The Devil’s Backbone Tavern

The information here is presented for entertainment purposes only and is not intended as scholarly research or a final authority on the subject. 

Today’s post is about The Devil’s Backbone Tavern in Fischer, Texas. Let’s start with the history of the area.

The Devil’s Backbone is a scenic road in the Texas Hill Country.  Bert Wall, a local author and historian, says the Backbone was known to Comanches and Apaches and considered a spiritual place.  According to Wall, the name Devil’s Backbone dates back to the 1750s. It was a nickname Spanish workers gave a persnickety priest.

According to legend, the whole area is haunted.  Modern day visitors and residents have reported hearing hoofbeats that aren’t there.  They see Indians and Confederate Soldiers who vanish when approached.  The television show Unsolved Mysteries did a segment on The Devil’s Backbone (the area, not the tavern) in Season 8, Episode 11 of January 12, 1996.

The Texas Hill Country is unfathomable without seeing it for yourself. The lonesome two-lane blacktop and the big sky are endless and breathtaking.  There’s a certain magic in the air.  My imagination runs wild out there, and it’s easy to believe in just about anything.

The Devil’s Backbone Tavern dates back to the days of stagecoaches.  It was the area’s first stagecoach stop. Originally, the building was just a blacksmith shop. The tavern was built around that old shop. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this place really is spooky story central.

The first time I went to the Devil’s Backbone Tavern was several years ago–back in 2004 or 2005.  We had been riding motorcycles all day with a friend.  He wanted to show us something we couldn’t find anywhere else.  We sauntered into the little stone building stinking of the road and feeling beyond tired.

The bartender asked us if we knew the history of the tavern. She said the it was once a rough place, the site of murders. The place was haunted, she said. She told us stories about being touched by invisible hands, heavy furniture moving on its own, and doors shutting by themselves.

She took us to the far end of the building where there was a stone fireplace.  This area, she told us, was the most haunted.  She pointed to a place on the stone mantle and asked if we saw devil’s skulls.  If we looked closely enough, there was an odd shape in the stone.  We thanked the bartender for her time and ordered beers and gave her a hefty tip.

The guy who’d brought us to the Devil’s Backbone had already joined the locals at a table near the window. The bright sunlight streaming in turned the figures at the table into faceless silhouettes. We sat down and joined the conversation.

After more than one and less than one hundred beers (because that’s how things go when I drink), I decided to visit the ladies’ room. It’s at the back of the bar, near that stone fireplace…in the area the bartender said was the most haunted.

I wasn’t thinking about ghosts or stagecoaches or anything but getting into that bathroom. Then, I was in that humid old room alone, and I couldn’t think about anything but those ghosts.

The room felt close.  I kept glancing at the ceiling because it felt like something was watching me from up there. The rise and fall of voices and laughter drifted in from the bar, but they couldn’t help me.  I was in a different world. When I washed my hands, I couldn’t look in the mirror over the sink because I was afraid I’d see something standing behind me.

I went back to the table of locals and found a cold beer waiting on me. I sat down next to my husband and whispered to him that the bathroom was haunted. We drank some more beer and went on our way.

I had a hard time forgetting that little stone building with long stretch of road running in front of it.

A couple of years ago, we returned to The Devil’s Backbone Tavern. It was much the same as it had been. The bartender told us an abbreviated version of the story I heard on my first visit. I guess they get too many gawkers now for the story to be fun to tell.

Things had changed for me. While my husband drank beer, I drank water.  This time, I wouldn’t be able to blame a haze of alcohol for whatever I encountered.  The part of me who tells these spooky stories wanted another visit to that bathroom.  After about ten glasses of water, I got my wish.

There I was again in that dank room. If anything, the feeling of being watched was more intense than the first time. My heart pounded and sweat broke out on my back. I couldn’t hurry fast enough. When I washed my hands, I still couldn’t look in the mirror. I felt it–whatever it was–behind me, and I didn’t want to see it.

Whatever I felt that day wasn’t the result of too many beers and too much sun. I will entertain the idea, however, that it could have been the result of too much imagination. The tavern has been the subject of research by Ghost Hunters of Texas. They didn’t feel anything and got only the footage in this video.

Fun Factoid: The Devil’s Backbone Tavern has been immortalized in song by Todd Snider: (this song, though not about ghosts, has a great message and is worth the listen)