I got this photo recently from Zillow—the fourplex certainly didn’t look like this back in the day—at all. I don’t have a vintage picture of the front of the house, but here is one of the back:
This place was most notable not for flooding, or for a massive roach infestation, but for being haunted. Yeah! There was a ghost.
I wrote about the ghost in a story, “Mexican Brick.”
He first encountered the ghost—encountered, saw, felt, experienced something, whatever it was—one night when he jolted awake and saw his dog, a white mutt terrier named Soldier, dancing down the hallway toward the living room. Above the dog was a pale blue light, fist-sized and fuzzy in the darkness, bobbing just above the dog’s head, high enough that Soldier’s dancing leaps could not quite reach it. Soldier seemed frightened and excited at the same time, circling around backwards with his butt on the carpet, then jumping forward as high as he could and snapping at the air. Garza sat up and watched the blue light move down the hallway into the living room where it rose up toward the ceiling fan and slowly faded. Soldier crouched on the floor looking stupidly at the ceiling—at whatever had been there.
The Austin ghost I’d shared a house with was disquieting, at first. It was in an apartment in an older building, a four-plex, and I lived there for nine months, a school year. It wasn’t a spectacular haunting—I’d just start awake in the middle of the night and see—lights, balls of soft glow—and I’d watch them float down the hall from my bedroom to the living room and sort of dissipate. Four or five other times I started awake to find the vapory form of a woman sitting in the chair next to my bed, watching me.
It was a creepy place—it was always creepy.
The haunted house was wedged in the courtyard ∟ of the 700 Club, which I wrote about here. I lived in a second-floor apartment overlooking the courtyard, and so had a good view of whatever went on at 2309 Pruett. For a while a crazy guy lived there who spent a lot of time screaming (about what we never knew) and then, early one morning, he ran out into the courtyard shooting a pistol and then he ran over and shut off the power for both buildings. He got taken away. Then there was a family who left their kids—toddlers—locked in the bedroom while they went off to work and we could hear those poor kids wailing all day and my neighbor called child protective services on them and then the kids were taken away and after a while the parents moved out too.
After that this apartment, with its history of creepiness, was vacant. Rent was $20 a month less than the 700 Club, and so I happily moved next door.
And the ghost was there—right from the start. As I said above—balls of light. Shadowy woman. An overall feeling of weirdness.
Am I engaging in my own weirdness to say I really liked this apartment? Because I really liked this apartment! It was a good time in my life. The ghost just added to the edge! I was working a series of stupid jobs (see here and here). I was trying to write a novel for the first time. I was seeing lots of bands. I was having fun being young.
Here are some more photos:
(One night, after the bar closed, a neighbor, Jerry the Postman, came over and watched the hunt. Jerry later owned a bookstore in Dallas, where he knew writer Chuck Taylor, who heard the hunt story from him and appropriated it, turning it from a energetic youthful fun story to boring tragic middle-aged story. This is apparently how literature works).
Another night I stupidly left my keys down at the Deep Eddy and was locked out. Rugay was locked in! I had to get to the poor little guy, so I bang shouldered the door open, busting it. The next morning I just nailed the door shut and went in and out through the back door. (The landlord didn’t appreciate my carpentry skills).
Eventually I moved out—off to Connecticut for a house-sitting gig. Year and years later, when I was driving the cab, I got a call to pick up a guy at this address. When the customer came out and got in the car, I asked, “Is that place still haunted?”
The guy was shocked. “Hey—how’d you know about that?”
When I explained, he told me that—Yeah, it was still haunted—balls of light, shadowy figures—and that he’d hired a psychic to come and do a reading. It turned out that the ghost was that of an old woman who’d died of the flu in the late 1950s.
A few years back the building was renovated—really, really renovated. It’s pretty nice now.
I hope she’s still there.
Haunted House pros: Ghost! Cheap (then), opportunities for amusing late-night recreation
Haunted House cons: busted front door, rickety plumbing (these have probably been fixed)
Verdict: If you can afford it, move in now!
“That Demon Life has got Austin in its sway, or at least this novel's motley crew of characters. A horny judge, a defense attorney with an attitude, an entourage of petty criminals, a dating service maven, a self made internet porn star and a boy toy or two—they're all slouching toward Sixth Street and beyond. This is a fast-paced, hold-on-to-your-bar stool satire, a hilarious, stumbling romp through law and disorder, urban ennui and its after-hour antidotes, Texas-sized lust and doom.”
—Alison Moore, author of The Middle of Elsewhere and Synonym for Love.
Read That Demon Life now!