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Dawn at the Alamo

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Dawn at the Alamo


by James L. Choron


I guess everyone knows that I'm originally from Texas, and that even though it's been several years since I was last 'home', I am still a devoted and dedicated Texan. This shows up in a good many ways, the most obvious is the fact that I'm a 'history nut' who enjoys reading and researching events, particularly historically related ghosts and hauntings from my native state. Texas is a very old place, by American standards, having once been a Spanish colony, part of New Spain and, therefore, settled long before the rest of the United States. Aside from San Augustine, Florida, the cities of San Antonio and Nacogdoches, Texas are the oldest permanent cities in the United States.


The city of San Antonio, in particular, has a number of buildings known to have spirit entities present and to be the subject of active hauntings. One of them, by far the most famous of the lot, is the Alamo.


Everyone who visits the Alamo, especially native Texans, has some kind of 'experience'. Most of the time, it simply a sense of awe, or an overpowering sense of the immensity of what took place on the spot. In my own case, being a natural sensitive, it took a slightly different tone. In the summer of 1990, I took my children, Erich, Megan and Heather to see the Alamo and the other sites in San Antonio. I had waited until I though that they were old enough to understand the significance of the place, or at least the two oldest were. Erich was eight years old at the time, Megan was six, and Heather had just turned four. It was not the first trip to the Alamo, for me, by any means, but, it was, as usual, an awe inspiring experience.


No one who has ever heard the story of the Alamo, let alone seen any of the movies made about it, can ever forget it. At first, it looks a bit small, tiny, in fact, in comparison to the modern skyscrapers that surround it. That's because only two of the original structures remain, and they are of Spanish Colonial construction, low and compact, dwarfed by their present surroundings. Not so, a century and a half ago, when the sprawling old mission dominated the area to the North of what was then the city of San Antonio. Much of what was once inside the walls of the Alamo is now under pavement, or inside the walls of buildings which have sprung up around it (many of which are said, by their inhabitants, to be haunted by spirits from the famous battle), as San Antonio spread to take in the area in which the Alamo is located. One must remember that in 1836, the Alamo was not actually 'in' San Antonio, at all, but rather, on the outskirts of the, then, sleepy little town, over a mile from the center of the city, across the river, past 'La Villita' the nameless 'little village' that bordered San Antonio, in open country.


In any case, I had a pretty full schedule lined up for us, so we arrived at the Alamo fairly early in the morning, wanting to see it first, then go on and tour the other old Spanish missions and then go down the famous ?River Walk? and see the other historic sites in the old section of San Antonio before going to the Tower of the Americas and the Texas Folklife Center, and, of course the San Antonio Zoo and Busch Gardens. In any case, the kids enjoyed the 'tour', especially Erich and his oldest sister, Megan, who seemed to be totally spellbound by everything around her, she was completely silent for the entire hour that we were in the Alamo, which is completely out of character for "Miss Marching Through Georgia", who has never, to date, held still for over five minutes in her entire life. Megan, at that age, could, in fact, create more raw havoc in a totally empty room than a Viking raid or Sherman's March to the Sea (where she got the nickname?) and I should have suspected something when she showed so much interest in something as "dull" as history, but, Erich is my "sensitive". He always has been, and still is. He is the one who seems to have inherited my "talent". Up until that time, while not doubting it, Megan had simply seen it as "interesting" and something that "daddy" and "brother" had, and she didn't, Nothing to worry about or get upset over.


As we were leaving the Alamo, Megan looked behind her and waved, then softly and very somberly said "goodbye Jamie" (she pronounced it "Hymie" as in Spanish), which is something that she had no way of knowing, at the time. I looked around to see who she was waving to, thinking that she had met some new little friend on the tour, and to my surprise, no one was in sight. When I asked her who she was talking to, she said "Jamie". There he is, right there. She pointed to a spot directly in front of the Alamo's doors. No one was there. I told her that I didn't see anyone that he must have gone back inside. Then, she said, no, there he is, and pointed. I still didn't see anyone. She then described him to me? a Mexican boy, about fifteen or sixteen years old, wearing cotton pants, a white cotton shirt, sandals and a tall black hat. She said that he had stood beside her the whole time we were in the Alamo, and told her about the battle. He said that he was there. He said that he's been here an awfully long time and can't go home. He was sad, but he was glad that he found me to talk to.. Now, my daughter does not have an imagination. If she says she saw something, she saw it. Being a sensitive, myself, I had no doubt that she had seen the Mexican boy, just as I had no doubt, from the way she said he was dressed, that he had been a soldier in Santa Anna's army, and that he had, most likely, died on that long ago March Sunday morning in 1836. I can't help but wonder how many other little children he has befriended over the years, and if it helps him pass the long days that must hang over him terribly. I have also often wondered, why, someone so young, did not pass on. Is he somehow tied to the spot where he died, so young? Is he somehow "lost" and trying to go home to some long gone and forgotten village in Mexico?


In any case, that was the beginning of what has turned into a substantial paranormal interest in the Alamo, on my part. For close to fifteen years, now, I have collected stories of the paranormal associated with this particular place, and filed them aside from my usual investigations. It seems that every six months, or so, I come up with a new incident, or at least "new" to me.


For decades, people from all walks of life have told chilling tales of ghostly experiences at the Alamo, such as strange smoky spirits that wander its grounds, screams heard from inside its walls, sounds of explosions, even faint trumpet notes of the Deguello, the ancient Spanish march of "no quarter", of throat cutting and merciless death, that General Santa Anna ordered the massed bands of the Mexican Army to play during the final assault on the fort.


It is important to remember that the Alamo is essentially a cemetery, a place where 182 Texans defenders died, and 1,600 Mexican soldiers were either killed or wounded on March 6th, 1836. Their remains were dismembered, burned, dumped in the San Antonio River, or simply left to the elements. It was one of the bloodiest battles in American and Texas history.


The first account of ghosts at the Alamo came only a few days after its fall. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna left San Antonio in the hands of General Juan Jose Andrade, who made camp several miles from the Alamo because of the carnage and disease born by the bodies left in the sun.


When Santa Anna sent word for Andrade to destroy the Alamo, the general sent a colonel with a contingent of men to carry out the orders. The men came rushing back with a frightening story of six "Diablos" or devils guarding the front of the old mission. The specters were screaming at the advancing Mexican soldiers and waving flaming sabers in their hands. When General Andrade went to investigate the incident in person, he described six men with balls of fire in their hands, advancing on his terrified troops.


While on the subject of the six "diablos", another prominent haunting comes instantly to mind. Many people believe that all of the Alamo's 182 defenders died in the battle. This is not, exactly speaking, correct. Several of those who took part in the battle actually survived the attack. Among these, reports by General Manuel Fernandez de Castrillon, General Martin Perfecto de Cos and Colonel (later General) Juan Jose Andrarde state, was the famous Tennessee frontiersman, David Crockett. In the 167 years that have passed since the famous battle, many visitors have reported seeing the specter of a tall, stately Mexican officer walk slowly through the remaining buildings of the Alamo and around the grounds, arms clasped behind his back, slowly shaking his head in sorrow. It is believed that this is the restless spirit of General Manuel Fernandez de Castrillon, one of Santa Anna's regimental commanders, who had opposed the final assault on the grounds that it was bound to be a "bloodbath". When the firing had stopped, just after sunrise on that fateful Sunday morning, six men were brought to him, alive, after attempting to surrender. General Castrillon offered them his protection, and then petitioned Santa Anna for clemency. Santa Anna, of course, refused, and ordered the six men executed. When Castrillon refused to carry out the order, on moral grounds, since he had offered the men his protection, Santa Anna's staff fell on the men with sabers, hacking them to death, and in the process, almost killing Castrillon.


Nor were the six who attempted to surrender the only survivors of the attack. At least two messengers, John W. Smith and James L. Allen, who left the Alamo shortly before the final assault also survived, as did the Alamo's only "coward", Louis M. Rose, the only man who refused to cross Colonel Travis' line in the sand and chose to escape. Brigadardo Guerrera, a Mexican defender managed to talk his way out of being executed by claiming to have been a prisoner of the Texans, and Henry Warnell managed to escape the final assault and make his way to Port Lavacca, where he died several months later as the result of wounds that he received in the battle. The Alamo's youngest active defender also survived. Twelve year old Enrique Esparza, who had passed ammunition to the Alamo's artillerymen, managed to flee, in the last few minutes of the final assault to the room in which the women and children were sheltered. He was spared because of his age, along with the other children present. There is also the possibility of two other survivors, whose names have been lost, who appeared in Nacogdoches, Texas, two weeks after the battle, who, according to the Arkansas Gazette, of March 29th, 1836, "said San Antonio has been retaken by the Mexicans and the garrison put to the sword, if any others, aside from themselves, escaped the general massacre, they were unaware of it".


Every March, a few days after the anniversary of the battle, residents of the area surrounding the Alamo are wakened in the early morning hours by the sound of horse's hooves on the pavement. It is believed that it is the spirit of James Allen, the last courier to leave the Alamo, the evening before the massacre, trying to return and report to Colonel Travis. This incident, although glamorized and elaborated on, has been more or less immortalized by Stephen Spielberg in an episode of the short-lived television series dealing with the unexplained that he produced in the late 1980s.


Of all these survivors, only one has produced a recorded haunting. There have been literally dozens of reports of a lone man, dressed in the clothing of the time, carrying a long rifle, walking slowly toward San Antonio, from Nacogdoches. When passersby stop to investigate the strange site, they are told only that he is trying to "get back to the Alamo, where he belongs". It is thought that this is the restless, guilty soul of Louis M. (Moses) Rose, the "coward of the Alamo", who, regretting his flight, is now damned for eternity to try and regain his honor by returning to the battle.


There have also been repeated reports of a man and a small child, seen on the roof of the Alamo church, in the early morning hours, just at sunrise. In the confusion of the final assault on the Alamo, Colonel Juan Andrade and several other Mexican officers stated that they were "horrified" when they saw a tall, thin man with a small child in his arms, leap to the ground from the parapet at the rear of the Alamo church.


At least fourteen people, almost all women and children are documented to have survived the siege of the Alamo. These include Suzanna Dickinson and her 14 month old daughter, Angelina, who has gone down in history as "the babe of the Alamo", and Colonel William B. Travis, former slave, Joe, who was, in fact, an equal defender of the Alamo. Travis freed Joe, and offered him the same opportunity to escape as he did to the rest of the garrison, when he drew his famous "line in the sand". Joe, however, remained in the Alamo, standing side by side with Travis on the Alamo's walls. He was spared execution simply because General Santa Anna thought him to still be a slave, and not a willing combatant.


Many visitors to the Alamo report seeing two small boys, about ten to twelve years old, tagging along with the tour groups who visit the grounds of what is, arguably, the holiest spot in Texas. No one seems to know where they come from, and no one sees them leave. They simply "disappear", when the tour group reaches the small sacristy room in the Alamo church. Many believe these little boys to be the sons of Alamo Artilleryman Anthony Wolfe, aged nine and twelve, who were killed in the final assault, mistaken for combatants by the advancing Mexicans, when they were discovered hiding in the Alamo church.


It is, perhaps the documented survivors of the battle who provide one of the saddest stories of Alamo ghosts is that of the little boy who has been seen for many years wandering the grounds around the old mission.


It is said that each February a small blond boy, with a lonely and forlorn look, is seen at one of the windows of the chapel areas of the mission.


The window where the child is seen has no ledge and is far too high for him to climb onto. According to legend, the young boy is one of the children evacuated from the mission before its fall in 1836, and returns each February to search for his father, who was lost in the battle.


* NOTE: The Alamo is a shrine. It is a registered historical site, and, literally, a cemetery for hundreds of people, both Mexican and Texan, and no investigations are allowed on the site. It is, in fact, a violation of the law to take photographs inside the Alamo church or the "long barracks", which are the only two original structures still standing. No cameras or other electronic apparatus, including EMF meters, are allowed to be used within the confines of the Alamo. They can be used, outside, on the grounds. Undoubtedly, a full and proper investigation of the premises and its immediate surroundings would produce some astonishing results. This, however, is not possible. The Alamo is maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and, so far, no request to conduct an investigation on the site has ever been approved. But, ask any of the DRT tour guides if the Alamo is haunted, their responses will surprise even the most callous skeptic.


James Choron is a featured contributor to this WorldOfTheStrange website.

Contributions include: !Is Ufology Dead?, King Bird Fifty, The Tunguska Incident - An Overview, School Days, In a Class By Herself, Dawn at the Alamo, Three Times A Hero, Lady With the Lamp, The Little Girl in the Garden

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