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A historic building in downtown Cotulla will be the subject of a paranormal investigation by a South Texas-based crew of researchers on Saturday evening, June 26.
Currently occupied by the NAPA Auto Parts business, the former Model Market and Bill’s Dollar Store at the corner of Center and Main streets is one of the city’s oldest business structures in continual use for a century and stands at the heart of the Cotulla historic district overseen by the Main Street Program.
South Texas Ghost Ventures investigators Jim Whitley and Chris Gregory will be joined by Robbie Brown of Unknown Ventures in their investigation on Saturday.
The team will be locked inside the store for much of the night and will conduct tests using devices that record traces of electro-magnetic frequency, sound and movement typically regarded as indicators of paranormal activity.
The public is invited to visit the front of the store from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday and meet the investigators, view their specialized equipment and quiz them on some of their experiences in tracing unusual activity at some of South Texas’ most storied sites.
The public welcome at the store before the start of the formal investigation includes grilled food available to all.
Gregory and Whitley are Devine natives who have long held an interest in the region’s historic sites and the possibility of haunting. The pair founded their South Texas Ghost Ventures in late 2020, and their online-streamed investigations can be viewed on their Facebook page and can be followed live during their visits.
Gregory said he is excited to visit Cotulla this weekend to examine one of the downtown area’s oldest buildings. The store recently underwent extensive historic preservation and restoration after serving as a retail business for decades. Legends of its apparent haunting have persisted over several generations and through its many changes in ownership and name.
Store manager Joseph Mata said this week that he and other employees have often heard stories related to the building and its various uses as well as legends of an apparent haunting.
Many stories, according to Mata, have centered around alleged haunting by a young girl “who wants to play ball” with store employees and customers, and who may be responsible for interfering with items stacked on store shelves.
On many occasions, Mata said, employees have opened the store in the morning to find items strewn across the floor.
“I have worked here about a year, and it was two or three months before I learned about the stories attached to this building,” Mata said on Tuesday. “I had already heard things that shouldn’t have been there. I was sure I had heard voices or heard things being moved, when there was no one there.”
Perhaps the most remarkable evidence of paranormal activity in the building is a series of video recordings that employees have preserved, showing items being flung from shelves.
“In one recent incident, a wheel lug nut was thrown at a customer’s legs,” the manager said. “The customer thought at first that someone had thrown it, but there was no one there.”
Mata and his staff have shared the video clips online and have shown them to the South Texas Ghost Ventures crew. Mata believes the footage helped persuade the investigators to pay a visit. Video clips available for public viewing include surveillance camera footage in which paint cans are swept from a shelf and a bag and other countertop items appear to be pushed to the floor.
“We have many visitors coming in to the store to tell us what they remember of the building,” Mata said. “People will tell us about how they used to shop here when it was a grocery and a retail store.
“We have invited people to come on Saturday and share their stories,” he added. “A lot of former employees have memories of things happening here that have given this building its reputation over the years.”
“Our team is dedicated to chronicling the haunted history of South Texas,” Gregory said this week. “We are driven to tell the stories of our great state and the people who, like us, love to call it home.”
Viewers watching the group’s investigation on the Facebook page are able to post questions during the night, which will be answered when team members are able.
South Texas Ghost Ventures is among the groups of paranormal investigators invited to take part in the “world’s biggest ghost hunt,” an event scheduled for September 25 at a historic site yet to be announced. Tickets will be sold to those looking to join the team in the investigation.
“We are excited to announce some amazing locations we have set up in the next couple of months,” Gregory added, inviting the public to follow his team for updates, locations and events on Facebook.
Among the recent locations visited by the crew is the abandoned Nix (formerly Community General) Hospital in Dilley, where local legends tell of spiritual activity related to the medical facility itself as well as the cemetery on the same site. The crew has also investigated paranormal activity at the VFW Hall and Old Mill in Devine, the onetime Pearsall Manor nursing home, ruins in D’Hanis, the Ironwood Saloon in Sabinal, and the Ozona Hotel.