San Patricio, Texas must be a quite haunted place. In his book Ghost Stories of Texas (1981), Ed Syers tells several stories set there, the best known of which is probably the one of John McMullen’s crisis apparition.
Then there’s the ghost of Chepita Rodriguez–a ghost with a mission.
Josepha (Chepita) Rodriguez was the daughter of a Mexican who fought alongside Sam Houston and others in the cause of Texas independence. Life was unkind to Chepita, though; a marriage turned sour, and her husband walked out one day, taking their son with him. She would not see the boy again for many years, and when she did, it would cost her her life.
By the 1860s, Chepita was living in poverty in San Patricio, barely making ends meet by providing food and shelter to travelers. One such was a man named John Savage, who showed up one night with six hundred dollars in gold in his saddlebags.
He did not live through the night. He was killed with an ax, and Chepita was accused of his murder.
Legend says that another man was at Chepita’s cabin that night; he was her long-lost son, and he killed John Savage, taking his gold and leaving his mother to face the dreadful music that followed.
Chepita made no statement in court, when she came to trial, that might have exonerated her. She said only that she was innocent. Although the jury, aware that the evidence was thin at best, recommended mercy, the judge, who had the final say, thought otherwise, and sentenced her to hang.
No gallows was built for Chepita Rodriguez. She was hanged from, and buried under, a mesquite tree by the Aransas River, on November 13,1863. The mesquite tree, it’s said, died shortly thereafter, struck by lightning, and the site of her grave has been lost to flooding since her death.
Chepita Rodriguez was the last woman executed in Texas until February 3, 1998, one hundred thirty-four years after her death.
Since the 1930s, there have been a number of reported sightings of a ghostly woman with a noose around her neck in a grove of trees near where tradition says Chepita Rodriguez was hanged. Over time, a legend has evolved to explain her appearances; she walks when a woman in Texas is unjustly accused of murder, or is facing execution.