This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
In 1930, Judge John F. Onion Jr. and his family moved into the old Huebner house near San Antonio. They soon became aware of strange noises occurring at all hours. Joseph Huebner, an Austrian jeweler and blacksmith, had built the first floor of the house in 1862. Around 1882, the year he died—some say he mistook kerosene for whiskey—a second floor was added.
Onion describes one set of peculiar sounds in the house:
"You would hear a click, like somebody had stepped on the bottom step of the staircase or stairwell. And then it would automatically come up. It wouldn't be a click here and then a click over here, a click by—it was kind of like somebody was trying to slip up the stairs, you know. And many a time I—when I was sick in bed, I had my eyes glued on the door to see who might walk in. And I never told anybody because I didn't want anybody [to] think I was superstitious or heard ghosts or anything. Then I found out that a good many of the other members of the family had had the same experience."
He recalls a bizarre episode involving a household appliance:
"And I remember my mother had an iron that was a iron you sat down at. It wasn't a hand iron; it was a big machine iron that you could roll something. And then you had a little click on the side—you pushed your leg against it—and the iron would come down, and you'd roll this big roller under the iron and iron something. You push the click, and the iron would raise up, and then you could readjust it. Well, it made such a distinctive noise.
"And I always remembered one morning—I guess I was thirteen or fourteen—my dad was going to work. And when he left, car tires on the gravel woke me up, and we were sleeping out on the upstairs porch because we didn't have air-conditioning in those days; was much cooler. And that machine was in one of the inner bedrooms, and I heard it running. And I heard the click. Heard the iron come down; I heard the click. And I thought, well, my mother was ironing something. So I lay there, and my brother was in a different bed; he was sound asleep. And so finally I got up, went into my bedroom off the porch, dressed, and went down to the kitchen. And when I opened the door to the kitchen, my mother turned around and said, ‘What were you ironing upstairs?' I said, ‘I wasn't ironing. You were.' She says, ‘No, I've been down here in the kitchen since your—before your dad left even.' It was so vivid to both of us at different locations. We both went together back up to where the iron was, and it was just as cold as it could be. My brother was still asleep on the porch. So I said, ‘I'll never explain that one.'"
In recent years, preservationists fought plans to demolish or move the Huebner-Onion Home. Today, the Huebner-Onion Homestead and Stagecoach Stop has a Texas Historical Marker and features nature trails and Joseph Huebner's gravesite. The Leon Valley Historical Commission is in the process of restoring the house and surrounding structures and plans to turn the location into a history museum and learning center.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday on 103 point 3 FM Waco, NPR. For program transcripts or more information about the Institute for Oral History, visit baylor.edu/livingstories.
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