JEFFERSON — The historical and reportedly haunted Jefferson Hotel will celebrate its grand opening under new ownership on Oct. 1, just in time to house all the ghost-seeking guests who travel to one of Texas’ most haunted towns each October.
New owners Jeromy and Pam Jones of Denton purchased and moved into the historical Jefferson Hotel, one of the bayou city’s oldest hotels, in July and immediately took on the task of updating the 170-year-old building, located at 124 W. Austin St. in downtown Jefferson.
Throughout the renovations — which included new air conditioning, plumbing work, new floors, paint and decor — the husband and wife duo continued to allow guests to stay in the hotel.
“After two years of this hotel being closed, people were so excited to see someone had bought it and opened it again so they would call and ask to stay and we’d warn them it was in the process of being updated but they didn’t care,” Pam said.
If anything, the work on the reportedly haunted building seemed to stir up the level of paranormal activity and guests wanted in on the action.
“We’ve still got about two or three truckloads of antiques to bring in from our house in Denton and put up in the hotel and we still plan to refinish the original wood floors upstairs and finish decorating the themed rooms,” Jeromy said. “We plan to have everything done and celebrate the grand opening on Oct. 1 but Room 19, the most infamous room, is rented out through about March.”
The legend of Room 19 is that a possibly pregnant would-be bride in the 1800s was stood up on her wedding day and unable to take the humiliation and scorn, she hung herself from the headboard of the 12-foot-tall bed that still sits in the room today.
Historian Jodi Breckenridge, former Jefferson Hotel manager and owner of the popular Historic Jefferson Ghost Walk Tour, found proof to back the haunting in old town newspapers.
“To me, it’s not a ghost story unless you know why it’s a ghost story,” Breckenridge said. “It happened in 1912. The woman’s name was Lydia Grisby. Her family was staying at the hotel, the fiancé sent word that he wasn’t coming (to the wedding) and she came back to the hotel where she did hang herself.”
The Joneses, including Jeromy’s father, Richard Jones, who has been staying in Jefferson to help with the move and remodel, have all experienced unexplained activity since moving into the 21-room building.
“I was walking out of the kitchen one day and heard a loud crash as I got into the ballroom area,” Richard said. “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 entering room 15 one day and bent down to pick up something at the end of the bed and happened to glance into the dresser mirror against the wall as he was rising back up.
“A head popped up from the other side of the bed, a red-haired little boy,” Jeromy said.
A startled but accepting Jeromy just quietly left the room and shut the door.
“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,” Pam said. “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.”
For the Jones couple, the Jefferson hotel combines everything they love into one passion project — history, the paranormal, old buildings and antiques.
Having visited Jefferson and the historic Jefferson Hotel many times, the Joneses decided they wanted to move to the bayou city.
“We wanted to get an old Victorian home and fill it with antiques; when the Jefferson Hotel came up for sale, we were so excited,” Pam said.
It took a year to seal the deal on the purchase but the couple said it was worth the wait and they didn’t waste any time getting the building into shape to reopen.
The hotel is now filled with antiques from across the globe; the beautiful, the eccentric and the scary items have all found their new home in the hotel.
“I love for people to come in and have an emotional breakdown,” Jeromy said. “They look over here and there’s something they like and they look over there and there’s something they don’t like.”
“It’s the ‘wow’ factor,” Pam said. “When we realized we wanted to move to Jefferson a few years ago, we really ramped up our collection of antiques. We go to every antique store we can find and we look for the unique items.”
One such item is the 500-year-old, $40,000 Chinese bed the couple sleep in every night inside their room on the top floor of the hotel.
“We also have a diamond dust mirror, which they are incredibly rare, there’s only five or six of them left and if you shine a light on the mirror, you see the actual diamond dust glitter in the mirror,” Richard said.
There’s also the little boy doll named “Eddie” that sits in the couple’s room, which inspired the Travel Channel film crew from the Jack Osbourne hosted, “The Osbournes Want To Believe,” which features paranormal videos.
“The film crew came last week and actually got the doll on video moving by itself,” Jeromy said. “We have another Travel Channel film crew coming in a couple of weeks to film for the show ‘Hotel Paranormal’ hosted by Dan Akroyd.”
Breckenridge also runs her ghost walk tours through the hotel each weekend as one of the tour’s highlights.
“When we were in the process of purchasing this property and we were staying in Room 14, we had a picture that fell,” Jeromy said.
Richard said there’s also the story of a cowboy ghost with black hair that walks back and forth between the Jefferson Hotel and the historical Kahn Saloon Hotel across the street.
In addition to the paranormal, the Joneses have uncovered and will continue to promote the amount of history found in the hotel.
“This building has been a cotton warehouse, a funeral home, a roller skating rink upstairs, a brothel and gaming hall and hotel,” Richard said.
During the remodel, the couple came across the 3-foot-deep Schluter safe and ledgers for the hotel that date back to 1910 and show the hotel rooms rented for $1.05 a night.
“The Schluter family owned this building at one time,” Jeromy said. “We also have pieces from the historic Pride House here in Jefferson that burned down years ago and we’re going to put those pieces in a room that we will call the Pride House Room.”
Other themed rooms will include the Egyptian Room, which will contain 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.
“We will keep changing things up to keep it interesting,” Jeromy said.
The hotel also features three, three-bed hotel rooms, perfect for families with children.
In addition to the rooms, the Italian 7-foot chandelier that is set to go up in the ballroom downstairs has arrived and will be installed soon. The coffee bar area and restaurant will sit behind the ballroom and also housed on the first floor will be the History of Jefferson Room, where guests can walk through and see local artifacts.
Another room on the first floor will house “Paranologies,” a company owned and ran by Jeromy and Pam that combines the paranormal with technology.
Jeromy, an electrical engineer by trade, realized a way to combine his formal education with his passion of paranormal research and began creating ghost hunting equipment.
“I was always interested in the paranormal and I found a way to merge the engineering with the paranormal,” he said. “I started by showing my equipment at some of Jodi Breckenridge’s events here in Jefferson, then began selling the equipment on eBay and after two or three years, I taught my wife how to build the equipment and now it’s a very successful business.”
Through Paranologies, visitors to Jefferson or guests at the hotel will be able to rent ghost-hunting equipment such as night vision cameras, digital recorders, ghost boxes, sensors of all kinds and other equipment to investigate their rooms or investigate other properties in the area. The equipment is also available for purchase.
Guests to the hotel will also be able to walk through and peruse the unique items and antiques collected by Jeromy and Pam, which are set up throughout the building, almost as though one is visiting a museum.
“This cash register is one of the most rare antique cash registers,” Richard pointed out while walking through the hotel lobby. “The antique phone booth has been wired with a camera and now if you’re in the upstairs hallway, you can watch people in the phone booth and even scare them by talking to them.”
A Fabergé egg, confessional, 150-year-old Sun chair, antique coffin fans and other unique items make up the collection.
“We have several pieces that were screen props for movies, that received screen time in the movies,” Jeromy said.
Those looking to book a room at the hotel should book early, especially for special events and holidays.