Near the banks of the Big Cypress Bayou, a hop, skip, and a jump from the Louisiana border, the Jefferson Hotel has offered decadent hospitality for over a hundred years, and its quaint early Victorian structure has stood for fifty more.
The many ages and ownership changes of the property have left their subtle marks beneath the preserved period décor, and handwritten records overflow with guest sightings of at least five separate entities from beyond.
Although the hotel is closed indefinitely for repairs and renovations as of this posting, any ghosts that have been hanging around since the days of steamboats and hoopskirts are no doubt still waiting within the beautiful building for its next revival.
History of Jefferson Hotel
Beginnings as a Cotton Warehouse
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 westernmost port that could be reached without transferring their goods from boat to rail. The building now known as the Jefferson Hotel was built in 1851 as a warehouse to support the exploding cotton industry.
Early Hotel and Brothel Years
It’s unclear exactly when the Jefferson Hotel opened its doors as center of hospitality; estimates range from as early as 1870 to as late as 1900. Once it did, however, it also dipped its toes into a business every bit as lucrative as cotton, especially on its “ill-famed” second floor. To this day, that floor is still encircled by the long veranda where the hotel’s good time girls once advertised their wares.
The Crystal Palace
Come the era of Prohibition, the Jefferson Hotel became a roaring nightspot and speakeasy under the name “The Crystal Palace.”
The hotel’s ballroom, maintained until its recent closure 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.
Ghosts of the Jefferson Hotel
The Book of the Dead
The Jefferson Hotel has seen its fair share of the unexplainable, but unlike many allegedly haunted locales where stories are passed from one guest or employee to another, changing a little each time, the staff of the Jefferson have taken care to record as many encounters as possible in the experiencers’ own words.
During its latter years of operation, a “book of the dead” was kept behind the front desk, in which guests were encouraged to write down the details of any contact with the hotel’s spirits. The brave and curious were even permitted to check volumes of the book out for bedtime reading.
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. They are believed to be casualties of the building’s days as a cotton warehouse, but in spite of 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 guest have found him unsettlingly persistent, sitting or standing in their rooms throughout the night.
Whoever he is, he’s apparently 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, part of which seems to be connected with the anguished spirit of a teenage girl. Though records of the hotel’s history as a bordello are understandably spotty, the girl is thought to be a prostitute who was 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. The name “Judy” has been seen 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 travelling alone, and she can be recognized by her bridal gown, golden hair, and feet that never touch the ground. Though she’s been 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, though the most likely suspects are an Elizabeth and a Lydia who stayed in the hotel almost fifty years apart from each other. 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 true names may be.
Sadly, there’s no telling when guests will again be allowed to explore the halls and rooms of the Jefferson, but until then, the spirits will be waiting, the exterior architecture will display itself quaintly, and the several other historic hotels in the area will gladly take in ghost hunters and other urban explorers of Jefferson City.