Haunted History

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The Devil's Backbone Tavern, built on the site of an ancient Indian campground, is widely believed to be haunted. An entire Civil War battle is said to have occurred on the Devil’s Backbone limestone ridge.  “Oh, there are ghosts, I guaran-goddamn-tee you,” said Robert Kelly, a tavern regular who said he sometimes sees shadowy figures on a steep nearby ridge called the Devil’s Backbone, for which the tavern is named.

Stretching from Wimberley to Blanco, the ruggedly scenic area known as Devil’s Backbone resulted from an earthquake that occurred in the region more than thirty million years ago. The powerful earthquake helped separate the land into two different regions, the Edward’s Plateau to the west and the lower Gulf Coastal Plains to the east.

The Devil’s Backbone Tavern is situated on one of the most picturesque spots along this earthquake fault, providing the historic venue with a spectacular view of the surrounding Texas Hill Country.  The history dates back to the late 1890's, when the first stone room was built for a blacksmith’s shop and a stagecoach stop at the base of a treacherous trail. After Prohibition, the sale of alcoholic beverages, particularly beer, became licensed in early 1936.  Since Hays County was "dry" with no public means to purchase alcohol, the tavern, was built next to the old blacksmith’s shop just beyond the Hays County line (in Comal) in 1937. In the 1950's, a service station and package store building was added and shortly after, the dancehall was constructed.  The venue became a rare attraction for anything you needed including a cold-beer, a tire change or an ass-whoopin' with local and touring bands drawing crowds to the dancehall during its “hey-day” for music and dancing. 

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There are plenty of ghost stories along the Backbone, a limestone ridge that runs from Wimberley to Blanco through the Texas Hill Country, so many stories that the area is a regular stop for paranormal aficionados. Ghost stories are an important part of the history of both Devil’s Backbone and Devil’s Backbone Tavern. The most famous of these stories describes a woman who walks down the road and is carrying a baby and calling out for her husband. Others say that the tavern itself is haunted, with some patrons claiming to have encountered ghostly visitors.

Whether or not these stories are true, the Devil’s Backbone Tavern certainly has long been a favorite “haunt” for musicians and music fans alike. The Tavern has become a haven for singer–songwriters and locals.  Todd Snider, wrote the song “Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern”. Snider recalled driving along the Texas Hill Country backroads and trying to find a bar in which he was scheduled to perform. He never did locate that bar, but he did stumble across the Devil’s Backbone Tavern. After going inside to ask for directions, Snider decided to stay and play for the patrons there instead. According to Snider, the song has served as a personal reminder as to why he chose to pursue a musical career. Many other entertainers have visited Devil’s Backbone Tavern. Musician, author, and politician Kinky Friedman has been known to stop by. Actors Jason Earl and Crispin Glover filmed parts of their comedy Drop Dead Sexy on location at the tavern in 2005. Indie movie, Lost Vegas Hiway starring Texas singer-songwriters Hal Ketchum and Jack Ingram filmed there in 2016.