Episode 84 Mysteries and Murders at the Magnolia Hotel

The Magnolia Hotel in Seguin, Texas is one of the most haunted hotels in the state. 13 spirits are attached to the hotel including Emma Voelcker, a 12 year old girl whose alleged killer stayed at the hotel the night of her murder.

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In March 2013, the Magnolia Hotel on the corner of Crockett and Donegan Streets in Seguin, Texas was purchased by a local historian. The Magnolia was one of most endangered properties in the state and she and her husband wanted to save it. Restore the frontier hotel and open it again.

As restoration began, contractors were interrupted and some walked off the job because things got too weird. The workers were disturbed by things they felt and saw inside.

The new owners hired a psychic and historic researcher who found at least 13 spirits associated with the hotel. Some attached to historic events. Other to violent crimes including the murder of a 12 year old girl.

The Magnolia Hotel in 1936 Photo: Arthur Stewart, Library of Congress

New Braunfels, Texas, near San Antonio, was the first colony of German immigrants in the state. Established by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, hundreds of settlers began migrating to the area in the spring of 1845. They built a fort and homes and set about planting crops. By that summer, nearly 400 settlers called New Braunfels home.

Over the next five years, the German settlers established a strong economic and social foundation. Churches and schools were built to foster social and cultural pursuits. 

Businesses, millworks and craft shops made New Braunfels a thriving commercial center of the agricultural area. By 1850, New Braunfels had grown with more than 1,700 people residing in the fourth most populous city in Texas

Julius Voelcker was part of the first group of German settlers to arrive in New Braunfels in 1845. He had studied pharmacology and medicine at the University of Heidelberg but along with a majority of German immigrants, Voeckler’s profession was listed as “farmer” in the1850 census. 

Julius Voelcker Photo: The Johanniter Humanitarian Group (JHG) of Texas

As New Braunfels grew, so did the need for professionals to open businesses and stores for the growing community. Voelcker opened the earliest pharmacy in the city.

In 1857 he married Louise Karbach and the couple welcomed four sons, Frank, Rudolf, Bruno and Emil, along with their only daughter, Emma. 

Julius Voelckler was away from his family for several years during the Civil War. When he returned home the family celebrated the beginning of a new chapter of life after war. 

The Voelckers would have nine years of peace and family connection before tragedy shattered their lives. On July 22, 1874, their 12 year old daughter, Emma was murdered.

Her death is connected to the dark history of the Magnolia Hotel in Seguin

Emma Voelcker Photo: Find A Grave, Source Unknown

The Magnolia Hotel began as a two room log cabin built in 1840 by James Campbell, one of the co founders of Seguin. The small town is one the oldest in Texas. German immigrants arrived in the area just southeast of New Braunfels in the late 1840s. 

Campbell was an original Texas Ranger who fought against the Mexican Army and the Native Comanche Nation during the state’s battle for Independence. He built a basement under his cabin to serve as an Indian raid shelter and the Seguin jail which became known as the worst jail in Texas. 

James Campbell was murdered just weeks after he took part in what’s known as the bloody Counsel House Massacre. The meeting was meant to be a peace conference in San Antonio in March 1840, but it turned into a violent fight between soldiers and officials from the Texas Republic and a delegation of Comanche chiefs. 

35 Comanche leaders were shot to death during the meeting and 23 were wounded and imprisoned. Campbell feared retaliation for taking part in the massacre and that fear became a reality when Campbell’s mutilated body was discovered by fellow Texas Rangers. He had been stabbed 27 times, scalped and robbed. Campebell was buried near his cabin and jail. 

In 1844, the cabin was sold to a businessman who converted the property into a stagecoach stop and added a concrete addition with three rooms that became the Magnolia Hotel.

Over the next five years, the hotel would be sold twice. In 1850, it was purchased by Dr. William Read and William Carpenter who transformed it into the largest hotel in Seguin with the addition of a wood framed middle section that connected the original cabin and concrete sections. 

The Magnolia Hotel was sold to Thomas Johnson in 1860. He and wife would operate the Magnolia until the early 20th century. Mr. Johnson would unwillingly become associated with one of the most disturbing murders in Texas in the late 19th century. 

Magnolia Hotel © 2016 Larry D. Moore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

On July 22nd,1874, Thomas Johnson’s horse was stolen by a hotel guest. 

Seguin resident Isom Taylor was riding slowly down the road outside of the hotel when he saw a horse approaching swiftly in the night. He recognized the horse as Mr. Johnson’s but was surprised to see a man named William Faust riding it. 

Mr. Taylor had no way of knowing Faust was riding for New Braunfels. Headed for the home of Julius Voelcker to carry out a plan to kill Mrs. Faust.  

Julius Voelcker was the pharmacist in New Braunfels and Willliam Faust the pharmacist in Seguin. The men and their families were friends. When Faust travelled out of town for work, his wife Helen would often spend the night with the Voelckers because Helen was scared of being alone when her husband was away. 

William Faust suggested his wife sleep over at the Voelckers while he was on a work trip on July 22nd. 

Maybe Mrs. Faust realized something was off…maybe she loved William so much she refused to see it…but William Faust was a man whose affection for his wife had faded. A man who had fallen in love with his wife’s sister. 

Faust was said to have chosen to sever his ties with his wife by murdering her. 

William Faust rode to New Braunfels on Thomas Johnson’s horse and carried his weapon of choice…an axe.

Faust knew his wife would be sleeping in the trundle bed in 12 year old Emma Voelcker’s room. In the middle of the night he broked into the house, snuck into Emma’s room, lifted the axe and swung it repeatedly at his wife as she lay sleeping. 

Moments later he was horrified when he realized the person who had been sleeping in the bed in Emma’s room…the person who was screaming and looking at the bloody body on the trundle bed…was his wife, Helen. For some reason, Emma had decided to sleep on the trundle bed that night. 

William Faust continued his attack, swinging at and hitting his wife once between the eyes. Just as he was about to hit Helen again, Emma’s older brother came running into the room and scared away the attacker.

When authorities tracked down William Faust to inform him of the attack on his wife, he was in his bed at the Magnolia Hotel in Seguin. 13 miles from New Braunfels.


News spread quickly about the brutal attack that left 12 year old Emma Voelcker dead along with Helen Faust. But the papers got one thing very wrong: Helen Faust was not dead. Doctors had saved her but she was blinded as a result of the blow to her head. 

This meant Helen could not identify the person who was in the room that night. Neither could Emma’s brother who only saw the back of the attacker as he ran from the room.

New Braunfels residents were outraged by the senseless murder of an innocent child. The mayor offered a $500 reward and the State of Texas matched it. Emma’s father offered a $200 reward as well. All in this was the modern day equivalent of nearly $10,000 dollars for information leading to the capture of Emma’s killer. 

On July 25, 1874, the Galveston News covered the funeral of Emma Voelcker writing that Emma was remembered with musical honors during one of the largest funerals ever witnessed in the state. Men, women and children lined the streets as Emma’s three mile long funeral procession moved through New Braunfels. 

The paper wrote the following about the affect her loss had on her family and community: “Her many friends will mourn her loss forever…the family will never get over the loss of their only daughter, upon whom they always looked with happiness and pride. “


When William Faust learned he was a suspect in the attack on Emma and his wife, he fled. He was captured in November 1874 and charged with the murder of Emma Vockeler and assault with intent to murder his wife. 

By January 1875, newspapers featured stories revealing William Faust had confessed to the attack and murder of Emma. Rumors spread that Faust also confessed to other murders but those rumors never proved to be true.

There were several delays in trying William Faust. He remained in jail in New Braunfels where extra guards had to be brought in for fear a mob would enter the jail and lynch the man who had confessed to Emma’s murder. At one point, he had to be sent to jail in San Antonio for protection.

In his hometown of Seguin, some believed William Faust was innocent. Three lawyers were so convinced of Faust’s innocence they took on his case pro bono. 

The key defense witness was William Faust’s wife Helen who detailed the attack that left her blind. She testified she believed her husband was innocent and never wavered in her support of him. 

Faust had confessed but some believe the confession was made to ensure he would get life in prison, not death by hanging. 

William Faust was convicted and sentenced to life.

Faust had to be moved several times because of attempts on his life. Following his transfer to Comal County Jail, William Faust was murdered on July 28, 1876. An unknown assailant shot him through his jail cell window, while 36 guards were said to have been protecting him. 

Three years later, a shocking confession would cast doubt on Faust’s guilt. His lawyers had always maintain it was hard to imagine that a man who was described as “small and of quiet countenance and being” could have pulled off the crime. 

At trial they had pressed the witness who identified William Faust as the person riding the Magnolia Hotel owner’s horse on the night of the attack. They asked how he could have known it was William Faust on the horse as it was midnight and pitch dark when the horse and rider were witnessed swiftly riding away from the hotel. 

There were lingering questions as to how this small and frail man could have stolen a horse, ridden it 13 miles from Seguin to New Braunfels, committed a physically demanding and grueling axe murder and then ridden the 13 miles back to the Magnolia Hotel only to be found in bed before sunrise the next morning. 

Three years after Faust’s assassination, on June 26th, 1879, The Austin Weekly Statemen broke the shocking news that William Faust may have been exonerated of Emma Voelcker’s murder following the deathbed confession of one M. P. Deavors. 

The itinerant teacher had spent time teaching music in New Braunfels and detailed his attack in Emma’s room on that fateful night in 1874, saying he intended to rob the Voelckers but things went horribly wrong when he was caught in the home. There was no way to prove the confession was true because Deavors died hours after he confessed.

Whether you believe Faust was guilty or not, he was found in the Magnolia Hotel the morning after the violent attack on Emma and Helen and he fled. In doing so, he solidified his place in Texas history as a coldblooded child killer. 

Emma Voelcker may not have died at the Magnolia but the man who confessed to her murder returned to the hotel that night and it’s believed he brought along with him the spirit of an innocent child who knew her killer and could not rest in peace. 

Neither could Faust.

He was murdered in prison and forever known as the man who preyed on his wife and an innocent child. Which is why Emma Voelcker and William Faust are two of the spirits believed to inhabit one of the most haunted hotels in Texas. 


Hotel Owners, Erin & Jim Ghedi, were able to find contractors to complete the restoration of the Magnolia Hotel and reopened it as a Bed and Breakfast. Ever since guests returned to the Magnolia, they’ve reported strange things.

From the odd smells in the room William Faust stayed in the night Emma was murdered to the shadowy figure in the window of the Faust Room.

Then there’s Emma Voelcker’s love of lights. She’s said to roam the hallways of the Magnolia turning a light on and off. Guests have heard the sounds of a ball bouncing in the hallway only to discover no one was there. The Ghedi’s say it’s Emma and they leave her be.

The owners are at ease with William Faust and Emma Voelcker’s presence at the Magnolia and the other spirits who call the Magnolia home. After they purchased the Magnolia and the paranormal activity disturbed their contractors, they reached out to a Texas psychic and historic researcher who helped them identify the 13 spirits of the Magnolia Hotel.

Along with little Emma and her killer, there’s Joseph Campbell. the hotel founder who took part in the bloody Counsel House Massacre and was himself murdered. Magnolia Hotel guests have reported seeing a figure that appears to look like Campbell wondering near the old cabin section of the hotel. 

Then there’s the spirit of an unwed pregnant teen who stayed at the Magnolia in the 1800s. She checked in because she was starting to show and was distraught and ashamed. In her desperation she attempted to perform an abortion on herself in the hotel bathroom and bled out.

There’s the travelling salesman, an English man who checked in as he travelled through Seguin and never planned to check out. He died by suicide, cutting his own throat.  

Not all of the spirits at the Magnolia Hotel are associated with tragedies. Ms. Idella, one of the most famous Magnolia spirits, well she lived a long long and left behind quite a legacy.

Idella Lampkin image from Haunted Magnolia Hotel Seguin, Texas Facebook

Idella Lampkin was a beloved Seguin fortune teller who lived at the Magnolia. She was known to talk with the dead and her greatest gift was in helping people find lost things.

Ms. Idella was said to love God and sit in a church pew every Sunday. She just happened to make a comfortable living using her fortune telling gifts. Skills that combined the supernatural with some good old fashioned networking.

It seems Idella supplemented her supernatural ability with some help from local maids and gardeners. She would pay them to share information about the comings and goings of people in town, whether simple of salacious , and she used that information to help her business. 

Idella is a rare Magnolia spirit whose life is not attached to violent death or tragedy. As a woman who was born in Seguin and died in Seguin at the age of 75, she seems to still be at home at the hotel, possibly looking to help more people find lost things. 

She’s one of the few positive lights who are said to haunt the Magnolia Hotel.

Before the Ghedis moved in to the Magnolia, the hotel had fallen into disrepair. It was abandoned by the 1940s and until the late 1990s, was an eyesore in Seguin. Squatters and vandals constantly broke in to the property and caused damage. At one point, the second floor became a drug den where a few addicts overdosed and their spirits are believed to linger. 

The old frontier hotel has been restored but there are constant echoes of the past inside the Magnolia. 

The murders and tragic loss of life associated with the hotel could easily explain why so many people have visited and reported an unsettling energy and a dark feeling.

It’s what’s drawn international and local paranormal investigators and ghost hunters to the hotel since the Ghedis reopened it as a museum and now bed and breakfast. 

If you book the Magnolia and stay in Seguin, you’re given complete access to the entire second floor along with access to a dusty and creepy area that’s not been restored. 

A stay at the Magnolia is not for the faint of heart. You may not get the best night sleep because you may experience what the owners and their guests have experienced over and over again. 

Lights flickering and turning off and on. A pressure and tightening around your throat in one particular room that leaves you gasping for air and overcome with the dark spirits of this place.

Noises that could be shifting ground…or shifting spirits. 

Furniture that moves on its own.

Images that appear and then quickly disappear in mirrors.

And then there are the voices that call out the night…believed to come from the troubled souls who continue to inhabit The Magnolia Hotel.

And they have no plans to leave.

Sources

History of New Braunfels. New Braunfels Info. 

History of the Magnolia Hotel. The Haunted Magnolia Hotel. 

Funeral of Miss Emma Voelcker, the Victim of Horrible Murder. The Galveston Daily News. July 26, 1874.

New Braunfels, July 25,1874. Austin American Stateman. August 5,1874.

$200 Reward. Austin American Statesman. August 18, 1874.

Letter from New Braunfels. Austin American Statesman. November 28, 1874. 

The Faust Murder. The Austin Weekly-Stateman. June 26,1879. 

Seguin 140 Years Old. The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise. July 17, 1978.

Old Magnolia Hotel…141 Years Old And Still Serving Seguin Residents. The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise. February 12, 1981.  

True Women Author Stirs the Pot Again. Fort Worth Star-Telegram. April 1, 1998.

Most haunted’ building in Texas? Explore and decide. WFAA TV/ABC 8. October 21, 2016.

Idella McIntyre Lampkin. Find A Grave. September 15, 2008.Emma Voelcker. Find A Grave. June 30, 2012.

Music

Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Panthernburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.  Alone and Shadowlands by Purple Planet Music https://www.purple-planet.com/  Licensed under Creative Commons. Ambient, Drone in D, Anguish, Dreams Become Real, Dark Times and Ossuary 6 by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Source: http://incompetech.com/. Wandering by Lee Rosevere. Licensed under Creative Commons.



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