St. James hosts ‘spirit’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2003

The St. James Hotel cries out for Halloween.

Its columns seem to invite specters and shades from centuries past. Some have said they wait in the hotel’s inner courtyard or sit quietly in the drinking room. It’s certainly the time of year for it.

Visitors to the hotel’s Halloween party might just get a chance to see a ghost. The party, which runs from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, costs $3 for singles and $5 for couples. According to Janet Dawkins, the hotel’s general manger, guests are encouraged to wear costumes. The grand prize winner of the party’s costume contest will receive dinner for two and a night’s stay in a river view suite.

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Dawkins didn’t say whether the winner would get to stay in a haunted room, though.

According to Dawkins, the St. James Hotel was built in 1837. Since then it’s been through the Civil War, a complete renovation and more than 100 years in between. If someone had to pick places in Selma likely to have ghosts, the hotel would be high on the list.

Dawkins, who said she has never personally experienced something that couldn’t be rationalized away, recounted several stories from beyond the grave to share with the curious visitor.

One story concerned the hotel’s first cook, who was staying in the hotel after its renovation. He stayed in room No. 304 until he got an apartment and repeatedly saw flashes of light coming through his window. Curtains would move on a windless night and sounds would emanate from the courtyard when no one was there.

He wasn’t the only one to hear odd sounds from the courtyard. Others have reported barking dogs coming from the area. Dawkins added that dogs are not allowed on the premises.

More recently, a psychic with a paranormal research team stayed at the hotel with a friend &045; a friend who will never come back to the hotel.

Dawkins said the psychic saw some people in the courtyard dressed in clothing from the 1800’s, though her friend couldn’t.

Upon arriving at their hotel room, the man heard the psychic speaking with someone in another room. It sounded like an argument was taking place.

He may not be the only one.

Dawkins said a man sitting on a bench can sometimes be seen at night in the hotel’s drinking room. He’s an old man wearing a hat, and he used to sit where the television now stands. When the bench was moved to another part of the room he moved with it.

Brad Kendrick, sales and marketing director with the hotel, has experienced a ghost first-hand. He was in one of the hotel’s ballrooms with another employee when both of them heard a man talking. Kendrick said he wouldn’t have believed it if his fellow employee hadn’t looked up for the disembodied voice at the same time he had.

Dawkins added that paranormal researchers held a recording session in one the ballrooms last year. They asked a number of questions and ensured the area stayed completely silent otherwise.

One question was, &uot;Is anyone there?&uot; When the recording was played back, Dawkins said, there was an answer on the tape that hadn’t been heard before.

A more recent appearance took place this past August. A hotel guest snapped a picture just outside of Kendrick’s office and sent it to him once it was developed. The photo shows a white form hovering just outside Kendrick’s office door as if it were considering stepping inside.

Dawkins said if the image were merely a reflection from the window glass, it would have been further down the hall since the only reflective surface are the doors at the hall’s end.