Near the banks of Caddo Lake (aka The Big Cypress Swamp) is Jefferson, Texas. Jefferson is only a few miles from the Louisiana border.
The entire town of Jefferson seems to be rife with paranormal activity. Purportedly haunted are The Grove, The Excelsior Hotel, and The Oakwood Cemetery, to name a few. But one of the particular supernatural hot spots is The Jefferson Hotel. It is not only one of the most haunted hotels in Texas; it may well be one of the most haunted hotels in America.
History of the Jefferson Hotel
The Jefferson Hotel has offered lavish hospitality for over a hundred years, and its quaint early Victorian structure has stood for fifty more.
In the 1850s, Jefferson was one of the most developed cities in Texas, second only to Galveston, thanks to newly chartered steamboat routs along the bayou. For traders working along the Mississippi and its tributaries, Jefferson was the go-to destination. The goods could reach this westernmost port without being transferred from vessel to rail.
The building now known as the Jefferson Hotel was built in 1851 as a warehouse to support the exploding cotton industry.
No one knows for sure, but the Jefferson Hotel opened its doors as a hospitality center somewhere between early as 1870 or late 1900. Once opened, it also “dipped its toes” into a business every bit as lucrative as cotton, especially on its “ill-famed” second floor. To this day, a long veranda encircles that floor where the hotel’s good time girls once advertised their wares.
During the Prohibition era, the Jefferson Hotel became a roaring nightspot and speakeasy under “The Crystal Palace.”
The hotel’s ballroom, maintained with period furnishings, has born witness to many an evening of tipsy risk-takers gambling with their fortunes and couples dancing the night away to lively ragtime piano.
The property’s many ages and ownership changes have left subtle marks beneath the preserved period décor. Handwritten records overflow with guest sightings of at least five separate entities from beyond.
Ghosts of the Jefferson Hotel
Ghosts at the Jefferson are said to be mean or have a mischievous streak, as they are known to throw things at the guests and even lock them in their rooms. Following are a few interesting paranormal events reported through the years.
The Book of the Dead
Staff kept a “book of the dead” behind the front desk during its latter years of operation. Guests were encouraged to write down the details of any supernatural contact. The brave and curious were even permitted to check volumes of the book out for bedtime reading.
Following are some of the most reported encounters with the supernatural.
The Mill Children
While there are many reported specters of the Jefferson Hotel, some of the most commonly sighted are a pair of children of about seven years old, a boy in knee-length britches and a girl in a pinafore—believed to be casualties of the building’s days as a cotton warehouse. Still, despite their laborious lives and untimely deaths, they’re now some of the hotel’s most high-spirited inhabitants, often heard laughing and chasing each other through the halls.
Hold on to your keys and valuables in the vicinity of the Jefferson Hotel; the mill children love to play with small objects and pull pranks on guests, moving possessions around and turning lights on and off.
The Vanishing Man
Little is known or even suspected about who this man might be, but numerous reports have described a tall male figure in a long coat and high boots who comes and goes as he pleases. Though he makes no threatening moves, some guests have found him unsettlingly persistent, sitting or standing in their rooms throughout the night.
Whoever he is, he’s the hotel’s most solid and hard-to-miss apparition. Some guests have even reported following him down a hall, thinking him to be another living guest, only to watch him vanish as he turns into one of the rooms.
Room 19 is a particularly volatile hotspot of paranormal activity attributed to the anguished spirit of a teenage girl. Though records of the hotel’s history as a bordello are understandably spotty, the girl may have been a prostitute stabbed by a client and left to die slowly in the room’s bathtub.
She now appears in the mists of hot showers and leaves messages on room 19’s bathroom mirror. Sometimes the words seem to be warnings, other times pleas for help. People report seeing the name “Judy” among her scribbles, but it’s unclear whether she’s introducing herself or calling out to some long-gone friend or coworker for aid.
Libby in White
This beautiful young woman appears most often to male guests traveling alone. Guests recognize her by her bridal gown, golden hair, and feet that never touch the ground. Though seen all over the property, Libby mainly seems to haunt a specific bed rather than a location, following it around through multiple remodels.
Experts and staff members disagree on this spirit’s exact identity. However, the most likely suspects are an Elizabeth and a Lydia, who stayed in the hotel almost fifty years apart. Both women were jilted on their wedding days, both were likely pregnant at the time, and both subsequently hung themselves from the bed’s unusually tall headboard.
Libby and the bed have inhabited room 12, room 14, and even room 19 at different times. One can only hope that she and Judy have found some post-mortem comfort in each other’s company, whatever both their actual names may be.
Other reports of paranormal activity include knocking on the walls in the middle of the night, footsteps running down the hall, disembodied voices, and strange shadows.
If you cannot find a room at this extremely haunted (by all accounts) location, I suggest trying the Excelsior. It, too, is haunted. No matter where you end up in Jefferson, enjoy the history of this small Texas town.
Until next time,