Are the TxDOT headquarters haunted?
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Are the TxDOT headquarters haunted?

By Kelly Lindner

AUSTIN — Many have heard the rumors. A select few have heard the voices. Is it possible? Is TxDOT's Dewitt C. Greer building in Austin really buzzing with paranormal activity?

Before the current building was finished in 1933, it was the site of the previous Travis County “hanging jail." Since then, people have reported seeing and hearing many of the same things in supposedly empty spaces: paper rustling, keyboards typing, footsteps and doors closing.

On Halloween night in 1916, Hubert Harvey stabbed a young Austin man to death. In the afternoon on Aug. 23, 1918, Sheriff George Matthews sprang the trap on the gallows inside the jail, and Harvey paid for his crime at the end of a rope.

Harvey was the last of nine men legally hanged in the building at the corner of 11th and Brazos streets. Is Hubert Harvey still tormenting TxDOT employees more than a century later?

“I had a stack of maybe 120 papers that I ran through the copy machine,” said Cassandra Mata, a TxDOT business operations manager. “I placed the originals in the middle of the table and left while the machine was making the copies. When I came back all of the papers that I had neatly stacked on the table were all over the floor and table, as if someone just tossed them in the air. I think the Greer ghost was having a little fun with me. I quickly picked up the papers, grabbed my copies and did not return back to the 5th floor that day.”

There are several famous stories from previous Greer building employees that will send chills down your spine. In the ‘80s, a security guard reported seeing a schoolboy dressed in 19th century garb walking around at 2 a.m.

Another story has become well-known among TxDOT staff.  

“Legend has it a security guard had a ghost experience her first week on the job at Greer and immediately left and never came back to work in the building,” said Adam Hammons, TxDOT media relations director. 

According to the security guard, she was alone in the building one night in 2007. When she tried to open a door that was jammed, she heard someone yell, “Get out!” So she did.

Stories like these piled up so much that in 2010, four ghost hunters monitored the Greer building for seven hours with night-vision video cameras, infrared motion detectors, electro-magnetic-field readers and digital-audio recorders.

During their visit, they heard someone chuckle on the supposedly empty second floor and someone walking above them on the empty third floor. They also observed a person-shaped “flash of light” shoot out of a cubicle.

And the encounters didn’t stop there. In 2019, a now-retired TxDOT employee told about doors slamming in an empty Greer bathroom for a Facebook video posted the day before Halloween.

Mary Navarrete-Rodriguez, a TxDOT resource support specialist, also shared her experience in the video.

“On occasion, I thought I was there alone, and there’s like papers shuffling, someone typing… I got up to see who was in the office with me and there was no one,” she said.

And the ghostly occurrences aren’t just limited to keyboards and rustling papers. 

“When local IT Support used to work in the basement, we’d sometimes hear a pair of high heels take about three or four steps in the stairwell next to our office, but then disappear,” said José Reyes, an IT contractor. “This was especially strange because you [need to] swipe your badge to gain access to the stairwell, and once in, the heavy metal door slams shut, making quite a bit of noise. We never heard any doors open or close before hearing these random steps.”

Other potential Greer Building haunts:

  • Taylor Ake, 18, hanged for rape, Aug. 22, 1879.
  • Ed Nichols, 21, hanged for rape, Jan. 12, 1894.
  • William Eugene Burt, hanged for killing his wife and two children, May 27, 1898.
  • Sam Watrus, 30, hanged Jan. 27, 1899 for murder, rape and robbery.
  • Jim Davidson, 30, hanged Nov. 24, 1899 for murder, rape and robbery.
  • Henry Williams, 30, hanged May 2, 1904 for murder and rape.
  • John Henry, hanged July 12, 1912 for murder.
  • Henry Brook, hanged May 30, 1913 for murder

Infamous outlaws of the Old West behind bars at Greer

  • John Wesley Hardin, Texas’ deadliest 19th century outlaw, did a stint in the still-new jail until his transfer to the state prison in Huntsville.
  • Johnny Ringo, another famous outlaw who would later be gunned down by lawman Wyatt Earp, spent some time in the Travis County slammer.