HOUSTON -- The Battleship Texas, anchored just off the Houston Ship Channel at the San Jacinto Monument, is a destination not just for tourists and history buffs, but also for people who believe in ghosts.
"Personal experiences have happened, which leads us to believe it could be haunted," said Dona Strohbehn, a member of a group called Houston Ghost Town Paranormal Investigations.
For those who believe in the paranormal, the Battleship Texas has been one of their most sought-after sites for investigation. It is one of the state's leading historic attractions, a floating monument to those who fought and died in two World Wars.
"We've probably gotten dozens of phone calls," said Andrew Smith, the manager of the Battleship, which is owned and operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
In the past, those investigators have wanted to do what the state could not allow.
"Typically, they want to explore areas of the ship that aren't safe for the general public to go into, they want unfettered access," said Smith. And for that reason, none were granted permission to conduct overnight investigations. That is, until now.
"I assured them we're here with the utmost respect," said Jacqui Vaeza, a paranormal investigator with another Houston group called Southern Paranormal Investigative Research and Exploriation or SPIRE.
Its members decided they could work within the state's restrictions.
"It wasn't a conventional investigation; we didn't have the run of the whole ship," said Tammie Farrar, another member.
On a Saturday night a week ago, they took their video cameras and audio recorders and went looking for evidence.
"It was really above and beyond what we were expecting," said group member Anthony Zepeda.
But if you're expecting to see the ghosts of dead sailors roaming the decks, you will be disappointed by the photos and audio recordings they brought back.
For example, one photo taken inside one of the ship’s rooms shows the ceiling with rows of pipes and cables. But if you look close, there appears to be a white cloud. In the next photo, taken seconds later, according to the group, the cloud disappears, seeming to dispel any notion it was ordinary steam or smoke.
And they said no one saw the cloud when they were there in person. It was only when they looked at the photos days later.
"If you go by that right there and say, was that a ghost? I'd say no, it's not a ghost,” said Rick Oestmann, a member of SPIRE.
“Vaporous anomaly, best way I can describe it," Oestmann said.
They also picked up strange noises.
Unless you're into the paranormal, though, they may not sound like much.
You'll hear the investigators talking, then, very faint, what sounds like someone saying “yes.”
Anyone else might not even notice it, but to the investigators:
"Very interesting," said Tammie Farrar of SPIRE.
They said only with further investigation will they be able to say for certain if the Battleship Texas is haunted.
"It takes multiple times, you have to gather a lot of data," said Oestmann.
A few days after the paranormal investigators had been on board, some students from North Central College were volunteering, helping repaint the old ship.
They were working in the very area where the paranormal group had been.
And what did they see?
"I don't think we saw anything," said student Kim Brown as she stood atop a scaffold, rolling “battleship gray” paint on the Battleship Texas.
"I haven't seen any ghosts," said Chelsea Givings, another student from North Central Texas College.
No ghosts. Or were there?