When choosing to stay at a haunted full-service hotel, you might as well pick one that is considered the most haunted in the state, and if you just happen to be in Selma, Alabama, that lodging would be the St. James Hotel. Built in 1837, the historic building is filled with elegant nineteenth century features that offer a charming and comfortable atmosphere to guests. The hotel is also known for being actively haunted, reportedly by the infamous outlaw, Jesse James and his girlfriend Lucinda who frequented the hotel several times during the late eighteen hundreds.
Despite the rumors of paranormal activity, the popularity of the hotel stems beyond ghosts and is enjoyed by historians and sight seeing enthusiasts alike. Visitors of the St. James Hotel enjoy the panoramic vistas of the Alabama River and the Edmund Pettus Bridge, or they can enjoy the elegant beauty of the hotel’s quaint courtyard centered with a gorgeous fountain filled with aesthetically pleasing statues that lull guests into relaxing with the tranquility of cascading waterfalls. Once in awhile guests report seeing the ghosts of Civil War soldiers hanging out in the area, but their presence is more comforting than alarming to those aware of the paranormal activity at the hotel.
The city of Selma is known for having a colorful history that has been permanently marked by events that took place during the American Civil Rights Movement when on March 7, 1965 six-hundred citizens marched, protesting the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot down and killed by an Alabama State trooper despite being unarmed. Horrific attacks by the police spraying tear gas on to the protesters temporarily stopped them in their tracks on what would become known in history as the ‘Bloody Sunday’ site.
Holding true to their beliefs, and growing stronger in numbers, twenty-five hundred angry citizens led by Martin Luther King Jr. marched towards the state capitol of Montgomery, Alabama, but were turned around just after crossing the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge. The symbolic march paved the way to national significance by shaking the conscience of the way people treated others and was such a profound moment in time that it is now an essential part of American history. The events of March 7, 1965 directly paved the path once closed into wide open territory that has become an effective piece of civil rights legislation known as the Voting Rights Act. Today that path is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been named the National Historic Trail & All-American Road.
Powerful events that have taken place in and around the St. James Hotel is a possible cause as to why there are so many reports of paranormal activity. Apparitions of a ghost donning late nineteenth century western garb have been seen by several eye witnesses in the area of the bar, and in rooms 214, 314 and 315. Jesse James and his brother Frank stayed in those rooms, along with Jesse’s girlfriend Lucinda. Paranormal investigators were brought in after the sightings of a beautiful dark haired female ghost was seen walking around the hotel all hours of the day and night. The most obvious signs that Lucinda has entered the room are her tall form and shiny black hair. She is also known to be the best smelling ghost around as you cannot deny the lovely scent of lavender that permeates the area when she is near.
The investigation proceeded into the bar area where they asked the question “Is anybody here?” The response was instantaneous and straight to the point with an answer from the spirit stating “Well that was a stupid question.” A black ghost dog has been spotted running through the halls, bar and foyer of the hotel. The friendly canine is believed to be Jesse James’ faithful companion. Reports of a barking dog have flowed into the service desk from irritated guests, but the typical response is always the same. There are no dog’s staying at the hotel, at least not any that are living. The ghost hunters set up equipment throughout the hotel and now have recorded images of apparitions sitting around the inner courtyard wearing period clothing from the late 1800s. Room 304 is also known as a hotbed of paranormal activity. Flashes of light appear out of nowhere and the curtains are constantly being moved. A cook staying in the room was so scared that he refused to remain in the room the entire night.
The kitchen has its lion share of activity as well. Dishes rattle, shatter and disappear into thin air. Doors shut on their own, lights flicker and cold spots come and go as if some mischievous entity has just walked through the area. Sometimes the sensation of being touched reminds the staff that there are ghosts living at the hotel, but they are harmless. The paranormal investigators and several psychics have determined that the St. James Hotel is in fact haunted, but that the ghosts simply do not understand that they are deceased and wish to mingle with the other guests. Unusual phenomenon from intelligent hauntings to spine tingling energy that has been caught on camera and other digital equipment only add to the charm of the historical building.
Traditional southern cuisine is enjoyed in the dining area where the ghost of Lucinda has been seen waltzing through in her beautiful evening attire. She simply smiles at the diners and then vanishes into thin air. Sometimes her boyfriend Jesse can be spotted at a corner table eating a hearty steak dinner. He is most often seen at the bar where his lady love eventually saunters in to join him in having an after dinner drink.
Rooms & Rates: There are currently forty-two charming Victorian rooms available. Each of the guest rooms are unique in design and graced with period-antique décor. Luxurious Riverfront Suites are $120.00 per night and come with a king size bed, whirlpool tub and a fireplace. Availability can be checked at: http://historicstjameshotel.com/booking.html
Selma, Alabama History: There are over twelve-hundred historic structures in Selma, including museums and Victorian homes. Selma was once a major manufacturing and distribution center for the Confederacy after the Civil War broke out in 1861. The hotel became a headquarters for the troops which was originally named the Brantley Hotel after Brigadier General John Brantley. The hotel was given the name of St. James after Captain Tom Smith purchased it in 1871.
Location: 1200 Water Avenue, Selma, Alabama, 36701 Phone: 334-872-0332