Austin’s Favourite Haunt

posted by Afia

Picking up from Shehla’s blurb from last week, consider this the first in a line of completely unrelated posts. Now that we’ve started our group blog format, you can expect to see a LOT of randomness in this space: fiction, news, comment, observations on life and, of course, DWL updates. The only common feature in these blog entries will be that the team behind Desi Writers will be penning them. We’ll get to yap on everything under the sun, and you’ll get a peek into the sordid minds that run this place.

Experimental? So was LSD, a long time ago.

Speaking of tripping, I have a delicious story to tell. About three weeks ago, my husband and I made a dramatic, weekend getaway to Austin. Alright, so we had our toddler with us – but it was the weekend and we did get away from Houston and anything could be considered dramatic as opposed to this city. Unknown to me, ye ol’ better half had set up a real experience for us on our arrival (if you’re still thinking this is about drugs, you’re about to be sorely disappointed). He had booked us into the swanky Driskill Hotel in the heart of downtown Austin – one of the city’s most famous historic landmarks, a living testament to the opulence and grandeur of the South’s past, and widely known to be Texas’ most haunted hotel. Eep!

No, really. There is something about the Driskill that makes it exceptionally susceptible to ghostly activity (some of the staff likes to joke that it’s better than Heaven, so the dead don’t want to move on). Whatever the cause, incidents abound. Grown men (as if that’s supposed to be some measure of rationality) have reported waking up in the middle of the night to find all the faucets in their bathrooms on. Sounds have been heard of a little girl bouncing a ball on the hotel’s main staircase – these have been attributed to a US Senator’s daughter who fell to her death while playing with her ball on those stairs in the late 1800s. Even celebrities have had their share of ghostly experiences at the Driskill: Annie Lennox stayed at the hotel while visiting Austin for a concert, and apparently received some paranormal assistance in choosing what to wear for the performance (she laid out two dresses on the bed and went in for a shower; when she came out, one of the dresses had been neatly put away in the closet).

The story that really caught my attention was a classic case of unrequited love resulting in tragedy. It took place in Room 427, also known as the bride suicide room. In 1989, a young socialite from Houston had been all set to get married when her fiancé broke off their engagement at the eleventh hour. Heartbroken beyond consolation, she escaped to Austin, where she checked into the Driskill and then took the ultimate revenge: she went on a huge shopping spree on her ex’s credit cards and spent every cent of credit he had to his name. Amongst the many expensive purchases she made that day was a gun. The last time she was seen alive was when she walked through the hotel lobby to the elevator, laden with shopping bags.

Her body was found a few days later, crumpled in the bathtub of Room 427. She had clutched a pillow to her chest and shot herself with the very gun that her lover had unknowingly paid for.

Ten years later, two women on a vacation checked into the hotel and requested a room on the 4th floor of the Historic Wing. Some of the Driskill’s formidable array of ghosts were thought to make appearances on that floor. They were disappointed to find that the Historic Wing was closed for renovations. Not to be deterred by logistics, however, the two adventurers took the elevator up in the middle of the night, hoping to catch some paranormal activity. They found the floor dark and completely deserted, the walls swathed in black plastic sheets. A little unnerved, they reconsidered their plan and decided to return to their room.

This is where it gets really interesting. At the elevator, the two ladies were stunned to bump into a young woman who was evidently returning to her room after a full day of shopping. They called out to her and asked if the renovations had been bothering her. The woman stopped in front of Room 427 with all her bags, turned around slowly and replied, “No, not at all.” Sensing that their presence was not welcome, the ghost-hunting friends returned to their room for the night. They were determined to take on the hotel management the next day for refusing them a room when clearly other guests were being allowed to stay in the Historic Wing.

When they did return with the baffled concierge the next morning, not a soul was to be found on the floor (pun intended). The room to which the mysterious guest had gone was empty, save a ladder and a few paint cans. No one could explain why anybody would be returning from a shopping expedition at 2 am.

I’ve heard a lot of spooky stories in my lifetime (who hasn’t had those late-night, giggly assemblies with cousins where everyone’s terrified out of their wits but still strangely compelled to recount one ghostly incident after the other?) but somehow, this one really affected me. The thought of a jilted bride who took it upon herself to die by her own hand, alone in a hotel room, knowing that the only way she could touch the love of her life was through his wallet… it signified such terrible loneliness and absence of hope. Could it be that her spirit actually roams those corridors, reliving those final terrible moments over and over? Could she still be keeping watch over the last door she ever walked through?

We’ll never really know… but there are two women out there somewhere who have their suspicions.

6 thoughts on “Austin’s Favourite Haunt

  1. Guess you missed a first-hand experience. Towards the start of this post, I was reminded of 'The Shining.' But later onwards, I realized things weren't that serious 😀

  2. Didn't something spooky (or even remotely interesting) happen to you during your stay? And did you go see 427 during the night for yourself? 😀

  3. This is funny… I never actually thought while writing this that people would be expecting ME to have a paranormal experience somewhere in the narrative! A huge bonus, imho!

    Hussain, I did visit 427 but in the daytime, with the concierge (no way in hell you're going to find me snooping around alone in those corridors in the middle of the night with my own two monsters fast asleep in our room!). In the initial version of this post, which was written like a formal prose piece, I shared what it felt like to be in that room. It wasn't spooky at all, actually… just very, very sad. Unfortunately, I had to cut out quite a bit of stuff from the original version because after fact checking with the hotel, it turned out to be lore.

    Thanks for liking it, you guys!

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