My nine-year-old son Ben and I recently went on a ghost hunting trip to the historic square in Granbury, Texas. If you missed part one of this story, you can read it here, where I wrote about our favorite stop, the Old Jail and Museum.
A close second was the Nuttshell Eatery and Bakery.
Built in 1885, the Nuttshell Eatery is one of the oldest buildings on the square, and it’s also the oldest restaurant in Granbury. Since it was already getting hot, I ordered a peach iced tea, and Ben got a strawberry ice cream on a waffle cone.
The Nuttshell Eatery sits next door to the Granbury Opera House, and their stories overlap.
A few years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, an actor named John St. Helen showed up in Granbury. He performed at the Opera House, and he worked as a bartender next door in what is now the Nuttshell Eatery, where he also lived upstairs in a bed and breakfast. John St. Helen apparently had a few things in common with Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
According to Tui Snider’s book, Paranormal Texas:
“Like Booth, St. Helen walked with a limp, was an accomplished actor, and liked to quote lengthy passages of Shakespeare. People also noticed that St. Helen was skittish around law enforcement and rarely drank, with one big exception: each year on April 14, the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, St. Helen drank himself into a stupor.”
St. Helen got sick and believed that he was dying, so he called his friends in and told them that he was John Wilkes Booth, confessed to the assassination of the President, and even told them where he hid the gun he used. St. Helen recovered a few days later and left town, but his friends found the gun where he said it was, wrapped in newspaper articles about the President’s assassination.
I spoke with a lovely lady named Miranda at the Granbury Opera House. She said that she’s never had encounters with ghosts, but some of her co-workers believe they have.
According to a Texas Highways article, the Discovery Channel’s paranormal team investigated the Opera House in 2009 and recorded a voice claiming to be Booth. There is also a John Wilkes Booth chair in the theatre which sometimes folds down, as if someone is sitting in it, on its own.
On the wall of the Nutshell eatery is a large mural. Among other people depicted in the painting is John St. Helen, tending bar, with a blond woman in a red dress at the end of the bar. The “woman in red” has been captured in photographs coming down the stairs in the diner. Maybe she was visiting St. Helen in his room? Although Ben and I ate upstairs, St. Helen’s old living space is chained off with an “employees only” sign. We did see a blond woman in red, but she turned out to be a college student who was there for ice cream. Or was she?
I asked the cute, pigtailed and tattooed girl working in the bakery if she had any ghost stories. Only one, she said. One night while they were working late, a small bag of potato chips flew across the aisle and hit another woman who worked there. It was scary, but also funny. Apparently, the Nutshell ghosts are friendly pranksters. While the artist was painting the mural in the 90’s, her brushes kept coming up missing.
Just as I said about the jail, we didn’t see any ghosts, but I could imagine the Nutshell Bakery a place where they’d like to stay. And I’d like to go back, both for the atmosphere and the food.
Nutshell Eatery & Bakery
137 E Pearl St
Granbury, Texas 76048