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The Magnolia Hotel in 1936
Arthur W. Stewart, Library of Congress

Visit a Famously Haunted Texas Hotel in October

Original image
The Magnolia Hotel in 1936
Arthur W. Stewart, Library of Congress

Seguin, Texas, is a surprisingly popular destination for ghost hunters. The 27,000-person town located 35 miles outside of San Antonio has been featured on several ghost-hunting TV shows, thanks to the presence of the Magnolia Hotel, a spooky historic inn that’s reportedly home to at least 13 restless spirits—at least according to its owner.

This Halloween season, you can experience the Magnolia’s hauntings for yourself. The hotel, which sat vacant for two decades and has been under renovation for years, will open its doors to visitors on October 28, according to San Antonio news station KSAT. The public can get a rare glimpse of the building (and maybe some of its spookier residents).

The hotel’s origins stretch back to 1840, when one of Seguin’s founders, Texas Ranger James Campbell, built a two-room log cabin on the property. Campbell was killed shortly after, and the cabin ended up in the hands of various other owners who transformed it first into a stagecoach station, then into a hotel. Throughout the years, owners built new additions to the property, expanding the hotel. By the mid-1800s, it was the town’s largest inn, and it would retain the title well into the 20th century. In the 1930s, it was renovated into apartments, but was abandoned in the 1990s.

Throughout those years, the building was witness to plenty of violence. In the 1850s, its cellar served as a safehouse for women and children during attacks on the town by members of the Comanche tribe. For a while, that basement shelter also served as the town’s first jail.

In 1874, serial killer Wilhelm Faust was staying there for work when he snuck away to murder his wife, who was staying nearby, but killed a family friend’s young daughter instead. He later confessed to several other murders.

Current Magnolia owner Erin Ghedi says that the hotel is now home to at least 13 ghosts—which have been pinpointed “with the assistance of a well-known Texas psychic, and the owner's ability to communicate with the spirits,” according to the hotel website. But Ghedi is still trying to figure out who exactly the ghosts are, according to KSAT.

When the Russel Rush Haunted Tour stopped by the hotel to film, though, she told the crew that she and others have seen the ghost of the young girl killed by Wilhelm Faust roaming around the hotel playing with a ball, and the spirit of a prostitute who used to bring clients to the place in the 1880s. Ghedi also claims that ghosts have thrown heavy radiators and other objects across rooms and that people have felt their eyes being scratched in bathrooms. On the paranormal TV show Strange Town, ghost hunters saw mysterious mist floating through one of the hotel’s historic rooms during the night.

The hotel will be open on October 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. According to the Magnolia’s website, though the hotel doesn’t offer overnight stays just yet, its owners hope to in the future, so keep an eye out.

[h/t KSAT]

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The Magnolia Hotel in 1936
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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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iStock

If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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The Magnolia Hotel in 1936
Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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Courtesy Chronicle Books

Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

"This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
Courtesy Chronicle Books

There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
Courtesy Chronicle Books

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