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Haunted Austin: A Spooky City Guide to Austin

Austin tour guide Jim Miles shares his take on the spookiest attractions in Austin.

austin, texas capitol in black and white
Hi, I'm Laura!

Laura Ratliff is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor with more than a decade of experience in the travel and lifestyle space, who regularly spends more than 200,000 miles on a plane each year. As a freelancer, her work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, GQ, Jetsetter, Bon Appétit, and more. She has also held staff positions at Architectural Digest, Bloomberg News, and Condé Nast Traveler, and was most recently the senior editorial director at TripSavvy.

With the spooky season now upon us, you may be thinking about getting into the spirit of Halloween with a visit to some of Austin’s most infamously haunted spots. Whether you’re looking to stay overnight in a hotel with some creepy company or just have a few beers at a bar that has some extremely long-time regulars, expert tour guide Jim Miles—owner and operator of Walking Tours of Austin—can guide you through some of the city’s many supposedly haunted locations.

The tour, which aims for “goosebumps, not nightmares,” according to Miles, covers everything from retracing the steps of Austin’s notorious serial killer, the Servant Girl Annihilator, down Congress Avenue to stops at haunted bars, hotels, and even a theater, proving that while Austin may be known as the live music capital of the world, it may very well be the dead music capital as well.

Tour group gathers on an Austin street at night.
Tourgoers on the Haunted Austin Walking History Tour.Foto: Walking Tours of Austin

A haunted history of Austin

Austin has a history of hauntings dating back to the 1800s, and one of its most famous tales involves the Driskill Hotel, which has both luxurious accommodations and an eerie ambiance. Legend has it that the hotel's founder, Colonel Jesse Driskill, still roams the hallways to check up on guests. Another haunted hotspot is the Tavern, formerly known as the Enfield Grocery, where customers frequently report sightings of Emily, the Tavern’s resident ghost, known for playing pranks on patrons. Aside from the paranormal, Austin was also terrorized by America’s first serial killer in the late 1800s, who killed eight women along Congress Avenue and was never identified. The trail of terror left by the killer is said to be haunted to this day.

Bats fly over the Congress Avenue Bridge at sunset with a full crowd watching
Congress Avenue Bridge is home to spooky happenings and bats—lots of them.Foto: Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock

Haunted things to do in Austin

Austin’s most haunted attractions.

Walking along Congress Avenue is a must for ghost enthusiasts. (Plus, the free-tailed bats that congregate under Congress Avenue Bridge are more than apt for the spooky season.) This historic street is not only known for its vibrant shops and restaurants but also for its haunted past. Ghost hunters can follow the path of the infamous Servant Girl Annihilator, Austin’s serial killer, who terrorized the street in the late 1800s.

“Eula Phillips was the last to die in Austin at the hands of the ‘Servant Girl Annihilator’ in 1885,” says Miles. “The home where she died at the corner of Guadalupe and 8th Street is now the site of a parking garage. It is said that you can see her floating through columns on the bottom floor of the parking garage.”

The exterior of the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas.
Austin's Driskill Hotel is reportedly haunted by its founder.Foto: Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

Spooky places to stay in Austin

Find out what goes bump in the night.

The most famous haunted hotel in Austin is the 19th-century Driskill Hotel, which has a long history of reported paranormal activity. Guests here claim to have heard unexplained footsteps, seen apparitions, and felt sudden cold spots throughout the property.

Miles says that one of the most terrifying things he has seen during his tours occurred at the hotel when talking about Samantha, a 5-year-old who died at the hotel in the 1800s.

“Midway through the story [a] little girl, who had been quiet thus far, stopped our storyteller and informed the group of an exact description of Samantha’s height, hair color, dress, and facial features,” Miles said. “This revelation caused her mother’s face to turn white and sent chills down the spines of our guide and guests as the mother went on to inform the tour that they had been staying on the 5th floor of the Driskill for the past three nights and that each night her daughter was awakened by nightmares describing a visit from ‘a friend.’”

The exterior of the Tavern restaurant in Austin, Texas.
The Tavern is haunted by resident ghost Emily who's known to play tricks on patrons.Foto: The Tavern / Tripadvisor

Meet the ghostly residents of Austin

Austin’s most famous ghosts.

The Tavern’s long-standing patron, Emily, is perhaps the best-known of Austin’s resident ghosts. Many people who have come for a drink have told tales of being tapped on the shoulder or pinched by her at the bar. During a 2003 renovation, a pair of shoes thought to have belonged to Emily were found between the walls.

The Driskill Hotel also houses a few of Austin’s well-known ghouls, with Samantha and Jesse Driskill calling the establishment home. Aside from making friends with younger hotel guests, Samantha can be heard laughing and bouncing her toy ball throughout the hotel.

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