Searching for Selmaâ€™s ghosts
Searching for Selmaâ€™s ghosts
July 25, 2009
By Katie Nichols
â€œHe robbed the Glendale train, he stole from the rich and he gave to the poor. He had a hand and a heart and a brain.â€
Folk singer Bascom Lamar Lunsford penned those lyrics in 1924 about Jesse James, then-notorious outlaw of the late1800s. Lunsford doesnâ€™t mention the James brothersâ€™ whereabouts in March 1882, but any Selma resident doesnâ€™t have to look too far. The infamous Frank and Jesse James were in the St. James Hotel in room 301.Remnants of the Jameses remain in the hotel â€” a portrait of a lady said to have been Jesse Jamesâ€™ mistress at the time now hangs in the hotel sitting room, and maybe even his ghost.
Barbara McCleskey and Jamie Amacker from Mobile had the pleasure of keeping Jesse James company during the American Ghost Hunterâ€™s â€œThe Hunt for Jesse Jamesâ€ in Selma this weekend.
â€œThis is our first time doing an investigation,â€ McCleskey said. â€œWe have been following the events on Chad Calekâ€™s Web site and this was so close we had to go. We are both fans of â€˜American Ghost Hunter.â€™â€
So when Amacker called the St. James Hotel, she requested the room that Jesse had stayed in during his trip to Selma to visit a cousin.
The sold-out group not only looked at the hotel, they also did investigations on the Old Depot Museum and Adamâ€™s Grove Church and cemetery. Every single place had recorded evidence of something paranormal.
Shea Whiterhurst came to Selma with Montgomeryâ€™s Southern Paranormal Researchers and had to tell Calek about the paranormal jewel of sorts that waited to be investigated.
â€œShea told me she had an amazing place to hold an event,â€ Calek said. â€œShe basically handed me this complete package and it was incredible.â€
Calek has investigated many places believed to be haunted all of the United States â€” Alcatraz, Waverly Hills Sanitarium and many more â€” but this was his first time in Selma. He had concerns about whether Selma would produce any evidence.
â€œ[Friday] night we went to Adamâ€™s Grove Church and it was extremely haunted,â€ he said. â€œI usually donâ€™t say that because things donâ€™t usually happen in just that amount of time, but we had disembodied voices and then there was a loud bang.â€
Calek and a few other hunters were sitting on the pulpit in the church. Calek looked over his shoulder because he thought he saw something move. Right after his eyes glanced that way, a shock was sent through the church.
â€œIt sounded like someone kicked the stage area as hard as they could,â€ he said. â€œIt happened and there was no one sitting where it came from.â€
Luckily, the incident was caught on video. Other evidence was caught as well.
Amacker took her camera to Adamâ€™s Grove Church and started snapping pictures. The photographs of the main part of the church where the congregation would sit didnâ€™t show anything out of the ordinary. But when she focused her camera on the slave quarters above â€” where Calek seemed to be â€” things turned out a bit different. The photographs showed orbs, spirits captured on film that are in a sphere-like state.
When Calek found out, he just laughed and said it came with the territory.
The group also experienced sounds of husky breathing not unlike that of a preacher catching his breath before he launched into another fire and brimstone spell.
Just down from Jesse Jamesâ€™ old stomping grounds is the Old Depot Museum. The location makes one wonder if it made him itch for another score when he heard a train whistle nearby.
Chip Coffey, a psychic, investigated the museum Friday and found a few surprises.
â€œI was in the hallway looking at pictures and only April was down there with me, but she was at the other end of the hall,â€ Coffey said. â€œI was looking at her when I saw something walk behind her very quickly. It couldnâ€™t have been another person because no one else was on that floor.â€
Coffey also picked up on three spirits at the museum. One was an African-American girl named Liza or Eliza who was inside the museum. Outside the museum was the spirit of a man named James Bailey. Lastly, he picked up on a woman with the last name of Coggins or Scoggins.
â€œThere are two types of hauntings â€” residual and active,â€ Coffey said. â€œThe Old Depot has both. The residual hauntings are like an echo or an imprint on times. Active hauntings are things that are intelligently being done like the spirit that walked past.â€
Another surprise Coffey happened upon was a picture and camera of another psychic who lived in Selma for many years â€” Edgar Cayce, â€œthe Sleeping Prophet.â€
â€œThe photograph is worth a large amount of money,â€ Coffey said. â€œI think Selma should play up the fact that Edgar Cayce lived and worked here. There are so many people all over the world who are so interested in him and his readings.â€
Back in the St. James Hotel, things were following suit with the rest of the weekendâ€™s findings, and McCleskey and Amacker were in the middle of it.
â€œWhen we first got here, which was right after 2 p.m., I was trying to get my new phone to charge,â€ Amacker said. â€œI was having a hard time because I didnâ€™t know how it worked since I got it yesterday. All of the sudden there was a hissing noise behind me.â€
McCleskey thought it was the phone making the noise, but when Amacker asked if she heard the noise as well, it became clear that their first finding occurred.
They used a voice recorder to capture any electronic voice phenomena, which are electronically captured sounds that resemble speech, but are not the result of intentional voice recordings.
â€œWe were trying to talk to Jesse and make him want to talk and Jamie asked what he thought about Sandra Bullockâ€™s husband, Jesse Jamesâ€™ show, â€˜Jesse James is a Dead Man,â€™â€ McCleskey said. â€œWe started laughing, and when you play the recording back, you can hear a man at the end laughing.â€
When Amacker was standing by the door to the room, they heard a light tapping noise on it. They quickly opened the door to be greeted by an empty hall.
They had other EVPs where it sounded like a man answering their questions.
In Lunsfordâ€™s song, a line goes â€œWell, it was Robert Ford, that dirty little coward, I wonder how he feel, for he ate of Jesse's bread and he slept in Jesse's bed, And he laid poor Jesse in his grave.â€
Amacker decided to ask Jesse just what he thought of Robert Ford, who shot Jesse James in the back.
â€œJamie pulled up a picture of Ford and asked, â€˜Isnâ€™t this your friend,â€™â€ McCleskey said. â€œHer arm turned blood red. It looked like someone had slapped her or scratched her. It was only in one spot.â€
Regardless of that experience, McCleskey and Amacker said they never felt like Jesse James or any of the other spirits at the other places were dangerous.
The weekend was such a success that many people planned a trip back to Selma, including Calek. He wanted to have another weekend event, but focus on another Selma landmark â€” Sturdivant Hall.