With an air of opulence that hasn’t been properly seen since the bygone age of its birth, one look at the Moody Mansion will give one a variety of feelings on first sight.
On the one hand, it’s a gorgeous manor that gives one a view into what grandeur and wealth looked like in the past. This 28,000 square foot, four story tall Romanesque mansion features 31 rooms (20 of which are available for public tours), all of which bear the beautiful marks of rich elegance from their construction back in 1895. It’s utterly awe-inspiring and a must-see sight when visiting Galveston.
On the other hand, there’s just something about it that doesn’t seem quite right. Perhaps it’s the foreboding turrets or the way it seems to loom, almost as if it’s watching you. Though clean and fully restored, there’s something about the look of the Moody Mansion that gives it a classic “haunted house” look, the kind you’d see in movies or gothic novels. Considering some of the stories of it, though, ghosts may be more than just the stuff of movies when it comes to Moody Mansion…
History of Moody Mansion
The tale of Moody Mansion’s origin is almost as tragic as it is indicative of one woman’s obsession.
Richard and Narcissa Willis were wealthy Galveston socialites of the 19th century. With ten children and a fortune made from cotton broking, they wanted for nothing, yet Narcissa always wanted more. She wanted a grand, opulent estate that would allow them to show off their wealth to the people of Galveston. More practical, Richard always refused the idea of building a grand mansion, preferring to keep his assets in cash to better split it up amongst their children upon his death.
That sad event came in 1892, but rather than follow her husband’s wishes, Narcissa took Richard’s fortune and set about building the grand estate she always wanted. She had the home she and her husband and children had shared torn down in preparation for this new estate to be built on its remains, and in 1893 commissioned the English architect William H. Tyndall to design the mansion of her dreams. Using elements from different cultures and periods, Tyndall created an eclectic house with a design to Narcissa’s liking.
Narcissa had hoped that the house would have a way of bringing her children back to Galveston, but this was not meant to be. Her selfishness had estranged her from her children, none of whom visited her or the manor for the remainder of her days. Narcissa lived out her final years in this house, alone save for a single housekeeper she kept in her employ.
Narcissa Willis died alone in 1899. Almost immediately thereafter, her daughter, Beatrice, put the home on the market. It was a coveted property among the Galveston elite, and a definite prize to be won. Among the interested bidders was Libbie Moody, who asked her husband William to purchase it for her. Though the bidding may have started out as competitive, in the devastating hurricane that swept through Galveston in 1900 sealed the deal in the Moodys’ favor. What once started out as a $100,000 property dropped down to $20,000, and the era of Moody Mansion was born.
Though its origins as Moody Mansion may come from disaster, the Moodys’ time at the manor remained unremarkable and enduring. Members of the family lived at Moody Mansion until 1986, when it was transformed into a museum dedicated to the Moodys and Galveston’s rich history.
Even its status as a cultural landmark of the city has not spared it from nature’s wrath, however. In 2008, Hurricane Ike damaged the property and flooded the basement, destroying the kitchen, servants’ quarters and Libbie Moody’s potting room. The city of Galveston was able to save much of the basement, ultimately converting it into the Galveston Children’s Museum.
Nowadays, Moody Mansion doubles as a museum with guided and self-guided tours of 20 of the classically styled rooms, while also serving as a private event venue for parties, weddings and meetings. A window into Galveston’s storied past, Moody Mansion is a must-visit locale when touring the city!
Ghosts of Moody Mansion
Stories of specific hauntings in Moody Mansion are few and far between, but there are more than a few tales of mysterious goings-on throughout the years.
Disembodied footsteps and other strange, unidentifiable noises have been reported throughout the house.
Perhaps the most notable phenomenon in Moody Mansion is the surprisingly common photographic anomalies. Pictures taken on the grounds of Moody Mansion have frequently been shown to have mysterious, blurred “guests” popping up in them. Sometimes it’s little more than a shadow in a place that ought not to have a shadow, while in others it can be something a little more defined. A few have taken pictures that were sworn to be mysterious faces peeking out from windows. Whatever form they take, they are almost universally in the approximate size and shapes of people, making a compelling case for the possible supernatural photobomber.
Though it may not have as storied a history as other famed haunted houses, Moody Mansion is still worth a look if just for its amazing and, depending on your tastes, creepy appearance. Whether you’re looking for the spooky or a great example of local history, Moody Mansion is definitely worth your time while visiting Galveston.
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