Ghost Hunting with Alamo City Ghost Tours

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Wait, even Pizza Rita's is haunted? - MISTY BLAZE
  • Misty Blaze
  • Wait, even Pizza Rita's is haunted?

The folks at Alamo City Ghost Tours have been leading treks through downtown San Antonio for 10 years now. This weekend, I joined them in their tour past all of the city’s spookiest sites.

Before our adventure began, the group of ghost-hunting tourists (and a few locals mixed in for good measure) met with our guide JR across the street from the Alamo, just in front of the passage to the River Walk. I was immediately charmed by JR whose black vest and worn-in cowboy hat oozed a sort of casual sophistication. In regards to haunted San Antonio, I could tell this was a man who’d been around the block a couple of times. Or rather, a couple thousand times, considering the Alamo City Ghost Tour is a walking tour.

The tour began promptly at 9 p.m. at which time JR announced we were about to take part in a mass jaywalking situation and to please watch out for cars (lest we get steamrolled and join the other zillions of ghosts creeping around Alamo Plaza, I thought). Jaywalk we did, all 20 or so of us, right across the street to the Alamo.

In front of the Alamo, JR dove into a spiel about how the Alamo was originally located about three blocks away and yadda yadda yadda—typical touristy information. I was not there on the tour to hear about the relocation of the Alamo. I was there to hunt for some ghosts. Imagine my delight then when JR starting pulling out dowsing rods from a black bag.
JR of Alamo City Ghost Tours. Photo by Misty Blaze. - MISTY BLAZE
  • Misty Blaze
  • JR of Alamo City Ghost Tours. Photo by Misty Blaze.

JR explained how the rods, which are composed of a two-inch wooden vertical handle with a thin metal rod protruding from it horizontally, are used to detect energy. Supposedly, energy leaves a person’s body when they die, and that energy could very likely be that person’s spirit. As JR passed out dowsing rods to everyone, he explained that the energy we pick up with the rods could be spiritual ghosty stuff, or it could just be waterlines beneath our feet. There was no way to tell.

Dowsing rods in hand, the crowd listened on eagerly as JR explained how to use the tools to ask yes or no questions and how to make it point to people we were thinking of. We were all asked by JR to pick out a person in the group and instruct the rod to point to them. Despite my willing the dowsing rod to point to someone to my right, it remained frustratingly and resolutely still. To my left, my partner in crime whom I’d invited along for paranormal safety reasons, looked down at his own energy detector as it spun wildly in circles. So far, no good.

From the Alamo, our group made its way past several haunted hotels (which I won’t share with you because I don’t like to spoil things) with JR telling us grisly tales of accidental death and murder at each location, and pulling out ghost-hunting equipment from his seemingly never-ending satchel of goodies. EMF meters, which resembled the buzzers you are given when you have to wait to be seated at a casual dining restaurant, were passed around the group. These little buzzers would light up when detecting an abrupt change in electromagnetic fields. Mostly they just lit up and beeped a lot when we passed businesses with really bright signage.

After the EMF meters, digital thermometers were handed out to a few lucky tour-goers. I tried to get my hands on one, but I was too slow. It seemed like all the thermometers were snagged by the bored men of the group who resolved to point the black, laser-pointing tools like guns at anything and everything for the remainder of the tour.

Frustrated with the inadequacy of the ghost-hunting tools that were provided during our tour, I began losing steam. The paranormal adventure I had counted on was quickly becoming a snooze fest. JR, however, kept my spirits up with his deadpan delivery of SA’s tales of horror. As he told us all the familiar story of Clemente Apolinar (the guy who killed that boy and carried his eyeball around with him before being hanged in a particularly gruesome blood-spewing fashion at the local jail), JR turned to us with his blank stare, and said of the jail, “That’s a Holiday Inn now.” Mic drop. We continued on our walk.

After the tour, I was pretty disappointed in the lack of ghosts I caught on film or detected by dowsing rod or restaurant buzzer. Suffice it to say, I will not be auditioning for the all-female remake of Ghostbusters any time soon. I will, however, recommend Alamo City Ghost Tours to anyone who is unfamiliar with San Antonio’s haunted history. Being fairly familiar with the history myself, I took little away from the tour fact-wise other than learning that Paris Hatters is directly responsible for JR’s style, which I have since labeled “cowboy chic.”


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