Thursday, June 3, 2021

Ep. 388 - The Jefferson Hotel

Moment in Oddity - Erfurt Latrine Disaster (Suggested by: Victoria Howard)

Erfurt is the capital of Germany's state of Thuringia. It is known for its well preserved medieval city centers. There is something else it is known for, the Erfurt Latrine Disaster. There was a feud between Louis III, Landgrave of Thuringia and Archbishop Conrad of Mainz that intensified in 1184. The Archbishop started building a castle near the border of Thuringia and Louis III saw it as a provocation. At the same time, King Henry VI was conducting a campaign against Poland. He had heard about the other conflict and decided that he needed to mediate a stop to the issue. He was staying in Erfurt and called for a diet between the men. He also invited several other nobles to help with the negotiations. The diet took place on July 26, 1184 on the upper floor of the rectory at the church of St. Peter's monastery. This was a really old building. More than one hundred men gathered on that floor and the beams began to creak beneath them. They were partially rotted and soon the upper floor fell through to the floor beneath, which also gave way. Beneath the monastery was a large bathroom with many latrines that emptied into a septic tank below that was really just a large pool full of fecal matter. The group fell through the second floor onto the latrines, which easily gave way to the pool below. Sixty people were killed in the tragedy with most drowning in the tons of excrement that had accumulated over the years. The Archbishop, Louis III and King Henry VI all managed to survive. Drowning in a pool of poo is not only completely disgusting, it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Cole Porter Born

In the month of June, on the 9th, in 1893, composer and lyricist Cole Porter was born. He was born to a wealthy family in Peru, Indiana. Porter loved music and his mother helped him pursue it. He wrote his first operetta with her help at the age of ten and at that point he had already learned the violin and the piano. His rich grandfather paid for his schooling, which took him all the way to Yale where he became president of the Yale Glee Club. Porter would write 300 songs while at Yale, much to his grandfather's displeasure. Granddad wanted him to become a lawyer. He moved to Paris during World War I where he hosted scandalous parties with recreational drugs, cross-dressing and gay frivolity. He married a rich American divorcee while in Paris and the couple would remain devoted to each other from their marriage in 1919 until her death in 1954. It was a marriage that worked for both of them, providing him cover for his homosexuality and it gave her social standing and a best friend. Porter's Broadway career began in 1928 when five of his songs were used in the musical Let's Do It. His most successful musical was Kiss Me Kate in 1948, which won a Tony for Best Musical. Porter died of kidney failure in 1964 and was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Peru, Indiana. What's your favorite Cole Porter song? Mine is "Everytime We Say Good-bye."

The Jefferson Hotel (Suggested by: Sandra Parr Latham)

The Jefferson Hotel, named for the city of Jefferson in Texas, has a fun history that continues on into today. From beginnings as a cotton warehouse to a speakeasy with women plying their trade to a gambling and dancing hub to a hotel full of uniquely named rooms and interesting antiques, this hotel has seen it all. And now it plays host to a variety of ghosts. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Jefferson Hotel! 

Jefferson, Texas is a really haunted city. At least that is its claim. That's not hard to believe when visiting its historic hotels. Two of the most haunted ones in the city sit right across from each other. The name of the city is, of course, for Thomas Jefferson. The city was founded in 1842 by Allen Urquhart on land ceded from the Caddo Tribe. The town would become a riverboat town for an unusual reason. The Red River Raft was a log jam that stretched for over 100 miles on the Red River and it raised the level of that river as well as the Big Cypress Bayou near Jefferson. This made it possible for riverboats to travel from St. Louis, Missouri and New Orleans, Louisiana to Jefferson. That lasted until the Army Corps of Engineers blew it loose with nitroglycerin in 1873. And the riverboat days died. Before this, Jefferson had been the sixth largest city in Texas with a population that peaked at 30,000. After the loss of port city status, it had dropped to 3,000. Jefferson was the county seat of Marion and this county voted for secession prior to the Civil War. Many of the men went off to fight. The Texas and Pacific Railway was built and bypassed Jefferson in the 1870s and its glory days were officially put behind it. 

It was also during the late 1870s that the town got some attention because of a sensational murder trial. Abraham Rothschild was facing murder charges in the death of Diamond Bessie Moore. Moore was a working girl from New York who had made her way to Jefferson through New Orleans. She arrived in town with Rothschild on her arm and the two claimed to be a married couple although that was not the case. The two had met each other in Hot Springs and began traveling together. Moore was soon found murdered in the woods near Jefferson. The trial was intense and made news around the country. Rothschild was eventually found not guilty after first being found guilty and sentenced to die. He won on appeal and the murder has never been solved. But I think we can guess what happened here by a few of the details. Rothschild bought two lunches for a picnic near Big Cypress Creek and the couple disappeared into the fog there. Rothschild returned to town alone and when asked about his wife, he said she was in the country visiting friends. When Moore's body was found, there were the remnants of a picnic nearby. She had a gunshot wound to the head. Diane found this fun clip in the newspaper about Rothschild:

The Historic Jefferson Hotel is located at 124 W Austin Street in Jefferson, Texas and just came under new ownership with a grand reopening in October of 2020 after major renovations. Those new owners are Jeromy and Pam Jones. The Jones are so cool! They embrace the ghost stories and here are some of their themed rooms: the Egyptian room which contains two actual antique Egyptian sarcophagi, a doll room, a nautical room, a train room, the Pride House room, the Bridal Suite, the Honeymoon suite, a carnival room, Bigfoot room, and a mask/Mardi Gras room. They have filled the hotel with antiques, many of them very unique. A few include a rare antique cash register, 150 year old Sun chair, movie props, a faberge egg, antique coffin fans and an antique phone booth that has been wired with a camera that is in the upstairs hallway so that guests can watch people up there and scare them by talking to them. And they own a company that runs out of the hotel called “Paranologies,”which combines the paranormal with technology.

The Cotton Industry really exploded in the 1850s and with the ease of shipping out of Jefferson, a cotton warehouse was needed. That building would eventually become the Jefferson Hotel when the shipping industry was crushed by the destroyed log jam. This obviously took a lot of renovating to turn the warehouse into a hotel and long verandas were built around the second floor of the building. Most of the histories we read had this change coming in the 1870s, which would coincide with the port failure. The real question is when was this a hotel and when was it a brothel? The ladies here were called Good Time Girls and they advertised their wares from the veranda. As the country moved into Prohibition, the Jefferson Hotel kept its wayward ways and opened a speakeasy they called The Crystal Palace. Ragtime tunes were pounded out in the ballroom while couples danced and gamblers tried their hands at cards.

From that point up until 2020 with our new owners, we don't know much about the ownership. We can guarantee based on the reviews we've read from recent visits, this is a hotel perfect for the Crew. There are fun old and odd things to observe and plenty of spirits. Like so many other old homes and hotels, cigar smoke is smelled here and, of course, the hotel is smoke-free. Mysterious knocks are heard on the walls and headboards. Water turns itself on and off in the rooms. And there are the typical issues with the doors locking and unlocking themselves. Guests and employees all report experiences. 

Michael was a former desk clerk and he became so terrified one night that he ran out of the hotel. And when you hear what happened to him, you will not blame him. Michael was responsible for locking up. He was locking up the last area, which was a longer, dark hallway. Just as he locked the last door, all of the doors in the hallway started slamming open and closed. These were doors that he had already locked. Things got worse. The lights started flashing on and off. There was more! The sounds of furniture dragging started coming from the rooms and then he heard disembodied footsteps. That was enough for him and he ran outside to wait for his ride. We'd love to know if the doors were locked again in the morning.

Former manager Alicia Montgomery told the news-journal, "I was a pretty big skeptic when I first came along. I know there are things that are unexplainable that happen in the hotel. I've been the only one at the hotel, with no employees and no guests, and the front switchboards on the front desk light up like rooms are talking to each other. Dishes have been moving; I haven't seen them, but you hear them clinking. Our pay phone in the hall rings. Televisions are turned on and off. I've seen things fall with no one around them. Things happen all the time."

One of the named spirits here is The Vanishing Man. This is a tall man dressed in high boots and a long coat. The main place he is seen is Room 5 and he was first seen by a child. He is the most reliable ghost, showing up in several rooms where he either just stands around or sits for a spot. Some guests have seen him walking in the hallway and assume that he is a guest until he disappears through a door or wall. Other really well known specters here are the Mill Children. One child appears as a girl aged around seven wearing a pinafore, which is sometimes called a pinny. These are those aprons that are worn over dresses that have holes for the arms and an open back. The other is a boy about the same age who wears knee length britches. No one knows for sure their origin, but they probably didn't die here when it was a hotel, so they more than likely worked in the cotton warehouse and died in some kind of industrial accident. They are highly "spirited" and heard laughing in the hallways and they love to chase each other into rooms. They are pranksters who like to steal items as well. They really like keys. They love pennies and marbles, so if you are investigating, make sure to bring some of those with you. They also will turn the lights on and off.  

Jodi Breckenridge is the former manager of the Jefferson Hotel and current operator of Historical Jefferson Ghost Tours and she says of the children ghosts, "When people tell me that they've seen them, I'll ask before I say anything, 'What do they look like?' 'What are they wearing?' Just to compare stories to see if everyone is seeing the same thing. It's always a little girl and little boy, 7 to 8 years old. They always describe her as wearing the pinafore, white leotard and black high-top button boots. They say he has on knee britches. It's not fancy clothes; it's just what children would be wearing everyday." Housekeeper Denise Garza said of the children ghosts, "You can turn off a light, and it will turn on again when you walk away, but when you walk back to turn it off, it will switch off by itself. (But) they'll behave when I tell them to. Sometimes I'll just say, 'All right children, enough is enough,' and they'll stop."

A couple passing Room 12 noticed that they could see light coming from under the door and they noticed what appeared to be a shadow passing though the light. They were unnerved as they knew they were the only people staying in the hotel that night. The apparition of a thin woman with blonde hair has been seen in Room 12 many times. A man staying in that room felt a caressing up and down his legs throughout the night.

Then there is Room 19. If you want to book a fun room, this one is for you. Cynthrax wrote on TripAdvisor, "Most people who we've met staying here come for the paranormal experiences. The Historic Jefferson Hotel never disappoints! Room 19...WOW!!! We had 2 in the bed and 2 on the floor sleeping (I got the floor the first night) and everyone had experiences! The floor planks by my head were moving, creaking, etc. when footsteps walked RIGHT BESIDE MY HEAD!!!! I swore our friends had gotten up to go to the bathroom, but they had not moved once they got under the covers...they were experiencing their own unique "fun" with ghosts!! They said, they felt like they were surrounded by people who kept crowding in more and more shaking the bed from side to side, bumping it harder every now and then. In the bathroom, after taking a bath, you'll see a message in the hasn't changed in years and I've tried to rub it out as well as write other messages (various methods) on it to see if they'll show up w/steam...nope.

Room 19 is thought to be the haunt of our Lady in White because that is where her bed is located today. The Lady in White is thought to be Lydia Grisby who was left on the day of her wedding by her fiance. She hanged herself in either Room 12 or Room 14 from a 12 foot high headboard on the bed, it is thought in 1912. Some believe she may have been pregnant and that is why she was so distraught. This female ghost appears in a white bridal gown and has blonde hair. She usually is floating above the ground and appears most often to men who are alone. She is not only seen in Room 19 with the bed, but she appears in several areas in the hotel. 

Judy's Mirror used to find its home in Room 19, but now it sits in Room 17. There seems to be the spirit of a teen girl attached to this mirror. The legend behind her claims that she was a worker at the hotel when it was a bordello. A client stabbed her and left her to die in the bathtub. When guests take showers and the mirror steams up, she will leave messages in the mirror. Sometimes her spirit is seen in the reflection. The words she writes are usually either cries for help or sometimes they are warnings. The name Judy has shown up a few times, which is where the mirror gets its name.

This month, May, in 2021, an article on KTEM News revealed that a couple staying Room 17, left in such a hurry that they left their items behind. The couple had stayed at the hotel in March and claimed to see two messages written in the fog of the mirror that was created when they took a shower. They saw the first one while they were still in the shower. It read, "You must leave." One of them got out and wiped off the mirror a bit unnerved, but assumed it was something a previous guest had left behind to spook them. They got back in the shower and when they were finished and finally got out for good, they were stunned to see a new message on the mirror, "Get out!" Clearly this was not something a previous guest had left. The couple locked the bathroom door before closing it and dressed quickly. They then fled to the front desk where they checked out. The time was around 1am. The staff of the hotel decided to document everything in a video and you can clearly see Get Out written on the mirror, but it's weird because it doesn't look like something that would be written with a finger. It is too thin for that. Here is a screenshot from the video:


And in another photo, there almost appears to be a third head between the two employees who made the video:


Here is the actual video:  

The employees tried to fog up the mirror and take pictures again the next day, but this time there was no message on the mirror. Some other couples had stayed in that room previously and they claimed that they watched as the word "Help" was written across the fog on the mirror. Then the word "Judy" was written. Then "Murder" appeared written backwards. Also, there was this entry into the journal kept at the front desk about paranormal experiences in Room 17 on Dec. 20, 2014, "Everyone took a shower before me and only whenever I showered, 'get out' appeared on the mirror. The next morning there was nothing. We turned the heater off and throughout the night it would be scorching hot and then freezing cold."

The new owners have had there own experiences already. Jeromy’s father Richard Jones was staying at the hotel to help with the remodel and he told the Marshall News Messenger, "I was walking out of the kitchen one day and heard a loud crash as I got into the ballroom area. I walked back into the kitchen and a big, heavy tray of about 50 pieces or more of silverware had been knocked off the counter and onto the floor. I tried to explain it away by saying, ‘maybe the air conditioner kicked on and pushed it off but it was heavy so I don’t know how it could have happened.”

Jeromy was cleaning up in Room 15 when he had a surprising experience. He picked up an item at the end of the bed and glanced at the other side of the bed as he stood up. A red-haired little boy popped his head up on the other side of the bed. Jeromy was slightly startled, but he quietly backed out of the room and shut the door. His wife Pam said, "We’ve heard children laughing and talking, footsteps, things like that but one of the best things we were able to catch on camera was when my friend came here to visit us. She was walking down the hall upstairs and was taking photos and she aimed the camera down the hall and caught a silhouette walking from the hall, through the wall, into the stairwell like it was heading downstairs. Her iPhone camera was on the live setting so it does a few seconds of live video before each photograph and you see the silhouette clearly moving through the wall. Now she doesn’t want to come back to stay.”

Another haunted hotel in town is the Kahn Hotel that sits across the street and it is said that there is a cowboy ghost with black hair that crosses back and forth across the street between the two hotels. The Kahn used to be a saloon. So this seems to be a shared spirit. There are many haunts in this small town. Is the Jefferson Hotel one of those haunted places? That is for you to decide!

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