In February of 1965, San Antonio’s largest unsolved mystery would take place at The Gunter Hotel in downtown in East Houston Street. Each evening, when my father returned home from his shift as a city police officer, he would brief our family on the day’s investigation status.
Albert Knox checked into the historical Gunter on February 6th. He was a blond man, said to be quite handsome. A charmer, really.
According to some, Knox was coming off a drinking binge. According to others, Knox was still in the thick of that partying run, content to thrive on the chaos until he sobered up and went back home to his parent’s house.
For two days, guests of The Gunter saw Knox come and go with a tall woman. The inquisitive gazes that followed the couple labeled the woman as a call girl–a prostitute– though no one will ever know for certain that she was. And so the party raged on.
On February 8th, one of the hotel’s housekeepers was bringing some items to Knox’s hotel room: Room 636.
Maria Luisa Guerra noted the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, but paid it no attention. Most people tended to forget to take it down, even just before they were ready to be checked out of the hotel.
Guerra pushed open the door, only to stop dead in her tracks.
Standing at the foot of the bed, Knox stood with a bloody bundle in his arms. Blood splattered practically every inch of the guest room, like a mosaic of death that needed no explanation.
In the face of Guerra’s horrified expression, Knox lifted one finger up to his mouth. “Shhh.”
The housekeeper’s mouth parted on a scream, and Knox used that moment to dash past her and out of the room. It took forty minutes for Maria Luisa Guerra’s report to make it to management. By that time, Albert Knox had disappeared.
The evidence remaining in Room 636 was clear: somebody had died…and it was brutal.
In a 1976 interview about the crime, I interviewed my father for an article about the murder. I was writing for the University Star as student reporter at Texas State University (in the 1970’s, it was known as Southwest Texas University).
Dad, or Detective Walter “Corky” Dennis, passed away in 2011, but I will never forget his words.
“It was the bloodiest place I had ever seen up until then. The bathroom was especially bad and just sticky with blood all over the place. We [he and the other detectives] noticed the bathtub had a red ring around it like it had been drained of blood.”
(Some wonder if, after murdering the woman with his .22 caliber-weapon, Knox then butchered the body and flushed her down the toilet and bathtub).
The San Antonio police suspected dismemberment, and one of the witnesses description only further pushed this idea.
The day before the murder, Knox had visited the local Sears Department Store on Romaine Plaza in search of a meat grinder. When the Sears employee informed him that they didn’t have the larger size that Knox wanted, the employee offered to order one from the warehouse. For Knox, however, that would take much too long. He stormed off in a huff.
Little evidence was found inside the room. A lipstick-smeared cigarette, brown paper bags, and luggage from the San Antonio Trunk & Gift Company. The purchase for the suitcase had been made by a check from John J. McCarthy . . . who happened to be the stepfather of thirty-seven-year old Walter Emerick.
Emerick had disappeared on one of his “drinking bents” at the end of January and had stolen his parent’s checks and some of their items.
Police scoured the city for the woman’s body, so sure were they that someone had been murdered. They checked construction sites, and even sections of streets where cement was being laid down.
On February 9th, a blond man walked into The St. Anthony Hotel, just one block away from The Gunter. He came with no luggage. And when he requested to book a room, he made it known that he wanted Room 636. That particular room was not available, and after some arguing, he settled for Room 536. He checked in under the name Roger Ashley.
But the man had aroused the suspicions of the front desk attendants, and after tipping the San Antonio Police that the murderer might have just checked in to their hotel, the detectives rushed over.
They hurried up to Room 536. Banging on the door, the police tried to apprehend Emerick for the crimes. But as they struggled to open the door, they heard the single, hollow sound of a gun shot.
Walter Emerick had killed himself, and taken whatever information he had with him to the grave.
It’s now over fifty-five years that have passed since those fateful nights. The woman’s identity has never been discovered and no missing reports have ever surfaced. About 20 years ago, however, the formal general manager of The Gunter received an envelope with no return address. It was directed to “The Gunter” (not the Sheraton Gunter as it is identified now) and the zip code dated to 1965. Inside the envelope was an old room key, the one for Room 636, and was the kind used during that period.
A bit of folklore to add to an already strange story? No one is quite certain, but many people have witnessed the murder replay in the years since then, as though the imprint of that devastating death has no choice but to reenact the scene over and over again.
Staff and guests both have reported such paranormal phenomena–one guest even witnessed seeing a ghostly woman who held her hands out and stared at the guest with a gaze that appeared almost soulless.
When I lived across the street above the Majestic Theater from 2007-2011, I would take guests to the hotel for sightseeing. In one case a clairvoyant from Florida wanted to explore the murder room. What she didn’t know was that room 636 today is not the same one it was in 1965. The original room has been remodeled and is now two separate suits. Current 636 is around the corner at the end of the hallway.
As we passed the murder location, she suddenly said “STOP!”
The lady placed her hand on the wall exactly where the doorway was in 1965.
Over the years, I have interviewed police officers, detectives, witnesses and hotel staff who were involved during the murder. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met were actual guests (that had no clue there was ever a murder there) who have experienced strange occurrences: screaming, crying, furniture movement, loud walking on the carpet floor and even ghostly images.
Today, the Gunter is a must see stop during guided downtown ghost tours that begin at the nearby Alamo.
Until recently, I lived almost ten years in a wonderful community just northwest of San Antonio, Texas.
Residents of, and near, Fair Oaks Ranch, a small town on the cusp of the sprawling Texas Hill Country, (southeast of charming Boerne where I raised my four children in the 1990s and 2000s), have reported seeing some strange sightings recently.
In 2020, partly because of a pandemic furlough and mostly due to some health issues, I’ve been away from my retirement job as an ace marshal at the golf courses there.
Fair Oaks Ranch Golf & Country Club is the heart of the city, with two golf courses, tennis courts, pools, and additional event space. I’m proud to be a part of The Club as it is one of Texas’ premier family-oriented country clubs.
Known for its impeccable and personalized service, warm and friendly staff (yours truly was Employee of the Year 2019), full-service facilities and amenities, what I love about it most is its active and vibrant membership community.
The time off has afforded opportunity to heal and hone my calling to write more. Dodie and I moved further northwest between Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World and Kerrville, another Hill Country haven. We’ve simplified our lives during our first year of marriage and founded CleverJourneys. By the start of 2021, we should reach more than 300,000 readers.
Fair Oaks Ranch has an intelligent, wise and experienced population. There is a wealth of information, rich with reliable sources from retired military officers, business owners, ranchers, civil service, pilots, doctors, lawyers and corporate executives. For investigative reporting, it continues to be a hub of knowledge and focus for me.
In Washington DC, on some business for a previous employer in late 1990s, I was actually able to take advantage of an opportunity to meet General Norman Schwarzkoph, who had recently retired as commander of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.
In 2013, the 1956 Class of West Point played golf at Fair Oaks Ranch as part of their annual reunion.
Unfortunately, Gen. Schwarzkoph, a fellow alumnus, passed away the previous year, but I was able to meet some remarkable veterans with amazing stories and exceptional connections.
Which brings me to the strange sightings recently witnessed by at least five residents. Perhaps, because of my writing or investigation background, they contacted me offering “news” about their sightings and two claimed encounters.
The serendipitous and coincidental part of this story is that I received information from five individuals, with three of the interviews totally independent of each other.
There is also a sixth person, who has witnessed some of these sightings. Because of the nature of his job, the sixth person desires to remain very anonymous regarding what he saw on at least two occasions.
Although these witnesses are real, the names are made up to protect their identities. (Of course, they are more than welcome to self identify in the comment section below).
“On or about Tuesday May 12, 2020 was the first time I saw it,” a resident, Bob Jones, who lives near the Live Oak Course in the vicinity of holes #11, 12, 17 and 18 said. “I was taking my dog for an evening walk and stopped to talk to a neighbor. By the time we finished our conversation, it was late. I decided to stay on the cart path so I could see my way back with the backyard lights of the houses rather than risk stumbling in the dark trying to take a shortcut across the course to get home.”
“There was a slight breeze coming out of the east. I remember thinking when I played golf earlier that day, it had been blowing from the south. We were at the end of (hole) #15 and I stopped to use the restroom there. As I walked out facing #12 and #18, that was when I actually first spotted it.”
“It was dark but the moon was over half full. It was behind a cloud but it helped me see a little.”
“From my left, or southwest, going across the sky to the northeast, was this thing. The only way I know how to describe it is that it reminded me of a smoke ring–as if someone with a cigarette had blown a smoke ring out of their mouth. But it was several rings inside each other, perfectly set, and traveling above, yet below the cloud it was approaching. The cloud that the moon was behind.”
“I tried to tell myself, it was a balloon figure, but it wasn’t. It was traveling against the wind and a balloon would travel with it. Hell, I could tell it wasn’t a balloon, but it definitely wasn’t a plane, a satellite or drone either.”
“From beginning to end, the moment I saw it, to the time it passed between me and the cloud–it was high, but definitely under the cloud–until it was out of my sight was no more than three minutes.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he continued. “I would not call it a flying saucer or an aircraft, but it was certainly and unidentified flying object.”
“Two days later I saw it again, but it was later after the 10 pm news but during a commercial before the weather came on. I took the dog outside so he could (relieve itself) and saw that damn thing again. It was north of me toward the direction of the Clubhouse, but it was staying still.”
“This time I yelled at my wife and when she came to the door, I pointed up. When she saw it, she came out there with me and saw the same thing I did. She said it looked exactly as I had described it Tuesday.”
“We watched it kind of stay right there for maybe half a minute or so. I wouldn’t call it hovering, because it was perfectly still and I could make out the features better. It was kind of a lighter cloudy color, light grayish. Very still. Kind of creepy and a sense of disbelief. But it was there. We both saw it.”
“Without a warning or even a hint of sound or motion, it whooshed off so fast, almost like a shooting star but very high and far enough we couldn’t see it anymore.”
“We checked the news and internet to see if anyone had reported or seen it too, but heard nothing. We never saw it again until December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. It was higher up and going west with increasing altitude.”
“It was somewhat cloudy and cool with gentle winds coming out of the north-north-west. Again, we heard no sounds. We’ve been looking up more often, even in the day, wondering if we would see it again.”
“It was a Thursday because I walked outside to take the trash out to the street,” said John Smith. “It would be hard to miss. It was high up and north. I had my camera, or my cell phone and took some pictures. I couldn’t believe what this thing was. I’m glad I have the pictures because who would believe this? I know it was a Thursday, because it was about 10:30 at night and it was the day before a (leaving blank to help hide individual’s identity).”
“I knew it wasn’t Venus because it was too big and way too north,” he explained. “It was still for a while and then It started shifting in angles. Not the thing itself, but the direction. The directions were at different degrees and made little sense. Was it calibrating or surveying? Was it doing some kind of recon or what? This was all going through my mind.”
Note: This Thursday coincides with the same day ofthe Sighting #1man, “Bob Jones,”saw the object the second time with his wife.
“This doesn’t look like anything that appears to be a UFO in the classic sense–the way we would see it in books, on the internet, in a movie or on TV. It is spherical and it’s layers of rings are turning within it.”
“It looked like some kind of portal. Like something to do with quantum physics, a wormhole to another dimension or time. It wasn’t a spaceship…or maybe it was. It was like looking down at a hurricane from up above. Only I was below and south of it, looking up. But in this hurricane-portal looking thing, there was no “eye” and there was no storm. The lighter colored rings in this circle kept turning or swirling.”
This sighting was a combination of two men seeing objects and a husband and wife (a different couple than the pair in Sighting #1) possibly seeing something similar at the same time.
John Smith was riding in his golf cart near his home on the Live Oak Course when he noticed a neighbor looking up in the sky from a second story deck in his back yard.
“Now Jack, what I’m about to tell you is true. We saw it. You know us and you know our backgrounds. But when you hear it, just know that we were not drinking or out drunk. I was as sober as I am now.”
(John Smith and I were at a coffee shop in Boerne, Texaswhen he told me this story and provided photographs. He was sober).
“He said he was up there looking for UFO’s. Of course, this peaked my interest. It was about 9 at night. We exchanged stories and I was relieved about two things.”
“Number one, this is a high level reasonable man. You know his background…”
“Number two, I was not alone. Someone else had seen it. This was verification and relief.”
The two men talked for sometime, comparing notes when they noticed foreign objects–not planes, crossing the sky.
“They were erratic. No reason or clear pathways. It was dull lights going one way and then going the next way. He video taped it but it’s not that good of footage.”
“They moved very erratically and descended closer to us. We weren’t afraid, just about as curious as we could be. We could both see these lights in a circular pattern around the circumference of the crafts and especially the one that descended on the other side, closer to above, maybe Dietz-Elkhorn (a street west of their location near #11, #12, #16, and #17 Live Oak Course holes).”
“It looked like they all seemed to descending closer in unison heading toward Camp Stanley. (Name hidden) was recording this on his phone and we both saw what looked like some kind of orb pass right through our eyeline as we watched these crafts.”
“It was very strange that they would be this close to where anyone could see them. But I was just standing there just outside his back fence with my hand on the corner post when we first saw them. I guess I was so mesmerized, my hand was still on the post when it was over. Well, at least I thought it was over.”
“It was getting close to 11 (pm) and we talked more about it, then I turned around to go get on my cart towards the path.”
“There was this being, not a human as we recognized it, walking right to left and then shifting to its right, away from us. It must have been eight feet tall and was carrying something–like a book, tablet, instrument of some kind–in front of it like it was studying or inspecting it for who knows what.”
“On its head there was a helmet type thing that I couldn’t tell if it was made of any metal or cloth, but the material was shaped like a bonnet…like ladies used to wear way back when. It had some kind of a big belt and the clothing draped all the way to its feet or boots maybe. It wasn’t moving fast.”
“There is no way we could not have noticed it or it could have not noticed us, but there were no gestures, acknowledgment. It was so tall and as it walked away down the path toward the street a large flash, like an encompassing negative–everything black or dark turned to white or light. Everything light turned to dark. It was quick, but permeated everything around it for at least 50 feet from both sides and around it.”
“We still don’t know what to think about it, but it wasn’t just a coincidence that we saw those things flying around and saw this giant thing walking in right in front of us. Each one by itself was crazy enough, but both is something we can’t explain.”
“We were watching TV and were talking about how the Boy Scouts were being banned from placing flags on veterans graves this year because of pandemic restrictions,” explained Tammy Morris, who lives on #12 Live Oak.
“Roy (her husband) saw something out our large back window and asked, ‘What is that?’ It was this tall man or woman or kid on stilts dressed in some kind of costume was my first thought.”
“There was this outburst of reflections and glare. Like a burst of something. It wasn’t fireworks or lightning, but that’s the best way to describe it. We are about 70 or 80 yards away, but we could see this tall thing walking up by the hole–or between the green and the side street. That’s when this burst of energy happened and that thing was gone.”
Roy Morris, the husband, thought at first it was some prank.
“When you see it, you just wonder what is going on. It’s night, but we could see it from here. We were talking about Boy Scouts so my mind went to maybe it was some boys playing a trick or up to some mischief. But that flash and disappearance of that tall thing was too odd.”
“You know, there’s quite a few stories around here about Camp Stanley. It’s known as Depot West for the CIA and an armory for the military. Some say there are secret experiments with futuristic and advanced technologies. When you think about Camp Bullis being next door and Fort Sam (Houston), Randolph (Air Force Base), Lackland (AFB), there’s an impressive amount of military presence here.”
“We talked about there’s the Southwest Research Center here (in San Antonio) and there is no telling what advanced science they are working with for NASA or the military.”
“When you think about it, it’s difficult to think of anything rational to express in words or clarify what we saw. We are located about halfway between Boca Chica where Elon Musk has his space center on the lower tip of Texas coast, and the Corn Ranch near Van Horn way out in West Texas for Jeff Bezos satellite and rocket launches. We’ve done our homework, but nothing really adds up. Your mind looks for intelligible answers, but so far there are none.”
If you have any information, including witnessing anything similar or out of the ordinary, please leave a comment. Click “NOTIFY ME… and leave your email if you would like updates from CleverJourneys. Thank you for your readership.
The bone chilling legend of the Donkey Lady offers that a half-woman-half-donkey-like creature continues to haunt the concentrated woods amid the Medina and San Antonio Rivers just south of the Alamo City.
Faithfully, an October and Halloween tradition of searching for the terrifying Donkey Lady, or by now, perhaps her ghost, has been a teenage ritual going as far back as the late 1940s.
Some years back, Harlandale High School classmates and residents of the 1940s and 1950s sat at their local favorite lunch hangout on the south side, Bud Jones Restaurant at Military Drive and Commercial discussing their youth. The conversation turned to the Donkey Lady.
“To this day I swear it wasn’t just a made up deal,” claimed Archie Mabry, a retired electrician, who recalled “going out there as far back as about 1952 or 53. We decided we were going to ride our bicycles out there and actually camp because we wanted to find her.”
“The story we were told by, our older brothers, sisters and classmates, was that there was a man and woman, who lived with their small children near Elm Creek about where Jett Road and Applewhite Road was,” Mabry said. “It was right after World War II and he had come back home messed up in the head after being in the battles in Europe.”
“Well, the man was abusive and drinking all the time. One night she became scared when he came home drunk so she pulled a kitchen knife on him to protect herself and the kids. It ticked him off so he went and set the damn house on fire.”
“I guess fate, or what you call karma, took care of him because the husband and the two children died in the fire,” his friend and my father, Walter “Corky” Dennis, a retired San Antonio police detective added. “Supposedly, they found her barely alive and just severely burned all over. Someone finally took her to what was either called Brooke General Hospital, or Brooke Army Medical Center(BAMC) back then, on base at Ft. Sam (Houston). Now it’s a major trauma center.”
“She was so scarred up and disfigured that she looked somewhat like a horse or donkey,” Dennis emphasized. “But I don’t think we started calling her ‘Donkey Lady’ until after the drowning at the bridge.”
The old classmates nodded their heads agreeing to this version of the story.
“That’s right,” affirmed Mabry. “When she healed, her face kind of drooped, baggy-like and her fingers fused together like hooves.”
Others around the table explained that when the woman was released from the hospital and went back with no home, she “really had no choice but to settle camp style, wild-like, and isolated.”
“We grew up wondering if she would ever make her way into town where we lived,” Dennis smiled. “On summer nights, around campfires, we talked about how she needed to come look for food. We just knew she was out there in the dark waiting for the last one of us to go to sleep, or if one of us needed to walk away for a minute to go to the restroom.”
Stories spread over the generations of students throughout Harlandale, Burbank, McCollum, South San and Southside High Schools. Mutilated by the fire, and absolutely insane from the death of her children, her appearance, the beatings from her husband, and then the isolation in the woods, people reported she would wear a bonnet, scarf or hood during the day to hide her eerie form.
Shop keepers nearby said if she came into their stores, it would be with her beloved donkey. She’d remain unnervingly silent placing purchases on the counter, pay, and simply walk out.
However, at night, the sightings were treacherously different—even sinister in the descriptions. Those who dared to venture over the Applewhite Road Bridge crossing Elm Creek in the dark were terrorized by the sound of animals, especially the unnatural wailing of a donkey.
The old friends around the table turned serious as they told about the bicycle trip Mabry, and three other young Harlandale Indians freshmen took to find the Donkey Lady.
“We thought we were on a safari or witch hunt,” one gentleman began. “We loaded our bikes up with everything we thought we needed to camp out and find the Donkey Lady: lanterns, bedding, slingshots, food, a hatchet, matches, cowboy canteens, just everything you could imagine.”
“We were something out of the ‘Little Rascals,’ now that I think about it,” laughed Mabry. “But we peddled ourselves way out there.”
“I bet we hadn’t settled down more than 30 minutes before we started talking about how she would come out like a wild lion and pounce on one of us, chewing and ripping one of us apart–and then we heard the sounds.”
“It was a donkey,” Mabry swore. “It was a wailing, crying, howling donkey. We could hear it back there in the trees and it was coming closer; right at us.”
The boys all started yelling and ran to their bikes, leaving their gear behind.
“It was sheer terror,” Mabry looked serious. Rubbing his hands together, he continued. “That’s the fastest I ever peddled in my life, both before and since.”
“One of the boys, Jimmy, the one in back of all of us, started screaming and I could hear his bicycle crashing on the ground. I figured that Donkey Lady was gnawing on him like a buzzard or lion would with their prey. Hell no, I didn’t look back to check on him. It was each one for themselves at this point.”
“Remember now, it was pure dark,” he emphasized. “We couldn’t see but maybe eight or ten feet in front of us. We had no idea if he was dead or not. All of our senses was devoted to survival. It was probably a good 30 minutes before we slowed down and stopped.”
“Jimmy wasn’t with us and we weren’t about to call out for him. Our hearts were pounding so loud and we were breathing so hard, we could barely whisper. We figured we were pretty much out of the ‘Donkey Lady Zone’ and decided to lay back–more like collapse–and catch our breath for a quick spell.”
“It wasn’t even five minutes and here comes something, we could hear it, behind us. We jumped up to grab our bikes and Harold said, ‘Look it James (Jimmy)!'”
“Now here comes Jimmy huffin’ and puffin’ towards us. He was mad as hell we left him behind and it wasn’t until he was right on us, that I noticed he didn’t have his pants on.”
“‘Where’s your pants Jimmy?,” one of us asked. ‘Did she get your pants?'”
“Then we saw he was buck naked from the waist down!”
“Hell no, you sons of a bitches,” he yelled. “You just deserted me and I swear I could hear her–she was snortin’ and her hoofs were coming for me. I sh_t my pants right then and there. Pulled them off–underwear and pants. Didn’t even wipe my arse and you guys just left me. You dirty bastards.”
“Speaking of dirty bastards you smell like crap Jimmy,” Mabry noticed.
“What the hell do you expect me to smell like,” Jimmy retorted. “My bicycle seat will never be the same. I tried to keep my ass up peddling because I kept sliding.”
“We didn’t really know what to do for Jimmy, but we had all night, so someone volunteered their socks over so he could try to wipe himself and his bike, but it still stunk all the way to Six Mile Creek. It was there we made him go down stream from us to wash himself better while we soaked and quenched our thirst.”
“I can’t remember, but I guess it was at least four or five days later, maybe a week, ’til we went back–in the daytime–to get our stuff we left back there.”
“It’s strange how different things look in the day than it did in the middle of the night knowing that Donkey Lady is sneaking around. It was still creepy.”
“Our food was all gone, but our blankets, my hatchet, lanterns and other stuff was still there. We think we saw hoof marks there too, but we didn’t stay around to analyse it,” Mabry grinned. “We quickly grabbed our things and rode back. But poor Jimmy. His mama made him bring those pants back home so HE could wash them proper. The underwear stayed. They were a lost cause.”