Sometimes life takes you places you don’t expect…like a haunted tattoo shop in the heart of Austin, Texas.
*SPOILER ALERT: The following blog post contains spoilers for Episode 1! Before reading on, listen to this amazing story here! Afterward, make sure to check out this "Behind-the-Episode" blog for behind-the-scenes photos and info!
Last year I was toying with the idea of finding a way to explore my interest in the paranormal while satisfying my passion for storytelling simultaneously. Thoughts of a blog or podcast were floating around in my head, but honestly I didn’t know which I should pursue.
One evening I stumbled on an article in Austin360 about a local coffee shop being haunted. Something internally told me to go grab a cup of joe and see if I could get any of the employees there to talk. My wife encouraged me and loaned me an old recorder she had from her photo journalism days at Syracuse University . Why not, I thought. I didn’t know what I was doing exactly, but I felt confident I’d figure it out along the way.
It took me a bit to build up the nerve to start asking the servers questions, but eventually I did. Sadly, many of them had heard of the eerie rumors of the coffee shop being haunted, but hadn’t had any actual experiences themselves. An hour went by and I felt I’d hit a dead end until someone offered up the suggestion that I try talking to the tattoo shop next door.
Artists’ would come in the morning to find their stations messed up. Glass would be broken on a consistent basis. It got bad enough that employees felt whatever was in shop was following them home.
There was mention of this shop in the Austin360 article I read. It came back to me when I saw the neon red glowing sign in the distance. Although the article focused heavily on the Spider House, it did mention an adjacent tattoo shop reporting some activity also. I thanked the server, paid my tab, and took to the stairs of Royal Legion Tattoo.
The shop was a great space. You felt at home the moment you walked in. Well for me anyway. There was incense burning, heavy metal coming from the speakers, dim lighting, and art all over the walls, the counters, and hanging from the ceiling. I got a chance to chat with some employees and quickly learned this place was actually experiencing some serious paranormal activity. They briefed me on some of the most common occurrences but told me to reach out to the owner of the shop, Raymond Wallace, to see if he’d be interested in telling me about some of the experiences.
I left that night excited about what might unfold next. I reached out to Ray as soon as I got home. He got back to me the very next day and we set up a time to meet at his shop and chat.
Ray Wallace outside his shop - Royal Legion Tattoo
Ray’s stories were fascinating. The shop had so much activity being reported and by both employees and patrons. I knew I had to capture all these accounts directly from those who experienced them. So I pulled out my wife’s old recorder and got to work.
Ray and other employees recounted countless stories of unexplained happenings that they’d experienced over the years.
Artists’ would come in the morning to find their stations messed up. Glass would be broken on a consistent basis. It got bad enough that employees felt whatever was in shop was following them home. Spider House servers down at the coffee shop were reporting seeing an angry woman in the shop window after-hours . Ray even began seeing this woman while working in his shop late at night. He saw her in his work station mirror and in several of the doorways.
The stories were so compelling and I was thrilled to have them captured on the recorder. I got home, backed the files up, and had hoped to get to edit them later that week. Then my life suddenly got unbelievably busy. I ended up shelving the project hoping one day I’d make it back to it.
This mirror and doorway are two places Ray has reported seeing the spirit in his shop.
Almost a year later, life finally allotted me some space to breathe and I found myself thinking more and more about the stories surrounding the Royal Legion Tattoo. I decided it was time to start piecing this segment together and see what I could make of it. It started to come together nicely and my interest in the paranormal podcast was revived! I had to start thinking about other leads I could chase or other people I knew with paranormal experiences so I could build on this episode. One person started to come to mind a lot, and it was a person who we’ll refer to as Sara to protect her identity. She was a person I had met 5 years prior to all this who came to a paranormal research group I was part of to see if we could help her with some paranormal occurrence happening around her and her family. Sara ended up being one of our very last cases before our group dissolved in 2012.
I handled a lot of the client interviews and learned that Sara was experiencing an inordinate amount of activity on a daily basis. Based on my research, she was developing the ability to see spirits. Further than that, from the amount of detail she was describing to me about what she was experiencing, I believed she developing the highest level of psychic ability, clairvoyance.
I reached out to her to see how she was doing since we hadn’t talked in 5 years. Turns out, she was doing really well. She’d gained much more control of her gift and went on to articulate how she was using it and still learning from it. I told her about my idea for a paranormal podcast and then asked if she would want to meet up for coffee and chat about featuring her story on a future episode. She said she was down for it!
Then I realized, if this gift she claims to have is actually real, maybe she could sense the spirit at the tattoo shop. Maybe we could get some real answers for what’s going on there. I didn’t give her any details but asked if she’d be willing to come to a place with reported activity and just let me know if anything came to her. She agreed and before we knew it, we were at the Spider House, ordering some drinks and catching up.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much. I figured if she did see something, it most likely would be just a shadow an impression of something. Boy was I wrong. Upon sitting down (I’d picked a booth where Sara would be facing the Tattoo shop), she was already reporting things to me. She spotted a woman looming in the background behind me. I turned, nothing was there, except the stairway leading up to the tattoo shop.
She also had a notebook she pulled out and began sketching on. There were already some sketches on the page and Sara was adding more detail to them now. She explained to me that she was not an artist, but that drawing helped her make sense of what she was seeing sometimes. She informed me that the drawings on this page were things she had drawn last night after getting off the phone with me. According to Sara, two spirits had visited her directly following my conversation with her. A man in an old suit and a woman, the same one she was seeing now behind me pacing at the bottom of the tattoo shop's stairwell.
Sara's drawings - bottom left you can see the figure of female spirit standing with her arms crossed. Sara said that's how she's often standing in the window of the tattoo shop. You can also see the scribblings of "C" names and also "Christina" The other drawings I've blurred out were other spirits trying to come through to Sara that night at the Spider House. I plan to have a new episode just on the Spider House Cafe and another ghost hunt Sara and I went on there that took us into the basement and into a crawlspace under the house. Stay tuned for that one coming out this year!
Sara went on to say this woman was going up into the shop and staring down at her from the window. This was same exact window the other sightings of the woman had been reported.
I was a shocked. Within minutes Sara had already validated what others had claimed to have witnessed from my interviews a year ago.
From here, the night developed into one of the most exciting and validating paranormal experiences I’ve ever had.
Listen to the whole episode here.
*Update: Sara and I went back to Royal Legion Tattoo almost a month after our initial visit. The spirit who we refer to as Christina then clarified to Sara that she preferred Christine. The history records for the woman we suspected it to be actually show that her legal name was in fact"Christine". What's interesting though is that I also found a handful of news articles that spelled her name with an "a" at the end also. So it appears as though she might have went by both but prefers "Christine". So we'll refer to her as that from here on out.
Co-owner Kevin's station - as you can see, his chair is blocking the window Christine has been spotted in by patrons after-hours.
Backside of Royal Legion Tattoo - gated entrance to the Spider House Cafe
The view from Christine's favorite window.
A bundle of incense that was burning the day we visited. Tattoo artist Ian stands behind the counter working with a client.
Since the spirit communicated strong negative feelings towards the guys burning incense at the shop, Ray and his team have come up with a compromise. If they burn incense outside on the upstairs patio, they don't burn any inside. If they burn inside, then they don't outside. That way Christine can roam about and not get trapped in an area. Ray also moved back into his old station where Christine said she preferred him to be so she could watch over him. Kevin has also rearranged his station in a way that keeps the window entirely clear for Christine. The artists have all reported back that all activity has calmed down. It's quiet, peaceful, and business seems to be booming now, according to Ray.
Since concluding our time that night at this quaint, cozy little tattoo parlor in the heart of Austin, we've visited Ray several times. It's a place both Sara and I have fallen in love with. We pop in now and again, just to say hi - to Ray, Kevin, Ian, and yes, Christine.
If you're ever in the area, stop on by, grab a coffee at the Spider House Cafe, and pop your head into Royal Legion Tattoo to say hi. They guys are all very welcoming. And tell them The Night Owl Podcast sent ya!
Stay restless my fellow night owls,