The Ghost Tour in 2017 included a particularly interesting site, the old Sealy Rice Mill, a building that has been closed since the 1980s. The mill has been undergoing renovations, but is almost entirely original to its first use as a rice drying and processing facility.
Paranormal investigator Peter Haviland and psychic Diane Gremmel joined us to help explain the ghostly phenomena associated with the rice mill and other downtown buildings.
Following the tour in 2017, paranormal investigators studied the old rice mill and recorded voices as well as a paranormal image of a man walking past one of the windows. The image of a young girl has also been seen at the mill, and children have been overheard playing around the mill.
The Sealy Rice MillI was built in 1949 by Walter Virnau Sr. and his two half brothers, Ralph and John . Walter Virnau Sr. was born in Salzburg, Germany in 1898. His father was a tailor and they lived in a 5-story tenement building. His father died of pneumonia when he was five. After that it was very difficult for his mother to make a living and take care of her children. So, in 1904, his mother joined relatives in the United States. They traveled on a ship hauling cattle to the U.S . Walter Virnau Sr.'s son, Walter Jr., was a rice farmer and started the Sealy Tractor Company.
The mill was built by carpenters Frank Vykoukal and his son Raymond. The Vykoukals lived directly across the street.
The mill began producing milled rice in January, 1949. The Sealy Rice Mill was running 24 hours per day by December of 1949, with 30 employees and was producing 15,000 barrels of rice per day. The mill shipped rice to Germany and Cuba as well as around the United States. It was the only mill of its kind in the area.
They also constructed a rice storage facility across the street from the mill later in 1949. There were overhead conveyers that carried the rice across the street to the storage facility.
The mill produced bags of “Sealy Rice” and sold them locally. Recipes were printed on the bags. The mill produced “finished” or milled rice until the early 1960s and later was used primarily as a drying facility through the 1980s.