• August 1, 2014

Area history conjures up some scary stories

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Posted: Friday, October 19, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 11:48 am, Wed Jul 16, 2014.

With Halloween around the corner, parents may be searching for ghost stories to tell their children. Scouring the Internet can bring up some interesting local results.

What area history goes with the tall tales to create these stories?

One website shares a tale about a haunting specter — a Civil War veteran — at the Immanuel Lutheran Church’s cemetery.

But the Rev. Robert Wagner, the church’s pastor, hasn’t heard the story and doesn’t know anyone who has. He wasn’t surprised the tale revolving around the church’s grave sites was created by area residents.

“We are one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, and we have some Civil War people buried here,” Wagner said. “It has some of the oldest stones that they don’t make any more, and they do look neat.”

The church’s cemetery is the final resting place for people who died as early as 1865 and as recently as 2011. It sits outside the church’s chapel and fellowship hall.

It is a small cemetery reserved for those who were church members, Wagner said. Among the graves, rest several children who died of yellow fever, as well as soldiers and others.

“The oldest stones would be in the southwest corner,” he said.

It is the same spot that the Civil War veteran ghost story references — the last row and the left corner of the cemetery, and a Civil War plaque sits one row up from the oldest location.

County courthouse

Coryell County Historical Commission member Bobbie Thornton has heard the story of Elroy, a ghost that supposedly dwells in the basement of the county courthouse. Deputy County Clerk Tammy McAfee said she has felt Elroy wandering in the basement while she worked.

“It has been kind of folklore that there is this ghost in the basement,” McAfee said. “There will be this cold breeze that comes through the office, and just one of us will feel it. It is a very isolated thing that will happen out of the cold blue sky.”

Others told McAfee it is probably an open door on the upper levels of the courthouse, but the randomness of its occurrence led a maintenance employee in the 1980s to name the ghost Elroy.

“Elroy, he has been there for years and years and years,” said Thornton, noting his origins could stem from the basement, which probably housed the county jail.

“We do think at one time the prisoners were held within the courthouse, because there are windows down there with iron bars,” Thornton said.

There is a lot of history that took place in the Coryell County Courthouse, McAfee said.

Thornton said Elroy could stem from another story dating back to 1908 and ended with the death of three people in 1909.

In 1908, Verna Ware was dating a druggist named John Haynes. One day, they were on a picnic, said Thornton. Haynes drugged her chocolate to seduce her, which was the accusation back then.

Ware had a child and in 1909, Haynes went on trial for the charges.

At that time, people could stand in a rotunda and watch the trials, which is where Ware stood with her brother and sister as Haynes sat before the judge, Thornton said.

While Haynes was on the stand, Ware pulled a gun from outside and shot several times. She killed Haynes, John Smith and Dave Ross and wounded a fourth man.

“The reason the (four were shot) was because her brother and sister were standing beside her jerking her arms and she wouldn’t let go of the trigger so she sprayed the whole courtroom,” Thornton said.

Thornton’s story of Ware was confirmed by County Judge John Firth, who also said Ware was later tried for the incident but released.

“That is definitely a true story; her former fiancee was being tried in a district courtroom and she took retribution on him for his past crimes against her,” Firth said.

Elroy could very well be one of those people, Thornton said.

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