North Beach: Haunted!

By Paula Bonillas

Jumping salt shakers! There are ghosts on North Beach. But this should come as no surprise, given the storied, colorful, and often dramatic history of the small peninsula just north of Corpus Christi - "on the other side of the bridge."

THE USS LEXINGTON, ALSO KNOWN AS THE BLUE GHOST, is home to the most well-known ghosts on the beach. Charlie is especially popular. A well-mannered, blue-eyed charmer, Charlie favors a summer white Navy uniform no longer used by the ship's earthly staff. Reported to be a sailor killed during a Japanese kamikaze attack in 1944, Charlie has an intimate knowledge of the ship and its engines, which he freely shares when the mood strikes, dazzling visitors and tour guides alike.

Some Lexington staffers and visitors have heard unseen chains being dragged across the flight deck, elevators carrying equipment, the rustling of crisply starched uniforms on phantom sailors, along with close encounters with other friendly but unworldly crew members who are more than willing to assist the floating museum's visitors. Sightings of a one particularly misguided ghost dressed in a Japanese aviator uniform have also been reported.

During its illustrious World War II exploits, the Lexington was so legendary that the Japanese believed they had sunk the aggressive, battle-scarred aircraft carrier four times. It was Tokyo Rose who dubbed it the Blue Ghost after tales of its persistent emergence evolved into folklore in Japan.

Here are some links for more information on the USS Lexington's hauntings:

Haunting of The Blue Ghost (The USS Lexington)
USS Lexington Paranormal Investigation
USS Lexington CV-16 —

Could these polite, well-groomed apparitions be loyal sailors who refused to abandon their ship?

IN CONTRAST TO THE HELPFUL GHOSTS ON THE LEXINGTON, a mischievous ghost, perhaps more aptly called a poltergeist, sometimes taunts and haunts the staff and owners of Blackbeard's.

Soon after purchasing the storied building in 1991, the owners of Blackbeard's often had an unseen visitor who commuted to and from work with them for a while before settling back into his old habits at the restaurant.

His actions include opening doors spontaneously; playing with salt shakers; moving chairs; starting and stopping video tapes, to name a few. During his commuting days with the owners, he enjoyed toying with their thermostat - hiking it to the highest temperature one day, and then plummeting to freezing the next. Moving ordinary items around the house seemed to keep him entertained for a short time before he moved back to the restaurant.

The history of Blackbeard's prankster is unclear. Some say a skirmish over a red-haired woman left one man dead when the establishment was a bar in its early years. The bar, which now serves as the restaurant's kitchen, is where the most likely story began.

Late one night, a lonely patron who was despondent over having lost his wife left when the bar closed. He walked a short distance to the depression-era work camp across the street where he lived, sat down on his bed, reached for his gun. And the rest is history.

GHOST HUNTERS AND STUDENTS OF THE PARANORMAL often say traumatic death sometimes gives rise to ghosts, who live out the events of their lives as if they never ended. Some are angry or have unfinished business. Others seem to guide and help their earthly counterparts.

Given its often traumatic history, it's no wonder North Beach plays host to a few ghosts.

Cannibalistic Karankawa Indians once roamed the Texas Coast from Galveston to Corpus Christi. After killing their enemies, they ceremoniously ate their victims to magically capture their courage.

Merciless pirates terrorized hapless sailors and ships as they murdered and plundered their way through area bays. Some say that the "gentleman" pirate Jean Lafitte settled here after receiving presidential pardons for his freebooting ways.

During the war between Mexico and Texas, General Zachary Taylor set up a staging ground on North Beach and the general area to settle by battle how the disputed ground surrounding the Nueces River would be controlled.

The Hurricane of 1919 wiped out most of the structures on North Beach, including the city's first hospital, Spohn Sanitarium. Several patients and at least one of the nuns who helped establish the medical facility died that tragic day.

In 2007, Corpus Christi Ghosthunters captured what was dubbed "the holy grail" of ghosthunters - an apparition strolling through our back dining area hours after the restaurant had closed. His (her?) appearance began from an area where there is no door.

Here's a link to the apparition and findings: (listen for the whistling after the apparition appears, followed by shattering glass behind the bar - yet no one was behind the bar.)

In September 2008, while Hurricane Ike was ravaging the upper Gulf Coast, Blackbeard's, which had closed for the storm, had an unexpected visitor during the night. Our GM, who had closed the restaurant the night before, came in the next morning to find the place rocking: The music was jacked up and an empty shot glass was sitting at the bar. None of the managers with keys had been in the restaurant and nothing else was touched.

The founder/owner of Blackbeard's, Steve Bonillas, died in 2012. Since then, a number of eerie events have taken place. Our security cameras catch orbs flying throughout the restaurant all hours of the night.

Today, North Beach bustles with activity most of the year. People come here to play, swim, laugh, eat, drink, relax, listen to music, to leave mundane life behind, if only for a short time. The history is easily forgotten - the trauma, the calm, the history, the mystery.

One wonders just how many ghosts wander among us, unseen, unheard, lost amidst the gaiety and merriment that defines the beach today. But before our managers and staff leave each night, they always leave a drink on the bar for our resident ghost.

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