The area around the 289-year-old Spanish Colonial bastion, considered one of the most fought over pieces of ground in America, is the site of the grisly “execution” of 342 Texians during the Texas Revolution in 1836.
The Goliad Massacre is considered one of the most infamous episodes in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico. Ironically, the program coincides with the beginning of a year-long surge in patriotic activities and events across the state marking the 175th anniversary of the War for Independence that led to the Republic of Texas.
Producers and videographers representing the Travel Channel visited the mission-presidio complex in May, gathering vital materials, researching paranormal encounters and taping the personal accounts of local citizens in the Gulf Coast town.
Mount Misery on Long Island, N.Y., and The Stepney Cemetery in Monroe, Conn., also are a part of Vol. 5 in the six-part series covering dozens of eerie and haunting locations. Viewers are advised to check their local TV listings to confirm the air date for this and all episodes.
“I have not personally encountered any ghosts or spirits,” admitted Newton M. Warzecha, director of the Presidio Museum and president of its Foundation for the past 19 years.
“However, we have had overnight guests in our lodging, The Quarters, who have related some chilling experiences and written a number of engaging accounts of spookiness in our guest book,” Warzecha noted.
“The only real spirit I am aware of is the Holy Spirit in Our Lady of Loreto Chapel,” he added with a wry smile. The chapel has served the spiritual needs of Catholics since 1779, and still serves as a community church.
The Catholic Diocese of Victoria actually owns the National Historic Landmark and its now pastoral grounds located a few hundred yards from the San Antonio River. The hilltop fortress is about one mile south of the city, central to a ranching and farming region rich in oil and gas.
In June, with the Bishop David E. Fellhauer’s blessing, a cannon blasting and a buffet table groaning with barbecue and beans, the Presidio Museum was officially re-opened after a 3½-year restoration and refurbishing costing $500,000.
The sacred pantheon of Spanish, Mexican, Texas and Catholic history now better showcases artifacts from its Colonial and revolutionary periods with major improvements to the structures.
Through a generous grant from the Mary Hobbs Griffith Foundation, the Presidio also is offering free admission in March, April and May of 2011 to 10,000 Texas students in 4th- and 7th-grade social studies, as well as funds to help underwrite transportation costs. More than 1,000 students have already signed up.
After years of negotiation, the crumbling Chapel and the ruins of the fortress were purchased from the City of Goliad by the church in 1853 for $1,000. The first full restoration occurred in the 1960s with extensive funds from the Kathryn Stoner O’Connor Foundation.
The fort, located near U.S. Hwy. 183 (77A), features eight-foot tall stone walls, parapets, cannons, a bell tower containing two bells, a religious statue estimated at 300 years old, a charming Texas-version fresco of the Annunciation and more than 150 artifacts on display from among more than 54,694 collected from the grounds..
The Quarters, previously used by officers and later priests, accommodates four persons for overnight stays in one of the most historic – and eerie – lodging accommodations in America.
“Visitors along the Texas Independence (tourist) Trail highly regard the Alamo in San Antonio, Gonzales and Washington-on-the Brazos and the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument near Houston,” Warzecha said. “But a visit to the Presidio provides amazing insight into the atrocity of war and the ultimate price so many paid for Texas liberty and ideals.”
Museum admissions are $4 (ages 12-59); $3.50 for (60 and older and military personnel), and $1 for children (ages 6-11). Children age 5 and younger are admitted free. Group rates are available with advance reservations.