One of the interior hallways at The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, not far from the room I was in when I encountered my first ghost.

The Driskill Hotel Ghost Story by Jenifer Vogt

The Driskill Hotel

Exterior shot of The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, the location of my first real-life ghost encounter.

Postcard of an old photo of the Driskill Hotel by Jenifer Vogt

On The Desk

I enjoyed seeing this postcard of an old photo of The Driskill on the desk in my room

I encountered a ghost for the first and only time in my life when I stayed at The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas in 2017. I’m writing about it now because it’s a good story and it’s true and I’ve never written it down. Though I’m a horror and fantasy genre fan, I didn’t believe in ghosts before it happened and it’s still the only supernatural experience I’ve ever had.  Scroll down to the ghost encounter section if you’re here just for that.

When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother was into everything otherworldly. She put angels everywhere. Sylvia Browne’s books were all over her home. My aunts took her to psychics and seances. She even once revealed that she’d had an out-of-body experience in an operating room. She said that she floated above the table while the surgery was being performed.

This grandmother was my favorite and I adored her because she doted on me and made me feel safe and loved. In every card she ever gave me, she wrote, “I love you the bestest,” which was good because I was her only grandchild! Yet, despite our strong bond, I never believed her ghost stories. I thought ghosts were for con artists and, if I’d had any lingering doubts, they vanished when Sylvia Browne was convicted of fraud in 1992.

So, ghosts were the last thing on my mind when I was researching hotels to stay at during an Austin business trip. I found listings and reviews for The Driskill Hotel and I thought it sounded cool. It was historic and the architecture intrigued me. I just rolled my eyes when I stumbled on an article that mentioned The Driskill was haunted. While that might appeal to other tourists, it did nothing for me. I wanted to stay there because the hotel had stunning, historic architecture. So, I booked a room.

Entering 19th Century Texas Without My Corset or Gun

I gasped when I opened the front door of The Driskill, I was awe-struck because it’s like walking into another era and it caught me off guard because the promotional photos on the website don’t give you a sense of the scale or the lighting. The ground floor is opulently beautiful in a way that reminded me of my high school internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I spent a lot of my time in the American Wing. Much like our culture in general, American architecture derives beauty from an eclectic mix of appropriated styles from other countries.

The Driskill was envisioned and constructed in 1886 by Col. Jesse Driskill, a cattle baron who invested his wealth in building what he called “the premier hotel south of St. Louis”. It comprises two interconnected buildings: the original four-story Romanesque Revival structure and a 13-story annex added in 1930. Designed by Austin architect Jasper N. Preston, the original building’s facade comprises over six million pressed bricks with accents of white limestone. It features two porticos on the southern and eastern sides, distinguished by large Richardsonian-style arches, reportedly the largest of their kind in Texas. 

Upon its opening, the hotel boasted 60 rooms, including 12 corner rooms with attached baths—a rare amenity for hotels in the region during that era.

 

The Grand Lobby of The Driskill Hotel in Austin Texas

Lobby of The Driskill Hotel

This photograph doesn’t do justice to how magnificent the lobby is!

The Ghost Encounter that Made Me a Believer

Guest room  photo at The Driskill Hotel by Jenifer Vogt

My Room at The Driskill

It was outside the door of this gorgeous room at The Driskill Hotel that I encountered a ghost for the first time in my life

Diagram to explain the ghost encounter Jenifer Vogt had at The Driskill Hotel

How It Happened

This illustration shows how I was turning when I faced a ghost at The Driskill Hotel

Hall outside my room at The Driskill

Hall Area Outside My Room

This was the large, open hall area outside my room. I think that’s my room door on the left, but now I can’t remember if this was what I was facing from my door or if I took this photo of my door, but either way you get the gist of what was outside my room when I saw the ghost.

Waiters in the 1800s

When I began searching for photos of servers from the era The Driskill was built, I found this one

This is my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s 100% the truth, though I’ll entertain the possibility that my subconscious was influenced by The Driskill ghost stories I read before I arrived. However, like I said, I’m a ghost story skeptic. So, I doubt my brain was that malleable to  accepting the possibility of ghosts being real before I had a real-life encounter. If it had been, I’d have been less skeptical of Gram. 

On the second night of my stay, I ordered room service to spoil myself and also to enjoy the beautiful room. Room service is one thing I’ll splurge on when I’m traveling, or at least I always did before the coronavirus pandemic decreased the pleasure of the experience, which is now much less fancy at many hotels. But this was pre-covid and it was full-service, room service. Staff delivered a fancy tray to my door with a smile and a standing tray for it to rest on, as well as beautiful napkins, pretty plateware with lids, condiments, and beverages.

I enjoyed the meal, which wasn’t that fancy. I’d ordered a burger so I could try The Driskill’s “famous” fries, which were good! When I finished, I did what I always do because I don’t like having empty food plates and trays in my room overnight. I packed everything up and opened my door and I left the tray on the ground against the wall on my right. Then, I stood up and faced the empty open, and expansive hallway area that had a table in the center of it. For a few seconds, I admired the beautiful interior and then began turning to my left to re-enter my room.

That’s when it happened. As I turned, a man quickly hurried past me, which I didn’t think much of. This transpired in all of ten seconds. He appeared preoccupied and didn’t look at me. He was facing straight ahead so I was looking at his side.  He looked to be in his late 30s and he wore a white long-sleeved and collared shirt and tie with a black, buttoned-up vest and black trousers and he had short, dark hair. I heard his hurried but gentle footsteps and the air moved as he walked by.  For a moment, I thought it was neat that he was dressed in an old-fashioned manner because it amplified The Driskill’s charm. How novel and creative!

I saw his back out of the corner of my left eye as he passed and then I turned further left. I must stop here and clarify that I turned in a semi-circle. I’d walked out the door and turned to my right to leave my food tray against the wall. Then I faced the hallway area, but I didn’t turn back to my right to go back in. Instead, I was turning left when the man passed me. That’s also when those proverbial chills went up and down my entire body. I need you to understand why. So, being a geek, I created a graphic.

The chills engulfed me when I realized the man had walked into a wall. I stood there frozen in disbelief and surveyed the hallway on alert for other ghosts. I was scared and shaken. I went back into my room and turned on the television and every single light, including the ones in the bathroom. Every. Single. Light. They stayed on throughout the night. I was scheduled to check out the next day, which was both a relief and a disappointment because I loved The Driskill, but I’d just seen a ghost, and I was afraid.

When this entity passed me, I’d seen and felt his presence. I felt him just like you feel any human being that’s near you.  This wasn’t a mere apparition. This was a being with energy and movement that impressed me enough to assess that he was in a hurry and novelly dressed. It wasn’t like a ghost floating through the air like you’d see in a Scooby Doo cartoon. He wasn’t transparent. This was a real man and if there had not been a wall to my left, I’d never thought twice about it.

I took out my phone and began searching the Web to find photos of what hotel staff and waiter uniforms looked like in the late 1800s and that’s when I found this photo and then I concluded I must have seen the ghost of a former member of The Driskill’s staff.

Whiskey Suddenly Seemed Like a Good Idea

After that, I needed a drink. Wine + spirits tasting and tourism are my hobby, but I’m not actually that big of a drinker, though I relish a fine whiskey and if there was ever a good reason to find one this seemed like it. Sleep wasn’t going to come easily with all the lights and T.V. noise, and I didn’t want to order a drink through room service because what if he was still outside the door waiting for my next tray? I thought about calling The Driskill’s concierge who had been so helpful and asking if she’d mind finding me an escort to the nearest bar, but I hung up when I realized how that would sound. Then, I remembered that The Driskill has a bar and I have long legs. So I can walk fast.

The ghost hadn’t had a dark or threatening presence, but I was still spooked. My love for horror and supernatural books and films led me to associate ghosts with foreboding, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was going to come back with an ax. That’s why I really wanted to head to the The Driskill’s bar for a drink, and maybe find a big Texas cowboy to escort me back to my room afterwards.

Photo of the bar at the Driskill Hotel with the Texas Longhorn Taken by Jenifer Vogt

The Driskill Hotel Bar

An area in the bar with the notorious Texas Longhorn

As if The Driskill's Weren't Fascinating Enough, There's a Bungalow on the Roof

Photo of the mysterious bungalow atop The Driskill Hotel

The Mysterious Roof Bungalow at The Driskill

Other than a 2018 article in the Austin-American Statesman, there’s no info online about the bungalow that sits atop The Driskill. This 1979 photo was taken after the 1930 renovation and provided by the Austin History Center to the Austin-American Statesman

There’s actually a small, vacant and not used house on top of The Driskill that they call a “bungalow,” and I think is just about the coolest thing ever. I learned about it from an article written by Michael Barnes in the Austin-American Statesman. The bungalow has two bedrooms with private baths, a living room, and a full kitchen equipped with a General Electric refrigerator and all other amenities to delight even the most discerning homemaker.

I can’t tell you exactly why that bungalow fascinates me, but it just does and I’m dying to see it. Before I published this blog post I called The Driskill and asked to speak to their Concierge. They told me they don’t currently have one, which is disappointing because the one that was there during my stay shared great historical info about the hotel and guided me to all the right spots to immerse myself in the culture of Austin. The friendly gal I spoke with explained that guests still can’t book the bungalow and nothing has been done with it yet, but they hope to renovate it for future use.

I loved staying at The Driskill. It’s a unique and magical place. Though it spooked me, I even loved that I saw a ghost there. I would stay there again in a heartbeat and I can’t wait to visit again!

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