It is often the most unassuming of houses that find themselves haunted, and with a house as beautiful as the Black Swan Inn it can almost seem an impossibility. How can this house, with its classical southern charms and gorgeous scenery just a stone’s throw away from downtown San Antonio, be such a recognized haven of paranormal activity? For that answer, one must look back in time at the land’s history of bloodshed, death and unexplained occurrences that go back centuries that have given it a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Texas.
Black Swan History
Archaeological evidence has indicated that the site of the Black Swan Inn was home to Native American encampments as far back as 5,500 BC, with some evidence of a potential ritual sweat lodge having existed on the site, as well as rumors of a ceremonial burial ground existing on the site where the current house stands. Though these remain only rumors, they have been persistent over the years.
On September 18, 1842, the land saw perhaps its bloodiest day as the Battle of Salado was fought on this site. One of many skirmishes in which the Mexican army attempted to reclaim territory lost from the Battle of San Jacinto, the battle ended in a victory for the Texans under General Adrian Woll and Sam Houston as they slaughtered more than 60 Mexican soldiers on these grounds, leaving their bodies to rot where they fell.
After the Civil War, the land was purchased by German immigrant Henrich Mahler and transformed into a dairy farm in 1887, who also built the first house upon it in which to live with his wife, Marie. Though they lived a happy life with their children on this land, Marie passed away in 1923, and never quite getting over her death, Henrich followed her by dying from lovesick grief in 1925.
Though the farm and house stayed in the family for a time, in 1941 they sold it to the Woods-Holbrooks families, a pair of sisters, their husbands and their children. They refurbished the main house and dubbed it the “White Gables”, a title it had when control of the house fell upon Joline Woods Street and her husband, Hall Park Street in 1952. Tragedy struck the Streets quite often, first when cancer took Joline in 1959, then when Hall was found hanged in his bedroom in 1965. Though ruled a suicide by law enforcement, there remains speculation to this day that he may have been murdered due to the strange circumstances of his death and tales of a hidden treasure that Hall was keeping within the house.
Since then, it has passed through a number of owners and has become a top-notch wedding and event hosting destination, renamed the Black Swan Inn, that also embraces its singular history with a number of ghost tours and paranormal research opportunities for the public.
Ghosts of The Black Swan Inn
One doesn’t have to look around very hard to find some ghostly lore at the Black Swan Inn, as there have been sightings and legends in pretty much every corner of the property. Though some are reported more frequently than others, the specters are almost as varied as they are numerous, leaving tales of encounters for nearly every individual taste of paranormal enthusiast.
Soldiers and Native Americans
At the nearby Salado Creek, there have been reports over the years of Native American apparitions that have scared off children fishing for invading their land, often accompanied by either a faint drumming sound or the scent of smoke. As well, there has been at least one claim of spectral soldiers in Texan and Mexican uniforms continuing the battle that ended on that bloody day in 1842. Sometimes it is said you can hear the sound of an old military bugle being played, or might even see the ghost of a lone Confederate soldier milling around the Black Swan Inn’s gazebo.
Spirits in Residence
As is often the case with a structure of such history, the vast majority of the reported paranormal activity has centered around the main house. Occurrences such as temperature dips, unexplained noises and lights being turned off and on unexpectedly are not unheard of, but it is the ghostly figures that stalk the halls of this house that truly terrify.
A young woman in a white gown, often believed to be the spirit of Joline’s mother, Mrs. Woods, has been seen on numerous occasions sitting on a bed in an upstairs room, while Joline herself has been viewed wandering the property, aimlessly searching for that which no one knows. Given the intense and loving relationship with her husband, it is often believed she is forever searching for Hall.
Less benevolent is the specter of a man occasionally seen angrily stalking the grounds, oft believed to be the spirit of Hall Park Street. Is he still raging over the circumstances of his death? Is he perhaps possessive of a legendary treasure that he supposedly still guards? Is he perhaps still searching for his lost Joline? No one seems to know for sure, though a feeling of a great sense of tragedy in their presence has been reported by some as the spirits of Hall and Joline never seem to find one another in their endless searching.
The Dairy Farm
Another paranormal hotspot of the Black Swan Inn would be the old dairy farm of Henrich Mahler. A trio of male ghosts has been seen there throughout the years, frequently making loud noises and once having been recorded on EVP as having said, “GET OUT.” A large man has been seen in the upper window from time to time, and a general feeling of hostility has been known around the old barn, so while it is a place to definitely visit, it is perhaps not one where you’d wish to stay for an extended period.
A number of ghostly children are known to call the grounds home. Henrich’s daughter, Sara Mahler, has been said to play around and frequently jump on the house’s beds. Sophia Louise Mahler Myers may have died in the house as an 82-year-old spinster, but is said to haunt the house as an 8-year-old girl fond of singing and playing pranks on the living (but don’t take any of them personally; she just loves to play).
The specters of children have been reported to frequently move objects around, occasionally pinching and biting people or throwing loud tantrums, but otherwise remain a relatively benign and playful presence within the Black Swan Inn.
Visiting the Black Swan Inn
Whether you’re looking for a paranormal adventure in Texas, or a unique slice of history from a bygone era of Texan history, the Black Swan Inn is a must-visit location. Go in with an open mind, an inquisitive soul, and a quick finger on your camera, and who knows what you’ll take home with you.