The White Elephant is home to Forth Worth’s most well-known shout, a battle between Longhair Jim and saloon owner Luke Short. This great gunslinger battle took place over a hundred years ago, but its ending, the death of a man named Longhair Jim, repeats on a nightly basis.
His spirit is stuck in an enteral loop at The White Elephant Saloon, dying in the streets over and over again every night. Longhair Jim finds no rest at the White Elephant, a saloon that was once located in the notorious Hell’s Half Acre.
The event is reenacted every year, over and over again, by local actors looking to put on a good show and make a quick dollar. While having a few drinks and enjoying their world-famous chili, guests can see the death of the real Longhair Jim right before their eyes.
If they look close enough, they will see the real Longhair Jim falling in the streets or causing a ruckus in the bar. His spirit is joined by others, creating a paranormal watering hole that’s become a favorite on ghost tours.
Take a spiritual journey with US Ghost Adventures to find out for yourself!
During the early days of Texas’s statehood, frontier towns or cowtowns all had an area called Hell’s Half Acre. Austin, San Antonio, and especially Fort Worth all had an area that catered to the sinful activities of the Wild West. These red-light districts gathered the worst of the city’s citizens and showed others traveling into town what trouble they could get into.
Fort Worth’s Hell’s Half Acre was the most notorious of them all, producing the heaviest amounts of crime, violence, and sin in the entire state. At its height, it stretched 21/2 acres across the lower end of what is now Sundance Square.
Gambling, prostitution, cockfighting, duels, brawling, and horse racing were the norm in Hell’s Half Acre. These salacious and violent activities often splayed out into the streets and later into the minds and imaginations of Cowtowners all over.
Hell’s Half Acre grew to immense proportions in the 1880s, but by 1919, it was little more than a part of Fort Worth’s history.
But like many defunct dens of sin and vice, its stories lived on, sometimes alongside its spirits.
The people of Fort Worth banded together as Hell’s Half Acre increased in size and sin. In 1876, they elected a former Union Spy and violent man, Timothy Isiah Courtright, as Fort Worth’s first Marshall. Courtright served as Marshall in New Mexico before coming to Fort Worth and was known to take body parts with him as a punishment.
He was also the head of a “Commercial Detective Agency,” a front he used, alongside his power, to extort money from local businesses. If payment wasn’t received, then any business could be subject to the harsh life provided by Hell’s Half Acre.
One of these businesses he offered his services to was the White Elephant Saloon, owned and operated by another dangerous man named Luke Short and various other business partners.
Short had torn the face off of his school bully at the young age of 13. His gunmanship was unrivaled in all of Texas, once shooting a fly off a shot glass from across the room. The two were some of the deadliest men in Fort Worth, and they were about to collide.
Courtright would eventually lose a bid for reelection in 1879, falling prey to the powerful vice lords of Hell’s Half Acre. They saw their businesses suffer under his strict and powerful hand and eventually planted someone less effective in office.
After his short-lived tenure as Marshall, Longhair Jim continued his “Commercial Detective Agency” business, both inside and outside of Fort Worth. Upon returning to the area in 1886, he stumbled upon Short Luke and The White Elephant Saloon.
The saloon had recently been opened not two years prior and proved itself to be quite successful. As such, Short Luke did not feel he needed Longhair Jim’s special services and told the former Marshall to “go to hell.”
The two gunslingers eventually met in the street on Feb 8th, 1887, after some heavy drinking and milling over of the situation. Although both were talented gunsights, Short Luke got the first shot off.
By the time Longhair Jim hit the ground, five bullets had been put into him. Something that he and the rest of Cowtown would never forget.
Hell’s Half Acre eventually vanished, and The White Elephant Saloon lay in disrepair for many years. In the 1970s, the historic building was relocated to the historic stockyards and became one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Fort Worth.
Longhair Jim’s spirit traveled with the site of his final battle. His spirit is often seen falling flat on the ground out in the middle of the street before quietly disappearing. This same routine repeats nearly every night.
Glassware often moves on its own here, something that many attribute to the three murders that took place in this location’s basement.
Then there is Bat Masterson, another gunslinger who witnessed the legendary duel between Short and Courtright. He was injured in a duel of his own and was unable to walk without the help of a cane.
The loud thump of a cane is heard echoing through the rickety old building, and EVP readings spark up at the mention of Masterson’s name.
Fort Worth’s reputation as a frontier town has led to many violent deaths throughout its past. These deaths accumulate in large pockets of spectral energy throughout the city. Something that you have to see and hear for yourself to believe.
Don’t let Longhair Jim and Bat Masterson scare you away; however, take a tour with US Ghost Adventures, and we will safely guide you through these phantom perils. There are many more tales hidden in the old streets of Fort Worth.
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