nude in bed listening to the sound of the historic events unfolding one hundred years earlier. She is very beautiful especially when reflected in the illumination of those orbs. We tried to record the sounds and sights we were experiencing on our cell phones. They didn't record anything. We talked about those dying (no dead) people and the strangeness of hearing their deaths one hundred years later. I thought about the choices that the people had made that night. For those that survived, it was just luck. For those who died? Well, no person has enough personal will to defeat death. Also, I thought about Tibbets and the choices he makes to save his guest, friends, and staff. Plus, the choices he makes to force other to accept their deaths.
The event lasted for about an hour and a half. It ended with the passing of the storm. Afterward, I was grateful to be alive. Jenifer and I, happily, got back to our pleasure
That concludes the story of "A Stormy Night at the Courier Inn." I hope you all have enjoyed it. Please remember to visit www.jbsimien.com to download this and other Audio Stories for later consumption. Don't forget to show you support for this show by purchasing a copy of my latest book Paranormal Mystery at Amazon. The links are in the story notes.
Thank you and take care.