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(This story is part of The Picayune’s “Haunted Highland Lakes” series in October. Pick up the Oct. 29 edition of The Picayune — always free — to read the next story. See previous stories on the “Chainsaw House” in Kingsland, Dead Man’s Hole in Burnet County and “Stretch,” who haunts Old Oak Square in Marble Falls.)

JARED FIELDS • PICAYUNE STAFF

LLANO — Stan Venable knew the stories, and the history, of the Badu House when he bought it in 2010.

The building, located at 601 Bessemer Ave., was built in 1891 as the First National Bank of Llano. The bank failed by 1894, and N.J. Badu bought it in 1898. He lived there until his death in 1936, and his family owned it until 1980. Badu, born in Nancy, France, was a mineralogist who also taught school at one time and managed hotels in Dallas and Austin before coming to Llano.

Some said longtime owner Nicholas J. Badu never left. Items reportedly flew off shelves in the kitchen. Strange things were reported in the bar area.

The house was built in 1891 as the First National Bank of Llano.
The house was built in 1891 as the First National Bank of Llano.

Others said a subsequent owner also decided to stick around the establishment.

But the stories about the upstairs rooms, Nos. 3 and 6 especially, were the most interesting.

One passed down tells of a couple staying there in the 1990s who went to breakfast one morning. Looking back toward their room as they walked across the street, they saw a little blonde girl staring out the window from their room.

When they asked, the desk attendant told the couple no little girl was at the hotel.

Venable said he doesn’t believe a high percentage of the stories about his bed-and-breakfast. However, there are enough tales that some can’t be ignored.

Stairs lead up to guest rooms at the Badu House.
Stairs lead up to guest rooms at the Badu House.

“It’s not all from the same people and not from the same time frame. It’s scattered over the years,” he said.

His own stories are the hardest to ignore.

One afternoon after purchasing the Badu House, Venable and a friend were working underneath the building on a walk-in freezer. A female voice could be heard. At first, Venable thought it was his wife, Karalina, but he couldn’t make out the words.

Then he and his friend both heard it: a girl’s voice.

Others through the years have heard her voice, too. But few see physical evidence of the presence of anything.

Upstairs, Venable was working on a wine storage room for the pub in room No. 6. As he and the workers built the pine shelving, sawdust accumulated on everything. Lunch time came, and everyone left to grab some food.

“A hand print, a tiny hand print, was on one of the boards in sawdust,” Venable said.

When you own a 120-plus-year-old building, you get over unexplained occurrences such as tiny handprints and go back to work.

Guests at the bed-and-breakfast have reported a presence in their rooms, being touched or having clothes and bedsheets tugged. Kitchen staff report a number of happenings through the years.

“You hear that the kitchen is very haunted, the bar is haunted,” Venable said. “This is a nearly 130-year-old building. It’s very drafty. Stuff will fall off the shelves.”

Venable’s wife, Karalina, has a story of her own. The couple sort of adopted a young black cat that came up to them after he purchased the building. During the winter, Stan Venable would put the cat in an upstairs room not being used on cold nights with a litter box, water, food and a small night light.

“Sometimes, she would follow you back to the door and meow. Sometimes, she would follow you back and just scream,” he said.

The cat’s nose and paws could be seen under the inch-and-a-half gap between the frame and the floor with the dim light backlighting the cat.

“One night in January, Karalina was taking her up there, and (the cat) was squalling so loudly. Halfway down the stairwell, if you look to the left, it’s at floor-level, she glances over and sees the cat, it’s feet and nose, and it’s screaming,” Venable said. “A shadow goes right to- left behind the cat, obscuring the light as it passes.

“I’m not sure how to argue that. Now I think there was a reason the cat was squalling,” Venable said.

The pub and the bed-and-breakfast keep the building filled with people. Venable’s daughter, Taylor, is a chef there. Whatever it is they’re doing, Venable said it’s quieted the unexplained occurrences in the past three years.

“The ghosts here are very happy with us; they don’t give us any trouble,” he said.

jared@thepicayune.com