True story of the haunted Baker Mansion of Weatherford, Texas haunted house, and a first hand account of the hauntings there. Written by Bob Hopkins.
It was a time when horses, wagons and steam locomotives were the only transportation available and the streets of Weatherford, Texas were made of dirt with cut limestone sidewalks. Texas was less than fifty years old and Weatherford, younger still and ripe with opportunity for those souls brave enough to chance their luck and brandish their skills in a new world born of the Industrial age and decorated with Victorian style. A fellow, if he set his mind to it, could make a good living in a place of unlimited opportunities like north Texas. Gone were the Indian depredations which plagued the area from the 1840’s to 1870’s. With plenty of farm and ranch land and an ever-growing population Weatherford was definitely a place for any hardy businessman.
The city, just 26 miles west of Fort Worth, became a frontier community in the 1840’s with only a few souls brave enough to stick it out on the fringes of country that belonged to the Comanche and Kiowa tribes. The actual organization of the city occurred in 1856, before the Civil War. The downtown area, like most Texas towns of that era, was the center of activity and the heart of Parker County and soon became a prime spot for the dry-goods business.
A man by the name of J.D. Baker found success in that trade down in Hood County but decided to move his business to Weatherford in the 1880’s as he believed it to have a better economy, more suited for his inventory. He was right in every way and in 1890, established a very successful business with a partner named Poston which blossomed into a chain enterprise covering several western counties in the north central part of the state. They purchased a large four story building on the northwest side of the square in downtown Weatherford from hardware man, JP Lowe, which became the center of the Baker/Poston Dry Goods business.
The gamble paid off big and it seemed that everything was going quite well for the Baker family at the end of the 19th century. In 1894, the Baker’s began construction on a beautiful 7,000 square foot Victorian home at 304 South Lamar in Weatherford. They had four children – Charles, Harry, Mary, and Ethel. Unfortunately, their daughter Ethel passed away at the tender age of 13. She would be the first family tragedy.
Mr. Baker, at the height of his success died suddenly on Easter morning in 1899 and never witnessed the completion of his beautiful home. In 1908, another tragedy struck the family…a strange case that remains unsolved to this day. Charles Baker, who grew to be an intelligent man and business wise, became a buyer for the Baker/Poston Company. Though he had health issues he frequently travelled the country buying wholesale goods for the business.
In the early spring of that year he embarked on a buying trip and was last seen leaving San Francisco en route to Seattle where he was to order goods. He disappeared without a trace and was never seen by anyone in Weatherford again.
His family was extremely upset with his disappearance and tried everything from local authorities to private investigators to locate his whereabouts. In 1909 his family put out a large reward for any information that would help them locate Charles. A poster was circulated all over the southwestern United States in hopes that he would be located.
To no avail, no word of Charles was ever heard nor was the money ever collected. In 1936, Charles’ sister Mary had his will probated assuming him to be long dead. The Parker County courts agreed and the long unsolved mystery was put to rest. A short time after the disappearance of Charles Baker, his brother Harry was on a business trip to Chicago when he was suddenly struck with a ruptured appendix and tragically died.
The last of the Baker children, Mary, married and moved to Oklahoma City. Mrs. Baker remained living in the home in Weatherford until she got too old to take care of herself and moved to Oklahoma City with her daughter to live out the rest of her life, keeping the big home until she died in 1942. Mrs. Mary Baker Rumsey, the remaining child, sold the huge home to Mr. and Mrs. George Fant in the early 1940’s. George Fant was the son of W.S. Fant, the President of the First National Bank in Weatherford, the same bank that backed the $5,000.00 reward. George took over his father’s position at the bank upon his father’s death in 1941. He married Mrs. Francis McFall in 1905. They had two children, Marian who died at the age of seven from a ruptured appendix and Knox, who died in 1942 when the US Army plane he was piloting crashed during a training mission near Harlingen, Texas. The marriage of George and Francis unfortunately dissolved sometime in the 1920’s and he remarried Mrs. Elena Bedford Newsome. George died in 1962. Mrs. Elena Fant owned the Baker house until the late 1970’s.
Hence begins our ghost story…
When the Fant’s moved into the house, nothing was out of the ordinary for about a year. Then, their teen-aged niece, who I will call Helen to protect her identity, came for a visit. Most of the following accounts in the home are recalled from the writing of Helen. She, out of fear of ridicule, never told anyone of these events until she revealed them to me for the purpose of documentation.
In a letter dated September 2000 she wrote: “My aunt and uncle bought and restored the old Baker house in the early 1940’s. Now, I know this sounds crazy but I also know what I have seen. The first time was during World War II, sometime during the summer. I was staying with my aunt and uncle along with another aunt. I was about 13 years old when she and I were sleeping in the easternmost bed room downstairs. This bedroom has a door leading to the southern side of the veranda. Only the screen door was latched and I remember all was quiet and everyone was asleep.
I was awakened by the sound of someone very quietly and slowly walking down a small hall on the south side of the house that connected an inner bedroom with the bedroom my aunt and I were sleeping in. I closed my eyes afraid to look up. When I finally got the nerve to open them a figure was standing at the foot of the bed. I screamed loudly, enough to wake the dead and the figure immediately disappeared. Naturally, everyone in the house descended upon our bedroom and the consensus of opinion was that I was merely having a nightmare, but I know for certain that it was no nightmare because I was very much awake when I heard him. That was the only time he ever appeared when anyone else was ever around and the last time that I ever screamed.
I didn’t spend the night in that house again for a long while. My parents and I moved out of town and I didn’t return to the to the big house until the early 1960’s…20 years later. In the meantime my aunt built a smaller house adjacent to the large house, just to the southwest leaving a gate connecting the two properties for easy access.
Against my better jugement, I returned to the house and stayed a while with my aunt. One night, before I was married, I was reading in my bedroom which was on the second floor. My aunt was still living there at that time and was in her bed room-den downstairs. It was, again, a warm night but not warm enough to turn on the window air-conditioning units so my aunt had turned on a huge exhaust-type fan in the upstairs window over the stairway. I suddenly heard a loud cry, well, not like actual crying but more like moaning. I quickly ran from my bedroom to investigate as I was afraid my aunt had fallen and was crying out for me but her lights were out and I could see nothing. I realized that the crying was not coming from her part of the house. It seemed to be emanating from the area near the front of the house close to the dining room. The wailing went on for at least five minutes and me, being your basic coward, went back to my room, locked the door and tried to sleep. The next morning at breakfast my aunt said nothing and I decided I had best keep my mouth shut. If you had known my aunt you would understand why I make this statement.
My aunt went on to work and I was getting ready to do the same when her maid started yelling at me to come down to the dining room. In the downstairs part of the house between the dining room and hallway are heavy sliding doors. Lying next to one of those doors was a huge dead bat. We were never able to determine where the bat came from or how he got into the house.
The front of the house was always kept closed off from the back of the house because we had plenty of room in the back after my uncle had added a huge den so it was easier to cool and heat by closing it off from the front. The maid, however, inspected and cleaned the front every day and the bat was not there the day before. Even though I know what I heard the night before was certainly no bat. I still tried to write it off as vivid imagination.
Most of the strangeness happened in the house when I was alone. I think that is why I never mentioned it to anyone. There was a pocket of cold, not cool but extremely cold air in the downstairs hallway close to the living room. No matter how hot the day, when I would walk down that hall, there was about five feet of very frigid air and I was always very startled by it. Yet, if someone were with me and we walked down that hall the air was always normal, cool or warm, depending on the time of year.
One day in the mid 1960’s, I was with my aunt shopping at stores on the Weatherford square, downtown. We were in a boutique called Sturgess-Allen. The elderly owner of the store, Mrs. Bozelle and I were having a conversation about the old house. She told me that sometime back in the 1920’s, her aunt attended a party given by Mrs. Baker. At some time during the festivities a loud noise emanated from a large armoire located on the first floor that had belonged to Charles Baker. The door of the armoire opened and an old starched collar rolled out and down the hallway and stopped near the large wooden sliding doors. She said the party-goers were more than mystified by the event as it scared some quite a bit. I then thought deeply about what she had reported and it gave me quite an uneasy feeling because the collar stopped in about the same place the dead bat was found.
The house sat empty for a while after my aunt built the new house next to it and in 1970, my husband and I moved into the house with plans to purchase it. My husband worked a lot at night and sometimes traveled so I was in the house alone for five to seven days at a time. After living there for about a year, the visitations started.
Our bedroom was upstairs on the south side. One night while alone in the big house I woke up and was sure I had heard something on the stairs. The dogs were outside and one of them started howling. Then I saw a shadow along the wall of the stairwell rising toward my bedroom. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t reach the phone, I couldn’t say anything – just lay there. Once again I closed my eyes and kept them closed. I heard the footsteps enter my bedroom and approach my bed and then I felt a hand gently touch my shoulder. I opened my eyes and jumped up very quickly but nothing was there. I don’t know what the neighbors thought but I immediately got up and turned on every single light in the house and left them on until daylight. In the bright light of day I did my best to convince myself that I had had another nightmare like the one 30 years earlier.
This same event happened to me at least six to seven times during our years in the house, always with the same result; someone would slowly ascend the stairs, walk into my bedroom, place his hand on my shoulder then disappear. Unnerving to say the least, still, I never told anyone, not even my husband.
There were times when I felt someone was watching me. I felt whatever it was, wasn’t exactly friendly. I did not feel potential violence as much as plain malice. This almost became a daily feeling. Anywhere I went in the house, someone was watching me and I became extremely edgy and frightened, afraid to leave and afraid to stay. Then, for a period of months to a year there would be no feelings of being watched and I would relax.
The worst incident of all happened in the spring of 1976. I was alone late one night and one of those Texas storms blew in with its usual violent winds, rain, hail, lightning and thunder. At that time there was an electric transformer in a pole about 20 yards east of the corner of Lamar and Columbia streets that would blow every time there was a drizzle and of course, it blew in the storm. I had no lights.
I was upstairs in the bedroom, thunder crashing, lightning flashing, wind blowing something fierce. Suddenly, I heard loud pounding on the door that leads from the basement to the hallway downstairs. This particular door was always securely locked and there was no way out of the basement except through the house via the hallway. I first tried to tell myself that the wind was causing the door to rattle but a rattle didn’t sound like that. Someone, or something, was loudly and furiously pounding on that door from the basement side. Thinking about it now is sending chills up and down my spine. I managed to get to the telephone and contact my aunt next door. She immediately knew I was frightened out of my wits and said she would meet me at the gate.
I ran downstairs in my night-gown not even stopping to get my rain coat or shoes. The second I passed the door the pounding stopped. I went through the kitchen, locked the kitchen door and started across the screened-in back porch to leave the house but as I crossed the porch and neared the door to leave the pounding started again, louder and angrier than ever. I ran across the driveway to the gate where my aunt was waiting for me. I can honestly say that I have never been more afraid than I was that night, before or since. I still said nothing more than the storm un-nerved me.
I was never again comfortable there in that house. A year later my husband and I divorced and I left the house for good. I truly believe that the ghost, spirit, figure that appeared to me in 1942 was that of Charles Baker and I don’t think he liked me one little bit. Since no one else, that I am aware of, ever saw him, I can only assume that I was the catalyst that aroused his ire. I can still feel the touch of his hand on my shoulder, ugh!”
Helen’s story is convincing to say the least and can easily be backed up by a legitimate timetable. If the ghost of Charlie Baker did return to the house then the haunting question would remain…what ever happened to him anyway? Was he upset to be unable to find his familiar surroundings and his loving mother or was he merely reaching out for help from a time no longer his. Perhaps anything is possible in a house so familiar with tragedy.
Mr. Fant died in 1962 and Mrs. Fant continued to live in the home until sharing it with her niece before moving to the cottage next door. She died in 1980. The old building downtown that brought the Baker family so much success was sold in 1930 to Bowden and Son’s and mysteriously burned one Saturday afternoon in 1980.
The present owners of the home, Rhonda and Michael Lasely have lived in the beautiful Victorian home now for over 20 years. They are wonderful people who love and appreciate the house and maintain it with much love and respect. They raised two sons in the home with no supernatural encounters. Oh! There was one time that one of the house-keepers, who spoke little English, was very upset and assured them that a “ghost” or something attempted to push her down the stairs on the second floor.
As for Charlie Baker, his whereabouts will always be a big mystery but nevertheless, we hope he finds peace in the hereafter and for all those who may live or visit the home we hope they enjoy all the beauty and elegance the place has to offer for years to come.
Photos provided by Bob Hopkins.