Horror in Suburban Houston

Freaky Friday is upon us.  As promised, the topic today–and every Friday in October–is paranormal in nature.  Today’s entry is a bit long, but it’s worth your time.  Follow me.  It’s time to get scared.

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest city in the United States.  According to the 2010 US Census, Houston covers an area of 579 square miles (1500 km).

As Houston has grown, it has absorbed smaller surrounding towns.  Those towns were sculpted into suburbs consisting of franchise restaurants, shopping centers, and housing developments.  Though they may be full of new houses and buildings, each of these towns has a history.

Houston is one big city made up of many small cities.

Crosby, Texas is no diffrent.  Humphrey Jackson, one of the original 300 Texas settlers, came to the area in 1823.  In 1824, Jackson was granted a league and a labor of land by the Baron de Bastrop.  The town was named for G. J. Crosby, a railroad engineer.

Part of modern day Crosby’s Newport Subdivision sits on land that was once owned by the McKinney plantation.  Descendants of the original family held the land titles until the late 1960s or early 1970s.  The new owners of the land chose to develop to accommodate the overflow from Houston.


In 1980, Ben and Jean Williams commissioned a custom-built house on Poppets Way in Section 8 of the Newport Subdivision in Crosby, Texas.  They thought it would be their dream home.  Boy, were they wrong.

A large oak tree stood on the property.  This tree had strange markings–an arrow pointing at the ground with two slashes beneath it.  The Williamses thought this was the handiwork of kids playing.  They would later learn the markings were something else all together.

Poppets Way in Newport Subdivsion, Crosby, Texas

In the late 1800s, the McKinney family–the land’s original owners–hired freed slaves to work their plantation.  They designated land for them to use as a graveyard.  That cemetery was called Black Hope.  It was in use until the late 1930s.  Though the cemetery fell out of use, the bodies resting there were not moved.

The houses in Section 8 of Newport Subdivision sat right on top of the Black Hope Cemetery.  The markings on Ben and Jean Williams’ oak tree were grave markers–a poor man’s tombstone.

Over time, the Williams family experienced the following…and more:

  • Toilets flushed on their own.
  • The house was plagued by ants, which seemed to come from the marked tree.
  • Plants failed to thrive and ultimately died.
  • Violent storms–occurring when the sun was out only a short distance away–came out of nowhere and brought poisonous snakes with them.
  • The Williamses pets died grisly deaths.  After an excursion into the woods, one cat gave birth to horribly deformed kittens.  Finches pecked their young to death.  Hamsters went crazy.
  • An uncanny number of divorces, deaths, and mental breakdowns occurred among family members who visited Ben and Jean Williams on Poppets Way.
  • Ben and Jean’s granddaughter–whom they were raising–experienced dreams that might be called death premonitions.  She dreamed of a long staircase descending into fog.  If she saw a person walk down the stairs in her dream, they often died in real life.

Across the street, Sam and Judith Haney noticed low spots–rectangular in shape–in their yard.  Their real trouble started when they decided to put in a swimming pool. The day they were to begin digging, an elderly man approached them and revealed bodies were buried in their backyard. Digging uncovered two graves, that of a man and a woman.

The Haney’s search for the truth led to Jasper Norton.  Mr. Norton buried people in the Black Hope cemetery when he was a very young man. The gravesite in the Haney’s yard was eventually identified as that of Charles and Betty Thomas.

The Haney’s TV turned on and off by itself. The family doberman acted distressed and barked at nothing.  The Haneys heard disembodied voices.  Worse, Judith Haney’s shoes disappeared.  She found them resting on the gravesite of Charles and Betty Thomas.

This video features pictures of the area:

The Marshalls, who lived next to the Haneys, experienced freaky happenings. Their cocker spaniel barked incessantly and dug at the floor. Cracks appeared in their ceilings and walls. The sound of footsteps plagued them.

W. D. Marshall saw shadowy forms–a man, a woman, and a child dressed in overalls. Items in the Marshall home rearranged themselves. The Marshalls eventually moved elsewhere in the Newport Subdivision. Unable to keep the house on Poppets Way rented, they allowed it to go into foreclosure.

The Haneys filed a lawsuit against the developer, citing the graveyard underneath the development had not been properly disclosed to residents.  A jury award the Haneys $142,000, but a judge reversed the decision and ordered the Haneys to pay $50,000 in court costs. Buried in debt, the Haneys filed bankruptcy.

Ben and Jean Williams attempted to sell their dream home but were unsuccessful. They sought compensation from the title company.  The title company refused the claim saying there was no proof human remains were interred on their property.  The only way to prove human remains were present would have been to excavate.  Texas Law, however, prohibited such action. Ben and Jean were immobilized by a catch-22.

Desperate to prove the bodies where there, Jean began digging. When she could no longer dig, her daughter Tina took over.  Tina collapsed, complaining of chest pains. Ambulances got lost finding the Williams home. They also got lost on the way out of the subdivision.

By the time Tina got the hospital, she was brain dead.  Three days later, Tina was taken off life support. Ben and Jean fled to Montana and allowed their home on Poppets Way to go back to the lender.

By the time the Williamses left Poppets Way, seven of the eight original houses had been abandoned. The eighth house, which belonged to the Haneys, would eventually be  abandoned.

The area is now occupied by a new group of people. No reports of paranormal activity have been made. Perhaps the spirits were satisfied after they ran off the original residents?  Or maybe the new residents are holding their cards close to their chests?

Ben and Jean Williams wrote a book about their experiences called The Black Hope Horror. It is out of print but is available used at Amazon.com.  I’ve read this book and found it entertaining and creepy.

A TV movie about the incident was made in 1992. It is called Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive. It is available for purchase at Amazon.com.  If you’re interested in watching it for free on You Tube, click here.

There is some speculation that the events on Poppets Way inspired the film Poltergeist.  The events in the first Poltergeist film occurred because the Freeling family house was built on an old cemetery.

The first Poltergeist film was directed by Tobe Hooper, a Texan. It would make a great story if Poltergeist was based on the events on Poppets Way.  Given the timeline, though, I sort of doubt that’s the case.

Poltergeist came out in 1982, which means it was in production long before that.  The events on Poppets Way in Crosby, Texas were just getting underway in the early 80s.  The Williamses and the Haneys didn’t go public with their story until the mid-late 1980s.

I hope you enjoyed reading this free article. I am sorry, but there will be no updates, corrections, or expansions to the content you’ve read. I am currently focusing on my fiction writing career and am no longer writing non-fiction. If you’re interested in seeing what I write, please check out the My Fiction page on this website or visit my Amazon Author Page on amazon.com. 

38 thoughts on “Horror in Suburban Houston

  1. CREEPY – makes me wonder what all of our homes are built on since there’s really no way to know for sure what was there hundreds of years earlier…eeekeee…
    GREAT post!!

    • Oh, I’m sure if someone dug far enough some bones could be found underneath each of our homes. Even if nobody lived where we now live, this earth has been populated for thousands of years. Bones are everywhere. And ghosts are everywhere.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. :D

    • Ooooh, the Texas Killing Fields looks like a good movie. I’m definitely going to watch it when it comes out on iTunes. Texas City is not to far from here you know. :D

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. This is one of the best I’ve read, Catie – really creepy and disturbing. To think that these things happened to so many people in eight houses. Wow! And it’s so sad that the laws created a Catch-22 situation for a helpless family. Very unfortunate.

    • I know! The thing that got me about this story was that it happened in so many houses. In the book, it talked about how many of the couples (who were happy before moving to Poppets Way) divorced while they lived on Poppets Way. It was very, very creepy.

      And I agree. It was such a shame that the law prevented the Williamses from doing anything about the bodies on their property. They lost tens of thousands of dollars when they abandoned their home and allowed it to go into foreclosure.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Wow. This is one of the creepiest posts I’ve read. No doubt that was genuine and scary paranormal activity. Like Natalie says, who knows what are homes are buried on. And excellent research, as always. I’ve got to find a copy of Black Hope Horror!

    • I know I always say this, but I wish you lived closer. I’d loan you my copy. :D

      Sometimes I think these stories are embellished. And this one may have been, but I have a feeling that a lot of it is true. What a creepy place to have to live in. I know a bit about living somewhere you hate, but imagine if you couldn’t even get any peace inside your own home. And imagine if you and your family couldn’t feel safe. What a mess.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. on ,
    MoM said:

    This is a great article. When we move to our new home, I will leave the task of checking the history to you. I do not want anything like this happening in my senior years. You do such a good job researching.
    Love you.

    • Yes, I’ll have to check out where we move thoroughly. I wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of $$$ and then be miserable. But you know if I got a chance to purchase a historic home (and had the $$$), it would be hard to stop me. :D

      Thanks for stopping by. Love you, Mom.

  5. Fascinating tale. The fact that it occurred with several houses and not merely one reinforces the spookiness of these family’s experiences.You can dismiss a few strange events, but several experiences in one locale over a graveyard . . . very creepy.

    On the other hand, given how many people have lived on earth, aren’t there likely bodies buried everywhere that we don’t know about? If hauntings do occur when gravesites are disturbed, are there rules about how recent the burials must be, how disturbed the graves must be, what kinds of events might occur? That’s the analytical part of me to wonder that kind of stuff. Very interesting to contemplate, though. Thanks, Catie!

    • Julie, you have a good point. Perhaps the difference was that the Black Hope Cemetery was consecrated ground? I know the McKinney’s donated land for a church, a school, and a cemetery. So…perhaps there was something more about the land.

      And I don’t really know. I’m just stabbing in the dark. In the book, the Williamses said they believed their tormentor was something other than the bodies buried in the ground. They believed they were being tormented by something diabolical. Now, I don’t know if that was just something thrown out or if it was true.

      Anyway, you bring up a good point. Thanks for stopping by. :D

  6. Awesome post. So creepy, especially the granddaughter having death premonitions. Hard to ignore paranormal activity with so many instances of unexplained instances. I think any place built on top of a grave site is going to have an energy or history to it. I think back to touring New Orleans and how much death occurred on the streets of the French Quarter, locals there say on rainy days they hear voices in alleyways and the horses act up on the same corner outside Jean La Fitte’s bar. Strange things…

    • New Orleans is one haunted city. I have seen some odd things there. Sometimes I’ll have to do a post on my deja vu experience there. I feel certain I lived there in a past life. And the streets are so eerie and creepy. It’s easy to believe you’re not alone.

      Anyway…Poppets Way. It would be an easy thing to dismiss if it hadn’t happened in eight houses. I just scratched the surface in this blog post with the things that reportedly happened. Apparently, this was a weird, weird place to live.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Creepy awesome, Catie! The timing of events throughout all of this is difficult to dismiss. It will be interesting to see if the next generation of residents disclose similar issues over time or if the spirits have been appeased, which I would find hard to believe, after all, people are still living on top of them. Sounds like a fun episode for Ghost Hunters.

    • I agree that all the evidence makes the entire thing hard to dismiss. So far, the next generation of residents have had nothing to report. A Houston ghost hunting society has done two studies of the neighborhood and didn’t have much to report. However, like you, I find it hard to believe whatever got stirred up is completely done. :D

  8. The part about the deformed kittens being pecked to death by finches creeped me out most of all, I think. I don’t know why … that just seems so weird and awful! I think I’m definitely going to search for a used copy of their book – what an intriguing story! Another smashing Freaky Friday, Catie!

    • The deformed kittens were weird. It happened after the cat had gone into the woods behind the house. The Williams family seemed to think that had something to do with what happened to the kittens. But the finches pecked to death their own young! Can you believe that?

      Definitely look for a copy of Black Hope Horror. I found mind on ABE Books. It was quite a bit cheaper than the ones on Amazon.com. At worse, request it as an interlibrary loan from your local library.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. My dog often barks at nothing, but I don’t think there’s any paranormal activity in my neighborhood. But wow, what a creepy story! I feel bad for the people who unknowingly built homes on the gravesite. Just goes to show, you never know.

    • I feel bad for them, too, Jennette. Back when this happened, the economy was poor in Houston. So once they were in those homes, their money was gone. They had no way to get out. The horror of living there had to be intense.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Catie:

    Hubby and I used to rent a house that made weird noises. Drawers would occasionally open by themselves. I used to hear shrieking coming from the chimney, but I never mentioned it. One night, my husband put his hands over his ears and said, “I can’t take it anymore! Do you hear that?” The landlord graciously had someone come to look at the chimney. The guy came on a crazy windy day. There was absolute silence in the house. A few days later, hubby and I heard the shrieking again — for the millionth time. We looked at each other and said we had to move. Clearly, there was something in that house that did not want us there. We picked up our shizzle and moved into the guest room. Where it was quiet.

    Later, we learned that a woman had hanged herself in the attic.

    I totally believe in all this stuff.

    • ::Shivers:: Excellent story. And how cool that you found out the haunting did have a source. I think suicides leave behind all sorts of bad stuff.

      Your story sort of reminds me of a tale one of my college professors had. The college I attended is in the oldest town in Texas. It has its share of Victorian era houses. This particular professor had rented a house that used to be a full-service funeral home. She said the basement–where they did the embalming–was downright creepy, and the sounds they heard when everything quietened down for the night were terrifying.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Very well researched creepy stuff, Catie! As a believer in the afterlife, I believe in the paranormal.

    The area where I live was once occupied by Algonquian Indians. Shortly after we moved into our home, I was gardening when I came across a beautiful Indian arrowhead. We lovingly placed it on a ledge over an inside doorway of our house where it stayed for many years. Our home is only 40 years old and we’ve been lucky to meet the two prior owners’ families who stopped by at random times to see this house that was so special to them.

    I’d always felt a presence in our downstairs den, a male presence, especially strong between 9 and midnight. However, I knew there was no tragedy or death that had occurred in our home so I discounted the feeling for a long time, making sure to say extra prayers as I turned off the lights at night before going up to bed (yeah, I’m a bit superstitious at times)…until one night I had a vivid dream about a Native American man who told me this is his people’s land. He agreed to share it peacefully with us, but wanted what was his. I didn’t know what that meant until a few months later we noticed our cherished arrowhead had disappeared.

    I don’t feel the presence is angry with us and nothing creepy (other than the strong sense of his presence during those hours in one part of our den).I no longer garden in that section of the lawn, concerned about disturbing an unknown grave.

    • How interesting! That is a truly cool story, especially the part about the arrowhead disappearing.

      My mother grew up in Trinity County Texas–way in the deep Pineywoods. The land was once occupied by Indians. When I was a kid, we’d walk the woods behind my grandfather’s house and always found arrowheads. Nothing supernatural ever happened, but I thought it was neat to find the arrowheads.

      I don’t blame you for not gardening that section of lawn! I don’t imagine I would, either.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. I’ve been trying to get to this post all weekend…FINALLY! And I’m glad I did!

    Really, when the snakes started coming through the floorboard I would have been OUT OF THERE! One or two incidents on their own is mildly weird, but all this stuff together is totally freaky! have you done a road trip to personally walk Poppet’s Lane? Dare ya to go trick or treating on Halloween night. :)

    Thanks again for giving me the heebie jeebies. I didn’t want to sleep tonight anyway. (And I say this only becuase our downstairs toilet has begun flushing itself at night. The house we live in is 106 years old and historians have claimed there are over 300 dead bodies buried at the end of the street from when our little island was used for quartine during the plauge…the dead ones were just tossed over the hill….)

  14. on ,
    lynnkelleyauthor said:

    Oh man, my bad for reading this at night instead of in the morning. Not a good thing to have on my mind before falling asleep! Yikes! In San Bernardino, California, the Orange Show fairgrounds was built on top of Indian burial grounds. Rumor has it that a curse was put on the Orange Show, and every year it would rain the weekend of the big yearly event. They changed the date to a different month or season (I can’t remember the details), and sure enough, it still rained whenever the Orange Show was held! No kidding! I’ll take rain over snakes and all that other freaky stuff any day!

    • What an interesting story about the Orange Show. I’d never heard it. Of course, I also had to google The Orange Show. California has a lot of interesting ghost stories. I’ve done a fair amount of browsing Hollywood ghosts, but I know there are a lot more.

      Sorry to keep you awake with this story. Glad it had the desired effect, though. Thanks for your comment.

  15. Hi Catie,
    Like Julie, our old home had been built on Indian burial grounds that were also desecrated by a Civil War battle (almost the whole of ATL is a battlefield – grave markers for soldiers are not uncommon in peoples’ backyards here).
    There was one movie we always tried to watch in our VCR 20years ago – Andersonville, about the prisoner of war camp in GA in the Civil War. Every single time we popped it in, a violent storm came out of nowhere, zapping the VCR. We finally caught on with the 3rd VCR we bought!

    • Georgia is full of cool history. We’ve talked about a visit numerous times, but we’ve never done it. Now that I know grave markers are common in backyards, though…well, that’s a pretty good lure for me. ;)

      Very spooky story about your VCR. I totally believe you. Some years ago, my husband and I visited a ghost town in one of the national forests in East Texas. On the way out, a lightening storm followed us through the woods. It was terrifying.

      Thanks so much for visiting.

  16. on ,
    Krista said:

    Hi Catie. Great post. I had to comment here as a former resident of Newport from ’92-’93. One night, a lady I attended college with and myself were studying for semester exams. She also lived in the neighborhood just a few streets over. At one point, I looked up from my study questions and noticed she was staring toward the hallway where my two boys were sleeping. At the time, they were ages two and three. She shrugged off the strange look on her face, but I could tell she was bothered. When I asked what she was looking at, she asked me if anyone ever told me that our house was haunted. I laughed until she began to tell me that she thought she saw one of my boys walk down the hall to the bathroom. She watched for ten to fifteen minutes to make sure they were ok, but whoever walked down the hall never returned to the bedroom. The funny part of the story is she noticed that whoever it was she saw was carrying a lantern in their hand. The only other thing that ever happened to me there was seeing shadows just outside of my line of vision. Just to be clear, I did not live on Poppets Way or any of the streets surrounding that area. I lived on the other side of the subdivision. I spent about an hour at lunch today just looking for our street name as I don’t remember the exact address. I do remember the house was on a cul-de-sac and had a very interesting iron gate with a courtyard just on the other side. It’s a grey brick home and is on the right side of the cul-de-sac just as you turn onto the street. We didn’t live there long, but it’s a memory that will stick with me forever. Thanks for the memories Catie! :)

    • Okay. You win the prize for cool comments on this post. I never expected someone who had lived in Newport would stop by with anything other than, “This is BS.” What a fascinating story. It absolutely gave me chills as I read it yesterday.

      It really interested me to learn the history of the area where Newport now sits. I never realized the area was such an old settlement in Texas. I believe new houses can be haunted. My mom and dad built the house I grew up in. Nobody has ever died in that house. Regardless, that is a creepy place to be alone. I’ve seen things and heard things in that house that can’t be traced back to any event that happened there.

      My father, when he was clearing the land for that house found a spur. It was very old and had a serial number stamped into it. Daddy took it somewhere to see where it might have come from. The serial number on the spur dated back to the Civil War. Later, when he was clearing another part of the land (it’s a seven acre lot), he found the other spur. So maybe….

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • on ,
        Krista said:

        Thanks for your reply, Catie. I agree…a building doesn’t have to be 100’s of years old to be haunted. It’s been well-documented that land, objects, even people can attract hauntings. I, like your parents, had a home built in 2007. The land prior to building was in an already established neighborhood with homes not more than 10 years old. The land, prior to development, was farmland. One day, I made it home from work before my kids got home from school. I unlocked the door, like any other day, and as soon as I stepped foot inside, I distinctly heard a mans voice mumbling. It was muffled and I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but I did hear it. (We only had cats, and I don’t know about you, but my cats don’t talk). As soon as I shut the front door, the mumbling stopped. My son, who is now 20 years old, used to sleep with the TV on. He always told me he just forgot to turn it off. Recently, when I asked him again why he can’t just turn the TV off and go to bed, he told me about strange visits he received in the middle of the night when we lived in this country suburb. At least five shadowy figures would stand around his bed and talk to him, one of them telling him that he needed to go with them just before they disappeared through a wall in his room. I blew it off at first until he told me it’s happened before in different houses we’ve lived in. Both of my boys recounted several stories of things they’ve seen in their lives, spirits that have visited them, etc. I often wonder if I’m not responsible for this as once when my oldest son was a year old, a few friends and I gathered around and dabbled in a Ouija board. After that, strange things started happening to me or to my family. In short, yes, I do believe that spirits can follow you. They can take up residence in objects that were special to them. They can reside on your land even if nothing tragic ever happened there. All it takes sometimes is opening the door to them.

        • Again, great story. Growing up in my parents house, I could always hear people talking. It sounded like several men. That’s one thing I don’t miss about living there. LOL

          The Ouija board may have attracted the ghosts to you and your son. Sometimes, though, I think it all has to with how open we are to having an experience. When I was very young, I loved ghost stories but never had any eerie experiences. Now that I’m older, I see more. Maybe it’s being more aware of my own mortality…or maybe it’s something else.

          Thanks so much for stopping by and participating. :D

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  18. on ,
    nicole said:

    I just stumbled across this post, so sorry this comment is somewhat of a delay. I lived in Crosby for a good portion of my life (99-03, I’m in my 20s). W.d. Marshall is my grandfather and I lived in Newport on vane way and crows nest. I can say first hand that all of Newport must be haunted. My backyard and all of my friends backyards had several mounds scattered around that we always thought were graves. I’ve had first hand experiences just playing in the woods or being home alone. My dogs would watch something move across the room that I couldn’t see while the hair on their backs stood up. I woke up several times to a young girl with a bonnet singing and playing with a doll in my room. I’ve heard voices and seen shadows out of the corner of my eye. Although nothing seemed to follow me outside of Crosby, these experiences have stuck with me. I occasionally visit every few months, and still have that eerie feeling of being watched. I think there is a lot of unknown history about the land that creates a lot of the residual energy there.

    • No problem on the delay. What an interesting story. I don’t have any trouble believing that the entire Newport area is haunted. I grew up in a house (not in the Houston area) that was new construction. Even though the house was new, I’ve always thought it was haunted. To this day, I don’t like to be alone in that house. Gives me the creeps. So I believe every word you’re saying. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  19. on ,
    R.Johnson said:

    My hushand Grandfather is Jasper Norton, we live in his house in Crosby. Yes, I believe the story.