Texas Tech University

Paul Tales: Red Raider Revenants

Paul Tubbs

October 28, 2022

Tales of hauntings at Texas Tech have been shared for decades.

What chills you to the core?

Do dismembered voices, the random smell of pipe smoke or floating apparitions give you the heebie-jeebies?

Those are just a few of the unnerving, spine-tingling things lurking around campus.

So, come with me, if you dare, to explore some haunting tales with an eerie sense of truth in this first edition of Paul Tales. 

This one I like to call Red Raider Revenants.

The Creepy Cowboy of Holden Hall

Holden Hall
Holden Hall

Our first stop is Holden Hall. Today it is part of the College of Arts & Sciences, but for many years the building served multiple purposes. In 1937 it was the West Texas Museum for Texas Technological College. According to Museum of Texas Tech University records, it was difficult to find state funding for what both the faculty and staff at Texas Tech and the Lubbock community found absolutely essential, so much of the funding for expansion of the building including the Rotunda Memorial Hall came from private donors. 

In 1954, the mural that fills the rotunda as you enter the building features paintings of key South Plains pioneers as painted by Peter Hurd was added. The mural was even featured in the now defunct “Life Magazine” which at the time was a weekly publication.

The museum grew over the years to the point expansion was necessary and the current location on Fourth Street was built in 1970.

But the days of Holden Hall functioning as a museum seem to generate some spine-tingling tales. This one comes from Darrell Maloney's book “Haunted Lubbock.” 

A contributor by the name of Nathan recalls the handful of times he ventured to the museum as a kid, including one trip with his grandparents. The museum itself took up the basement portion of the building, with various elements extending outward such as the mural in the rotunda.

Holden Hall
"The Creepy Cowboy"

Down in the basement there were displays of the Old West included a barbed wire exhibit and various mannequins dressed up in period attire. As Nathan described it, his grandmother was a big picture taker. She loved her Polaroid camera since it produced instant images and she jumped at any opportunity to use it.

One of the mannequins, dressed as a cowboy, had been unsettling to Nathan the previous times he visited the museum on school trips, but now his grandmother was insistent he pose in front of it. It wasn't until the picture developed that Nathan was truly terrified.

The cowboy typically faced out, greeting patrons as they entered the room. However, in this picture, the Cowboy was looking directly at Nathan! While his grandmother played off his concern, Nathan's grandfather did ask how he got the mannequin to look at him.

As Nathan said in “Haunted Lubbock”, “That picture made chills run up and down my spine. That was the one and only time I ever looked at it, but I can see it as clearly in my mind as if it was right here in front of me.”

Nathan said after his grandparents died all the pictures were given to his sister. He also said he wouldn't care if he ever saw that particular picture again!

The Barton House at the National Ranching Heritage Center

Barton House
The Barton House at the National Ranching Heritage Center

The National Ranching Heritage Center (NRHC) is steeped in the history of what makes this part of the Lone Star State unique. The concept of the center began in 1966 as a way for Texas Tech and the Ranching Heritage Center to preserve the history of ranching in Texas. That concept would become reality in 1976 with its formal dedication.

The 55 structures across the property range in age from 100 to 200 years old, so it should come as no surprise that talk of apparitions and specters are commonplace.

Many visitors to the NRHC say the Barton House has caught their attention in the paranormal sense.   

Built as a labor of love by Joseph James Barton for his wife Mary in 1909, the homestead is a two-and-a-half-story Queen Anne-style structure. It was originally constructed from materials transported by train and wagon across the state to Amarillo and later assembled.

Barton House
The Barton House hallway

The home was to be part of a grand vision community Barton had called Bartonsite. When the railroad decided to bypass the site just 33 miles northwest of Lubbock for Abernathy, it struck what would be the final blow for the community. Structures such as the post office and store were relocated while the homestead was left as the only structure in the defunct Bartonsite.

Several years later, Barton's son Jack and his wife Josephine bought the home. They raised livestock and farmed until Jack's death in 1967. Josephine would donate the house to the NRHC upon her death in 1974.

Folks who have frequented the NRHC claim to have seen a woman, sometimes dressed in white, appearing in the second story of the home. Could it be the ghost of Mary Barton still dealing with the sadness of the unrealized dream of Bartonsite? Or is it just the old sewing mannequin placed near that same window?


Curator of Historic Collections at the NRHC Robert Tidwell has heard the story of the woman in the window but adds that isn't the only location guests have noticed something unusual.

“Some guests swear they've seen people in the dining room area on the bottom floor even when we don't have the doors open for our staff. It's usually not open to the public,” said Tidwell. “If anyone is going to be in there during the day, it's going to be one of us.”

6666 Barn

Still longing for a little more paranormal panic? Creep on over and hear stories from Tidwell on the NRHC basement or the phantasmal prowling in the Four Sixes barn. Maybe the unsettled spirits in the Harrell House is your level of hair-raising hi-jinks.  

No matter your spectral du jour, the folks over at NRHC invite you to check it out for yourself!

Is that you Mr. President? - The McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center

It is a staple on the campus of Texas Tech, the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center. The now 7,200-square-foot building is the on-campus location of the Texas Tech Alumni Association, which also includes the Frazier Alumni Pavilion and the Kent R. Hance Chapel.

McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center
McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center

But before it was the hub for Texas Tech alumni, it was the president's home for many years, being one of the first buildings on campus back in 1925. The building follows the same unique Spanish-style architecture throughout and features rooms that have been restored to their 1920s glory. 

In 1960, the building would house part of the School of Home Economics as the Home Management House. For 10 years students would live and practice their skills in the building before becoming the home to the Texas Tech Alumni Association in 1969.

University presidents called the President's Mansion home from 1925 to 1959. The first president, Paul Whitfield Horn, Bradford Knapp, Clifford B. Jones, Williams M. Whyburn, Dossie Marion Wiggins and Edward N. Jones all lived in the home during their tenure, with Jones being the final president to occupy the residence.

Paul Whitfield Horn
Paul Whitfield Horn
Photo Courtesy: Southwest Collection

Every kind of reception has been held in this building since the beginning, so it should come as no surprise its life beyond the Presidential Mansion would be focused on entertainment. And maybe, just maybe some of the past occupants would like to continue to be the life of the party long after they've left the land of the living.

It was April 23, 1932, when President Horn died of a heart attack in the residence. Visitors and employees claim to have smelled the pipe Horn was known for smoking, as well as disembodied voices in empty rooms and the jingle of keys.

While some claim it is the spirit of Dr. Horn lurking in the building, others have given the spirit a different moniker. George.

“When I started working here, I'd heard we had a ghost here and his name is George,” said Chris Snead, vice president of operations & engagement for the Texas Tech Alumni Association. “I don't know that George is Dr. Horn, but I've been up here working late at night, I've heard doors closing when I'm the only one in the building. I've heard what sounds like people walking through the building when I knew I was the only person in the building. I generally don't want to be in this building by myself after dark.”

McKenzie-Merket Hallway
McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center hallway

So, what spooky tales do you have from your time at Texas Tech? We'd love to hear them! Drop us a line here.