Houston, Texas is known for many. It is dubbed as the world capital or air conditioning, world capital of capital punishment, world capital of the international energy industry, world capital of petroleum exploration and world capital of space exploration. It is also the fourth most populous city in the United States behind New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Downtown Houston. (Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downtown_Houston)
Houston being an advanced city, visitors can enjoy visiting amazing places like the Museum of Fine Arts, the Space Center Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Children’s Museum Houston, and many more.
People also like visiting Houston Zoo but many do not know that this actually has a resident ghost.
The History Of Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo is a zoological park that is 55 acres located within the Hermann Park in Houston. The zoo has over 5,800 animals and it receives more than two million visitors annually.
The U.S. Government brought an excess bison from the bison herds to the City of Houston in 1920. The lone bison, given the name Earl, was house at the Sam Houston Park. Later, a deer was donated to be Earl’s companion and that was when the population at the park doubled.
An old photo of Houston Zoo. (Link: https://www.chron.com/)
Two years later, the Houston Zoo was established. More animals like birds and monkeys were added to the zoo’s growing population. Most of the animals were donated by citizens who owned exotic pets and could no longer take care of them. Some were circus animals.
In 1923, they hired a zoo keeper named Hans Nagel as he was identified to be the most capable to handle the job. In 1924, more animals were bought to be kept in the zoo. In 1924, the zoo expanded to 30 acres and the city spent a total of $10,000 for all the animals acquired.
Today, there are around 55 landscaped acres as the home of over 5, 800 different animals. They have an African Forest where a zebra, a White rhinoceros, a Red River hog, a giraffe, an ostrich, a chimpanzee, and a gorilla can be spotted. The Houston Zoo also has the McNair Asian Elephant habitat, an area where the largest collections of different bird species are housed, an area for carnivores like the American black bear, African wild hog, leopard, Malayan tiger, and more live, and many more.
The Resident Ghost Of Houston Zoo
The resident ghost of Houston Zoo is believed to be its first keeper, Hans Nagel. Nagel, a German-born, was very popular to the media because of his wild antics with the animals at the zoo. He would even have big cat demonstrations for the visitors to see. One of the former zoo keepers shared, “In some of the old pictures you could see, he goes in with a chair, a whip and big pole and basically puts the cat through its paces … and people loved it.”
Hans Nagel with one of the big cats at Houston Zoo. (Link: https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Is-Houston-Zoo-haunted-by-ghost-of-a-zookeeper-5853053.php)
He was also known for being heroic. He once saw faced prowlers breaking into the zoo one evening. What he did was he chased them while he fired shots into the air. He also rescued a visitor from the Bengal tiger named El Tex. The animal lunched at the visitor after the latter entered the enclosure while carrying a trained rat in his pocket. Nagel had to shoot the animal to save the visitor. Because of this, he received an award from the City of Houston.
Hans Nagel riding a zebra. (Link: https://www.click2houston.com/features/2020/10/10/did-you-know-the-houston-zoo-has-its-own-resident-ghost/)
Nagel also administered first aid to a biology student who was extracting venom from the poisonous snakes at the zoo. The student, however, pricked himself with the hypodermic needle and began exhibiting symptoms. Nagel saved that person, too.
Hans Nagel in an undated photo holding one of the animals at the Houston Zoo. (Link: https://houmuse.org/the-untold-museum-district-part-iv/)
However, not all the citizens of Texas loved him. He reportedly had ongoing arguments with the Houston Police Department officers. In 1941, it was actually what caused Nagel’s death. According to reports, he had a confrontation with one officer named Warren and the famous zoo keeper resisted arrest. One of the former zoo keepers continued to reveal, “According to one of the depositions, Hans steps back and reaches down for his sidearm. He never gets it out of his holster. Warren pulls his service revolver and empties his weapon into Hans Nagel. He shoots him six times. Done. Hans falls over, he’s dead at the scene.”
The officer was charged with the death of Nagel. He was later acquitted by a grand jury on the ground of self-defense. What happened during the confrontation is believed to be in relation with Nagel doing the supposed job of the officers. The officers were tasked to roam around the zoo at night, but Nagel keeps on doing the same thing and is the one busting people trying to get into the zoo or capturing animals that have escaped.
Nagel was actually a special police officer as he was given a commission by the Houston Police Department but this was taken from him because of the complaints of the other officers. The officers claimed Nagel was abusing the power given to him. It is believed that this was the reason why Nagel had a rift with the officers in the area. A Houston Zoo staffer shared, “Whether the revocation of the commission was the source of his conflict with the park patrol officers, the dispute festered for years and finally boiled over on a quiet Monday afternoon in November 1941 when Nagel confronted a park police officer who had spotted him behind a hedge in the park observing three teenagers in a parked car.”
The officer who killed Nagel reportedly wanted to take the zoo keeper in so they can discuss the matter and that was when the zoo keeper resisted and got killed.
The area where Nagel died is the same area where the commissary building stands today. The commissary building has the kitchen and the warehouse where the employees prepare zoo diets hours before sunrise. Accordingly, this is where most of Nagel’s activities can be felt.
Houston Zoo as seen from the outside. (Link: https://www.houstonzoo.org/)
Zoo worker Phyllis Pietrucha-Mays, who has been working at the Houston Zoo, shared that before the building was put up, there were no paranormal experiences. Pietrucha-Mays said that she is usually the first one in the commissary building as she arrives around 3:30 A.M. She shared, “You hear a lot of activity in cooler E. (It) sounds like pots and pans, somebody trying to put two things together, making lots of noise.”
Pietrucha-Mays also said that she usually keeps the lights out when she is at the commissary building on her own. One time, she saw a smaller guy leaning against the doorway looking at her. When she looked again, the person was gone. She believes that was Nagel. There was also one time when she was cleaning the dishes, cooking, and cleaning when someone touched her shoulder. She looked and there was nobody behind her. She also did not hear anyone come in through the door.
Pietrucha-Mays also shared about the time the pallet went missing. She said, “Feed comes on pallets, it’s usually 50 bags on a pallet. So we use a forklift, get underneath the pallet so we don’t break any bags. The next morning when we came to look in the cooler, the pallet was missing. Sort of like when a magician takes the table cloth off of the table and all the plates and everything stays there. It was like somebody had taken the pallet off and just disappeared.”
Many zoo staff also does not like certain spots at the commissary building. For one, they do not like the back door. Pietrucha-Mays said the area has a lot of negative force. Others hear his voice although it’s no louder than a whisper.