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Discovering Life While Searching for Ghosts in Galveston

Hotel Galvez

Less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey started wreaking havoc on the Texas Gulf Coast, I took a few days off to visit Galveston. Despite living in the state for 19 years, this was my first overnight stay on the island.

The timing couldn’t have been planned better or with a more historical bend: The weather was perfect, everything was open and my final day there coincided with the anniversary of the 1900 hurricane that destroyed Galveston and killed between 6,000-12,000 people—as much as one-third of the island’s population. Thankfully, the U.S. has never again experienced a hurricane that deadly.

Although I’ve written about haunted hotels numerous times and remain a staunch Scully, I’d never actually spent the night in a haunted guest room. So I was overjoyed when checking in at the 106-year-old Hotel Galvez to be able to secure Room 501—the most notorious of the property’s numerous allegedly haunted rooms (most of which are found on the fifth floor, western wing). Although I noticed nothing paranormal during my stay, concierge Melissa Hall volunteered a chilling ghost tour and shared some of the reported spookiness that others have experienced. The photographic evidence ranged from an orb that looked as though it had an alien face inside it to a snapshot taken in Room 501 (yes, my room!) that included a reflection in the shower’s glass divider seemingly of a man in 1800s soldier attire. Hall assured me that the man was not visible at the time the photo was taken—creepy!

Even though no apparitions manifested, the views from the Hotel Galvez are stunning, with many of its 224 guest rooms looking out onto a tropical landscape and the Gulf of Mexico.

Over at the massive Moody Gardens complex, a two-toed sloth meandered along the Rainforest Pyramid’s wooden walkway beneath my feet—completely uninterested in me—as a white-faced Saki monkey groomed herself calmly a few yards away. And then there were the vibrant birds zipping through the air or standing on small islands, looking at me suspiciously….and the bats (tiny vampire and big Rodrigues fruit varieties). Well, that was just the start of the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens—and yes, you can hold events in this environment (dress light as it’s warm and humid—it is a rainforest, after all).

Similar event options extend to the Aquarium Pyramid, which completed a $37 million renovation in May. Here you’ll find numerous types of penguins (check out the fancy-topped Macaronis) waddling about, swimming, gobbling down handfuls of fish, goofing off and generally looking adorable. The 1.5 million-gallon aquarium also allows visitors to get their hands wet—if you’ve ever wanted to pet a stingray (slippery) or moon jellyfish (gelatinous), this is the place to go. (I didn’t dare mention to the staff that I’ve eaten both stingray and jellyfish—the former delicious, the latter flavorless goop.)

Right next to those pyramids there’s more than 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space (and 418 guest rooms) at the Moody Gardens Hotel and Convention Center.

My relaxing visit to Galveston somehow turned into two days full of activity. Next time, I’ll spend more time beachcombing and working on my tan—well, that’s assuming I don’t get caught up exploring the elaborate and curiously sordid history of the “Free State of Galveston,” as the destination was playfully known throughout the first half of the 20th century.


While you’re here…

Try the shrimp peques at Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar: Fat Gulf shrimp stuffed with cheese, jalapeno and bread crumbs cooked with a chipotle-molasses sauce and, oh yeah, wrapped in bacon. You’ll be unable to resist dipping these delicacies in more of the super-sticky molasses—but you will cradle your full belly afterwards and wonder why you wasted all that space on veggies.

About the Author

Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera is an award-winning writer and editor for The Meeting Professional as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997. Read more of his work at