The following is fiction loosely based on actual retellings of encounters with the paranormal within the 1886 Silver Spur Saloon (now the Roanoke Visitor Center & Museum). Several unexplained phenomena have been witnessed and retold by those who have spent time in this building that was constructed over a hundred and thirty-five years ago. The author has taken the liberty of fabricating stories around those strange experiences based on historical facts during that time. Whether or not you believe that ghosts reside in the Roanoke Visitor Center & Museum is entirely up to you.
Whiskey To The Rescue
Whiskey was not your typical cat. Whiskey just showed up one day in the Silver Spur Saloon and made his home there. Many folks thought he had been planted there when the saloon was built in 1886. He was such a predominant fixture that folks didn’t mind seeing him hanging out behind the bar or sitting at the saloon doors watching patrons come and go. And as his name implies Whiskey often helped himself plenty to a splash of “scamper juice” once in a while.
Whiskey kept to himself most of the time, but one day while standing post at the saloon entrance, Whiskey noticed a young child standing in the middle of the street. Separated from his mother, the child hadn’t noticed a steed chasing some cattle that had come loose from its herd. Whiskey sensing the child in peril, dashed into the road and landed himself next to the half-pint, and began caterwauling. Fortunately, Whiskey’s quick thinking got the attention of the mother to pull the child from harm’s way, but Whiskey wasn’t so lucky. Those rogue cows didn't see poor Whiskey and took all nine of his lives that day.
Today, Whiskey likes to maintain his post at the Roanoke Visitor Center & Museum and his shadow is often spotted along the north wall. Perhaps he’s still keeping an eye on patrons and looking for his next heroic moment. Or he’s just waiting for someone to pour him a stiff drink of his namesake.
Josephine’s Fateful Night
Josephine didn’t have much growing up and ever since her momma took off in the early 1900s, she only had herself to rely on. Even though some folks in town called her a guttersnipe and looked the other way, this ten year old remained a cheerful child that loved to sing and dance for spare change.
Josephine looked up to the pretty dancing ladies in the Silver Spur Saloon and would often tag along on their coattails as they came in and out. Some of the ladies felt sorry for her and would often leave a scrap of food for her whenever they could.
Since she was technically an orphan, Josephine evaded the authorities by finding the best hiding spots around town to remain unseen. Hiding in barns and parked train cars was risky and cold. On one cold night, a saloon girl convinced Josephine to take shelter in the drug store on the west side of the street. Knowing that the drug store proprietor was taking libations at the saloon, the dancing girl showed Josephine the perfect hiding spot where she’d remain undetected until morning.
Unfortunately, a fire broke out overnight and burned many of the buildings on that side of Oak Street, and ended Josephine’s young life. Today Josephine hangs out in the Roanoke Visitor Center & Museum and has been known to make odd sounds and bang things. She’s likely just getting the attention of patrons for the sake of some loose change.
In the late 1800s Fred took a job with the Texas and Pacific Railroad. Leaving his young bride behind in Missouri, he set off for a better life. Although railyard work was dangerous, Fred was just saving up enough money to find a place to settle. When Fred’s travels took him to Roanoke, Texas he had found other Missourians that had immigrated there and decided that this is where he would start a family.
Fred wrote to his wife and urged her to pack up their belongings and sell anything else she couldn’t carry and board the next train to Texas. In the envelope, he included money for the train ticket and was delighted to get a letter back stating that she would be in his arms within a few short weeks.
On the day of his beloved’s arrival, dressed in his best suit and holding a sprig of wildflowers, Fred waited impatiently at the depot. Unfortunately, that train never arrived.
Despondent, Fred retired to the Silver Spur Saloon to drown his troubles. When he finally staggered home, he never woke up. Folks just knew he had died of a broken heart. Over the next few days, news finally trickled down of a catastrophic train wreck up the line and Fred’s wife’s body was never found.
Today, Fred is sometimes seen in the upper right window of the Roanoke Visitor Center & Museum. Perhaps, Fred is still looking out for his bride to arrive on the next train that passes through.
Esmerelda’s Last Dance
How Esmerelda ended up at the Silver Spur Saloon is a mystery but this dancing girl was so popular that all the men lined up to dance with her. It may not have been the most upstanding career choice, but for Esmerelda who didn’t have a family of her own, the bartender and other dancing girls were her family.
Esmerelda always wore a vibrant green dress over her multi-colored petticoat. Even her garters and large feather plume matched her dress. And since Esmerelda is Spanish for emerald, who’s to say which came first - her name or her affinity for green?
The dancing girls were extremely protective of each other and kept an eye out for boisterous cowboys that liked to cause trouble. Luckily for Esmerelda, one of her regulars was a nice widower who eventually courted her and asked her to be his wife. That was when she traded in her green dress and feather plume for an apron and bonnet.
After the turn of the century, the Silver Spur Saloon was gone and Esmerelda had outlived her husband and children. As an old woman she would often reminisce about her days as a dancing girl whenever she ventured down Oak Street.
Today, Esmerelda has been sighted in the Roanoke Visitor Center & Museum in the back hallway. Descriptions of her sighting always include just her head, wearing her bonnet, without a face. Maybe she reappears to remember her glory days as a saloon girl.
The Roanoke Visitor Center & Museum is located in the heart of historic downtown Roanoke at 114 N. Oak Street. Visitor hours are Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m