NEW BRAUNFELS (AP) — They say she refused to leave her desk after she was voted out of office.
They say it took the sheriff and his deputies to forcibly evict her so the newly elected county clerk could start her term.
And now, they say, she’s back.
“That woman drives us nuts sometimes,” said Cynthia Jaqua, commissioners’ court recorder in the county clerk’s office. “There’s all kind of strange things that happen.”
Jaqua tells the story of how she had gone up to the attic to put away some papers and found the attic light on.
“I said, ’Somebody didn’t turn out the light.’ Then, bloop, the lights went out. I was nowhere near the light switch. Irene did it,” Jaqua said.
Irene, who the folks in the county clerk’s office refer to as “our ghost,” would be the late Irene Nuhn, who was the Comal County clerk as late as the early 1980s.
Current County Clerk Joy Streater isn’t sure it’s Irene that is haunting the office.
“But I definitely think we have a spirit,” Streater said.
Streater has seen strange things happening ever since she’s been in office.
“People will come in and computers are on that we know we turned off, stuff like that,” she said. “After dark, you hear creaks and groans and footsteps and everything else.”
Research analyst Kat Brown said workers sometimes notice the heights of their chairs have been readjusted overnight.
“It’s like someone’s been sitting there. Things on our desks are moved,” Brown said.
Jaqua, who no longer goes by herself up to the attic, believes Irene doesn’t like modernization. That’s why she messes with the computers. She also seems to resent the office’s records being tampered with.
Mike Johnson, land records coordinator, learned that first hand recently. He was making up hours, working late by himself.
Stacked on his desk was a pile of old, no-longer-used papers he was getting ready to toss.
“I was working on a project on the computer and the papers go flying off my desk. I said, ‘What the heck was that?’ I wasn’t anywhere near them,” Johnson said.
As Johnson was leaving the office that night, he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
“As I walked out, I hear somebody walking in the office. It was obviously a woman. It sounded almost like high heels clicking on the floor. I was the only one here, but I still checked behind me. I didn’t see anybody. But I still heard her walking.”
Johnson walked all the way to his car with his car keys sticking out between his fisted fingers, just in case he needed to protect himself.
Other workers say Irene, who wore heels when she was younger, had a walker in her latter days after she fell and broke her hip. That’s what Johnson heard clicking on the floor, they believe.
Kat Brown said that when Johnson came in the next day, “he was really terrified.”
But he worked late again.
“I could see something out of the corner of my eye. I could see movement, like somebody was walking across the office,” he said. “I got up and looked, and there was nobody there. I said, ‘I’m not even going to mess with this.’”
Streater said Mike had heard the stories and had always kind of pooh-poohed them. “But that next morning he said, ’I’m a believer.’ He’s a big burly man, but he told me he won’t be caught by himself in here after dark again.”
Irene seems to make her presence felt a lot, the workers say.
Joy said the county’s information technology director swears he saw Irene’s ghost wearing a pink dress and walking in the hallway outside his office. It scared him so bad that he put up a surveillance camera. “Now you round that corner, honey, you’re on camera.”
There’s even video tape, they say, of a deputy running away from an Irene sighting.
The deputy was escorting a judge out of the empty courthouse one evening after a session of court. The lights suddenly snapped on and off inside a restroom as they passed it.
“The deputy took off running,” Joy said.
“Irene almost scared the lights out of him,” said Mike.Vivian Nuhn, wife of A.D. Nuhn Jr., Irene’s son, said Irene died in 1990 at age 84.
“She loved her job. She made sure things were done the right way. She was very much an in-charge type of person,” Vivian said. “I can believe that she’d be haunting the courthouse.”