Spanning around twenty miles and stretching between several small towns, located at an unofficial crossroads at West, Central, and South Texas, is a region known as ‘The Devil’s Backbone Highway’ (or sometimes just ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ or ‘Spiny Devil’), a destination widely regarded as the most haunted stretch of land in the Lone Star State.
As well it might be. This terrain will have many stories to tell, including the use of its land for ancient rituals by the tribes native to the region. Indeed, many battles and confrontations between different tribes, as well as Spanish invaders, and when the area became one of the main cattle trails, cowboys and Confederate Soldiers.
The encounters, it would appear, are both in abundance and varied in detail. All, however, are chilling, spine-tingling, and rich in the paranormal. Perhaps one of the best places to start would be at a ranch in Blanco County. And a bizarre account of possession. Seemingly by a Native American spirit.
The Bizarre Possession Of John Villarreal
While the exact date is unknown, the encounter of John Villarreal took place at some stage in the late-1990s/early-2000s. This particular day, Villarreal along with two friends, Corey Ramseur and “BC”, were hiking in the mountainous woodlands on the Blanco Country ranch.
Suddenly, Villarreal would stop and become separated slightly from the other two hikers. At the same time, a strange “vision” entered his mind of a wolf running along a mountain path. As he looked up, he could see a wolf staring down at him from the ridge above.
Then, it leaped towards him, causing Villarreal to call out, half for help and half as a warning to his two friends. He would claim several years later on the television show Unsolved Mysteries:
Where it would have hit me, I felt a chilling sensation go through me!
Shortly after, his two friends, neither of whom had seen “anything mysterious or strange”, arrived to discover Villarreal on the ground. His claims of a “chilling sensation” running through him, however, were certainly felt by his two fellow hikers.
Ramseur would state on the same show that as they were driving home, with Villarreal in between he (who was driving) and BC, the side of his body next to Villarreal became so cold it began to “feel numb”. He would further state it was like “there was a big block of ice sitting next to me”.
When they finally arrived back at Villarreal’s home, things began to get even stranger.
“Totally Out Of It”, Speaking A Mix Of Spanish And Apache!
The owner of the ranch that the incident occurred on, Burt Wall, has lived in the area for over three decades and has authored several books on the strange goings-on there. Of the Villarreal case, he would later state that after arriving home, Villareal would go into a trance-like state. According to Wall:
He was totally out of it, ranting in a language that sounded like a mix of Spanish and Apache!
Furthermore, and even stranger, a lot of what he was suddenly talking about would have been almost impossible for him to know. He would speak of massacres of Native Americans that were for the most part little-known about. Further still, he would talk of ambushes and traps against the same tribes that, again, was information not widely circulated.
This went on for several hours. Then, suddenly, despite the evening being calm and serene outside, a sudden burst of wind blew from inside of the living room and appeared to push open the door of the property. At the same moment, Villarreal seemed to snap out of his trance.
According to a family member, well-versed in the strange happenings of the area, “the spirit” had now left the young boy’s body.
Villarreal would later state that while he doesn’t know what the spirit was, he is certain something took over his body. It is the only explanation he can offer as to how he relayed the information he did, in a language unknown to him, no less.
What is perhaps more disturbing, according to Wall, this isn’t a one-off incident in the quiet towns around the Devil’s Backbone. And while the details may differ, all speak of the encounter starting with a “ghost-wolf” seemingly leaping into their bodies.
The Eighteenth-Century Ghost Monk!
Wall himself has had several encounters with strange activity during his time living on the Blanco County ranch and researching the bizarre encounters that occur there.
One particular evening, shortly before midnight, he sat at home writing at his desk. Although it was a little windy outside, sudden barks from his dog caused him to look up to the window. When he did, he almost couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
There in front of him, in full view and clear as day, was an “eighteenth-century Spanish monk”. That what he was witnessing was real, Wall was in no doubt. His attire was so authentic that he didn’t believe it was a person simply dressed up.
Wall watched the strange ghost monk for around fifteen seconds before the apparition simply vanished before his eyes. According to his research, Wall believes the spirit he witnessed was the spirit of a Franciscan monk, who records show did live in the area in the 1700s, named Espinoza.
While the ghostly monk may certainly be one of the spookiest tales from the area, it isn’t the only one of suddenly appeared apparitions.
The Haunting Hunting Trip Of John Miers
As well as sightings of ghostly figures, the Devil’s Backbone area also offers those who wish to do so, the chance to hunt deer, which is what John Miers was doing one afternoon on the Blanco ranch.
He had positioned himself on one of the specially designed tree stands (like an open-topped tree house) and sat waiting for a deer to wander his way. However, rather than seeing anything, Miers suddenly heard several footsteps on the ground below. Footsteps that were getting closer. And that belonged to an apparently invisible entity.
The strange footsteps began to circle the tree. However, despite hearing them clearly, he still couldn’t see who they might belong to. Then, they stopped.
Miers would later recall this made him particularly nervous as it appeared very much like the entity, whatever it was, remained at the base of the tree. He didn’t “hear them move away”, for example. It was still daylight, so Miers remained where he was.
However, by the time night arrived and the temperature began to plummet somewhat, he would make the decision to leave the tree stand and make his way home. Slowly, cautiously looking around to make sure there was no one laying in wait for him, he descended the tree.
He looked around the area. There was no one anywhere in sight. Much stranger, though, was he could see no disturbance of the area from the apparent footsteps he heard earlier. He clinched his hunting rifle a little tighter and set out for home, all the while fighting the urge to break into a run.
For reasons he couldn’t explain, he turned around after several steps. That’s when he saw the Native American man standing at the base of the tree, watching him.
“It Was A Ghost! It Had To Be!”
By this time, it was extremely cold, barely 20 degrees. However, this Native American man seemingly stood there unaffected, unclothed from the waist up. He simply stared at Miers, who in turn, stared back at him.
He would recall not feeling particularly threatened, but of having a feeling of being “measured” by this strange apparition. After several seconds, Miers turned around and calmly continued in the direction towards home.
However, only seconds later, out of the corner of his eye, he could see something moving to his right. When he turned his head, there was the same Native tribesman, calmly walking alongside him several feet away.
He stopped once again, as did his ghostly guest.
Still not feeling as though he were in any danger, Miers took a step towards the man. By the time his second foot had left the ground, though, the Native American simply faded from sight and vanished.
Miers is in no doubt as to what he saw that evening, even if he wasn’t familiar with the stories and legends of the area. “It was a ghost. It had to be,” he would claim several years later.
Another apparent ghost of a Native American, seen so many times that locals named him ‘Drago’, is witnessed regularly “herding wraith cattle” through the old cattle trail. Furthermore, there are regular reports from residents of hearing “ghostly horses” running past them – sometimes whole herds of them.
Apparitions Of Confederate Soldiers, Disappearing Hitchhikers, And Shadow People
One of the more well-known accounts is that of Lynn Gentry, who once worked at the Blanco County ranch as its foreman.
One night, in the early hours of the morning, he was awoken suddenly by the rolling thundering sound of horses running right past his property. When he opened the door to his room – which overlooked the land of the ranch – he was confronted by the sight of Confederate soldiers rushing past on horseback.
He would estimate there were around twenty in total. They rode past and simply vanished into the night.
Like the sightings of the spirits of apparent Native American warriors, many people have stories to tell of sightings of Confederate soldiers. Most often, riding through on horseback only to vanish before their eyes.
While some confrontations will have undoubtedly taken place between Native American tribes and Confederate soldiers, many such servicemen throughout the first half of the 1800s in particular, would head to the area, whether battle weary and looking for refuge or motivated by the possibility of finding gold and making a fortune.
Wherever you turn in the towns and regions around the Devil’s Backbone, there is a story of strange activity. Many road users have tales of unseen entities who leap on to the rooves of their traveling vehicles. Or even more chilling of hitchhikers who literally disappear in front of them after accepting a ride.
Even more unnerving are reports from hikers in the area who claim to see shadow people, often for considerable lengths of terrain – always out of the corners of their eyes and just out of full sight.
The Devil’s Backbone Tavern – Another Hub Within A Hub Of Paranormal Activity!
A short distance from Blanco County, in Fischer, Comal County, is the Devil’s Backbone Tavern – said by some to have a long history of paranormal activity and strange ghostly sightings since it was first established in 1932 (although similar establishments used the building and land going back to the 1800s).
Like the accounts on the ranch of Blanco County, the tales from Devil’s Backbone Tavern are as varied as they are darkly intriguing. And they still fascinate and occupy the minds of paranormal researchers far and wide.
For example, the jukebox will often begin playing of its own accord, while lights regularly flicker on and off. Similarly, doors and windows open and shut by themselves and general objects are regularly moved around. One employee, Melanie Walker, of the tavern claimed:
The TVs in the tavern will turn off and on. And switch channels on their own sometimes!
Perhaps even more disturbing are the claims of prodding by invisible fingers, and even of sudden apparitions of strange people who then vanish again.
Walker would tell of her own encounter – at least the only one that left her unnerved. Late one evening while closing the bar, she heard a sudden noise near the back door. She looked over, and while there was no one there, there were two large, wet footprints.
In more modern times, the club is a regular meeting place of up and coming musicians, with the venue regularly serving up live music. It also, however, attracts serious-minded paranormal investigators. For while the haunting legends and stories undoubtedly bring in extra trade and tourists, the activity is very real. And unexplained.
The “Imaginary Friend” With The “Hole In The Head!”
In fact, one paranormal investigative group is Texas Paranormal Events who help to organize such investigations. The co-founder of the organization, Jackie Milligan, has a plethora of accounts to tell. All of which, are very real, if strange, incidents.
For example, she would tell the rather chilling tale of a local family who contacted her organization as they regularly heard and saw their young son talking to someone in the home. She would state:
They thought it was cute and (he had) an imaginary friend. Until he told them she was a little girl with a hole in her head!
What Milligan revealed in her research was perhaps even more chilling.
Where the family’s home now stood, a family had been killed by a Comanche raid during the early-1800s. However, many families in such a perilous predicament would often opt to commit suicide. Or, in the cases of families with young children, would kill them first.
This would make perfect sense to Milligan. The family revealed to her that their son told them “her father had put the hole in her head”.
Milligan even managed to capture EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) evidence at the family home. Including the young girl apparently giggling and reply “yes” to a question about the family pet. The above case is literally one of dozens of such cases of strange activity in this most intriguing part of the Lone Star State.
Not Why It Is Happening, But Why We Can See It?
It would be bordering on willful ignorance to dismiss the strange activity in this twenty mile stretch of Texas. What, then, might the reason be for such activity? Could it be the case that an overwhelming amount of energy in the location over the centuries has now exploded? Resulting in the surge of paranormal encounters that take place there.
Or might it be a case of not what makes this area so active? But what is it about this area that allows us to see such activity?
Might there be something “special” about the area that we don’t understand from our modern perspective and way of thinking? After all, we should remind ourselves that Native American tribes conducted rituals in the area, perhaps for hundreds of years before the settlers from Europe arrived. It is surely obvious that they were aware of that special quality.
Could it be possible that some kind of tectonic plate activity or some other unknown (to us) phenomenon opens what is essentially a gateway or a portal? Which, in turn, allows the meshing of another realm – for want of a better phrase, the spirit realm, with ours?
There is certainly something strange about this stretch of, otherwise serene part of Texas. And there is quite the feeling that understanding and unlocking the mysteries that surround the area will, in turn, help greatly in unlocking the wider mysteries of the paranormal in general. And indeed, the world, and the possible other worlds, that surrounds each one of us.
Check out the video below. One of the many investigations into the bizarre paranormal world of The Devil’s Backbone Highway. And the land that surrounds it.