It’s Halloween season again in Denton, with Day Of The Dead and coffin races and all manner of spooky fun to choose from! The approach of All Hallows Eve also means its time to share another one of Denton’s nifty ghost stories with We Denton Do It!! We’ve previously scooped y’all on The 1963 Pecan Creek Monster Hunt, some of Denton’s Ghostly Guardians, and our most famous specter that is said to haunt The Old Alton Goatman’s Bridge… but I’ll bet you haven’t heard about The Phantom Farmer said to still be mulling around the Bayless-Selby House Museum in our Denton County Historic Park! This story has it all: betrayal, murder, scandal, and more’n just a little lingering intrigue in this honest-to-gosh HAUNTED HOUSE since back in the day. [EDIT: here’s the DRC account of the haunted happenings!]
Sam A. Bayless arrived in Denton County from Tennessee with his wife Elizabeth in 1881, purchasing a two-room farmhouse for them and their children in 1884. Bayless operated a nursery and landscaping operation, which was successful enough for him to contract expanding the modest Myrtle Street house into a two-story Queen Ann-style Victorian home for his family in 1898. As was pretty typical of larger operations during that period, Bayless employed several sharecroppers or itinerant laborers to tend, maintain, and move his greenery from the nursery farm. It was in November of 1919 that a heated argument with one of his itinerant workers over payment quickly escalated into shouted threats and then a brawl in the yard of his home. According to court documents, the quick-tempered Bayless stormed into his house to retrieve a shotgun from his second-floor bedroom but, when he returned downstairs, his wife expressed alarm over the amount of blood that was now staining his workshirt. Stabbed during the skirmish and bleeding profusely, Bayless died in his own home before a doctor could be retrieved to minister aid. The grief-stricken Widow Bayless sold the home to friend and fellow-nurseryman R.L. Selby, whose family lived in the house for the next half century. The scandalous murder trial against the laborer made local headlines for almost a year.
After the Bayless-Selby House was bought at auction and donated to Denton County in 1998, it began a long process of restoration by Bill Marquis into what is now a “representative home” museum for Victorian-era life in Denton. And this is where things get kooky and spooky! According to our very reliable and definitely-not-imagining-things sources at the Bayless-Selby House, there has been some pretty weird unexplained phenomena that happens inside the museum. On several occasions, when the house is empty except for the on-duty docents who lead tours of the place, dragging footsteps have been heard in the upstairs floor or on the stairway. On at least one vivid occasion, hearing an unresponsive someone stalking around the upstairs, spooked volunteers called police to investigate but they found no one else there. Others have heard voices or moans up there, reports of shuffled or oddly misplaced artifacts have come from level-headed sources, then there are the occasional sightings of movement or a face peering down from the attic windows! A couple of volunteers refuse to go upstairs by themselves, even as they overtly disavow believing in ghosts. Like I said, weird stuff.
Are we sure it’s the Phantom Farmer Bayless that still roams the upstairs of his former residence? Not everyone thinks so. Miss Marilyn Stevens is convinced Bayless is the wandering spirit, but tour guide Starr Campbell instead suspects that maybe it’s one of the pioneer Daugherty family who may be lurking around the premises. According to these ghost theorists, there’s a vintage photo that hangs on the wall of the dining room wherein the Daugherty siblings eyes FOLLOW YOU as you move around the room! Its true that much of the dining room furniture and elegant hand-painted fancy china was donated by descendants of the Daugherty clan, so just maybe there are a few haunted artifacts sitting around the place. I’ve checked out the museum for myself, so I can confirm the heebie-jeebies you get wandering the house are darn sure real enough! But you can go have a gander around yourself at our Denton County Historic Park during one of their free tours some Saturday when you visit the Farmer’s Market.
Could the Bayless-Selby House be home to more than one Phantom Farmer!?? Think on that as you enjoy an awesome week of Halloween events, Denton, and be sure you come trick-or-treat the Downtown Denton Square this
Friday THURSDAY night!! Remember to be friendly to all the spirits you encounter… either living or otherwise.
(BTW, didja see Quickdraw Joe’s #JonVoyage art made The Daily Show farewell montage? True story!!)