Huebner-Onion Homestead

Posted by blogger in River City Ghosts

Not all ghost stories start off with a grizzly murder or some deranged bit of humanity showing off why it’s such a cruel species… some ghosts stories are tossed onto the barbecue pit of history, to sizzle and cook, on the shish-kebab of stupidity. Some ghost stories’ origins are nothing short than prime candidates for the Darwin Award.

This little tale is one of them. So strap in, crack open a can of a cold one and let me tell you the tale of Joseph Huebner; a Charlie Daniels song by way of Larry The Cable Guy.

In 1862, Joseph Huebner, a prominent jeweler and the proto-Charlie Sheen of his generation went and blew a part of his considerable fortune on a chunk of land located in the Leon Valley district right off Bandera Road. The spot had become, by the tail-end of the 19th century a rather distinguished Stagecoach Stop. The place had it all, a church, a couple of bars, a hotel or two, a brothel and a haberdashery; in frontier-land that was akin to 5th Avenue New York.

Anyway, old Joseph saw the real-estate potential, calculated the foot traffic, and peeked at the dashing beauties coming in from the East and went to himself:

“I have found my Shangri-La.”

It was a turnstile of what every fevered lounge lizard wants. The holy land of booze, broad and banknotes. As the years flew by, Joseph a rather fetching fella’ started to dip his pen in the regional ink. He started to make some incredibly lax decisions in the boudoir and his little sergeant insulted a dame or two. The rotating door of damsels, school teachers and spouses that frequented the jeweler’s backdoor became the backbone of town gossip.

“Joseph became the meat and potato of the gossip mill. He was basically getting into everyone’s knickers and in a small town that sort of attitude is bound to have some blowback.”

One day, while working, Joseph spies from his window a carriage topped to the gills with bottles. The man, who not only had a taste for skirts by a fang for the sauce, looks at the bounty before him and crosses himself. He instantly buys a couple of bottles. He closes his shop, calls it a day, and decides that tonight’s dinner menu is going to be a 12-course meal of liquid courage.

Old Joe starts drinking. The hootch, he soon realizes has a funky taste, but what really matters is the fact that it’s kicking him silly and that’s all he really wants. He keeps packing it in and suddenly, wham! Joseph keels over and bounces off the floor; lights out!

An hour later, one of his local squeezes busts down the door and finds Joseph on the floor, not even twitching. She picks up the bottle of grade-A booze and sniffs it.

“Kerosene?”

Internally she not only facepalms herself but gives off a sigh of relief that Joseph’s tadpoles haven’t stuck the landing in her womb; the genetic slapstick of Joseph’s genome might kick the human race down the evolutionary latter.

A meeting is formed and a cabal of neighbors circle Joseph’s by now smelly body. Most, no doubt laughing their butts off at how someone could imbibe is so much kerosene mistaking it for whiskey.

“What now?” They ask as each takes a turn at gently kicking Joseph in the ribs for a response.

“Frank! Jesus, gently… I heard something crack!”

A vote is cast and after some careful deliberation – in part influenced by wrong husbands and a couple of Joseph’s scorned lady friends – the cabal decides to bury old Joe up and call it a day. “That,” a few say to themselves, “was a freebie.”

Joseph’s Grave

“This was the late 19th century in a town where more than half the population was illiterate and incredibly ignorant. There was no physician present and all records indicate that no one was entirely sure whether Joseph had passed out or if he had died. In spite of that, they decided to bury him by the creek behind his house. Whether he was alive or dead, was inconsequential.”

  • Leon Valley Historical Society.

It took almost 60 years for Joseph’s ghost to shrug off its Kerosene induced hangover. Paranormally, things didn’t start to go hinky until the 1930s. Judge John F. Onion Jr’s family purchased the rickety old house and, in spite of neighbors warning them that the house might be haunted, they started to invest heavily in reconstruction.

“By then the place had a weird reputation, mostly noises spooking the livestock. Something common was that horses used to drive by it in a frenzy. The Judge and Marian Onion – the family matriarch – could give two hoots about local legends… they were down to Earth folks that really didn’t buy into the hocus pocus.”

Since day one, the clan was plagued by Joseph. No sooner had they moved in that all manner of strange phenomena started to rattle its metaphorical chains.

John F Onion Jr, 1974

Marian and the rest of her kin began to hear footsteps creeping all around the house. The piano, a lovely piece the Judge and his family practiced on, would start to play on its own in the middle of the night.

“You would hear a click as somebody had stepped on the bottom step of the staircase or stairwell. And then it would automatically come up. It wouldn’t be a click here and then a click over here, a click by—it was kind of like somebody was trying to slip up the stairs, you know. And many a time I—when I was sick in bed, I had my eyes glued on the door to see who might walk in. And I never told anybody because I didn’t want anybody [to] think I was superstitious or heard ghosts or anything. Then I found out that a good many of the other members of the family had had the same experience.”

The house, particularly the kitchen became a hotbed of all manner of supernatural signs. Objects disappearing? Check! Stange apparitions and shadows in the corner of your eyes? Check! Noises coming from completely vacated rooms? Check! White noise out of the radio? Check!

There was no denying it, the Judge and his kin had stepped into a horror show. The family had been swept into what could easily turn into another sequel for The Crudge. So, how did the Judge put a stop to the madness? Did he move? Did he call an exorcist? Did he phone the Ghostbusters?

Nope, the Judge’s mom – like the take no prisoner Texan that she was – met the problem headfirst and offered it a stiff drink. She fixed their ghost problem in the same way a family would deal with a particularly pesky dragon living next door… domesticate the monster by sacrificing a lamb every-so-often. Make yourself part of its food source and intricately linked to its survival instinct. The Judge’s kin offered the ghost booze.

“Fella’ was just pissed, and rightly so, for what happened. Old Man Huebner just needed to vent his anger. His spirit wasn’t all that bad, SOB calmed down the minute the Judge’s family poured themselves some Jack… and then poured Joseph two fingers worth. The clan started leaving an open bottle of moonshine on the kitchen table and that seemed to calm Huebner down.”