Galveston Diners Hunt Ghosts Over Dinner, Drinks

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    People visit Galveston for the salt surf, hot spots along the Great Texas Birding Trail and for one of the country's largest collections of historic architecture.

    But one group says this island city also could conjure tourists with something less tangible than beaches, birds and bricks.

    Members of Southern Paranormal Investigations, equipped with an array of gadgets, went ghost hunting Saturday night in the J.D. Rogers building, which houses Bistro Le Croy on Galveston's historic Strand.

    About 30 customers paid $10 to watch the live and interactive ghost hunt over dinner and drinks. The hunt was broadcast on the bistro's big-screen television and around the world on the Web.

    Members of the group said they hoped the investigation would renew interest in The Strand and Galveston's history and attract tourists mesmerized by things paranormal.

    Jennifer Hanson and Jennifer Parker, founders of the group, said money from the event would help the organization continue probing for contact with the other side.

    Hanson and Parker started Southern Paranormal Investigations in 2007 after they met at a paranormal interest group meeting in Alvin. Both said their group always wanted to conduct an investigation in the J.D. Rogers building and others nearby because the buildings were a source of many reports of paranormal activity through the years.

    "There have been reports of entities that look like Civil War soldiers here," Hanson said.

    She said the building was a morgue during the 1900 Storm.

    Many visitors, business owners and workers in the building also claim to have seen the ghosts of a woman and a boy dressed in Victorian clothing, Hanson said.

    Daryl Olson, son of the owners of the J.D. Rogers building, was visiting from Los Angeles and said almost all the buildings on the block were haunted.

    A girl named Annabelle haunts the Nichols building next door, Olson said.

    The Nichols building, made up of lofts and banquet space, can be reached by connecting stairs from the J.D. Rogers building.

    "The first night I stayed here, I heard a little girl crying," Olson said. "So we had some psychics come through here, and they all said her name was Annabelle."

    In a small office in the Nichols building, Olson pointed to a daguerreotype photo of a young girl in a frame hanging on the wall. The girl was dressed in Victorian clothing, had blonde hair and big eyes. "That's Annabelle," Olson said.

    He said the picture was there when his parents bought the building and that psychics said it was Annabelle.

    Back in the dining room of the bistro, Joshua Christie, 22, a student at Texas A&M University at Galveston, was sitting at a table with friends enjoying a beer.

    "We're all fans of the TV shows like 'Ghost Hunters,"' he said, referring to the Syfy channel production airing on cable TV.

    He said he expected to see ghosts in the J.D. Rogers building.

    "It seems like a creepy place," Christie said.

    At the table next to Christie, the Dorsetts, a family of four from Friendswood, were eager for the investigation to begin.

    Amanda, 10, said she had encountered paranormal activity on one of the family's previous trips to the bistro.

    She said she saw a door open by itself in the corner of the building's atrium. Her sister, Drea, 12, said pictures they took in that same corner contained floating orbs.

    About 10:45 p.m. after setting up the J.D. Rogers building with cameras, voice recorders, electromagnetic meters and leaving marbles, a skate board and a tea set for child ghosts to play with, the team from Southern Paranormal Investigations turned off the lights.

    Inside the bistro, the big-screen TV projected shots of rooms in the building that were thought to be haunted. A few minutes later, what looked like a small circle of light darted by the camera set up in the building's atrium.

    "Did you see that?" a diner yelled.

    It was clear that a lot of others had seen it, whatever it was.