Above: Do Laszlo Ujhazy (1795-1870) and his baying vizsla hounds haunt Brackenridge Park to avenge the brutal 1899 murder of his daughter, Helen Madarasz?
Tired of recycling the same old San Antonio ghost stories? Time to pay attention to a few of the many spirits probably haunting the banks of the San Antonio River in Brackenridge Park. Any resemblances to real persons, actual dead people, referenced in this post are absolutely intentional.
Chapter Eighty-Four of An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead, Emma Bentzen Koehler, December 1915
“Otto’s revenge, this is. I never thought of myself as the vengeful type, but, I must confess, this is the best Christmas present I have ever given or received.”
“Ah, Emma,” says Judge Newton, “I believe it was best expressed in Beowulf: ‘It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.’”
“Maybe, Gallie, that is indeed why this feels so good.”
“Aunt Emma,” says Corwin Priest, “eleven acres along the river is a Christmas gift for all of San Antonio. Otto Koehler Park. Uncle Otto must be kicking his heels together up above us. Is it true that part of that land might be haunted?”
“Hogwash, Corwin. Where did you hear such nonsense? Although, the Hungarian woman who used to live there, Helen Madarasz, was robbed and murdered in her home about 15 years ago.”
Gallie nods. “They say the men who killed her had their way with her first and then set her house afire to hide any evidence.”
“I fear they were successful in that effort, as they were never caught.”
“If there were such creatures as ghosts,” says Corwin, “Missus Madarasz would be justified in hanging around.”
“And I remember an old man from Fredericksburg somehow drowned there about 1906,” adds Gallie.
“Oh, dear. And there was a proprietor who managed the park for Otto that same summer. Mister Goetz, he was. He was not a happy man. Took his own life.”
“Well, Emma, the fate of Otto’s next proprietor was not much improved,” says Gallie. “Remember, Sam Wigodsky and his employee were trying to retrieve an empty keg that was floating midstream when their boat capsized.”
“They drowned?” asks Corwin.
“Maybe. Their deaths were ruled accidental. But Otto said they should have had close to $1,000 in their possession at the time. The money was never found.”
Corwin shakes his head. “That land sounds cursed, Aunt Emma. I’m relieved you are giving it away.”
“There’s no such thing as cursed land, Corwin. Although that was quite a string of unfortunate occurrences. Ghosts have nothing to do with my desires to dispose of the property. Unless it’s Otto’s ghost prodding me to needle old George Brackenridge.”
Above, excerpt of author-imagined dialogue: Emma Koehler on the eve of her 1915 gift of Koehler Park (including Madarasz Park) to the City of San Antonio in memory of her “shot-dead” husband, as related in An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and Yes, She Shot Him Dead
Below are links to three truthful tales to spice up your seasonal story-telling skills, best practiced while sharing ice-cold Pearl Beer in the Koehler Park portion of Brackenridge Park:
Helen Madarasz, The Madarasz murder mystery: Might Helen haunt Brackenridge Park?
Poster promoting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Martha Mansfield was a glamorous actor who appeared with such well-known stars as John Barrymore. Alas, while filming on location in Brackenridge Park in 1923, her billowing Southern belle costume caught fire and turned her into “a flaming torch.”