Do you believe in ghosts? As Halloween approaches and all the haunted attractions to visit in the area may give you pause to wonder…Nah, it’s just fun and gimmicks BUT did you know…
The Natatorium, presently known as “The Nat” located at 6th & Georgia on Old Route 66 is known by locals to house some spirits of a long-ago era. “Natatorium” is an old-fashioned word for indoor swimming pool which is what this building was when it first opened its doors in July 1922 before being purchased by J.D. Tucker in 1926. Mr. Tucker covered up the pool with a wooden dance floor which became popular with the flappers of the roaring 20’s and became known as the Nat Ballroom.
As the Depression brought hard times to the nation, neither was the Nat spared this hardship. The business was purchased by Harry Badger in the early 30’s who added the castle-like facade and the Nat Cafe, and it was renamed The Nat Dine and Dance Palace.
Back in the day, the Nat would draw some pretty big name entertainers such as Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison, and Buddy Holly and the Crickets, just to name a few. It once employed a staff of 52 people to help bring in these big bands and cater to its many happy customers.
Nowadays, after its renovation into an Antique Mall, new owners and guests are said to experience cold spots upon entering upstairs rooms, which was once utilized as a gambling hall. It’s not unheard of to come in and find that the furniture has been rearranged, and on other occasions, you might hear strange noises when no one is there. Another phenomenon, according to one psychic, is that there is a female apparition that was said to have spent many hours in the gambling hall and who sometimes returns for a visit wearing a white dress with a red stain on the bodice. Legend has it that the lady was having a grand time one evening when another patron spilled a glass of red wine down her dress.
The ballroom floor is still a favorite hunting ground for the spirits as a ghostly couple can often be seen gliding along the hardwood floors. In 1996, an all-night ghost investigation resulted in many difficulties with cameras and tape recorders as they would mysteriously shut themselves off. However, they did obtain a voice recording of a drum solo playing in the background and sounds of a woman singing.
Apparently, the spirits are still reluctant to leave, as according to the legend, on the outside wall of the building, first painted over in 1942, and several times since then, the words “Monty McGee and His Orchestra” continue to bleed through time and time again.
Still not a believer? Check it out for yourself as the Nat is still in operation as an Antique Mall. Even if you don’t experience any ghostly encounters, at least you can say you’ve visited a Texas Historical Landmark on Old Route 66.