Video by Hannah Onder
Jake the Cowboy resides at Miss Molly’s Bed and Breakfast in Fort Worth’s Stockyards, but unlike the other guests, he’s dead.
Paula Gowins, Miss Molly’s general manager, said that when the establishment was a boarding house, Jake lived and died in “The Cowboy Room,” room two, which now rents for $125 per night.
She has seen his apparition multiple times after living in Miss Molly’s for six years.
“After the second time I saw him, I almost quit over it,” she said. “I said, ‘I didn’t sign on for this!’”
She was coming out of the laundry room and toward the parlor by herself on a Monday afternoon when she saw him for the first time.
“There’s no way to get in,” she said. “The doors are locked. Every time you go in and out, they lock behind you. So I’m thinking, how did this guy get in here?”
She was new, creeped out, and alone in Miss Molly’s when Jake came up the stairs, turned the corner, and went to his room.
After seeing him a couple of times, Gowins pulled out all the stops.
“I started calling in ghost investigative teams, mediums, psychics, even some preachers because I wanted to know what’s in here and what I can do about it,” she said. “If I gotta live here we gotta come to some sort of meeting of the minds.”
Everyone she invited came in, and each one gave her pieces of the puzzle to put Jake’s history together.
“All the pieces came together and then it started making sense. Then one of the lead investigators came one time, and he was the only one who got through to me,” Gowins said. “He says, ‘Well you know that you have authority over them. You live here and you run things.’ And I went, ‘Oh, well I didn’t think about that.’”
So the next morning after everyone left and the bed and breakfast was empty, Gowins came out to talk to the ghosts.
“OK buckos! Here’s the deal: I don’t want to see you, you’re not allowed in my room, and don’t you ever touch me. We’ll get along just fine,” she said to the ghosts.
After that she didn’t see Jake any more, despite hearing him from time to time.
“The secret was talking, speaking to them,” she said. “Because they have to obey you.”
On another occasion, a young couple came running and screaming out of their room and into the parlor due to seeing a ghost named “Miss Josie,” who was once the madam of Miss Molly’s back when it was a bordello.
“That door came flying open,” Gowins said, “and here they come running out and I said, ‘What?’ and they said, ‘There’s a ghost in there.’ And I went, ‘Yeah? OK.’”
The couple decided they couldn’t go back in there.
“I said, ‘Well, that’s what you came for,’” Gowins said.
Right across the street from Miss Molly’s is the Cowtown Winery, which is another haunted spot in the Stockyards.
Karen Williamson has been tending bar at the winery for a year now, and she said that people have heard knocking from the basement door.
The winery used to be a dry cleaners where a family lived and the father was “not a nice man,” Williamson said.
“The basement is where they had a little boy,” she said. “The father would keep him down here. He kept him down here all the time as punishment.”
She has never heard the knocking.
“I don’t hear the knocking because I come in here and say ‘It’s OK little boy, you can come out.’ I always tell him to come on out,” she said.
The level upstairs is haunted as well because a man hung himself in the corner.
“It’s very hot up here, this is gonna be an Airbnb eventually. I wish I had an apartment up here,” Williamson said.
Another haunted place in Fort Worth is Thistle Hill, one of the oldest houses in the city with a rich history to match.
The main ghost story with this location is that of an older woman dressed in early 20th century attire sitting by the window in the upstairs changing room.
A bridal photographer caught her on camera, and the photo is now displayed as a part of the tour.
“It looks like a woman in period dress, but that’s kind of the beginning and the end of what I’ve heard about that photograph. It’s still kind of an open mystery there,” Thistle Hill manager Michael Allen said.
After four years of being manager of the house, Allen has never experienced a paranormal encounter while working.
“I hate to throw cold water on it but honestly, I’ve personally never seen, heard, or felt anything here,” he said.
Despite not having any ghostly encounters himself, Allen did say that a psychic reported feeling a presence at the house.
“This is secondhand coming from me, but I heard that a psychic said that they had felt a contented presence here,” he said.
While haunted places are sprinkled all throughout Fort Worth, the Stockyards seem to be the most concentrated with ghosts and spirits.
Kay McDonald, who leads ghost tours around the Stockyards, can describes ghost stories of nearly every building and alleyway.
Passing by the rodeo, McDonald shared the gruesome history of lives lost behind the building.
“The Trinity River goes behind these buildings here, and the river was called the ‘Black Highway’ because back in the day if someone put a hit out on another person, they would dump their bodies into the Trinity,” she said.
She said there were so many body parts in the river that not all of them could be identified.
Gowins said she believes the entire Stockyards is haunted, and McDonald shared a similar sentiment.
“Our ghosts are very active here,” she said during the tour.