Built in 1886 The Driskill is the oldest operating hotel in Austin – and rumored to be haunted! This is a first for us. We did not stay here (it’s ultra swanky) but we got to tour around a bit during South by Southwest this spring. Come on along and we’ll show you what we saw!
While this disembodied head above one of the side entrances seems like it could serve as a beacon for otherworldly activities, it is in reality a carved limestone bust of Jesse Driskill the cattle baron behind the building of The Driskill. I’m not sure if I photographed Jesse or one of his sons, as there are 3 of these heads that crown the hotel on each side. Those gargoyles below there certainly look creepy though!
According to Wikipedia the hotel was conceived and built by Jesse Driskill who wanted it to be the “finest hotel south of St. Louis.” Opened in 1886, it closed just one year later as his prices were too high and his staff had moved on to another hotel. Finally, according to legend he officially lost the hotel in a poker game, and died just a few years later. Maybe his tormented soul is wandering the halls?
Talk about haunted – did anyone ever see the episode of The Monkees, where they are trying to reach the spirit of John Cunningham in a seance? I totally said that to RetroRoadhusband as we walked past the oversize portrait of Jesse D, having no idea at the time that the hotel was reputed to be haunted. I bet someone was looking out from behind those painted eyes at us!
Anyhoo- much like many grand hotels we write about, the Driskill’s condition and fate followed the boom and bust of its home city. Remodeled in the 30′s, air conditioning and private baths added to keep up with the times, it did its best to hang on, but as we all know, times and tastes change. Threatened with demolition in 1969, it was saved by the last minute by a non-profit organization, and was re-opened in 1972, and we’re all lucky that this beauty remains open to this day.
But what about the haunting, I bet you ask! Is is haunted by cowboys and cattlemen like the ones depicted in this statue under the beautiful stained glass dome?
Or perhaps the angry soul of this cow and his family?
Well according to the website Haunted Places To Go, The Driskill is known to be very active as far as unexplained phenomena, and while many of the stories can’t be 100% substantiated the scary tales include :
- A documented story of a young girl who in 1887 met her fate while chasing a ball along the hotel’s grand staircase. It was reported a week after her death that she was up and playing at the hotel with her ball. Yikes!
- The Suicide Brides of Room 525 - The story goes that two young brides stayed in this room 20 years apart, and both ended their lives in the bathroom of 525. Because of this the bathroom area was closed off and the room shut down completely. Reopened during reconstruction in 1998 several strange occurrances have been reported, including visions, unexplllained leaks and sensations of apparitions. Creepy!
- Glimpses of a ghost, crying and whispering are all said to be evidence of a haunting from a woman who killed herself on the 4th floor
HauntedTexas.com says the Driskill hotel is “The most haunted building in Austin and the most haunted hotel in Texas — perhaps the U.S.”
Even the official Driskill website acknowledges this dubious distinction with a number of videos about the hauntings embedded in their main website.
So while we were contented to absorb the history and glamour of this historic hotel by walking through it’s historic halls and raising a cocktail to the folks who had stayed here beforehand, if you’re up for a bit of a thrill and a chill on your next visit to Austin, stay at the Dris…KILL!
The Driskill Hotel
604 Brazos Street
Austin, TX 78701