Spooky! Galveston Ghost Tours Draw Visitors Throughout Year

In the spirit world, ghosts show up when they feel like it.

The Galveston County Daily News reports nonetheless, humans have chased them, hoping for an appearance since time immemorial.

In Galveston, a town attuned both to tourism and the shadow world, that adds up to ghost tourism, a growing and competitive enterprise that, in the opinion of at least one other-worldly entrepreneur, has gotten a little cut-throat.

"There's more people getting into it," said Dash Beardsley, ghost hunter and owner of Galveston's oldest ghost touring business, Ghost Tours of Galveston Island. Beardsley cited negative reviews on TripAdvisor he believes are targeted slurs against his business.

"It's the internet thing," he said.

For 20 years, Beardsley and his crew of tour guides have been guiding tourists on foot to downtown sites and cemeteries, passing along Galveston's ghost lore to visitors with the possibility of a sighting always lingering in the shadows. The company's "Restless Spirits" tour and "Secret Society Cemetery Tour" guide tourists through the basics of Galveston's ghostly netherworld the old-fashioned way -- on foot with a tour guide.

But in recent years, Beardsley's business has seen more competition arrive on the island in the form of bus tours and even Segway tours that will take tourists on a spin past the island's well-known haunts.

The Galveston Experience Group arrived on the island in 2018, in addition to offering ghost bus tours and producing a regular ghost podcast.

The Hotel Galvez offers "Dinner with the Ghosts," a tour of the hotel's haunted staircases, rooms and corners followed by a three-course meal and drinks.

The ghost business thrives on tourists looking for something beyond a day at the beach and its growth depends upon new and creative approaches, a development that Beardsley believes is not necessarily a good thing for the spirits that inhabit the island.

"Last year I noticed the veil was not as open as it used to be," he said.

None of these businesses would exist if not for Galveston's well-known connection to the spirit world.

Author Amy Matsumoto in her book, "Haunted Galveston," puts it bluntly: "The fact is that Galveston is a real, live ghost town."

For Matsumoto and others, the connection has to do with Galveston's legendary brushes with death and destruction, dating back to the Karankawa tribe -- the island's first inhabitants, known to have consumed humans after killing them -- and climaxing with the 1900 hurricane that killed more than 6,000 people, leaving their spirits to wander, some believe.

"Ghosts are energy, just like us," said bestselling author James Van Praagh in his book, "Ghosts Among Us."

"Ghosts tend to show up when death was sudden and unexpected, and the deceased are unaware of their condition or when death was traumatic like from a storm."

Accounts of wagonloads of piled-up dead bodies in 1900 Storm survivors' letters, collected by the Rosenberg Library, tend to affirm that perception, drawing a picture of a place littered with haunts.

Beardsley believes Galveston's physical nature, surrounded by water energy, animates the ghost world as well, centering it on the island and cutting it off from the rest of the world.

"With all this death relative to Galveston's small size, might the island be a `perfect storm' for paranormal activity -- a sort of community center for ghosts?" Matsumoto asks.

The whole island's haunted, Beardsley said. Galveston is a place where you can go and knock on doors around town and on every block you'll find someone with a tale of a ghost sighting, he said.

Indeed,, the web site of a company that books overnight stays in haunted places, lists among Galveston's top eight most haunted spots the Walmart on Seawall, formerly the site of St. Mary's Orphanage where, in the 1900 Storm, 10 Catholic nuns and some 90 children drowned.

Historically, it's known that seances were conducted at the Menard House, the oldest house on the island, and Spiritualism, a religious movement based on communication with the spirits of the dead, was popular in Galveston for a time, said Dwayne Jones, executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation.

But Galveston's ghost tourism heyday appears to be now, a development that has convinced Beardsley he's going to have to get better at that internet thing and online marketing.

"I'm not very good at it," he said.

What he is good at is visiting with island ghosts. Just last week, out of nowhere, while on a tour, he'd stopped to let guests snap pictures when he saw one, right in front of them.

"It was a 15-year-old boy with no feet," he said. "I didn't say anything."

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