Sweet Dreams? Galveston’s Gingerbread House is for Sale

Fans of all things haunted, take note: The Van Alstyne House, also known as the Gingerbread House, is up for sale in Galveston, Texas. 


The Van Alstyne House – nicknamed the Gingerbread House thanks to its whimsical, Candy Land-esque exterior – has a long and interesting history in local Galveston timelines and the larger unearthly world. 


Built for Albert A. Van Alstyne (1853-1926) and his wife, Catherine Stone “Kate” Lufkin Van Alstyne (1858-1940), this house has not only witnessed over a century of history but is also home to a cast of characters who have passed away but never quite left the home.


Now, you can own Galveston’s famous Gingerbread House yourself – if you can look past the home’s checkered past.

The History of the Van Alstyne House

The history of the Van Alstyne family begins with Albert Van Alstyne’s parents. Albert was born into a privileged life, the son of William Ashley Van Alstyne, a major Houston and Texas Central Railway stockholder. 


Upon William’s death, Albert’s mother, Maria Van Alstyne, became one of Houston’s richest women and, in 1873, even had a town named in her honor: Van Alstyne, Texas, located about 45 miles north of Dallas. The town is the only one in Grayson County, Texas, to have been named after a woman. 


Albert and his wife Catherine had the grand mansion built in 1891. Nine years later, in 1900, the Gingerbread House faced the ultimate test: the Great Galveston Storm. The Category 4 hurricane made landfall on September 8th and remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Galveston sustained 140-mile-per-hour winds that resulted in a 16-foot storm surge. Approximately 6,000 to 8,000 people died in the storm, eliminating 20% of the city’s population.


Fortunately, the mansion and its inhabitants survived the storm, and afterward, the Van Alstynes generously opened their home to neighbors seeking refuge. Around this time, the Gingerbread House took on a mysterious air, as desperate townspeople began visiting its grounds, looking for food and shelter.


Both Albert and Catherine would die within the next half-century, Albert in 1926 and Catherine in 1940. Since Catherine’s death, the Gingerbread House has been a boys’ shelter and an antique store. Ghostly hauntings have prevailed over the decades, leaving the building’s tenants and visitors curious and, in some cases, terrified.

Hauntings Inhabit the Gingerbread House

No matter who you ask or what story you read about hauntings at the Gingerbread House, one thing is certain: the otherworldly activity didn’t pick up until after the Van Alstynes died. The original owners died in the mansion, so it’s understandable why they have difficulty leaving the home where they lived together as a couple. 


The attic is said to contain most of the paranormal activity. When the home was a boys’ shelter, the young men often saw a man dressed in typical Victorian garb hovering outside the attic window. Although he was silent, his ghoulish face would send any boy running.


As an antique store, the house witnessed even more strange occurrences. It was nothing out of the ordinary for tables to flip over, alarms to sound when no one was around, and toys to move by themselves. Police visited the antique shop so often due to engaged alarms that they treated it as a routine part of their job. One visitor also reported hearing a menacing voice that told him he was going to die if he did not leave the old home-turned-antique shop immediately. 


However, the antique shop’s former owner never felt threatened by the ghosts. During an interview, he mentioned once feeling compelled to call out the name of a frequent shopper while upstairs, out of the customer’s view. Later, the shop owner realized that the customer was stealing from the business. He credits the otherworldly forces inside the Van Alstyne House with protecting him and his shop.

Do You Dare to Move into the Van Alstyne House?

With its sweeping 6,300 square feet and colorful themes in many of its rooms, Galveston’s Gingerbread House has plenty of historical charm. There’s also a long list of modern features, like granite kitchen countertops and a new roof, as well as a renovated back house with new windows, walls, and more. Plus, the estate sits only 1.2 miles from the beach! 


Given all of the history and expanse of this Galveston estate, some would consider the Van Alstyne House a steal at $495,000. Can’t swing the mortgage payment? You can also rent the place for a cool $4,000 a month.


Just don’t be surprised if you have some unexpected company. The previous tenants haven’t entirely moved out!