On Thursday evening, don’t get too spooked if a veiled woman in a long black dress is waiting outside the Jester Center.
The woman will be Elizabeth Garzone, the Austin Ghost Tours guide set to lead the first-ever on-campus walking ghost tour.
“A ghost tour is just the history along with the mystery,” alumna Garzone said. “It’s caring about people’s lives to make them come alive.”
Advertising senior Gabby Rodriguez planned the tour as a social for the senators of the University Residence Hall Association. The social is meant to reward the student representatives from each residence hall for their work.
“I feel that (the tour) is just a great way to have fun, relax and get ready for the Halloween season,” said Rodriguez, the vice president of programming for the University Residence Hall Association. “It’s not the traditional sense of what a UT tour would be, but it’s a cool way to teach history for those who are on campus.”
Rodriguez said she thinks UT is haunted because of how old the campus is and its proximity to downtown Austin. In late September, she contacted Austin Ghost Tours to confirm there was a haunted history on campus and asked if the company could offer a tour for the senators.
“I think it’s super awesome that they want to talk about UT’s history and the ghost tour sightings,” Rodriguez said. “I just got lucky that UT happened to have these stories.”
Austin Ghost Tours owner Jeanine Plumer said this is the first time a UT group has ever commissioned them to lead a walking tour.
“Everyone was very nice and very pleasant,” Plumer said. “The goal is to keep students on campus while still having fun, educational events.”
The tour will last for an hour and a half and is open to 15 senators. It will start at Jester Dormitory and feature historically relevant locations across the Forty Acres. Some stops include the Littlefield House as well as the spot on Guadalupe Street where two victims of a serial killer nicknamed the Servant Girl Annihilator were murdered in 1885.
“History is about people and their lives,” Garzone said. “My greatest hope is that a week from now, a month from now, next semester, the people from my tour will walk by the stops and remember the person or remember their story.”
For Plumer and Garzone, coordinating the tour was second nature. Plumer has owned Austin Ghost Tours for over 25 years, and Garzone, in addition to leading Austin Ghost Tours during October, trains tour guides for tours at the State Capitol.
Currently, Austin Ghost Tours is offering private virtual and in-person tours for groups of 12 or less and downtown walking tours on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
“(Garzone knows) tremendous amounts of Texas history, so it's just a matter of pulling the stories from her mind,” Plumer said.
For Rodriguez, scheduling the program was a significant accomplishment.
“This is my first big event I had to plan out for our senators within my position,” Rodriguez said. “There’s really no one there to hold my hand. I had nobody to keep me accountable, so I had to keep myself accountable.”
Next year, Rodriguez said she hopes to see the ghost tour become a tradition for the senators and even a general student resident event.
In the meantime, Rodriguez is excited to witness some paranormal activity on Thursday.
“The spirits are used to throngs of students, so the fewer students on campus might be a reason they decide to manifest themselves,” Garzone said. “If you keep an open mind, you never know what’s going to happen.”