Undead Live #7 – The Devil’s Backbone
Welcome to Undead Live! Our on going live series where we bring you the history and haunts of local places that are accessible to the public. After our Facebook Live stream we conduct a brief investigation at the location and post our results for everyone to see.
The Devil’s Backbone
We live streamed from an overlook in Texas Hill Country adjacent to FM 32 to what is known as possibly the most haunted stretch of highway in the entire state of Texas…. If you missed our original Live Stream be sure to watch the video below by clicking here to visit the original Facebook post, and check out the evidence we captured at the bottom of the page!
What is called Devil’s Backbone resulted from an earthquake that occurred in the region more than thirty million years ago. The powerful earthquake helped separate the land into two different regions, the Edward’s Plateau to the west and the lower Gulf Coastal Plains to the east.
In the late 1800’s, treacherous trails often led stagecoaches through the region along with cattle runs during the cattle drive era. When modern roads were built, one was a stretch of highway which hugged the ridge or “backbone” of this area leaving from San Marcos which is a city between Austin and San Antonio. Texas Farm Roads 12, 32 and many others along with U.S. Highway 281, form a scenic loop of winding roads that connects through Wimberly, Blanco and neighboring towns. This loop cuts through scenic portions of the Devil’s Backbone guaranteeing breath-taking views and small town charms along the way. It is approximately the size of 4,700 acres. Obviously we can’t cover 4,700 acres but we are at this overlook along the earthquake fault to where you can see the beautiful landscape behind us.
Comanche and Apache tribes once resided here. In the 1700s, Spaniards lived in the area; one was a Franciscan Monk named Espinoza, infamous for his ruthless ambition. During the 1800s, renegade Confederate soldiers came to the area looking for gold. Where we are currently standing along this ridge, it is speculated that a Civil War battle occurred plus an ancient Indian tribe supposedly resided here as well. With its fair share of wild west violence from Native Americans and white settlers alike, there is no doubt that the energy of its brutal past still lingers on today.
Small towns offering restaurants, dance halls and boutique shops draw visitors from all over Texas to experience the charm and beauty of Devils Backbone… besides being here for the charm and beauty, we are here to talk ghost stories.
These ghost stories even peaked the interest of Hollywood producers as Devil’s Backbone appeared in a 1996 episode of NBC’s Robert Stack anthology series… Unsolved Mysteries. This episode featured apparitional Spanish monks, Comanche as well as Lipan Apache tribes, Confederate soldiers on their horses and a spirit of a wolf. It later re-aired when this series was hosted by Dennis Farina.
So what are the ghost stories? One of the most commonly sighted of the area’s many ghostly apparitions is that of spectral horsemen that come tearing through, sometimes accompanied by a contingent of ghostly horses or cattle. One notable such sighting was made by a man named Lynn Gentry, who was a foreman at the ranch of local resident Burt Wall at the time. Gentry claimed that one night he was jolted awake by the loud rumbling of what sounded like a whole herd of horses passing by through the night outside. When he looked outside, he claimed that he could see at least 20 men on horseback, all of whom seemed to be dressed in vintage Confederate uniforms. The roar of the horses got almost deafening, until it all just suddenly stopped to bring a heavy silence crashing down in its wake. The presence of the spirits of Confederate soldiers would not be too strange, as renegade soldiers once descended on the region in the 1800s looking to get rich on gold. Maybe they are still looking?
The rancher Burt Wall, who has lived in the Devil’s Backbone area for over 30 years, has had his own spooky ghostly encounter, and he has explained that he once heard his dogs barking and looked outside to see a ghostly monk dressed in 1700s clothing, which then vanished right before his eyes. Wall has claimed that it was most likely the spirit of Espinoza, a Franciscan monk who once lived in the area. Burt also has written books about his encounters.
The ranchers also tell of the widow and child of a miner who was killed, who have been seen wandering the area, supposedly seeking a proper Christian burial for their husband and father.
The sound of ghostly horses is supposedly a rather common paranormal occurrence around here, with sometimes as many as 50 of the specters reported. Similarly there have been many sightings of a ghostly Native American herding wraith cattle in the vicinity, who is so well known that he has the nickname… Drago.
Along the aptly named Purgatory Road hauntings in the area include a phantom that jumps onto the roofs of passing cars on the road, ghostly hitchhikers, shadow people that follow hikers in the area, a spectral woman and child believed to be the family of a lost miner, and others.
Just a mile down the road is the Devil’s Backbone Tavern. Once a blacksmith shop and stagecoach station turned dancehall and tavern after prohibition, became an attraction for touring bands as a place for locals to go for music and dancing.
The most famous ghost story here describes a woman who walks down the road carrying a baby and calling out for her husband. Others say that the tavern itself is haunted, with some patrons claiming to have encountered ghostly visitors.
In more recent years, the twisty stretch of highway has been the scene of numerous fatal car accidents as well. You may see a memorial behind us filled with flowers, cards and pictures of the people who perished along the ridge and many of their spirits seem to have lingered.