CISCO, Texas (BigCountryHomepage.com) – While you may have heard the story of the first Conrad Hilton Hotel being in Cisco, have you heard of its spooky inhabitant? As the legend goes, a young woman by the name of Irene will roam the corridors of the Conrad Hilton in her 1920s wedding dress. Have you seen her?
History of the Conrad Hilton Center
Tammy Loran, Former Mayor of Cisco and current Executive Director of the Cisco Chamber of Commerce and Conrad Hilton Center, sat down for an exclusive interview with Big Country Homepage (BCH), and even gave us a tour of the center.
Loran told BCH that after a bank-buying deal went south in 1919, Conrad Hilton came to the Mobley Hotel just for a room for the night.
“And instead of getting a room, he [Hilton] ended up buying the hotel for $40,000,” Loran said.
Hilton would come to refer to the first Hilton Hotel in Cisco as his ‘great lady.’
At some point, presumably in the mid to late 1920s, a married couple, Irene and Larry Waterbury, stayed for a short time at the Cisco Hilton.
“We somehow, here at the Conrad Hilton Center, acquired her [Irene’s] wedding dress that is upstairs.”
The legend of Irene
According to the Conrad N. Hilton Center, Irene White married Larry Waterbury in 1924 or 1925 at the age of 24. Raised in Carbon, Texas, she was the daughter of Carbon Bank’s president and Larry, the nephew of Eleanor Roosevelt. The couple met while Larry was involved in the oilfield. The newlyweds spent two weeks in the White House with President Calvin Coolidge, as part of their honeymoon.
Together, Irene and Larry had one son, Larry Waterbury Jr., best known as ‘Sonny.’
Irene would go on to write Abilene’s Meals on Wheels program, as well as start a daycare for the elderly program – also in Abilene.
The small family later moved on to San Marcos. When Sonny was 10 years old in 1953, Larry passed. Irene didn’t pass until 1993, at the age of 92.
So why is Irene at the Conrad Hilton Center today?
Some say it’s because she’s with her dress. The dress may bring her back to her happiest time with her love, Larry.
Paranormal experiences at the Conrad Hilton
“I think if we could hear these walls talk, we could hear a lot of ghost stories and things [that’ve] happened throughout the history of the Conrad Hilton Museum and Center,” Loran advised.
Loran told BCH she’s heard multiple reports of eerie goings on and tends to keep her distance where she can; “I try not to come up here at night by myself, and especially go upstairs in the museum itself.”
There have been reports of the elevator running on its own, mysterious music playing from the second story, lots of creaks and other eerie noises.
“She [previous Director of Conrad Hilton Center] said, ‘I was here one day by myself,’ and she said she heard some loud noise,” Loran relayed. “She went to check on it, couldn’t figure out what it was. She said it scared her really bad, that she packed up her things, called the board of directors and said, ‘I’m going home for the day!’ And that was my first true story that I’d heard that, y’know, we had some kind of activity.”
Loran also said some ghost hunters were able to record a ghostly presence on their equipment, and Irene had possibly identified herself.
The center said it looks at Irene as a friendly presence, “As long as she [Irene] doesn’t bother me, I usually don’t bother her!”
For the future of the Conrad Hilton Center, you may soon have the opportunity to get a sense of Irene’s presence yourself! In November, the center will ask for board approval to allow a guest room in the center. Much like a bed-and-breakfast, you’ll be able to stay overnight at the Conrad Hilton.
You can check out the Conrad Hilton Center at 309 Conrad Hilton Avenue in Cisco. Who knows, you might catch a glimpse of Irene! Admission is free and includes interesting exhibits, like the Santa Claus bank robbery of 1927.
Take a look around Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., or 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
“We need to share the space,” Loran added. “She was here first.”