Legend has it that sometimes on the second floor of a building on Louisiana Street in downtown McKinney a man can be seen on the second floor, looking down at the street below. The building’s old owner thought she knew who it was.
“She started to tell us his name was Frank, and he died young, in his 50s, in 1937, and then she paused and said she was mistaken,” recalls JJ Jensen of TexPart Paranormal. “She went back to her office to get her notes. We’ve been recording, and when we go back and listen again, we realize that while she’s talking, we could also hear a man’s voice. He says his name is Frank, he died at 56, and it was in 1938.”
Jensen is one of the founders of the North Texas-based paranormal investigation team, which hosts ghost walks and private tours in downtown McKinney and investigates hauntings and strange activity across North Texas.
When Jensen was growing up, she remembers that belief in ghosts was not something that people talked about. “I came up in the Scooby Doo era and if you didn’t have a goofy dog and a bunch of friends you were crazy,” she jokes. But she has always been open to the idea that not everything in life could be explained.
She herself lived in a haunted house. The house had been vacant for years, and Jensen had loved it from afar. It was a longtime dream to live in the house and fix it up. It needed work, electricity, plumbing, all the fixtures, but the bones were beautiful. Her husband never believed in ghosts at all. Until they moved into the house.
They soon had experienced “every kind of haunting” there was, and her skeptic husband was convinced. She recalls one sleepover they hosted where one of her son’s friends was so shaken, he never returned.
“They saw a man that floated up the stairs in a bowler hat. He didn’t have legs past his knees. He disappeared at the top,” she says.
It was unmanageable and eventually, too much to bear and they sold the house. The next owners spent seven years fixing it up. Jensen says it seems to be a very different place today.
But selling their house didn't end their ghostly encounters. They founded their paranormal team in 2005 in order to understand experiences like theirs. “You aren’t really crazy," she says. "This is a way to validate what you’re going through.”
Though she cautions that not every haunting they investigate is actually a haunting. “I’ve always said only one percent is actually paranormal. The other 99 can be explained in ways people can’t always fathom,” she says.
For her, it’s not all burning sage and Electronic Voice Phenomenons (EVPs), which are disembodied voices found on electronic recording devices. Often it involves hours of replaying recordings with no results, spending nights in unfriendly places, and digging through family histories.
People are still at the heart of hauntings. “The human mind is an amazing thing,” she says. “We have learned over the years that humans can create their own hauntings.”
Residual haunting, while not provable, is something she sees all the time. It's the result of people burying their anxiety, trauma, and stress, and it coming out in other ways. Even when their investigations don’t lead to the paranormal, it can often lead to healing.
They’ve seen an increase in calls since COVID-19. “Think about it,” she says. “Families are kicked out of their routine, locked in the same house for months. Frustration bottles up, distress bottles up.” She tells these families to take a step back, host a game night, do whatever they can to defuse stress, and 99 percent of the time, that fixes it.
“We get calls from people in new homes baffled because it’s new, but if you think about it, it’s on old land," she says. "Historical buildings, gun fights, fires, brothels, interesting people involved. It’s everywhere. It’s not really abnormal. It’s not even really paranormal.”
During our interview, Jensen goes over some of the most interesting and memorable hauntings the TexPart team has investigated (and one that they debunked).
The Ghost of Leonard Ray
“I don’t know if there are still relatives of the man who killed himself,” Jensen says. “So I’ll be careful.” After they started hosting the ghost walks, the TexPart team was contacted by an artist who was renting a space in downtown McKinney across from an old office. “His artwork had gotten so dark,” she recalls. “He used to paint bright sunny days, historical murals, but overtime his paintings got dark and gruesome. He had a radio that turned itself on all the time, paint cans flying off shelves.” In the office space next door, workers were remodeling in order to rent it out. Something, she suspected, had been disturbed.
When they investigated, they found an office where a man named Leonard Ray had shot himself in the head. The scene had been poorly cleaned. His things, boxes and his desk, were still there. She even recalls seeing blood spatter on the walls. It had been locked up in that state for fifty years.
At one point, using their EVP recorders, they began asking questions, trying to find answers. “We got a very growly ‘Get out.’”
Jensen took her voice recorder, and went alone to next room a middle office she thought was once a secretary pool and she asked, “Leonard Ray, why kill yourself?”
“He said ‘she left me,’” Jensen says.
From there, the team left the site and turned to history for clarity. One of the historians they work with tracked down a relative of Ray’s family and reached out to her. She asked if his wife had indeed left him.
“You could have heard a pin drop,” she says. “The girl was like, ‘How the hell did you know?’”
According to family lore, Ray’s wife had cheated on him with his business partner, who was coincidentally also the person who discovered his body after his suicide in the office.
The Celt Irish Pub
Before The Celt Irish Pub was an Irish pub, it was The Londoner. In those days, the owners called TexPart Paranormal because of a fork problem. Every morning when they opened the tavern, they’d find that overnight, forks had mysteriously embedded in the furniture and woodwork. Furthermore, the wait staff and customers had been picking up on a creepy feeling near the ladies restroom. Some even saw a male in a hat and overcoat around the restroom.
When TexPart investigated in 2016, they asked the wait staff to roll up every piece of silverware and lock it away. That morning, there were no forks in the woodwork, but the recording they’d left on caught a clear, frustrated preteen voice saying, “I need a fork.”
They also recorded the sound of spurs jingling, and a girl who seemed to be saying, “I hate dancing.”
The Celt, both the building and the land it sits on, has a very interesting history. Before the current building was constructed in the early 1900s, a small wooden saloon stood there, frequented by criminals like Frank and Jesse James who liked to play cards there. The bar’s owner at that time reportedly put in a special attic area accessible through a trap door over the bar, so that if law enforcement arrived, the James boys could make a quick getaway.
When McKinney became dry in 1904, the building was converted and eventually rebuilt.
Jensen adds that it was also a brothel at some point. “The man that managed the girls was a grumpy fellow,” she says. “People see him often. He had an office toward the back, by ladies’ restroom.”
“When I host tours, I always ask people how long they’ve been in McKinney and whether they think they know their history,” Jensen says. Then she tells them that there is still plenty they’ve never heard. Usually, most people don’t know that McKinney has not always been the seat of Collin County.
It used to be Fort Buckner.
Fort Buckner was a bustling town center, but every third Monday of the month, it was also the site of public executions. People brought their families out for picnics on execution day, and artisans and farmers set up stalls for selling their wares.
Jensen remembers one day when she visited Buckner Cemetery, she saw a Native American man leaning against a tree in the cemetery. She looked away briefly, and when she looked back, he was gone.
The Buckner Cemetery is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Kiowa Indian chief, Chief Spotted Tail. He was a local hero and the leader of a large tribe that watched over Fort Buckner and McKinney. He was given a Union jacket, which he loved and when he died, he was buried in it. A tree was planted in his honor in the cemetery.
One of McKinney’s most treasured traditions is still Third Monday Trade Days, where on the third Monday of the month, people from all over North Texas still gather on the same land next to Buckner Cemetery, to shop local vendors. The tradition has not suffered due to lack of public executions.
The Smiley Grave
One of Dallas’s more well-known “hauntings” for years has been the Smiley grave in Garland. The legend started because according to the gravestone, the entire family--baring a young son--died on the same day in May 1927. Urban legend says that the patriarch of the family killed his family and then himself, and still hangs around. Visitors have reported a terrible smell around the site.
However, during their investigation, they found that there never was a murder; in May 1927, a tornado wiped out 17 people, including the Smiley family. What was taken as a murder was actually a tragedy. (As for the foul stench, there’s a landfill not far away.)
“Charlie O. Smiley was accused of brutally murdering wife and children, but that’s not it at all,” Jensen says.
The Carpenter House
Not all hauntings are sinister; take the Carpenter House in Plano. One of Plano’s historical houses, Carpenter House used to be a bed and breakfast with weddings and events. “It’s a regular house now, a beautiful Victorian,” Jensen adds. Once, she and her son stayed the night for an investigation and it was very peaceful. During the night, a beautiful charcoal cat entered the room and sat in the window sill.
During breakfast in the morning, she complimented the hostess on her cat, and she laughed.
“That wouldn’t happen to be a smoky one, kinda fat and sassy?” the owner responded. “That cat died several years ago. His name was Smoky. People see that cat all the time though. He loved that room.”