Off we go!
To Jefferson, a tiny historical town in east Texas near the Louisiana border. A picturesque hamlet that also happens to be one of the most haunted places in the state. Or so we’ve been told. Alaina drives and I navigate, which explains why we’re lost before ever leaving Houston. Another wrong turn in Nacogdoches and we somehow find ourselves in Tyler.
We remain undaunted! and arrive in Jefferson mid-afternoon. I’ve seen the sign for Jefferson many, many times on my way to Arkansas, but never stopped to explore. It really is a quaint little town with shady streets, antique shops and homes dating back to the 1800s.
We settle into the Jefferson Hotel, in Room 20, a purported ‘hot spot’ for paranormal activity. I’m struck by the iron beds placed end-to-end rather than side-by-side. A rather creepy arrangement but that’s why we’re here. Naturally, I choose the bed nearest the door.
We have a late lunch/early dinner, walk around a bit and then head back to the hotel where we sit out on the balcony people-watching and chitchatting about our various works in progress. I don’t know if it’s the atmosphere or the company or a little of both, but suddenly I’m inundated with new story ideas and that hasn’t happened to me in a very long time. All these interesting vibes are worth the price of admission and we still have our first night to spend in a haunted hotel!
A little tired from the trip, we turn in early after sprinkling a few trinkets around the room to invite the ghosties to come out and play. Alaina’s idea, I assure you. The next morning, everything is as we left them and I’m both disappointed and relieved. Mostly relieved but I keep this to myself.
We check out, load up the car and head for Caddo Lake, the only natural lake in Texas (for real), and an even smaller town called Uncertain. If that name alone doesn’t spark at least a dozen ideas then I have no business calling myself a writer.
But there is also atmosphere here. Atmosphere for days. Picture a murky bayou with long tunnels of cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss. A place so primordial as to raise goose bumps along the spine as one glides past unfurling water lilies, sunning turtles and ancient tree skeletons blackened by lightning strikes. Some of the opening sequences of True Blood were filmed here and I’m thrilled to recognize the little stilted cabin known as Dick and Charlies’s Tea Room. So, yes, there is atmosphere, my friends.
After our most exceptional pontoon voyage, we drive back into town for an afternoon of more touristy activities including a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic district. Once again, ideas come at me fast and furious. Beautiful old houses conjure new ghost stories. A cleverly named museum stirs a time travel tale. Seriously, I have enough ideas for a couple of short stories and a brand new series and it’s only Saturday afternoon!
A little while later, we check into The Excelsior House, which has been a working hotel since the 1850s. It was here, in the Jay Gould Room, that Steven Spielberg was so shaken by strange goings-on, he awakened his crew and insisted that everyone relocate to a hotel in nearby Marshall. Sometime afterward, he wrote Poltergeist. I invite you to draw your own conclusions. O_O
The room itself is beautiful—large and ornately decorated with two comfy beds, the infamous rocking chair and gorgeous antiques. An upstairs balcony looks down on a shady courtyard and in the distance, a church steeple peeks through a lush canopy of live oaks. A welcome respite for weary travelers.
Later, after nachos and drinks, we settle in for the night. Alaina falls asleep early, but emboldened by the margaritas, I watch a scary movie on the Sci-Fi channel. I do hear a few strange noises during the night, but nothing too alarming and so I roll over and go back to sleep. A ghostbuster I’m not, turns out.
The next morning, we savor a leisurely breakfast of eggs, sausage and hash browns, check out of the hotel, tour another museum and head for home, a couple of happy campers. We’ve had such a good time on our first haunted hotel excursion that we vow to do it at least every couple of months. We haven’t yet decided on our next destination so we welcome suggestions!
We’re also planning to set stories in every place we visit. Alaina, who is an extraordinarily talented writer and gifted musician (I really hate her sometimes), may even do some book-length fiction, but for now The Graveyard Queen and my young adult series remain my priorities. I’ll content myself with writing short stories and on-line serials for a new blog I’m launching in the fall. Stay tuned for further details on that. And for more Alaina and Amanda’s Excellent Adventures.
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