Published on October 27, 2020
By Jan Edwards
The full Hunter’s Moon rises over the mists of the coastal marshes, and the odor of sulfur permeates the haunted historic ground of Brazoria County. The ghosts from our past draw nigh during Halloween’s full moon.
Our history generates many ghost tales – based on real events. Explore with me paranormal historic tales that have been handed down from generation to generation and recounted around countless campfires. Ghost haunts are all around you – IF you know where to look. Who’s to say what really happened and what’s slipped through the veil into the other world?
Lafitte’s ghostly hand
Let’s explore one tale of Jean Lafitte, the pirate who plied the waters of the Texas coast in the early 1800s. He knew historic figures like Jane Long and James Bowie and dabbled in the lucrative slave trade. He also plundered ships for treasure which, according to legend, he buried up and down the coast.
One such treasure chest was alleged to be buried in the sand dunes between the Brazos River and San Luis Pass. About 1898, two men came to Velasco searching for… something. They camped by themselves and talked to hardly no one.
One moonlit night they went to a specific sand dune. There, they had someone they hired dig a large hole in the sand for them. Suddenly, the shovel hit a solid surface - the treasure chest the men sought. It was so large, it took all their might to pull it out of the hole on ropes.
Brit Bailey wants his whiskey
Bailey’s Prairie is our next haunt, where Brit Bailey, Brazoria County’s most famous ghost, walks. James Britton (Brit) Bailey had been a Naval officer in the War of 1812 and moved his family and half a dozen slaves to Bailey’s Prairie on the banks of the Brazos River after the war. They lived there long before Stephen F. Austin brought in colonists. Brit claimed about 4,000 acres, and after “discussions” between the two, Brit stayed, and Austin considered him one of the “Old 300” colonists. Brit died of cholera in December 1832, and the hauntings began.
Brit loved to hunt, fish, pick a fight and drink from his jug of whiskey. He stipulated in his will that he be buried standing straight up (he didn’t want anyone looking down on him) facing the west with his rifle by his side. He also requested a jug buried at his feet. His wishes were followed, except the jug of whiskey placed in the grave. Legend says either his workers stole the jug, or his wife forbade it as he had “had enough” whiskey in life – whichever you want to believe. His ghost first appeared in his old home to a friend who purchased it soon after his death. After that, the famous hauntings began.
As early as 1850, stories emerged about an eerie ball of light about 4-6 feet off the ground, swinging back and forth like someone walking carrying a lantern. Animals acted strangely, and later, when cars began driving Bailey’s Prairie, the electronics malfunctioned when the light appeared. Though many have investigated or experienced the light over the years, there has never been a scientific explanation for it.
Legend has it, the light is old Brit still searching for his jug. In recent years, the light has been seen only intermittently. Some say the light appears any night, but others say Brit only walks every 7 years. In her book, “Ghosts Along the Brazos,” Katherine Munson Foster says that the 7-year intervals started around 1946, which would mean Brit should have walked in 2016. Take heed, if on a rainy night in the dark of the moon your car sputters and stops on the prairie, and you see a strange, swinging light approaching you. Tell Brit you don’t have a jug.
Mysterious howling and Santa Anna
Our search for ghosts native to Brazoria County takes us to November 1836 to Orozimbo Plantation, 12 miles northwest of Columbia. This plantation, owned by Dr. James E. Phelps, was the last place General Santa Anna was imprisoned following his capture at San Jacinto.
Texans wanted to kill him because of the Alamo and Goliad. However, President David Burnett and Sam Houston were determined to keep Santa Anna alive, guaranteeing Mexico would honor any treaty he made.
Attempts to free Santa Anna were obstructed at Velasco and the Patton Plantation. A plot to free Santa Anna, involving drugging the guards, was foiled at Orozimbo by the sudden warning wailing of a pack of dogs.
Phelps nor his neighbors kept dogs One explanation of the dogs’ presence lives on to this day. After the thwarted escape, a traveler offered the following story.
His neighbor had owned three dogs he loved, and they loved him. When the Revolution came, the man left to fight and was massacred at Goliad. The dogs seemed to know what had happened since they were moping around and not eating. Then one day, they just vanished.
Mr. Munson may be lonely
The last stop on our ghostly excursion is Peach Point Plantation, now the Gulf Prairie Cemetery in Jones Creek. This cemetery is the last resting place for numerous figures of Texas history, such as the Perrys, the Bryans, and most notably, the original grave site of Stephen F. Austin.
The ghost said to haunt this cemetery is that of Henry William Munson. He was buried on his nearby plantation, Oakland. However, a marker honoring him was placed outside the Gulf Prairie Cemetery.
Munson arrived in Texas as early as 1813. He was wounded at the battle of Medina near San Antonio, settled on the west side of the Trinity River in 1824, was a first lieutenant in Capt. Hugh Blair Johnston’s company in the Fredonian Rebellion (discharged Feb. 17, 1827). In 1828, he, 24 members of his family and 19 slaves traveled by barge to Brazoria County.
Munson then purchased land from Stephen F. Austin and established the Oakland Plantation. He and James E. Perry established a local school. Munson took part in the Anahuac disturbances and fought at the Battle of Velasco.
He died during a yellow fever epidemic on Oct. 6, 1833. His last words were “Please educate my children”. The school was established somewhere around the Gulf Prairie Cemetery of Peach Point.
A disembodied light floating around the edges of the cemetery and coming to rest on Munson’s marker before disappearing has been reported seen. But the most unnerving experience in Gulf Prairie Cemetery is the sound of following footsteps of an unseen manifestation walking around and the sound of a man’s cough coming from the corner of the cemetery.
These otherworldly experiences could be Mr. Munson – trying to get your attention. Perhaps he wants the company. Perhaps he has something to say to the living.
There are more historic haunts, including the Death Bell of the Brazos, the ghosts of Lake Place in Lake Jackson and the ghost school children of Velasco. We’ll save those for another Halloween.
Meanwhile, Halloween is nigh, so be aware of where you live and prepare yourself for an otherworldly experience. The specters of our history await.
(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)