OLD SAN PATRICIO – Protected by an electronic gate, far from view from passersby and tucked inside some woods sits an old house. So old, in fact, that it’s in the name – the Old Dougherty House.
Before it was protected by curious local teenagers looking for a scare, it simply sat there. Empty and alone. Like a widow whose children had all moved away after her husband’s passing.
But is it actually alone? Or is there someone roaming the halls at night, stopping every so often to peek outside to see if anyone is coming for a visit?
It was in 1876 that Robert Dougherty built the schoolhouse near the family of his wife, Rachel Sullivan. It was an all boys’ school where he taught geography, history, math, Latin, Greek and classical literature.
“They built that two-story house and they conducted the school; the dormitory was upstairs and the family lived downstairs,” a relative of the family, Mary Margaret Dougherty Campbell, recalled. “And this school continued on and then Robert died.
“After he died they tried to keep the school open with his eldest daughter, Kate Dougherty Bluntzer, teaching the school.
“I think they carried it on for a year or so until they decided to close the school.”
Over the years, Robert’s seven children would eventually all moved away and left the large house to sit and wait for someone to move back in.
And the ghost stories start with “Crazy Rachel.”
In an article written in 2010 for the Three Rivers newspaper The Progress by Campbell’s son, J. Michael Sullivan, he said, “According to my mother, Rachel Timon was a great-niece to Rachel Sullivan Dougherty and did not live in the Dougherty house until after all of the original Doughertys had moved away or died.
“She lived in the house supposedly as caretaker, but my mother doesn’t think Rachel Timon could be considered an actual caretaker. The family needed someone to live in the house, and Rachel needed a place to live.”
J. Michael went on to say that he heard that Rachel wasn’t really crazy, just eccentric and understood why such stories started and became a sort of folk tale.
Sightings of “Crazy Rachel” have sprung up for years before the building was properly secured behind the electronic gate. People have seen her sitting in one of the second-story windows, watching them watch her.
And while J. Michael has never seen that specific apparition, he has seen something on the grounds that caused him to believe the story may be true.
“And one day we were out there,” Campbell remembered, “and I was on another side of the house with one of my cousins, and all the sudden J. Michael just came running around and said, ‘I just saw people over there.’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said there were people over there by the barbecue pit.”
J. Michael wrote in the article, “I have witnessed spirits at this house. Once when I was about 10 years old, I was wandering around the house when I came across where there used to be a big brick BBQ pit on the shore by the lake, but now is just bricks piled on top of one another.
“As I rounded the corner of the house, I started to hear voices and sounds of laughter.
“When I peered around the house toward where the voices were coming from, I saw a group of people having a BBQ on a brand new brick pit. I saw a few men standing around the pit, children running and playing, and the women and young girls coming from in the house.”
Campbell claims that he was not a fanciful kid and never made up stories as a child and wholeheartedly believes her son.
“It was all very clear, like it was actually happening,” J. Michael continued.
“For a moment, it was as though I were in the 1940s. The pit is still there; it just is not as elaborate as it used to be. The piles of bricks that had fallen out of formation have since been hauled off to make the house more presentable to visitors, and personally, I think the ghosts wanted their house to look better, so they forced the caretaker to take care of the eyesore.
“The house is much less creepy now than it used to be; now it is painted, and pieces of the house aren’t falling off anymore.”
That was 19 years ago and the house has once again fallen into disrepair. So have the ghosts returned once again, begging for someone to fix up the old house and bring it back to its former glory?
It seems so.
Back in November of 2008, Corpus Christi Spook Central visited the Old Dougherty House and found paranormal activity.
The group reported Activity Reported strange noises, strange sightings, shadows and voices in the home.
While the voices on the ghost hunter’s website are hard to hear, they have proof of someone saying “Follow me,” “Help me” and “I’m sorry.”
Last year the county conducted a survey on the house after it suffered severe damage from Hurricane Harvey. The surveyors said that it was in such bad shape no one is allowed to enter. The county does own the house now, but none of the officials are sure what the next step is. Another foundation has come forward and offered to take care of the building, but there are still issues that need to be resolved for that to take place.
For now, the old house sits, falling apart with only ghosts as its caretaker.
Hopefully it gets restored soon or it could end up becoming a ghost itself.