The Historic Galveston Balinese Room
One of the most interesting buildings in Galveston history is the Balinese Room. Standing as one of the most unique structures in the area, the Balinese Room has quite the interesting history. Built in 1942, the building quickly became the hotspot of the rich and famous in the 1940s and 1950s. Everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Marx Brothers performed in the club for patrons like Sophie Tucker and Howard Hughes. It had a bevy of dedicated attendees, in other words, and operated as a private nightclub. The structure was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008, but it was a proud fixture in Galveston for more than 60 years. And those years led to quite the lurid history. Interested in learning more about the Balinese Room and Ghosts of Galveston?
Is the Balinese Room haunted?
For many, the club’s history as a nightclub is far from the most interesting aspect of the building. What catches interest more often are the tales of hauntings and strange experiences from former employees and visitors of the club before its destruction. And the tales of the living tell some quite interesting tales of the dead, too. In order to tell the full tale of these ghosts of Galveston, we’ll need to take a look at the people who spent plenty of their living hours in the club. Let’s start with the employees and their experiences in this piece of Galveston history.
Janis Kimling served as the general manager for the club after it reopened in the 1970s. She tells tales of playful ghosts that seem to enjoy playing lighthearted tricks on her. She recalls one day where she stood on the pier speaking with someone only to see the water hose suddenly turn on. As she stood back up after turning it off, the hose turned on once again. Another tale from her time on the pier saw the doors unlock and open of their own accord as she walked by. And, of course, there was the Sunday night when, just after the club closed, Janis saw the apparition of a man headed for the old casino.
Our next tales come from an employee who also worked at the Balinese Room after its reopening. Gina Vail has a few different experiences to share, and the first involves her interaction with Sam Maceo, one of the club’s previous owners. She recalls walking into the restroom only to see a man wearing a pinstripe black suit complete with a cane, a red tie, and a black hat stare back at her from the mirrors. She realized who the figure was when she came across some old photos of Maceo at a later date and claims that he continued to follow her around the pier long after she left the ladies room. Gina also remembers when she entered the sound room one evening only to have music from the ‘40s and ‘50s begin playing before she ever touched the computer. Attempting to change stations didn’t work, and neither did turning off and unplugging the computer – the song continued to play unabated.
Another employee from the reopening of the club, Dawn Blackburn has experienced both profound and superficial encounters at the Balinese Room. She recalls a number of times when the lights flickered as she walked through the club, for example, as well as footsteps with no apparent source following behind her. She’s also witnessed exit signs turning off and on of their own accord as well as losing track of items only to find them in the oddest places shortly after. And while she worked many a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, she was never truly alone. Dawn sometimes hears a woman’s voice coming booming from the club’s speakers, greeting her with a cheerful “hello!” and hears the piano playing on its own periodically.
Gina and Dawn are not the only two employees to have experienced someone – or something – following them as they performed their duties around the club. Toni Galicia claims that she’s had a spirit following her ever since she visited the ladies’ room one night. As she reached down to wash her hands, all of the faucets turned on at once. Although she quickly washed her hands and exited the room as soon as possible, she believes the spirit continued to follow her throughout her time working at the club. She also saw the same apparition of a woman singing every week at karaoke night.
Chay Blackburn worked as a hairstylist on the pier and was not exempt from the strange happenings that seemed to be all too common at the club. He recalls seeing a woman in a beautiful formal beaded dress cross in front of his salon. He later looked through some old photos and recognized her as Jane Russel, someone who used to perform at the Balinese Room in its youth.
In addition to the specific incidents described above, employees of the Balinese Room experienced a number of more common phenomena. This includes, as you might have deduced, quite a bit of activity in the ladies’ room. From unexplained footsteps to a stall door that routinely fell off and appeared at random places in the room if the far-right stall was used, the ladies’ room was allegedly a hotbed of paranormal activity. Former employees theorized that something particularly bad once happened there and that’s why the area experiences so much activity from these ghosts of Galveston.
In addition to employees, former patrons of the club also experienced strange activity. One woman recounts the time she was locked in the ladies’ room on a Sunday afternoon – an experience made all the more frightening by the fact that the door doesn’t lock. When she was finally able to leave the room, she felt like someone was attempting to push the door from the other side and keep her trapped. Other patrons have talked about hearing footsteps with no apparent owner and watching the faucets turn on and off at random in the bathrooms.
What do you think about this bit of Galveston history? We think it’s a pretty interesting story. If you’d like to visit the space where the Balinese Room once stood, reach out to us today to schedule a tour!