If you're been in East Texas for any length of time, you've likely heard about Jefferson's historic houses, riverboats...and ghosts.
We visited with Jodi Breckenridge of Historic Jefferson Ghost Walk Tours. Jodi is friendly, fun to talk to, and she is great stories about the history of this pretty town near Caddo Lake. We drove around downtown, admiring the old homes and churches, as Jodi filled me in on the history of some of the places most often reported as being haunted.
For example, the Excelsior House is a hotel downtown, built in the 1850s by Captain William Perry. Perry served as mayor of Jefferson, owned a shipping business, and played a significant role in the development of Jefferson as an inland port. He became quite wealthy. Perry was fatally shot one evening walking home, near the hotel. Some suspect the spooky sounds heard in the Excelsior could be the ghost of Perry.
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Jodi herself said that when she worked for the hotel several years ago, she had several unexplainable experiences. One, she recalled, was that when she was alone in the hotel, she'd still hear the sounds of furniture moving upstairs, scraping across the floor. She also said that she would occasionally smell the strong smell of pipe smoke in a room with no one around.
Another hotel, The Jefferson Hotel, has many stories told about its own paranormal activity. The current owner told me the day I visited that they (whomever "they" are) were being rambunctious that day, turning lights off and on and other pesky tricks such as that. Some people say they see a presence of some sort at the top of the stairs when they're about halfway up. There is also a big wooden bed that a woman seems to follow from room to room, as it has been relocated over the years. People will reportedly feel a hand lay gently on their own hand during the night as they sleep, and other harmless, but rather frightening, occurrences.
There is a lovely home on Jodi's tour called "The Grove," a private residence built in 1861 by Frank and Minerva Stilley. It is said to be the most haunted place in all of Jefferson. Over the decades, people have said they've seen a woman wearing a white dress appear in the yard, walk toward the house, and then walk through the side of the house. The location she is reported to walk through on the house is a place where a door once was; it was walled in and covered by siding some years ago.
Also, a man is said to rush through the yard at various times, and there is even a "spirit" of some sort that frequents the home's den. A woman who bought the house in the early 1900s said she saw "haints" in her home and yard. She had a security light installed in the yard in later years, and noticed that when she turned it on when she'd spot someone in the yard, that person mysteriously disappeared. According to thegrove-jefferson.com, she called the police often to report that someone was in the house with her, but they never found anyone there. She eventually moved into just a few rooms of the house, and let the rest of the place deteriorate. She lived there until her death in the 1980s.
Jodi, who leads a ghost tour through Jefferson, not just in October, but year round, herself experienced something strange at The Grove. She says she was standing on the porch of the house speaking to a tour group one evening, when she felt someone place their hand on her shoulder. She looked to see who had come up behind her, but no one was there. She to this day gets spooked when she's there, she said, even though she is a friend of the man who now owns and lives in the home. Who could blame her?
These are just a few of the many stories you can hear as you explore Jefferson. Make sure to join Jodi on one of her Historic Jefferson Ghost Tours; her number is 903-665-6289 or 903-601-3375, or you can visit her website, jeffersonghostwalk.com to find out more. Whether you believe in ghostly activity or not, the tour is sure to be a fun way to see the beautiful, historic town and learn its history.
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