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David Minton

Unliving history?

Profile image for By Christian McPhate
By Christian McPhate

Unexplained sounds heard at house-turned-museum

The first thing she heard was a knocking sound coming from upstairs.

Starr Campbell, a tour guide at the historic Bayless-Selby House Museum, says she thought a tree was rubbing against the side of the three-story Victorian home — until she remembered that no large trees were located near the home on Mulberry Street near Carroll Boulevard.

Then she heard footsteps echoing from the second floor, as though someone were walking back and forth down the hall. The footsteps seemed to stop at the stairs, then continued back down the hall.

The morning was cold and wet, and Campbell thought she was alone in the house. Not many people show up for tours in the middle of winter. But she waited until another group showed up for a tour before she investigated.

Campbell looked in the various rooms, under the beds and in the attic. But she couldn’t find the source of the footsteps. When the group left, she locked the door and returned to the backroom to work.

Then she heard somebody coughing upstairs. It sounded like a smoker’s cough.

Because she’d locked the door, Campbell says she thought maybe someone was outside. She checked the front porch that wraps around the front of the late 1800s house. But she couldn’t find the source of the cough.

Campbell says she spoke with her daughter, Savannah Rutherford, on the phone and tried to joke about it. But when her daughter couldn’t get hold of her mother a few minutes later, she called 911.

A few minutes later, a Denton police officer arrived to investigate.

Shaun Treat, a former University of North Texas professor, showed up at 2 p.m. to close up the museum when he noticed a patrol car parked outside. When he walked inside, he saw Campbell, who was obviously spooked.

“You hear somebody in the house, and you just never know,” Treat says. “She was a little rattled, and I take it seriously.”

Treat grabbed a shovel from a small closet by the front door and followed the officer upstairs. They checked the rooms on the second floor. But they couldn’t find anyone.

Treat decided to check the attic. He climbed the stairs, holding the shovel as if he were planning to whack any perpetrator who may have been hiding on the third floor. But he couldn’t find anyone upstairs.

They all jokingly decided it must have been a ghost.

“It’s creepy to be in 150-year-old home when it’s dark and raining,” Campbell says. “But I definitely heard footsteps.”

Campbell says she believes it was the ghost of Daniel Boone Daugherty because after the house was moved to the Historical Park of Denton County, many artifacts from the Daugherty family were donated to the Office of History & Culture.

One artifact in particular was an old photograph of Daniel Boone Daugherty and his brother Christopher Columbus Daugherty. Campbell says she often feels like Daniel’s strange eyes are following her whenever she walks past the photo.

Marilyn Stevens, who works with the Denton County Office of History & Culture, says she believes it’s the ghost of Samuel Bayless, the original owner of the home who was killed by one of his itinerant workers who was simply defending himself.

Bayless had purchased the home in 1884 when it was a two-room farmhouse and started a nursery and landscaping operation. Bayless later began to add on to the home and slowly transformed it into a Victorian masterpiece with polished wooden floors, intricate wooden door frames and stylish (for that era) wallpaper.

In November 1919, a heated argument about payment erupted between Bayless and one of his itinerant workers. It quickly escalated into threats being spewed and finally a brawl out in the front yard that ended with the worker stabbing Bayless.

Bayless later died from his wound.

The itinerant worker went to trial in Bayless’ death but was found not guilty.

Stevens says she always tells people that Bayless’ spirit is angry about the verdict and has returned to haunt the home.

Since the ghostly encounter in late 2014, Campbell says other tour guides have experienced similar instances that are hard to explain: footsteps coming from upstairs or on the stairwell, strange ghostly moans and oddly misplaced artifacts.

Treat writes on his blog Denton Haunts and Ghost Stories that some people have even seen a face peering down from the attic windows.

Campbell said she still believes Daniel Boone Daugherty is the ghost who haunts the Bayless-Selby House. She thinks maybe he decided to start haunting her because she used to make fun of his strange eyes in the portrait.

She no longer makes fun of him.

CHRISTIAN McPHATE can be reached at 940-566-6878 and on Twitter at @writerontheedge.