Is Driskill Hotel Haunted?

Driskill Hotel

Phantoms of former owners and ghosts of little girls are said to haunt this historic Texas hotel

Paranormal Activity at
Driskill Hotel

  • Smells of cigar smoke have been reported 
  • The apparition of a jilted bride has been seen around the hotel
  • A little girl’s figure has been spotted at times
  • Disembodied voices and laughter have been heard 
  • Sounds of a bouncing ball have been heard in the halls

Driskill Hotel: Historic Hospitality

In Austin, Texas’ busy downtown, you don’t have to search too far to find a hotel. But amongst the dozens of inns and lodges, only one can boast being the oldest: The Driskill. For over 130 years, The Driskill’s unique Romanesque structure has been a fixture of the city.

From its position on the corner of 6th and Brazos Streets, The Driskill has seen Austin develop and seen itself become a historic cornerstone.

Through its life, the hotel has greeted countless guests and visitors, some of whom may linger in spirit. Yes, alongside being Austin’s oldest hotel, some say The Driskill is also the city’s most haunted. But just what sorts of spirits can you expect during your stay?

Timeline of Driskill Hotel's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Driskill Hotel through the years


The Driskill began as the idea of an enterprising cattleman, Colonel Jesse Driskill. Driskill earned his nickname by selling cattle to Confederates during the Civil War. And though he lost much of his fortune by war’s end, he sought to make it back in Texas. In the late 1860s, Driskill moved his family to Austin to rebuild his cattle business. In a matter of years, Driskill was wealthy once more. And in the 1880s, the cattle baron hoped to use his fortune to build Austin a grand, new hotel. The new hotel opened in 1886: The Driskill.


Not long after opening, Driskill and his hotel both fell on hard times. The hotel temporarily closed in 1887, and the Colonel had to sell it soon after. After re-opening, The Driskill grew its reputation as a high-class hotel and event space. It even took to hosting regular balls for the gubernatorial inaugurations. Though no longer his, the hotel achieved Colonel Driskill’s dream of being a popular city landmark. But, he didn’t have long to enjoy it, as the Colonel died in 1890.


Over the decades that followed Colonel Driskill’s death, The Driskill Hotel saw continued success. The hotel continued to host inaugural balls for governors and other high-profile events. And, of course, it remained one of Austin’s most popular hotels. It also saw many renovations. These included the additions of electric lights, steam heat, and expanded lavatories. In 1930, the hotel saw one of its grandest additions. The Maximilian Room opened that year, an elegant parlor including nine mirrors from Emperor Maximilian of Mexico.


Well into the 20th century, The Driskill Hotel remained a gem of Austin’s hotel scene. Famously, future president Lyndon Johnson met his wife, Lady Bird, at the hotel in 1934. LBJ also used the hotel to watch the results of his 1948 Senate race and 1964 presidential race. But while The Driskill’s reputation remained strong, age crept through the building. By the 1960s, competition and changes in traveler desires seemed to spell doom for the hotel. It was closed in 1969 for what looked to be demolition.


A years-long effort, Save-the-Driskill, took over the community in the early 1970s. The group raised millions of dollars and helped save the old hotel from the wrecking ball. After a long time spent being refurbished, The Driskill reopened in 1973 with a series of grand galas. Since then, the hotel has gone through several changes in ownership, but its position as one of Austin’s finest hotels has never wavered. And as The Driskill continues to thrive, stories swirl about how the hotel’s history stays alive…through spirits.

Is The Driskill Hotel Haunted?

Historic buildings are often the centerpieces of ghost stories. So maybe it’s only natural The Driskill, as Austin’s oldest operating hotel, has its share of haunted happenings.

In one of its most well-known ghostly reports, The Driskill is said to be haunted by Colonel Jesse Driskill himself.

In life, Driskill was known to be a frequent cigar smoker, and puffed through many during his years owning the hotel. Now, guests often claim to smell cigar smoke in strange places, or even when all alone.

In one instance, a security guard reportedly smelled the stench of Driskill’s cigar and tried to search for the culprit. And, in his search, the guard supposedly heard Jesse Driskill’s disembodied voice ask him for a light.

Spirits Are Smokers at
The Driskill Hotel

Smells of tobacco and cigar smoke are so common around The Driskill, some have suggested multiple spiritual sources. Alongside Driskill’s ghost, there are suggestions that the smell is residual energy from an old tobacco shop in the lobby.

As the lobby is also where Driskill was known to spend time in life, perhaps the two simply make a perfect storm of cigar smoke.

The Hotel’s Little Girl Ghost

But ghostly smells aren’t all you’ll encounter at The Driskill Hotel. Several apparitions and shadow figures are also said to keep residence at the hotel. One is that of a young girl, reportedly the spirit of tragedy. In 1887, a four year old girl died after falling down the hotel’s steps chasing after a ball.

Now, the girl’s phantom is said to linger through The Driskill. Her shadowy figure has been spotted frolicking through the halls at times. Additionally, a little girl’s laughter has been heard from empty halls and rooms. Her spirit is also known for the sound of a bouncing ball, as if she is still playing with the toy that caused her demise.

Apparitions in The Hallways

Another apparition seen around the hotel is reportedly that of a jilted bride. The story goes that a young bride left at the altar went on a shopping spree with her ex-lover’s credit card. When she was done, she checked into The Driskill Hotel with all her purchases in tow. But, after getting to her room, she committed suicide. Now, the woman’s specter reportedly lingers the hotel, particularly the room she died in.

Some stories differ as to which room is the ghost bride’s, but most note it as either 525 or 329. Her figure is said to appear around her old room and the hallway outside. Those who have spotted the bride’s apparition say she often appears with many shopping bags and boxes in her hands.

The Driskill Hotel:
Austin’s Most Haunted?

While The Driskill keeps itself busy as an open and popular hotel, the building’s ghost stories are hard to avoid these days.

The hotel is a regular feature in articles about hauntings of Austin, and is considered today to be one of the Lone Star State’s most haunted hotels.

But while you won’t find many advertised opportunities to go on ghost tours or hunts at the hotel, you’re always free to book a stay. If you’re lucky, you might find the reportedly haunted room available for your reservation.

Though, if the ghost stories of the hotel are to be believed, you could encounter some paranormal cigar smoke right in the lobby. And who wouldn’t want to encounter something spooky over the smoke of a spectral stogie?