A Real and Genuine West Texas Ghost Story

This WPA was done by Tom Lea and can be found at the Odessa, Texas post office

Stampede Mesa

Somewhere in West Texas, there is a real place called Stampede Mesa. It is situated east of Lubbock,  along the Blanco River on a private ranch. There is a ghost story attached to this high spot of grass that many researchers believe is the origin for the song, Ghost Riders in the Sky. Furthermore, it is completely, plausible that the lively story might have traveled by word-of-mouth from West Texas to Arizona, where the author was born and raised.

Stan Jones would have been an obscure C & W songwriter except for one massive hit, Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Ghost Riders in the Sky

The song was originally written in 1948 by a relatively unknown songwriter of the name, Stan Jones. At the time, Stan was a Death Valley National Park ranger, who wrote songs on the side. During his lifetime, he recorded over 100 songs with the Ghost Rider tune, being by far the most popular. Jones, who grew up on an Arizona ranch, claims to have heard the story while he was kid.

Burl Ives was the first major recording artist to pick up on the number. He did so in 1949, after being sent the song by Eden Ahbez, an iconic California folksinging character, who was best known for living under the grandiose Hollywood sign, before being discovered by Nat King Cole in 1947. Since its initial release, Ghost Riders has been performed by over 50 musicians. Styles vary from full out, loud rockin’ country as done by the Outlaws to a simple folksinger’s tale as Don Edwards does in the following video.

A Real Texas Ghost Story

The story of Stampede takes place back in the 19th century during the heyday of the cattle drives. According to legend, a band of cowboys were driving 1500 head of cattle from South Texas to Kansas. While traveling along the Blanco River in West Texas, the group approached a flat-topped mesa that overlooked the river.

Since there was good grazing on top, they drove their heard up on the small plateau, being careful not to get too close to the large cliff that overlooked the river. Much to their surprise they encountered an old man, who was camped out with his own small herd of about 50 steers. Without much discussion, the drovers from the South decided to share the mesa with the old man.

Unfortunately, this decision did not sit well with the old man, for sometime in the middle of the night, he arose and deliberately started a stampede that killed 1200 head of cattle and two cowboys. Then, he hightailed it away from the mesa, but the cowboys tracked him down and brought him back to camp.

For his callous crimes, the old man was blindfolded, placed on a horse and driven off the cliff. From that day on, the hallowed place has been known as Stampede Mesa. Not surprisingly, the land is believed to be haunted with strange sounds and apparitions of cattle stampeding being reported by those who travel along the Blanco River.


This house definitely has a mystery surrounding it. drawing by author
This house definitely has a mystery surrounding it.    drawing by author


Our world is full of mysteries. They begin with the very creation of life (the Big Bang Theory for example) and continue right up to the present. Today, one of the largest group of mysteries, consists of who-dunnits, also known as murder mysteries. With a current worldwide population of 7 billion (and still growing) the ways that one human can kill another has grown at a staggering rate. This is good news for mystery writers, but bad news if you happen to be that unlucky soul who gets at axe  embedded in your skull. Pictured above is one little mystery that surrounds an old house. The drawing was originally created for a short story, but this piece of artwork also works well this weeks Illustration Friday topic.

Do you know a good ghost story?


Ghost stories come in all sizes and shapes
Ghost stories come in all sizes and shapes, from Wikipedia

Tales from the Supernatural Can Be Found Anywhere

Not too long around, I was hitching out of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in northern New Mexico. I got a ride from a gentleman from west Texas, who was returning to the Angel Fire area after a day of skiing on the western flanks of this most impressive mountain range. He had not had any problems with his his little condo, but a friend of his, who had just purchased an old miner’s cabin near the Enchanted Circle, had not been so lucky.

According to my newfound friend, this other person had just bought a mountain hut, right near the spot, where two desperados had been hung about the turn of the century. (For all you youngsters that’s about 1900, not 2000) Supposedly these two ne’er der waals had robbed a bank in Las Vegas, NM (not Nevada) and been caught red-handed with the loot. Instead, of taking the duo back to civilization, the local posse decided to hang the pair right then and there.

For the new property owner, the first night in the newly-purchased abode went without incident until way after midnight, when all of a sudden there was an incredibly loud banging on the side of the building. The owner rushed outside immediately, but not a soul could be seen. After a recurrance of this sequence of events, the new owner abandoned his property, vowing never to buy a haunted house again.


Sexy Ghost?
Sexy Ghost?

Do Ghosts Care About Their Appearance?


Ghost of Brown_lady
The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall (England) as photographed by Hubert C. Provand, from Wikipedia


Spirit Photography

The advent of the camera has lead to increased specualation that there is a shadow world filled with spiritual beings that exists side-by-side with our own reality. Though no concrete proof has ever been proven, many people believe in communication with those who have departed the world of the living.

The Hammersmith Ghost was reportedly seen by several residents of London in 1804. This engraving published in the London press commemorates these sightings, from Wikipedia.


Ghost Stories Are Full of History Lessons

The Hammersmith ghost of London was so real that local residents set up patrols to watch out for the ghost, who was believed to have made several attacks on people walking down the sidewalk in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, a real person was mistaken for the ghost and shot to death. The shooter pleaded the case as an incident of mistaken identity, but the jury did not buy the story. In the end a plasterer returning home from work at night loss his life because he resembled an apparition.


Ghost Stories Are Everywhere

Walk into almost any bookstore and you will most likely find several versions of these intriguing tales. It doesn’t matter if you are in the remote mining country of the Wild West or the windswept beaches of the Atlantic; there are bound to be some spicy tales floating around the living realm of the local populace. All you have to is search out the tall tales……or maybe you will encounter your own supernatural apparition……and get a chance to write about that.