|If you think adventure is limited to a good raft and a little whitewater, or a bike tour across Palo Duro Canyon country, or a short bungee rope at the high Devil’s Canyon bridge – you might have another think coming.
There’s a book in Jefferson in the Caddo country of Northeast Texas, kept behind a hotel desk in the main lobby, where adventure awaits the traveler daring enough to open its pages. But there’s a catch. Not just anyone can ask read this book. You must be a guest of old, historic hotel. And to get the most out of this other-worldly adventure, you must take the book back to your room to read it. And even if you make it to the last words in the book without anything significant happening, then you may be in for a long, restless night.
It could be called the Book of the Dead, for it is a book compiled by guests of the Jefferson Hotel about strange encounters of another kind; handwritten accounts of strange noises, loud footsteps in the hall beyond the door, ghostly encounters, whispers and cold spots, and all kinds of other things strange and weird. For in the haunted Jefferson Hotel, there are no rules about what and when things might happen. They just do.
Located in the misty pine and cypress swamp country of Marion County, Jefferson is located where was once the Caddo Indians built their communities of straw and grass homes. By the 1840s steamboats navigated from New Orleans up the Mississippi River to the Red River and up Cypress Creek to newly founded Jefferson, moving cotton and other commodities to market.
A trip across spooky Caddo Lake even today offers a glimpse of the wild and mysterious country that has long given birth to fables and legends and tales of the unusual and unexplained. A few locals talk of a Big Foot creature that stalks the heavily wooded area around the eerie lake. There are tales of ancient Caddo spirits that whisper through the cypress boughs of the nearby bayou.
But it is the historic Jefferson Hotel that garners the most attention as a place of supernatural wonder. For here, perhaps as much as any other place in Jefferson, there have been reports of strange happenings, of ghostly sightings and eerie noises.
According to the hotel’s Web site: “At a time when steamboats plied the Big Cypress River from New Orleans and true Southern gentility was the order of the day a stately structure, now known as the Jefferson Hotel, was built. Once used as a warehouse to store cotton, this lovely building changed hands numerous times. At the turn of the twentieth century it was transformed into a hotel and has served as a haven for weary travelers since that time. As you walk down the hallway and peer into each room, you’ll get a sense of the comfort afforded by Southern Belles and genteel men in days gone by. Close your eyes and you’ll hear the rustle of long petticoats, the whistles of steamboats entering the port and river gamblers trying their fortune. Once known as the Crystal Palace in the roaring 20s, ragtime music rang through these halls as couples swirled around the room.”
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination with all the period furniture and décor to put yourself back into a time out of place, to travel to the past and glimpse the glory of a hustling, bustling Jefferson.
But there’s more to the old halls than the fancy décor and modern conveniences that have been added. There is more than just a brush with history, for there are tales of ghostly spirits from the old days who still frequent the halls and rooms of the Jefferson Hotel. And many of these experiences are recorded in the book behind the registration desk, the book we call the Book of the Dead.
There is the story of a couple in ROOM 5 whose young son awakened them repeatedly because a man in a long coat and high boots would not go away. At times there is a thick white cloud with a thin, long-haired blonde in the mist. She seems to be emotionally attached to a bed that was moved from ROOM 12 to ROOM 14. A ninety year old man reluctantly told his tale of wandering the hotel at one in the morning after not being able to sleep. He saw the petite blonde woman floating down the stairs smiling at him, only to disappear before she reached the bottom step. He said he never believed in ghosts until he saw her!
Camera crews from various local TV stations and radio stations have all had their own weird experiences while taping programs in the hotel - from cameras not working in certain areas of the hotel to recorders turning themselves off and on.
These tales were taken from the hotel Web site and are only a few of the recorded stories in the Book of the Dead. To read them all, or to experience your own haunted adventure, you’ll simply need to book a room and stay the night in this beautiful and accommodating historic hotel. But be warned, the historic Jefferson Hotel is a rare and wonderful place where unusual things can happen. While there seems to be no threat to the safety of the guests at any time, it can be an eye opening experience if you are one of those who are not a believer that, indeed, the truth can be stranger than fiction.