On nights when the moon is full, sometimes the distant sound of a horn disturbs the sleep of those in homes perched on bluffs above the Olmos Basin. Not a truck horn from the highway nearby, but the horn of the hunt.
It’s followed by the frantic baying of hounds heading toward Brackenridge Park, where their continued howling awakens some in River Road. Those who peer out their windows report seeing a blur of Vizla hounds racing through the underbrush followed by a lone horseback rider, the tails of his formal coat flapping in the wind.
During the years Laszlo Ujhazi resided in this neighborhood of San Antonio, he favored formal hunts with other Hungarian immigrants followed by elaborate picnics on the banks of the Salado, where his prized Vizslas flushed out jackrabbits for the chase. 1858 had been a rough year in San Antonio with a plague of locusts followed by a summer drought, but that is when Ujhazi began raising, training and pampering his prized Hungarian dogs on his land in the Olmos Basin. One of his daughters wrote: “He feeds them himself, bathes the little dogs, makes beds for them, and talks to them as we used to talk to our children.”*
Presumably, when he died at the age of 75 in 1870, he and his dogs went on to the happy hunting ground in the sky. He was buried next to his wife near his home, Sirmezo, on Olmos Creek. In 1879, his remains were shipped back to his family’s crypt in Budamer, Hungary, but, ultimately, he found no rest there. Twenty years later, he felt compelled to rise back up from his grave and return with his horse and hounds to San Antonio.
In 1899, his daughter, Helen Madarasz, was brutally raped and burned to death in her home in what is now Brackenridge Park. Her murderers have never been found. The full story of her brutal demise is related in an earlier post on this blog.
The revenge-seeking Ujhazi will continue to race and the ghostly spirit of his daughter Helen will moan and roam through Brackenridge Park until her slayers are identified.**
*The quotation from the letter is found in James Patrick McGuire’s The Hungarian Texans. How Ujhazi arrived in San Antonio is related in pages 60 to 63 of this blogger’s book, Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement.
**While the pre-death facts of the lives of Laszlo Ujhazi and his daughter Helen are accurate, their afterlife activities, if any, are unknown. Still, be on the watch when you pass through Brackenridge Park at night.