Tag Archives: landowner

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.


The Landowner and the Rooster

The Main Piece
Many East Asian cultures instill values in children through the legends they tell. Catherine recalls a story her grandparents would tell her as a child about a greedy landowner, his workers, and a rooster. Although the landowner was rich, he was extremely greedy, trying to make as much money as possible. Every day his workers would wake up when the rooster crowed and begin plowing the fields. “The landowner wanted them to work more so he came up with…with a scheme! To make the farmers work more, he would sneak up into one of the villager’s rooster house and would make a crowing sound. When the rooster heard this it too would make a crowing sound, but a louder one that woke up the other roosters in the village. Then, the workers would wake up, thinking it was time to plow the fields, making them work longer hours. One night a boy went to take a piss outside and saw the landowner. He told all the farmers so they came up with their own plan. The next night, when the landowner crept up into the rooster’s house one of the men yelled ‘THIEF’ and all the villagers came out and beat him up. That’s pretty much the end.”
Background Information
The informant of this story is Catherine Wang, a current undergraduate student at USC and personal friend of mine. She recalls this story being told to her by her mother in an attempt to teach her daughter not to steal from or swindle others. As a child she enjoyed hearing this story because she felt it was funny imagining the landowner getting “beaten to a pulp.” To this day she still enjoys hearing and telling this story, but now it is because of the righteousness the plot line contains which she believes is absent in reality.
Catherine told me this story as we were riding the monorail together and we were talking about each other’s families. The conversation turned into more of a comparison of our two different lifestyles as we saw how our family’s differing beliefs influenced the stories we were told at an early age.
Personal Thoughts
At first I had no idea what to expect when Catherine asked me “Do you know the story that had the rich landowner and the rooster?” It sounded as if it would be a simple children’s book, but as Catherine later explained to me, it represented the abuse of the Chinese government during the time and encouraged workers to take a stand and revolt against the government. While I always understood many children’s stories to have some type of moralistic meaning behind it, I did not consider this legend to also be a metaphor for the governmental system and abuse and the current time.