Jefferson’s Ghost Tours Whitewash Complex Racial History

The East Texas town’s history of racial violence mirrors the region as a whole, but the ghost stories reflect a different history.

By Alexandra HartOctober 30, 2019 1:53 pm,

It’s been called the most haunted town in Texas. History-rich Jefferson has developed a strong ghost tourism industry, with several tours operating within the former port town. But these nostalgia-dipped tales often neglect the details behind some of the ugliest parts of Texas history.

The town’s tourism industry originally focused on its heritage and beautiful old properties, until one of the tour companies decided to offer a ghost tour. Now, the multiple ghost tours across town ignore the history of racial violence in East Texas.

In Jefferson, a lynching gang including members of the Ku Klux Klan, assassinated a Northern business man who was sympathetic to African American freedmen. Only three people involved faced penalties. A rampage of racial violence exploded following the murder. But none of the ghost tours mention any of that history. Most, if not all the stories told by the tours in Jefferson are about white people.

Asher Elbein, a freelance reporter based in Austin, wrote about Jefferson’s whitewashed tourism for the Texas Observer. 

“Ghost stories are the past that refuses to stay silent,” Elbein says. “You think about the types of things that create ghost stories, you know people who die in misery or in terror or with unfinished business… there’s this entire other history of people who you would think would have ghost lore attached to them, that you think people would be haunted by.”


Listen to the full interview in the audio player above. 


Written by Savana Dunning.