Curiosities in Fiesta Town
the Alamo", but don't miss the sick gargoyles,
ghost-hunting tour, or the alien in the Cowboy Museum.
San Antonio, Texas may be renowned for being the birthplace
of Texan independence and its reputation for taking
a flood-prone river and transforming it into a scenic
wonder... but there are a few other sidetrips worth
Overlooking the Mission San Antonio de Valero (more
commonly known as "The Alamo") stands Emily
Morgan. No, it's not the "Yellow Rose of Texas",
the loyal slave who according to lore played an important
role in Texas' bid for independence in the Battle of
Towering 13 storeys above East Houston street (and overlooking
the grounds of the Alamo) is the Emily Morgan Hotel.
Named after the legendary Yellow Rose, this Gothic Revivalist
structure was designed by Ralph H. Cameron, a local
architect, in the mid-1920's.
Opening its doors on April 1, 1926, the first, documented
high-rise west of the Mississippi River was a medical
arts building. Now you might think that a 13-storey
building opening on April Fools Day held no superstitions.
On the contrary, sick gargoyles, holding sore tummies
and with toothaches, were placed above the ground floor
windows... warding off illness one would presume. Just
try not to get a sore neck gawking! And don't be surprised
if passer-bys look at you a little strangely.
If your sense of curiosity is piqued by the unusual,
take a evening stroll with Martin Leal on the San Antonio
Ghost Hunt Tour. Leal promises to dish up the latest
in ghostly sightings at the Emily Morgan (gargoyles
can't be expected to keep everything paranormal at bay),
the nearby historic Menger Hotel (a whole lot of ghostly
history to be had) and the Alamo (one of the most haunted
sites in all of the city). He'll even display current
ghost-hunting paraphernalia. Goose bumps?
No? So you don't believe in ghosts? Well, step across
the street for a sampling of Ripley's Haunted Adventure,
one of San Antonio's newest attractions guaranteed to
knock your socks off in fright! Well, maybe not guaranteed,
but definitely spooky.
Doubters in the crowd need to spend time at Ripley's
Believe it or Not! -- Robert Ridley's curious collection
of more than 500 bizarre artifacts -- from the vampire
killing kit to petrified raindrops. Curiosities abound
in this attraction, but I'd like to know the name of
the person responsible for building the toothpick Eiffel
Tower (just so I can look them up and call them crazy).
Down the street from the Emily Morgan you'll find San
Antonio's original oddity -- the Buckhorn Saloon and
Museum. In 1881, Albert Friedrich opened Albert's Buckhorn
Saloon. Standing out from the crowd, Albert sought to
entice customers with an offer of free whisky or beer...
in return for deer antlers.
Not surprisingly, the collection grew... and grew...
and grew. Expanding its horizons with homemade antler
furniture furnished by Albert's dad, a potpourri of
other natural history remains (from stuffed animals
to fins and feathers), beer cap artwork and a historic
shooting gallery, you have an unparalleled, Texas-sized
attraction to explore.
A note to the wise, leave the antlers at home. While
you are still asked to please leave guns, horses and
saddles outside, bringing an antler in won't get you
so much as a free soda! The collection may have moved
many times over the years, but it appears pretty settled
on East Houston street today... although moving might
be easier than dusting...
Hmm... I wonder if they've found a new home yet for
the Hertzberg Circus Museum collection (more than 20,000
items) since the doors of the Old Library closed to
the public? I'd love another peek into Tom Thumb's carriage
and a glimpse of Jolly Maizie Fielder's dress (she was
known as a "deluxe entertainer"). And what
about the "alien" in the Cowboy Museum...
is it still there, hidden back of the mock building
fronts and the barbwire display?
Curiosity got the writer, time to book another flight.
If you go:
The Emily Morgan is an upscale hotel (705 East Houston),
but you can check out the gargoyles hanging out just
above the ground floor windows free of charge!
The Hauntings History of San Antonio Ghost Hunt begins
at The Cenotaph on the Alamo Plaza and last about an
hour and a half. Tickets ($10/adult; $5/ 6-17 year olds;
under 6 free) are available from the Alamo Visitor Center
(across from the Alamo).
Ripley's Haunted Adventure (329 Alamo Plaza) admission
is $11.50/adult; $6.95/ 4-12 year olds. Ripleys Believe
it or Not! (301 Alamo Plaza) admission is $13.95/adult;
$5.95/ 4-12 year olds.
The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum (318 E. Houston) is
open daily, admission charged ($9.99/adult; $7.50/ 3-11
The Cowboy Museum (209 Alamo Plaza) charges a nominal
admission ($3/adult; $2/ 6-12 year olds).