Orange County’s spookiest places
Halloween is a time for ghosts, scary noises and having fun being scared. And if it’s ghosts you’re looking for, Orange County has some spooky places that may look even more frightening in the light of the waning moon as dark surrounds you.
Talk around and lots of people can tell you stories of spectral figures, strange occurrences, creepy noises and eerie lights. Most come from older houses in the historic district around Orange or in rural areas. Still, Orange County doesn’t have one old ghostly legend to spread.
If you’re looking for a creepy place to go on Halloween night, downtown Orange would be the place to be. In the old days, and even not so old days, Orange had some Wild West style shootouts and violence at different sites.
Lynching was once the way to get rid of someone accused of bad crime and Orange had its share of lynchings by masked mobs. The hanging tree on Front Street near Fourth Street, across from where Lamar State College-Orange is today is a fact. The late historian W.T. Block wrote that three men were hanged on the old pin oak tree in the 1880s.
He said citizens cut down the oak tree in 1892 as the county was preparing for a legal execution at the county jail. People in the town didn’t want any more lynchings, he said. However, local historian Dr. Howard Williams has said he has found references to the hanging tree still living past that day. No matter. The hanging tree has been gone for a century or more. But have the souls?
Saloons in downtown Orange in the 1800s and into the 1900s drew lumberjacks, mill workers, cowboys, and shipyard workers. Shootings and stabbings weren’t uncommon. Often, relatives or friends of victims would seek revenge and shootouts could occur on the streets.
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 histories tell that Fuller shot in self defense. But descendants of Poole even today 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 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.
In more recent times, back to 1935, the minister of First Baptist Church, Edgar Eskredge, shot and killed Orange Police Chief Ed O’Reilly outside a cafe at the corner of Fifth and Main streets. Accounts say that O’Reilly took the minister’s guns away after the minister got a group of people to raid at a nightclub in Bridge City that featured gambling and girls. The site of the shooting is now the corner of the Lutcher Theater parking lot.
And speaking of the name Lutcher, the old Lutcher and Moore Lumber Co. headquarters building off Childers Road and along the south side of the Sabine River also has tales of ghosts. For more than a half century, the brick building has been the home to Port of Orange administrative offices. Some employees have heard strange noises and swear some objects have moved.
Childers Road has also been called “Blood Road” for stories of blood that can appear to be on the surface.
If pirates are more your style, Orange County can even claim Jean Lafitte, the most famous pirate of the Gulf Coast. Block wrote that Lafitte would capture slaves being shipped to America around 1816. He would then get smugglers to sell the slaves to plantation owners in Louisiana. By that time, the pirate and his band had made headquarters in Galveston. But they also set up a slave camp, or barracks, at Ballew Ferry on the Sabine River, about 10 miles north of Orange, Block wrote.
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 persisted ever since.
The county also 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 probably 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.
Happy haunt hunting on Halloween. Hope the haunts don’t hunt you.