The Haunting Of Market Square

A Halloween tour takes you through Main Street/Market Square Historic District. The buildings off Allen's Landing make up Houston's oldest and most-haunted business cluster.

I’ve only grown to appreciate horror films over the past few years. And while I’ve learned to enjoy stories of haunted houses, I’ve rarely found them truly frightening. There’s one, though, that’s always scared the daylights out of me.

“They’re here.”

Stephen Spielberg’s Poltergeist, the best argument ever against moving into a house built over a graveyard. So you can imagine my reaction to hearing this from Jack, a bartender at the Brewery Tap on Franklin Street.

“There’s a burial vault under the corner of the parking lot at Franklin and Louisiana that was uncovered during the Franklin [Street] Bridge reconstruction back twelve or thirteen years ago.”

In fact, the Brewery Tap is only one of three businesses housed in the former Houston Ice & Brewing Company building reputed to be haunted.

La Carafe stands a few blocks south of Brewery Tap on Congress Street. The two-story structure dates back to 1847, making  the oldest commercial building still in use in Houston. Carolyn Wenglar has owned La Carafe since 1988.

“We had a bartender here — he was the manager here for a while when I first took over — and he passed away, I think, in about ’90 or ’91. One of my bartenders from the other bar happened to see him in the window one night, out here in the front, and recognized him. And then I had another bartender here that — he did not know him. He saw him in the front window one night and described him to a T.”

If there’s one place that rivals La Carafe for the title of “Most Haunted Business in Houston,” it’s Spaghetti Warehouse. The restaurant occupies a century-old former produce warehouse on Commerce Street. Sandra McMasters is its general manager.

“There’s an older woman that lives here. Her husband supposedly died in the elevator shaft years ago, before Spaghetti Warehouse ever owned the building. Her spirit actually lives and exists in the building because she’s — she's died of a broken heart, because this is where her love of her life actually lost his life.”

The old woman is just one of dozens of spirits McMasters’ says inhabit Spaghetti Warehouse. Generally, she says, they’re good for business. But not always.

“We had a family that had a little boy sitting at a table, and the little boy was going crazy, crying, saying, ‘Mommy, Mommy, please make him stop! Please make him stop!’ Turned out there was a little spirit boy, kind of motioning for him to ‘Come here, come here.’ And the little boy was flipping out, and the parents didn’t know why. Finally, one of the waiters said something to the family about, ‘Hey, we’ve got spirits that live here,’ and they immediately left.”

Nightmare on the Bayou, ScreamWorld and Phobia are all open through tonight, if you’re looking to get your haunted house fix in now. But if you’re still in the mood come November 1st, the bars and restaurants off Market Square are open year round. Just don’t be surprised if you have to share your table.

(Evil laughter).

Sandra McMasters has dozens of stories about the haunting of Spaghetti Warehouse. Here is one of my favorites.
—Andrew Schneider

 

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...