New historic ghost tour haunts the streets of Alpine

ALPINE — Believers and nonbelievers gathered this past Saturday at the historic Reata restaurant under a full moon to witness spine-tingling spectres and learn about the rich history of downtown Alpine. 

The 40 plus participants clutched fake candles, sipped on cocktails and hot cocoa donated by Reata and prepared to walk the 1.5 mile route to a handful of the historic, supposedly haunted, landmarks. It was opening weekend for the ghost tour, which is a collaborative effort by the Alpine Historical Association, newly established after a long hiatus, and Sul Ross University’s theatre program, with all proceeds going to theatre scholarships. 

Jimmy Case, who teaches political science at Sul Ross, first learned about the tour through the local Kiwanis Club and brought his friends who were in town visiting from Fort Worth for Artwalk, Arch and Edy Lou Mayfield. The Mayfields said they are drawn to the novelty of spooky tours, enjoy learning the local lore and have participated in similar events during their travels.

“We’re staying at the Holland Hotel. They said there will be something at the Holland, we just hope it’s not our room,” Edy Lou laughed. 

The thrill-seeking crowd was made up of people of all ages who faithfully followed the lead raconteur, Bret Scott, from one storied building to the next. He also teaches at Sul Ross and spent 10 years working at the sketch and improv comedy theater Second City Chicago, lent his booming voice as tour guide for the experience, his pageboy cap and pocket watch reminders of another era. 

Live actors playing troubled phantoms lurked in windows and pathways along the route, telling their tales from the grave. Their makeup, costumes and characterizations of those long dead bolstered the color and excitement of the tour. Actors ranged from Sul Ross staff and students to regular community members with a flair for theatrics. 

The nighttime walk began at Reata and meandered over to the Alpine Railroad Depot, Hotel Ritchey, Brewster County Courthouse and more, ultimately ending up at the Holland Hotel. There were recounts of murders, brothels, betrayals and hangings from Alpine’s history in addition to more regional folklore of La Llorona and the devil.

Marjie Scott, Chair of the fine arts department at Sul Ross, directed and wrote the script for the ghost tour. Research materials include Alpine, Texas, Then and Now, a history of Alpine by previous Sul Ross history department chair Clifford B. Casey, and Tales of the Big Bend a folklore collection by Elton Miles.

Abbey Branch, member of the Alpine Historical Association, wanted to share her experience growing up in Alpine on similar tall tales with the greater public by hosting a spooky stroll. She said the Theatre of The Big Bend exposed her to many popular musicals as a child and she also wanted to give back to Sul Ross’ theatre program. Student actors are also receiving a stipend for their participation.

“We thought it was a great idea to work with Sul Ross. They provide the acting and the charisma to lead the tours and in return, we donate 100% of the profits to theatre scholarships,” said Branch. 

Additional tours will take place this spring and more themes may be added in the future, said Branch, like cemetery or southside tours. The group hopes to attract locals and visitors alike with wicked characters and cultural climaxes.

“We just thought it was a great way to tell the history of our town, share the folklore and get people excited that either visit here or are from here,” said Branch. 

The next round of ghoulish ghost walks will take place in April 2022. For tickets and updates, visit https://historicalpine.org/ghost-tours/