SINTON – San Patricio County has had six different courthouses, reaching as far back to 1837 when the county seat was located in Old San Patricio. The first courthouse in Sinton was built in 1893 with the current one built in 1928.
With 91 years of history behind its walls, it’s no wonder the employees who work there have seen – and heard – more than a few strange things over the years.
From little girls roaming the halls to floating orbs caught on basement security cameras, these are the tales of the haunted San Patricio County Courthouse.
Strange sights and sounds
San Patricio County IT Manager Raul Delgado has worked within the courthouse walls for 38 years and has seen – and even recorded – his fair share of things that go bump in the night.
“When I started working here, I used to work a lot of nights because, of course, computers back then were nothing what they are now,” Delgado recalled. “So I had to do a lot of different things at night.
“I worked here alone a lot, so in middle of the night you could walk out in the hallway at any given time and hear doors opening and closing. You could hear footsteps, and the elevator going up and down all night.
“And you could hear people talking all the time.
“So, yeah, I didn’t leave my office unless I really had to. The fear was enough that I stayed here.
“And you could just be walking down the hall and feel like somebody was behind you.”
He said his office was near the old drunk tank. When the courthouse first opened, the jail was located on the third floor and the drunk tank was in the basement floor, next to Delgado’s office. While he does think that maybe the voices he would hear were maybe just reverberations from people throughout the day coming and going, he also believes it could be the old drunks still lingering in the cell.
Or even something else.
“There was always talk of a janitor that had died here,” Delgado said. “There was always talk of a prisoner that had hung himself on the third floor.”
The one experience that Delgado wishes he had documented was when an employee came to him and asked if he could review the tapes from earlier. As the employee entered the courthouse, he felt like someone was behind him, but when he turned, no one was there.
“So I checked the video. They came in from the outside. And as soon as they walk in the door, I see this tall, dark shadow behind him. They walk in and you see the shadow and it was maybe six foot, five inches or something.
“And then, he walked into (County Auditor David W. Wendel’s) office and as soon as he walked in, that shadow kind of vanished.”
The one video he did capture and share with The News of San Patricio was that of floating orbs in the county clerk’s records room. He explained that all the lights are on sensors so they automatically shut off after 30 minutes of no one being in a room.
When the clerk’s office was shutting down for the day, the lights went off, and the county clerk can see the night vision footage of that room.
“And they noticed the light went off in the basement vault down there,” Delgado said. “And they started seeing all these orbs appear. So they called me to get a copy of that video.
“That one was crazy because we’d never seen anything like that.
“That was crazy just getting orbs in there. They’re going in and out of the books from the ’20s and ’30s.
“So that was too cool.”
The little girl
Delgado also told a story, that is now all too familiar amongst employees in the courthouse.
His co-worker, Priscilla, said that one time she looked up to her door, which is sectional and she only had the top part open, and said there was a little girl standing there.
As soon as the girl noticed, she vanished.
Priscilla looked up and down the hallway but there wasn’t anybody there.
The women also share stories while they’re in the stalls of the bathrooms, they’ll hear someone next to them, usually playing with the toilet paper. When they check, there’s no one in there. Some have even heard the little girl laughing as they rush out in terror.
County Clerk Gracie Alaniz-Gonzales said, “I know that I’ve seen, here in our basement, footprints, but footprints like it’s wet. Who takes off their shoes to walk in the basement?
“And I asked the girls, who took off their shoes? But nobody did and there were footprints.”
She said she did take photos but she must have deleted them since it was years ago.
Tax Clerk Carolina Saldivar also had an encounter with the little girl.
She remembers one day when she thought she heard someone come into her office. When she went to check, nobody was there. When she turned back to her desk, there standing in the back of her office, she saw a little girl.
Startled, she just sat back down and ignored it for as long as she could.
“And I just like thought I was seeing things,” Saldivar said. “So then I looked again and I saw her, just standing there looking at me and I was like, ‘Oh my God!’
“I think it’s that little girl, and I didn’t know who she was or what she looked like until Burt (Garza ) came to me with a picture and asked me, ‘Hey, is this her?’ and I said yes.”
The photo Garza had was one from the book “The History of San Patricio County” by Keith Guthrie which covers the entire history of the county.
“I mean, she’s in here,” Saldivar continued. “She doesn’t hurt anybody, she just startles you because you don’t expect her.
“She’s just standing there looking at you.”
The tall man
Perhaps of all the employees at the courthouse, maintenance worker Bert Garza, has seen the most bizarre paranormal activity.
“There was a tall man with an old-time black suit with a white shirt and he had glasses and gray hair,” Garza recalled. “He was real tall and his picture’s right down the hall as a matter of fact.
“I looked up one day when I was throwing the trash and all of a sudden it just gave me chills all over my body and I was freaking out because I had never seen a figure like that before in my life.”
The back of the photo Garza was referencing says the tall man is none other than Judge J.C. Russell, who served from 1924 to 1926. Nothing else is known about the former judge other than Garza isn’t the only employee to see the man roaming the halls.
The little girl is also a fan of his. A few weeks ago, Garza was working overtime on a Saturday and went to the supply closet to get some gloves. When he grabbed them and turned the corner, he saw the little girl peeping around a corner at him.
“It freaked me out so I just took off walking outside,” he said laughing.
“One time me and Gracie Alaniz-Gonzales, on a holiday before Christmas, we heard somebody singing. And it was a little girl’s voice.
“I looked at Gracie and she looked at me and I said, ‘Yup, that’s that little girl singing.’
“We freaked out on that one, too.”
The third floor
Hugh Wayne, who works in the print shop on the third floor of the courthouse, which was once the county jail, had his first run-in with his spirit when, as he was working on a project, the door to his bathroom flew open, slammed shut and he heard it lock.
After a few moments, the toilet flushed and the door opened.
But no one was there.
“Great,” he said. “I got a ghost up here that doesn’t wash his hands.”
He said he heard a story from the jailer’s granddaughter that his ghost is one of the prisoners that was shot by the jailer’s wife. The prisoner tried to escape and grabbed the jailer’s gun and shot him, then the wife grabbed a 12-gauge and shot him. The prisoner died, the jailer didn’t.
“Mostly now I just hear him walking behind me a few yards,” Wayne added. “I tell him to go sit down because he’s bothering me. Then I’d hear my chair squeak.
“I got rid of that chair.”
No matter if readers believe in spirits or the supernatural, with all the eyewitnesses sharing the same story, one thing is for sure.
“There’s a lot of freaky stuff happening here in this courthouse,” Garza said.
Paul Gonzales is the editor at the News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270 or at mathisnews@mySouTex.com.