Thursday, October 23, 2014

Haunted Hotel: Alabama & Amarillo

My mom will tell you that all of this is my own fault because I think about dead people too much.  At one time I had tons of pictures of them all over the walls of my dining room but I decided to do away with that some time ago.  Understand, these weren't random dead people but people in my family.  This story starts in Alabama with my grandma.

Here she is holding me circa 1969.

My grandmother (my dad's mom), Meriam, died on Halloween in 2000.  I don't remember how I was told which is kind of odd because I remember vividly how I found out when both of my grandfathers died but with Meriam - nothing.  I do remember that the decision was made for me to travel to Alabama with my parents to attend her funeral.  I had three kids and no money so mom and dad kindly let me stay in the same hotel room with them.

Before I go too far, let me back up a few years.  When my grandpa died in 1992, I also returned to Alabama for his funeral.  My son was a baby and my parents had business to attend to so they left me at my great-grandmother's house (Meriam's mother) for a while.  She told me stories about her mother and about how she met my great-grandfather.  Her stories stuck with me and were what ultimately got me interested in researching my family history.  By the time Meriam passed, I had been doing research, primarily on my dad's side of the family for quite a few years. I should also mention that Meriam herself was a little odd and had some weird habits regarding the dead.  She would routinely call the local funeral home "to see who was down there" so she would know if she needed to go take pictures.

So back to the trip.  We checked in to the hotel and while I unpacked, mom got in the shower and dad left the room.  I'm unloading my suitcase when the television comes on all by itself.  I had to search for the remote because none of us had picked it up at this point having just arrived.  I switched it off and went back to what I was doing.  I do remember thinking it was odd but explainable - a remote in another room could have done it through the wall (not an expensive hotel) or a timer was set.

The next morning, we get up to go to the funeral.  My shoes were lined up under the desk, three total pairs.  The pair in the middle are my "church shoes" and what I plan to wear but when I put my foot in the first shoe, it was completely filled with water.  It turned out that both of them were.  My other casual shoes, set on either side, were fine, dry as a bone.

That night, back at the hotel, we had been laying in the dark for a little while when the television came on again.  The timer thing now seems unlikely as we haven't watched TV in the time we have been here and the time of day is totally different than the first time it happened.  The next day, we go back to the cemetery and while standing by Meriam's grave we watch a dust devil going across the cotton field next door.  When it got to the fence between the field and the cemetery it kind of broke up and we all went back to what we were doing.  For me, that was taking pictures of headstones.  Some of you are probably thinking I am a total weirdo now but in my defense, I was only trying to document information for my family tree.  I am related to almost everyone in this cemetery in one way or another - or in some cases - more than one way (my dad is also my half great uncle but that is a story for another time).  As I am taking pictures, my cousin's daughter suddenly says, "Look out Noelle!" right as the dust devil comes back and goes right over/around/through me.  I quite literally felt my hair stand on end.  My family sees this happen too and they come over and ask if I'm okay.  Except for mom.  Mom helpfully says, "They were just marking you so they could find you later." 

Back at the hotel I am laying in the dark and I can't think of anything but dead people touching me when - you know what's coming - the TV comes on again.  Mom sits up in bed and says, "Stop it Meriam!"  But Meriam doesn't stop.  When I return back home to Texas, all sorts of weird things keep happening.  A knife flies off the middle of the kitchen table onto the floor when no one was in the kitchen (we heard it hit the tile floor); a lamp on a dimmer switch suddenly comes on full blast; David and I are talking about Meriam when a chair across the room swivels around to face us.  That kind of normal, every day stuff.  And David and I agree, there is a "presence" in the hallway at the top of the stairs.  So we get used to living with our ghost.

Meriam with my kids.

Fast forward to 2014 and I am in my hotel room in Amarillo. It is midnight and suddenly the television comes on, waking me.  Of course, I immediately think of Meriam.  I turn the TV off and go back to sleep.  The next morning when I am putting on my makeup, the clock radio alarm starts going off.  Again, some of you are thinking that could totally happen.  But the TV came on by itself again the next day after more than 24 hours and I had refused housekeeping so no one had touched it.  And I had verified that any alarm or timer was off.  As for the clock radio, it wasn't a normal one, it was an iPod docking station so the alarm was actually on my iPhone and I had not set it.

At this point I decide to do what any normal person with an iPhone would do and I download an app. Yes, there's an app for that.  I get the Ghost Observer app for free and fire it up.  It has a radar on it that will show you the location of your ghost. 

And there it is.  If I am at the center of the radar then the ghost is RIGHT NEXT TO ME.
Let me just say that even though I am not afraid of my ghost grandma, having the app say "Ghost Detected" in a creepy electronic voice when you are alone in a darkened hotel room can make it hard to sleep later.  I immediately turned off the app because, frankly, I don't need to know more.  Then I got the idea to take a picture in that general direction to see what happened.
I sent this picture to my son.  He did not appreciate this as he was also trying to get ready for bed. 
Later that week I changed to another hotel in Lubbock and had more "occurrences".  When my key card stopped working and I had to go to the front desk to have it fixed the guy said, "Huh, that's weird" and I said, "It's probably the ghost in my room."  He looked at me for a moment and then blinked once and said, "No, you probably just put it too close to your cell phone", like my statement was totally normal. 
Incidentally, I did fill out the survey sent to me by Holiday Inn Express in Amarillo and told them about the TV and the alarm clock and that I thought they had a ghost in that room but at this point, they have not responded.  I was kind of hoping for some free points out of the deal or something.  I'm going to have to have a talk with Meriam later.  If she is going to follow me around, she could at least make herself useful and get me some free stuff.
P.S.  I'm going back to Amarillo in December.  I may ask for the same room.
P.P.S.  A dust-devil for those of you who don't know, is a small tornado, made out of swirling dust.  And by dust I obviously mean the dust of my dead ancestors so they can find me later.

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