You’ve seen them as you drive along lonely Texas highways or tucked away in the odd corner of an otherwise urban landscape. They're the bones of once-loved homes, cemeteries overgrown with weeds, even whole towns that time forgot: They're ghost towns.
Texas ghost towns come in many shapes and sizes. Some were frontier settlements that died out; some villages whose residents tried and failed to build a way of life that matched their dreams. Other towns were born for reasons of expediency, then puttered out slowly or disappeared almost overnight.
To get into the spirit, this Halloween season, Texas Standard and public radio stations across the state are bringing these remains of civilization back to life.
Here are the ghost towns we've profiled so far. You can hear their stories and see photos at the Texas Standard website. We'll feature one each day through Halloween.
This is not a ghost story. But it’s a story about the ghost of a dream – a French dream – to build a colony for Frenchman fleeing political and economic upheaval that began in Paris and swept across Europe in the late 1840s.
Driving west out of Marfa, you pass a foreboding sign: “No service next 74 miles.” You won’t see much on that stretch of Highway 90. But past the small town of Valentine, population 134, there’s a place where the mountains stand guard over a row of desert-worn, derelict buildings. There’s a rundown four-room hotel and a boarded-up gas station. It’s all covered in overgrown brush. This is Lobo.
In 1923, the Santa Rita Number One struck oil in Reagan County, about 70 miles west of San Angelo. Boomtowns quickly popped up in the wake of that discovery. Some of them are still around – others, like Best, are not.
A lonely historical marker sits on the side of FM 1960 outside of Humble that you'd probably drive right past. But, if you’re curious and stop to read the sign, you might also meet one of the last residents of Moonshine Hill, whose house is just behind that marker.
Just off of Louisiana's Highway 6, about 30 miles east of the Sabine River that separates the state from modern day Texas, you’ll find the remains of the long-lost first Spanish capital of Tejas – one you’ve probably never heard about. It was buried for hundreds of years, until one archaeology student decided to dig it up.
If you travel just an hour outside Austin, there’s a place that starkly contrasts with the so-called “Live Music Capital of the World.” East on Highway 71 toward Bastrop, the sounds of the city fade and all you’re left with are acres of untouched land, as far as the eye can see. If you take a right turn here, left turn there, you’ll find yourself at the gates of a cemetery.
South of Marfa on Highway 67, 20 miles before you reach the Mexican border, a green sign reads “Shafter Ghost Town.” A dusty drive takes you past adobe ruins and give you a glimpse at what’s left of this once-thriving mining town.