Lubbock's Most Haunted

Legend has it the gates of hell itself are located just behind the Lubbock Cemetery. Hell’s Gates is the name given to an abandoned trestle of the old Santa Fe Railroad. The imposing structure spans a wooded canyon, where down below a tributary of the Brazos trickles through the brush. The trestle is an imposing sight, all the more so thanks to the spooky reputation it’s earned over the decades. No one knows for certain when the stories about Hell’s Gates began, but generations of Lubbockites have immortalized it in myth. The location has been the alleged scene of everything from satanic rituals in the 1970s to murders and suicides in the following years. Legend-tripping college students still visit Hell’s Gates on a dare. 

The surrounding area is perfect for a lazy afternoon fishing in Dunbar Lake or bicycling along the scenic Canyon Lake Drive. When night falls things turn eerie. Over the decades, many people claimed to have experienced disturbing encounters at Hell’s Gates, ranging from shadow figures to strange creatures. 

The nearby cemetery adds to the creepiness. Containing over 60,000 graves, Lubbock Cemetery is the third largest in the state. The Texas Paranormal Research Society believes it’s home to angry spirits, including floating orbs and a glowing apparition. The first person buried there was a young cowboy named Henry Jenkins, who died in 1892. Other residents include famed rock-star Buddy Holly, whose tragic death on February 3rd, 1959 came to be known as the Day the Music Died. Holly’s grave continues to draw visitors from around the world. A few yards from the Holly plot, the large statue of an angel stands watch over the grave of Julio Herrera, Lubbock’s first fallen policeman. The angel was sculpted by artist Charles Umlauf in 1957. According to urban legend, if you visit the grounds at night and attempt to leave without kissing the angel’s feet, a ghost will stop you from departing the cemetery. 

The ruins of the Cliffhouse Restaurant, located on East Broadway across the street from Mackenzie Park, are featured in Darrel Maloney’s Haunted Lubbock. Today only the skeleton of the Cliffhouse remains, its walls covered in graffiti. In the 1950s, though, it was a comfortable diner with a traveler’s lodge above it on the hillside and a miniature golf course to the east.

Maloney’s book recounts the tale of a woman named Sharon. One day in the ‘50s, when Sharon was a young girl, her family went to eat at the Cliffhouse. Exiting the car, they made a grisly discovery in the dirt next to the parking lot: a severed hand, the fingernails painted with nail polish. 

The police were called out to the scene. In the days that followed, Sharon’s dad kept track of the investigation. He said a puddle of blood had been found on the golf course and drag marks were discovered on the hillside behind the lodge. 

“Ever since then,” Sharon told Maloney, “I’ve been convinced the restaurant was haunted.” She dreaded eating at the Cliffhouse, but it remained her father’s favorite restaurant. Years later, Sharon’s mother told her of a ghostly encounter she’d experienced in the Cliffhouse restrooms. She’d been in a stall when she heard sobbing and stepped out to see what was wrong. A pale, misty figure was curled in the fetal position. Sharon’s mother blinked several times, then the apparition vanished. 

It’s unknown whether the police ever discovered the identity of the killer or victim. One thing is certain, the Cliffhouse ruins are among Lubbock’s eeriest locations.

Other rumored haunted places around the Hub City include Resthaven Cemetery, parts of the Texas Tech Campus, and a two-story house at the Ranching Heritage Center.

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18 Oct 2017

By Max McNabb