Local haunts for Halloween tales

Those searching for ghosts or things that go bump in the night can do so right here in Orange County with it’s rich history of eerie places, scary happenings and dead men who have tales to tell.

The Lutcher and Moore Lumber Co. headquarters building off Childers Road along the south side of the Sabine River was built in 1913 and served as the headquarters until the company ceased operations in the 1930s.  For more than a half century, the mission style building has been the home to Port of Orange administrative offices. Some employees have heard strange noises while others have sworn objects have moved. Although, “Old Lutch” has not been seen at the Port Of Orange in a number of years there were reports of seeing his ghost in years past. Employees have reported seeing the ghost on the stairs. There have also been reports of the sounds of children playing in the annex which was built in 1956. But, there are no children present when they are heard which leaves the person pondering what kind of games are really being played.

Childers Road is not without a history of chilling events. It has been known around town as  “Blood Road.” Critics say it was only a can of red paint spilled onto the surface. But, believers report the blood eerily seeps up through the asphalt and covers the roadway.

Nearby, downtown Orange has a story to tell as well. The history of the legendary Hanging Tree in Orange has some uncertain stories of its demise and if a convicted murderer actually hung from its branches. However, one thing is for sure, some people have a definite opinion either way.

The Pin Oak tree was located in front of the D. Call and Sons Grocery at Fourth and Front Streets. Its broad branches were said to be perfect for supporting hanging bodies.

During the decades of the 1880s, the citizens ignored the laws they helped enact. The lives of three men were snuffed out by the hanging tree. The long limb, known as the “gibbet limb” projected its greenery in the general direction of the store. It was reported to be purposely endowed by nature to symbolize a “trails end” for murderers.

According to historian W.T. Block, in spite of four decades of unsettled social conditions, the hanging tree was not used until August 1881. Robert Saxon, who was hired in the plot to kill Sheriff George W. Michael, was hung by an angry lynch mob at the tree. The hanging was said to have been ordered by “Judge Lynch.”

Another man was lynched in 1889 after he was removed from the county jail by a masked mob of more than 300 men. The body of the man was left hanging for days and was riddled with hundreds of bullets.

Historians differ on what happened to the tree. Some say it was diseased and merely fell apart. However, sometime after 1892 two men wanting to put an end to the horror of the tree’s history cut it down, according to Block.

Saloons in downtown Orange in the 1800s and into the 1900s drew lumberjacks, mill workers, cowboys, and shipyard workers. Violence in the streets was rampant and shootings and stabbings weren’t uncommon. Revenge on behalf of relatives or friends would end in a brawl or shoot-out since guns were always at their fingertips. The urge to take it outside happened without notice and many would lose their lives when their finger simply wasn’t fast enough following the draw.

One feud even involved the Texas Rangers. During some trouble in 1899, town leaders called for the Rangers to come help. On Dec. 21, 1899, Ranger T.L. Fuller shot and killed Oscar Poole. Official Ranger historians  say Fuller shot in self defense. But descendants of Poole say he was the victim and the Ranger was wrong.

On Oct. 15, 1900, Ranger Fuller was back in town for legal business with the shooting. Oscar Poole’s father was an Orange County Judge at the time. While Fuller was in a barber shop on Fifth Street, Tom Poole, Oscar’s brother, went inside and shot and killed the Ranger, according to archives.

It was not always ordinary citizens who would choose a violent path. Edgar Eskredge, who in 1935 was the minister of the First Baptist Church in Orange, shot and killed Orange Police Chief Ed O’Reilly outside a cafe at the corner of Fifth and Main streets. It has been reported, O’Reilly took the minister’s guns away after he got a group of people to raid at a nightclub in Bridge City which featured gambling and girls. The site of the shooting is now the corner of the Lutcher Theater parking lot.

Ghosts don’t always stick to land but are said to troll the waterways too.

An infamous pirate once terrorized the waterways in Orange County. According to Block, Jean Lafitte, the most famous pirate of the Gulf Coast would capture slaves being shipped to America around 1816. He would then get smugglers to sell the slaves to plantation owners in Louisiana. The pirate and his band made headquarters in Galveston. But they also set up a slave camp, or barracks, at Ballew Ferry on the Sabine River, which is about 10 miles north of Orange.

The ferry across the river was owned and operated by Richard Ballew, who had once been Lafitte’s shipmate. Tales of Lafitte’s treasure being buried somewhere in Orange County have remained a mystery but definitely one treasure seekers wish to find.

If tombstones and perhaps a zombie or two is what you’re are searching for, the county has several old cemeteries dating back to the 1800s. Evergreen Cemetery in Orange, is on Border Street by Jackson Street. The state historical marker says the first burial there was in 1840, while the oldest tombstone is marked 1860. Some of Orange’s leading citizens through the years have been buried there and you can find their markers or family mausoleums.

Hollywood Cemetery along Simmons Drive is almost as old. Other ones in rural areas include the Linscomb Cemetery and the Wilkinson Cemetery, where strange lights have sometimes been reported, according to archives.

More recently, there are a few tales to tell at the Orange Community Playhouse located on Division Street across from the court house.

Regina Patillo was in the concession area of the Orange Community Playhouse during a performance of “Dearly Beloved,”when she saw the front door open about a foot, but no one came in.

As soon as she said, “Look at the door,” to her husband Tony and cast member, the late Jeff Hattman, “ … it slowly began to close.” It was the first time anyone had seen that happen, but was not the first occurrence of something strange.

The late John Hall, former president of the OCP board had said there have been many instances when talking could be heard, or the sound of footsteps running across the stage, yet there was no one there.

As she was locking up the theater for the night after a performance, Brook Doss heard music and thought she had locked someone in the building, but upon investigation, it was empty. In addition, Patillo says that some of the actors feel a presence at times, “Bridgett, her daughter, was in the wings and thought John was behind her, but when she turned around, no one was there.

No matter what you seek as a Halloween treat, chances are you won’t have to travel very far for the thrill of your life. The haunting you are searching for may just be right behind you.