A Monday Mystery: Galveston’s (In)Famous Phantom Face

Monday. I’m not a big fan. It’s usually laundry day. Sometimes, I resent Monday because it means my weekend is officially over. So to perk things up, I thought I’d share this little ditty and start your week off by giving you something to chew on. A Monday mystery, so to speak. Ready to get your ‘creep’ on?

This mystery takes place in Galveston, a city rich in history and local lore. One such tale involves Ewing Hall at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Legend has it the original land owner left this coveted parcel of Galveston Island real estate to his family with one important condition – that it be kept in the family and never sold. Upon his death, his children promptly sold the land. (Kids!) Years later, this building was constructed as part of the University of Texas medical center campus.

Ewing Hall at UTMB in Galveston - an unassuming facade, for sure.

Here’s where the creep factor comes in. Inexplicably, a phantom face began to appear on the exterior of the building. Look at the photo above. Can you see it? Look at the center of the building, just above the dark door. Here’s a closer look:

UTMB's Phantom Face - Can you see him now?

See him now? Hovering over the black door? That’s the guy. Our mystery man. Legend has it he is the original land owner. The one who requested his land never be sold. The one who supposedly was so distraught by his family’s betrayal that he appeared on the exterior of the building and has been there ever since.

But it gets spookier. See how he appears in the third panel down from the roof? Well, that’s not where he started. Originally, he appeared in the top panel two squares up from where he is now. When he appeared, it caused a stir and the building’s owners had him sandblasted off the building. And then he returned in the next square down, on the second row, where he was again sandblasted away. And now? Now he’s back on the third row, where he remains to this day.

The phantom's final resting place, or so the legend goes.

If you look closely, you can see that the first and second panels appear to have been sandblasted. The pebbled sandy texture of the panels is gone when compared to the rest of the building. So could the legend be true? Could the place be haunted by a phantom as a reminder to his family that their betrayal is neither forgotten nor forgiven? Could he be faithfully guarding the land that he loved so dearly? Could this all be a bunch of hooey? Who knows.

But wait, there’s more! As if the legend of the phantom is not creepy enough, there’s more. Want to know the rumor behind why they never sandblasted him from this current spot? Because they were afraid he would move down to the door and come into the building. WHAT?!? Well, I guess that makes some kind of twisted sense, since he has moved down 2 levels already. Next stop – the black door. {chills} Man, I love a good ghost story!

So there you have it. Is it true? Who could possibly know for sure? It’s more a matter of belief. Do you believe in phantoms or legends or ghosts? Do you have a story to share about a phantom sighting? Or do you think it’s all a bunch of hysterical nonsense? As the saying goes, “Only the Phantom knows!”

Note: Special thanks to The Complete Package (my beloved husband) for providing the photos in this story. His recent motorcycle ride to Galveston to see this local legend with his own eyes provided the inspiration for this post.



Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Travel Tales

21 responses to “A Monday Mystery: Galveston’s (In)Famous Phantom Face

  1. Claudia

    Not a big fan of horror stories and that’s a major understatement. But I can live with this one, especially since he looks an awful lot like Ronald McDonald. Hamburger, anyone?

  2. Teresa Silverthorn

    Is there a photograph of the man who used to own this land? Does he look like the apparition in the cement? That would clinch it.

    • Good point, Teresa. I did a quick internet search to see if I could find more information on who the owner may have been and if there is a known photo. So far I’ve turned up nothing, which probably means this is an urban legend. Still, it’s fun to wonder ‘what if’ and gasp over the ghost stories.

  3. Kat

    Okay. That freaks me out like CRAZY! Mind you, I’m the girl who is totally unable to watch any scary movies or shows…ever. Hello, nightmares.

    If it starts crying bloody tears or smiling at noon or something spooky like that, cash-in and call the TODAY show. Period.

    • Sorry to freak you out, Kat. I don’t watch scary movies either. Like ever. I tried to watch The Shining again a few years ago (it has always been my ‘scariest movie ever’). Couldn’t do it. TCP and I just looked at each other and said, “Let’s turn this off and watch it tomorrow. In the daylight.” I just can’t HANDLE the spook!

  4. I LOVE ghost stories, although I’m quite certain that I will never actually be able to follow through on my “plans” to overnight at the Jerome Grand Hotel (let alone the Stanley Hotel in Colorado that spurred The Shining). If the show has “Ghost” in the title, I’m probably going to watch it. Have I allowed myself to have the pants scared off me so that I can’t sleep? Many times. Have I learned my lesson? Guess not.

    • I love that you’re open to a good scare. I envy people who can watch a scary movie without crying in a corner and staying up for 4 days like me. I’m such a wimp. I love the idea of a good scary movie, I just can’t bring myself to watch them. I’m a scaredy cat, through and through. I do, however, love a good scary book and a crazy ghost story. Guess that means I need to imagine these things in my own head instead of seeing them on the big screen. PS – Have you seen the trailers that are out for that new Daniel Radcliff spooky movie – The Woman in Black. Part of my brains says, “Whoa! That looks awesome!” and the other part is saying “Whatevs. You’ll never go see it you big weenie.”

  5. Oh, man! No way would I have sandblasted the face off the last tile. This story *totally* freaked me out! Chills up the spine & everything. I can’t even tolerate the previews for scary paranormal movies/tv shows, let alone watch them. Fact: it took me 4 attempts in daylight hours with all the doors to the house open to watch Poltergeist in its entirety when I was a kid. Kudos to TCP for snagging the photos because if it were me, I’d have taken off running at first sight of the face in the wall.

    • I agree. I can’t watch scary movies. Unless it’s those parodies of scary movies. I had bad dreams for 2 weeks after I saw the movie “Seven” with Brad Pitt. And I love me some Brad Pitt. Stuff like that just scares the water out of me, and it’s not even considered a true horror movie. I’m one of those wimps that never saw ‘Saw’ and never will. Faces on buildings – well, that doesn’t scare me so much. I find it fascinating rather than scary. Funny how I can’t watch scary movies, but I’d be the first to sign up for a good ghost tour of historic old cities.

      • You are braver than I am. I had a chance to tour the Sara Winchester House when I was training in CA once. Everyone in my class went, but I stayed behind. She was the heir to the Winchester gun fortune & built a house that was like a labyrinth to confuse the ghosts of people killed with Winchester guns that were haunting her. All sorts of stairways & hallways to nowhere all over the house–which never was “finished” in her mind. The story was fascinating, but I sure wasn’t brave enough to walk through it.

  6. Oh, wow. I never knew that.

    And my family had a beach cabin for 20 years on Crystal Beach not far from there. So, I spent many, many summers in Galveston.

    I love that kind of stuff. Wow.

    (I’m in Texas, too. And I’m in Austin. And I’ve ridden my motorcycle in Galveston at the Lone Star Rally. Small world!!)

    • Did you know our daughter & her family live in Austin? It’s true! And The Complete Package, my beloved husband, also rides to Galveston for the Lone Star Rally. Has all the t-shirts to prove it. Small world indeed!

  7. Louise Folmer

    The Winchester House in San Jose is very interesting and not scary at all.
    We were told that as long as she kept building, she would not die.
    More than 20 years ago our son attended Texas A&M in Galveston. At that time we visited the medical building. The children of the deceased owner should have a picture of their father, but who are they? Would it not be something is there is a likeness……..

    • I looked up the Winchester House in San Jose. I’d heard snippets about it, but we’ve never seen it. It looks fascinating, but more so for the architecture than the spirits. If we make it to San Jose some day, I’d love to see it in person just to take in the construction details. Thanks for sharing it, Louise. The Complete Package (my husband) and I just went by the UTMB Galveston building again last week and I said the same thing you mentioned above – I would love to know if the family of the land’s original owner (according to the legend) had a photo of him so we could compare it to the face on the building. I would love to see if the history truly matched the hype. Either way, it’s an intriguing tale.

      • Louise Folmer

        I found a picture of the owner of the land. How can I send it to you?
        Our son attended A&M in Galveston and he showed us the building with the face. That was some 35 years ago.

      • Hi, Louise! You can reach me via email at heynanabread (at) yahoo (dot com). Thanks for thinking of me! -jeanne

  8. R. Tedder

    In the late 1980s the Galveston newspaper printed an article about The Face. One other eerie addition to the story is about the original brick structure on the site. Apparently the face image appeared in the arrangement of the bricks. The owners had the bricks removed and replaced with other bricks. That did not get rid of the image either. It reappeared. I witnessed the image myself when it was located on the third level of the current structure. There was also a story about a man who climbed over the security fence to get a closer look. He had had too many alcoholic drinks during the evening. He cursed at the image and made challenging and disrespectful remarks. When he attempted to back over the fence he cut his arm and nearly bled to death. There was an unlocked gate in the fence which a group of people entered to get a better look. One woman laughed at the image and did not believe it one real. When the group went back through the gate. the unbeliever was last. The gate closed and would not open to allow her to leave.

    • Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea the story extended past the concrete structure that is there now. And the fencing/gate stories made my spine tingle. Urban legend or not, it’s a fascinating tale!

  9. rip

    I was in Galveston and saw this at least 15 years ago and he was on the 3rd floor. I can’t explain it…………….

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