Is your DVR set to record every paranormal show cable has to offer? Do you spend your vacations on ghost tours? How about weekends camped out in secluded cemeteries waiting for lonely, hoarse sighs to register on your digital recorder?
Have you ever seen a ghost?
If you answered “yes” or maybe “no, but I sure would like to” to any or all of the above questions, this blog is for you. BumpInTheNightBlog is intended for those with a healthy and lighthearted curiosity about all things supernatural. Staying in a haunted hotel, only to awake in the middle of the night to an icy chill that sweeps into the room and settles next to you is admittedly not for everyone. But those of us who love a good ghost story – and perhaps even fancy ourselves as ghost hunters – welcome these experiences with just the mildest of shivers.
People love to experience haunted houses because they can be in the presence of something otherworldly, possibly even participate in a paranormal experience, and then return to the familiarity of home. One researcher described a visit to a haunted house as similar to visiting the zoo – you can see the tiger, but you know it won’t jump into your backseat and come home with you (although, I’ve come across a ghost or two in my travels known to do this…but, I’m getting ahead of myself…more about that later).
I’m fond of combining the three things I love most – ghosts, traveling, and writing – and often take trips to haunted destinations, hoping to experience something paranormal first hand, and write about it.
This first ghost story comes from my book, Haunted Texas Vacations: The Complete Ghostly Guide (Westcliffe Publishers, 2000). It takes place in what I consider to be the most haunted town in Texas – at least it’s the place where I’ve had the best luck not only hunting ghosts, but finding them. The town of Jefferson is located 15 minutes north of Marshall on County Road 390. The East Texas countryside surrounding Caddo Lake – with its moss-draped cypress trees that block out the sun and inky black waters that swallow anything unlucky enough to fall in – is as spooky as a horror-movie set. Locals claim the spirits of Caddo Indians who settled this land long ago haunt the dense forests. And there may be other lost specters roaming these woods. According to Kent Biffle’s “Texana” column in the Dallas Morning News, the lake has claimed boatloads of victims (more than 165 to date), including 68 passengers who went down with the Mittie Stevens, a steamboat out of Shreveport, Louisiana.The ill-fated steamer burned and sank on the night of February 11, 1869. Blanketed by rich silt, the wreck still eludes frustrated marine archeologists. In addition, several murders took place throughout the region, with the lake serving as the perfect dumping ground to cover every ghastly (turned ghostly) misdeed.
In the middle of this ghost-infested area lies the little town of Jefferson, the final destination of the Mittie Stevens never reached more than 130 years ago. Jefferson is a sleepy town with a gaudy past. Afternoons are spent lazily among the towering pines along the banks of the slow-moving Big Cypress Bayou. Jefferson’s history is so pervasive that it covers you like a shawl, greets you at every corner, and lures you into every immaculate historical B&B for a peek.
Located in the heart of Jefferson’s Riverfront District, the Jefferson Hotel http://historicjeffersonhotel.com/ is one of the oldest buildings in town. Originally constructed as a cotton warehouse in 1851, it was converted into a hotel in the 1870s (it’s housed a bordello upstairs and a Chinese laundry downstairs). I’ve stayed at the Jefferson a half dozen times and something strange has happened to me or to one of my traveling companions every time. But nothing compares to what happened to me in Room 21.
I was in town with journalist Melissa Revere and her mother, Dee, to interview witnesses of the paranormal for a magazine article on haunted Jefferson hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. Our first indication the Room 21 was unusual was returning to our locked room at sundown to find every light in the room ablaze. We had intentionally left only one light on. We ventured next door to the haunted Lamanche’s Restaurant for a delicious Italian dinner and returned to Room 21 stuffed, exhausted and ready for bed.
A good night’s sleep it was until 3:44 a.m., when I woke up abruptly and completely. I rolled over, looked at the clock, and glanced over at Melissa and her mom sleeping in the other bed. Suddenly, a loud rushing sound filled my ears. Seconds later, my body felt as though it had been plugged into an electrical socket – goosebumps covered my arms and legs and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I was unable to move or speak.
My discomfort escalated dramatically when I felt the other side of the bed depress as if someone – or something – sat down on the edge and rolled over behind me. I was being spooned by a ghost! I could feel chills racing up and down my back as I tried to calm down and regain my voice. Finally, I choked out, “Melissa!” and she responded to my terrified voice as I vaulted from my bed into hers, waking up her mom in the process. After several tense minutes, we settled down and Melissa and her mom went back to sleep. I lay awake the rest of the night, a lamp on to ward off things that go bump in the night.