Tag Archives: houston

University of Texas’s Reappearing Ghost Face


My informant is a 18 year old student from the University of Southern California.This conversation took place at a cafe one evening. The informant and I were in an open space but sat alone. I know that my informant really loves horror movies and ghost stories but often says that she is unfazed by them, so I asked her if there were any ghost stories or urban legend back from home that she was familiar with or believed. In this account, she tells the story of a ghost that resides in the University of Texas, something that was told to her by her friends in middle school. My informant laughed a lot throughout our conversation, most likely due to the fact that she doesn’t believe in ghosts and thus found this story a bit ridiculous. In this transcription of out conversation, I am identified as K and she is identified as A.



A: So, I’m from Houston, and so obviously there’s the University of Texas, and there’s like this story about the Ewing Wing. So, um, the University of Texas, the property that they own now was once owned by a guy that would threaten to haunt his children when he died if they ever sold his property, but after he died his daughter sold the property anyway and it became Ewing Hall at UT, and so when it was finished, a face started to appear on, like, one of the floors and there are actually photos of it, and it kind of resembles the owners, and it’s real creepy and that’s that.


K: What do you think this story represents? Why do people continue to tell it?


A: Well, there is this part of the story I left out [laughs] where the wall… the face keeps showing up, like they kept repainting over it and sandblasting it, but the face kept coming back. Even when they removed that chunk of the wall to another floor, the face still came back… I think people keep telling this just because it’s creepy, you know? Creepy ghost persistence…


K: How did this affect the people around you?


A: I mean, my friends, or like people I know that do believe in ghosts think it’s kind of cool or they think it’s like creepy and they don’t want to go near the Ewing Wing.



I ended up looking up this story and, as it turns out, this ghost is well known throughout Galveston, Texas. It resides at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) campus, and the story that I found is quite similar to what my informant told me. Legend says that the building is haunted by the ghost of the former land owner; while he was still alive, UTMB offered to purchase his property, but he refused. Before he died, he made his family promise to never sell the family land and to make sure the land is passed on for many generations. However, once he died, his family betrayed his dying wish and sold the property, which is what began the construction of Ewing Hall.

Ghost stories, and other various types of legends or folklore,  are told because it’s a way for people to provide an explanation for something that they cannot understand. Furthermore, the telling of a ghost story reinforces remembering the events of the past, reminding us of specific people and places. So, what is the explanation for the ghost’s face that keeps reappearing, in spite of the efforts to completely get rid of it? It’s to remind us of the man who owned the land and instill guilt in us, the family who sold the land, and even the people of UTMB because they betrayed the owner’s wish. His reappearing face is a literal reminder of his existence, and it also serves as a warning function. Often times, ghost stories are told to shoo people away because most people choose not to live or be in a place that has a reputation of being haunted. We can see this as being true, for my informant admits that though many of her friends that believed in ghosts thought that this story was cool, it still made them fearful and not want to go near the Ewing Wing where they thought they could encounter the ghost.


Indian Joe

My roommate grew up in Houston, and she told me a piece of folklore from her time at a Girl Scout camp in Texas. She participated in the production of the folklore while she was at camp, but it is not something she believes is true now.

“I went to this girl scout camp, Camp Agnes Arnold, which is a little bit outside of Houston, kind of in the Conroe area. But we had a marker that everyone assumed was a grave for Indian Joe. And you always had to give the grave a very wide berth on your way back to the cabins, because if you stepped on it, it was going to rain for the rest of the week and your entire week would be spoiled because you stepped on Indian Joe’s grave”

Q: Who told you about Indian Joe?

“I…think it was probably a camp counselor at first. Either that or one of the older girls, because I had been going to that camp since I was eight or something, so I don’t necessarily remember the original source. But I remember I would warn other girls to stay away from Indian Joe’s grave so that we would have nice weather”

Q: Did anyone know who Indian Joe was?

“I want to say… I don’t think it was anything more than the basics. He was an Indian who had settled in the area and it was his land and then he had eventually died and been buried in that area, and it was just one of those things, like, show respect for the Indian grave”

In areas where Native Americans once lived, the foklore seems to come from two things: fear and respect towards the Native Americans. In this example, stepping on the rock will result in something bad (the stereotypical “Indian curse”) but it also seems to stem from a desire to be respectful to the grave, perhaps to make up for the past.

Houston Rodeo

Jonathan “Scotty” Miller

Houston, Texas

March 12, 2012

Folklore Type: Festival

Informant Bio: Bio: Scotty is my good friend from high school. He is a twenty year old Sophomore and Physics major at the University of Houston. He was born and has lived in Friendswood, Texas his whole life. Except now he lives in downtown Houston. Everyone in my group friends is smart, but we have labeled Scotty as the super smart one among the boys because his major sounds the hardest. It is however extremely debatable as to whether or not this is true. Scotty is one of the nicest and calmest people I have ever met. His house is the one we always go to hang out.

Context: None of my friends who are girls could go to the Rodeo with me during Spring Break. So, I asked Scotty to go with me and my parents. Afterwards, I asked him what he thought.

Item: Smells, BBQ obviously. Sounds well Country music. Let me see… sort of carnivaly. The main event of course is things involving livestock like competitions and such. BBQ! BBQ is important because it involves the eating of livestock. Country music is around and rap is getting involved with it because of the younger generation bringing it in I guess. There is old school carnival rides, ferris wheels, tall things you fall from, sort of an old timey southern tradition. There’s a concert and stuff you can buy that goes with that. Cheap beer everywhere. Cotton candy. Something unique to the rodeo, you know where carnivals usually have the things you can win stuff? Only at the rodeo can you win a pick-up truck. The art show is pretty ok. Most of it is done by high school student. It ranges from stick figurey to masterfully done. It various from shop art to tapestries and what have you. It’s usually about boring cowboy things like cows and pigs and cowboy hats. It’s in the convention hall area. You also have the places where there’s abusing of the livestock. You walk around and poke them. Another area where you stare at them and they stare at you. Places you can buy southern attire, lots of cowboy hats, leather items, antler derivatives. Food on a stick. Smoked food on a stick. Deep fried Oreos that’s a pretty good tradition. Oh, people don’t normally wear cowboy hats, but they wear them to the rodeo. But people wear cowboy boots that’s more normal. Also people who don’t normally wear cowhide vests and stuff wear them. It’s really only once a year. You go or you don’t the week when it’s in town. There is only a certain time it’s around. It’s most often a family thing or a friend thing. Or I guess if you’re really enthusiastically country which probably means you’re redneck.

Informant Analysis: Usually a, it’s ah a cultural staple. It’s a moderately pleasant evening where you don’t have to worry about anything bad happening. It’s a safe event, and everyone knows what it is. It’s a thing that people do; it’s a tradition. It’s cool for people and important for other people. I don’t know it’s cool.

Analysis: The rodeo is not terribly important to Scotty. It is just something to do for him unlike other Texans where they feel a sense of pride. The Houston Rodeo has become a blend of old style rodeos and modern concerts and other events. The Rodeo is held at Reliant Stadium and Convention center where the Houston football team, the Texans, plays. There are rules for the competitions and an organized order to the rodeo. It is less local than the way rodeos started out. Rodeos used to be a way for farming communities, where farms and neighbors are really far apart from each other, to get together, compete, eat, get to know each other, and have fun. Now the rodeo is a mix of new and old.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012