Houston author explores the ghosts of Galveston

“Phantom Agents” by Nita DeBorde

Photo: courtesy

A friend once told Nita DeBorde that the way to get to know a city was to take a ghost tour. It turned out to be just the boost his writing career needed.

The tour took place at Galveston’s Ashton Villa, the historic mansion that’s believed to be one of the most haunted spots in the island city, home to the raucous shadow of hardware/railway heiress Bettie Brown . She had to take that day off, though.

“We didn’t feel anything paranormal during the tour,” reports DeBorde, who has taught French at Deer Park High School for nearly 20 years. “And the guide kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry I don’t feel anything. Usually ghosts are really active.

DeBorde leaned over to a friend and joked, “He makes it look like the ghosts just didn’t show up for work today.” But the joke carried the seed of an idea. In the car after the visit they continued to talk about what it could be if ghosts were compelled to report to work.

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if there was someone who was responsible for coordinating the ghost activity? “Says DeBorde. “You want people to think it’s haunted so they’ll come visit, but you don’t want it to be too haunted because that would scare them away. So what if there’s someone who’s like, ‘Okay, you didn’t make an appearance last night, so make an appearance tonight’; or “You made an appearance last night, don’t overdo it tonight.”

His response was the Bureau for Historical Preservation, a century-old private organization created to help those who have passed into the afterlife. DeBorde described ghosts not so much as tormented souls as so-called “energy projections”, remnants of the innate electrical fields of their mortal owners. Only some people are electric enough to cross the threshold of projection, but those who do are essential to keeping the history of certain places (almost literally) alive.

Conversely, some people are much more able to feel and even interact with these projections than others. One is Claire Abelard, the heroine of DeBorde’s novel, “Ghost Agents,” which she self-published last summer. A junior office worker stationed in Galveston, Claire is descended from one of her founding families; his father and brother are a little higher in the hierarchy. DeBorde says the island’s spooky graveyards, shady docks and drafty Victorian buildings made it an ideal setting for a ghost story, though screenings of his book tend to come up with the term “ghost.” degrading.

“I’ve always loved Galveston,” DeBorde said. “Even people who live here in the Houston area don’t really know all of Galveston’s history. It’s just the beach you go to if you can’t go to another beach. I love the Strand, I love the Victorian architecture, the old Victorian houses. I just really wanted to introduce people to the history of Galveston.

“Ghost Agents” opens with an appearance from Bettie Brown, who is slightly more accommodating than the night of DeBorde’s tour. (Note: Ashton Villa, owned and operated by the Galveston Historical Foundation, does not currently offer public, ghost or other tours.) To cover her office business, Claire works at a tourist candy store on the Strand that looks suspiciously like La Kings. The spectral pirate Jean Lafitte and the famous “ghost bride” of the Hotel Galvez also play key roles.

The plot of ‘Ghost Agents’ builds on Claire’s efforts to discover why several of Galveston’s ‘thugs’ – projections who for some reason chose not to register with the office – disappeared. . As she faces unruly screenings, a team of bossy ghost hunters who host an online program, a fellow agent with an inexplicable bias against thieves, and an older kind man who knows more than he says, Claire discovers secrets that shake her world to the foundations – and discovers a new inner strength.

“I know there are a lot of TV shows and movies with female lead characters who make really stupid decisions,” DeBorde says. “They’re not really stimulating, they’re just kind of silly. So I really wanted Claire to be someone who kind of finds herself thrown into this situation that she’s passionate about and feels like she has to do something about it.

DeBorde released the sequel, “Ghost Agents: Revelations,” last March. Here, Claire travels to Boston, home of the bureau’s American branch, and New Orleans as what was hinted at in the first book becomes apparent: a sinister organization known as The Syndicate has emerged, with diabolical conceptions about humanity and projections. look alike. The saga continues in the final episode of the trilogy, “Ghost Agents: Retribution”, which follows Claire and her colleagues to the bureau’s global headquarters in Paris.

“Of course, being a French teacher, I always knew I wanted to finish in Paris,” smiles DeBorde.

DeBorde’s books are available on Amazon. She hopes to release “Retribution” by Halloween. (“Even though my ghosts aren’t really ghost-ghosts, they’re still ghosts,” she explains.) She’s been in contact with literary agents and has received a lot of positive feedback, she says, but hasn’t found all the takers yet: Marketing his books could be difficult, they told him, because they straddle multiple genres: supernatural, science fiction, intimate mystery (a relatively light subset of the genre), even romance.

Not that it slowed her down. DeBorde is also working on a spin-off series as well as a collection of related short stories. In “Ghost Agents: Lone Star”, Claire’s boss at the office investigates strange facts at the San Jacinto Monument and other historic sites in the state. For someone who once put writing aside as her teaching career took root, doing things on her own terms seems to suit her just fine.

“Right now I’m looking at how to write a screenplay,” DeBorde says. “I wouldn’t have that option if I had an editor; I would be at their mercy. There are definitely some good things about it.

Lola R. McClure