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The 13th Street Morgue actually was built in an abandoned barn in Red Oak,TX

The story of the morgue, its strange legends and tales, date all the way back to 1915, when a man named James Sharp built his house in the then remote city of Red Oak. James Sharp was a prominent Texas oil pioneer and banker who was partnered with Howard Hughes Sr. in the famed Sharp-Hughes Tool Company. The manor was actually the second house on the property, the first one, made of wood, was hit by lightning in 1915, and killed at least two men inside. After the first house burned, James decided to build a new house on the same spot.  It was actually an exact replica of his then current residence in Oak Cliff, a stately red brick manor house, virtually fireproof, and even after all these years, both the house in Red Oak and Oak Cliff are still standing. Before the completion of the second house in Red Oak, James was found dead in his home in Oak Cliff, shot just behind his left ear. Speculation says he was shot by his jealous mistress, though suicide seemed to be a far more likely option.

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Official cause of death.....the loss of two to three ounces of brain matter, according to his death certificate. The property in Red Oak was then passed down to James' son, Matt, who not only completed the house but between 1920 and 1928, built three barns, a pump house, generator house and coach house. All of these would help accommodate the raising and breeding of race horses, which he did very successfully for several years. Matt lived on the property with his wife during that time until tragedy once again struck, just after the great depression in 1929. Matt's wife was found in the house, poisoned in the dining room while he was found hanging in one of the three barns. It's assumed that he did the poisoning and then hung himself, but with no witness, its really anyone's guess as to what might have happened. Some have speculated that it was a suicide pact, or she forced him at gun point to commit suicide and poisoned herself later. Other stories abound as well, that Matt was a womanizer, a heavy drinker and abusive, though there is no actual evidence of these claims. The most far fetched, but entertaining of these claims told by local residents is that Matt Sharp had a mistress in addition to his wife, and when the two discovered each other, they joined forces in a jealous rage, killed Matt, cut up his body and hid it in the attic. Far fetched maybe, but indeed well within the realm of possibility.

This my friends, is where the Morgue comes in.

 In the year of Matt's death a man named Jonathon Maybrick leased one of the barns for his residence and funeral parlor, which he named the "13th Street Morgue" while at his first address in Alvarado, TX. He selected the largest of the three. While no one knows for certain, it stands to reason that he leased that particular building because he might have gotten it cheap, the stigmata of a building that someone committed suicide in is hard to ignore in a small town. It was and still is tall and imposing, constructed of the same red Ferris brand brick the manor house was built with, with windows that face East to view the rising sun. He turned the South part of the barn into storage for the hearse, converted the North section into a home and turned the second story over the center section into the funeral parlor and embalming facility. It does seem strange at first glance to put a funeral home on the second floor, but logistically it made the most sense since the North and South ends of the building were simply too small to accommodate the funeral parlor's needs. Though the construction budget was not sizable, Jonathon was able to turn the former hay barn into a state of the art embalming facility including a Turner Port-A-Boy embalming machine which still exists to this day. It also had the only crematory in the area, something quite revolutionary in those days, though much more common today. The land to the West of the building was used to bury people to poor to afford a plot in the city cemetery and there are still sizable tax discounts on the property for using some of the land for charity, though these tax breaks benefited the property owners more than the renters. Most of the stones in the graveyard are blank, if they ever had an inscription it has long since worn away, and most are cast of simple concrete. As of this date, no one has found any records of who might be buried there so it's really anyone's guess, but the locals who remember have stated it was graves for the poor or unclaimed and that a vast majority of the burials associated with the 13th Street Morgue actually took place at the regular city cemetery.

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An old photo of the barn, date un-known. The wooden door on the far left is the entrance to the hearse storage. You can clearly see two of the three windows that look into the funeral home section of the building.

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The Maybrick Children

The Maybrick Family, Spring 1929.

The Maybrick's did very well  in their new business. The next nearest funeral facility this well equipped was all the way down in Waxahachie, so Jonathon's demographic was fairly large and wide spread, both geographically and socially.  He even did the funerals of the Governors' mother in law, and nephew. His most well known and notorious funeral was of a criminal who incidentally shot Ms. Abigail Helm. She was the 16 year old daughter of a farmer, Alfred Helm, a widower who religiously kept his 3 children indoors, and never saw much activity. Alfred had sent Abigail to the bank one afternoon however, and in a strange twist of fate, that happened to be the same day that the bank was robbed. The perpetrator shot and killed both the bank teller and Abigail, for seemingly no reason, though it was suspected that the teller had resisted the robbers attempt. The shooter's name was Raymond Reynolds, an out of work railroad employee. As he tried to flee, Raymond was shot dead by the towns only police officer. His death certificate showed him to be 38 years old.

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The Helm House as it appeared in April '04. It's very much run down but still standing.

Two days after the shootings, Raymond Reynolds' mother came to the 13th Street Morgue to arrange the funeral for her son. Jonathon at first refused, organizing and carrying out the funeral of a murderer was sure to have its negative repercussions, even in the largest of cities, much less a small town such as this. But, due to the mothers pleading and promising to keep the profile low and the sheer fact that he needed the money, Jonathon agreed. But, even with their best efforts to thwart it, the worst of news travels the fastest, and it wasn't long before the rumors began to circulate about the Reynold's funeral.

And this, ladies and gentleman, is where the story takes a dramatic twist.

Alfred Helm was not pleased to hear the news that the murderer of his child was getting a nice funeral, while he had to lay his slain daughter to rest on his own land with his own shovel. Jonathon was concerned he might show up at the funeral and cause a scene, but the day of the funeral, all was quiet.

A few weeks passed, and the Reynolds funeral was making its way to the back of most people minds. It was Christmas time, and despite being financially destitute, most people were determined to enjoy the holidays.

 All but Alfred Helm.

 In the earliest part of the morning, at 1am, on December 13th, Alfred cut the phone line and broke into the 13th Street Morgue, dressed as Santa Claus to fool the children if they awoke. As it turns out, no one awoke that sunrise. Alfred had strangled both of the small Maybrick children, Jonathon's wife, and finally Jonathon himself. After his grim business was finished, he set himself in a chair in the Maybrick's living room and shot himself in the chest. The police found a note that simply read verbatim, "please watch after my children they are the product of an unholy mind"

Jonathon and his family were laid to rest in the graveyard out front of their home, and Alfred's body was reluctantly picked up by his younger brother, and buried in Tulsa.

Thus should end our story......

However, it does not.

 The barn still stands as tall and as stately as ever.  It has never been rented or purchased, though the deed to the property has been made available for purchase by many of the distant relatives who have held it. Most all of the Maybrick's house still remains, as well as Jonathon's former embalming shop. Even the horse drawn hearse is still there to this day. No one lives there, though the spirits of the long dead still haunt the halls of the former mortuary and the cemetery outside. The most chilling of these is the transparent specter of a man seen in the barns mid section, with his feet not touching the ground.  The building has been investigated by two reliable paranormal investigators and it is indeed deemed to be the 2nd most haunted place in Texas, 2nd only to the legendary Baker  Hotel  in Mineral Wells. But even these seasoned ghost hunters, will not venture in after sunset......

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