In the 2011 season premiere “Ghost Hunters” was invited to investigate by the entire town of Alexandria, Louisiana. TAPS focused on three downtown locations. The hot spots were the venerable 1908 Hotel Bentley, Irish pub Finnegan’s Wake and adjoining Diamond Grill.
Mayor’s Liaison Bill Hess ushered Jason, Grant and Steve through all three locations. They started with the Hotel Bentley where they were greeted and given some background by City Spokesman Richard Gwartney.
Richard briefly shared the stories of the four most commonly seen ghosts at the currently defunct hotel. The mischievous spirit of a young girl who suffered a fatal fall down the elevator shaft from the second floor was discussed. The shade of a man who fell over the railings of the grand staircase in 1985 had been reported. A couple of ghosts were routinely seen peering over the Mezzanine railings directly above the center of the grand staircase. The most prestigious ghost reported was that of hotel builder and local lumber magnate Joseph Bentley. Mr. Bentley had lived in a suite of rooms on the third floor of his hotel and also died there.
I had an immediate hit on the girl who fell down the elevator shaft. One of her favorite tricks in life and following her death was to lick her finger and startle the unwary by placing it on the back of her target’s neck. She told me this was a game she played with her brother when alive. She was about seven years old and curious about the elevator. Her death was an accident.
The pair of spirits who peered over the railings from the Mezzanine at the center of the grand staircase were both children. I saw a boy and a girl close in age. They found that location the perfect spot to people watch, point, and giggle.
Richard speculated that the man who fell to his death from the grand staircase in 1985 may have been pushed or helped along. I agreed with Richard. The man looked to be a construction worker, fairly burley and intensely surprised to find himself flying over the stair railing.
Disembodied conversations had been reported in Mr. Bentley’s suite. I asked if his ghost remained in the hotel. Bentley showed up right away with a testy response, “Of course I am here. Where else would I be?” I mentioned heaven and got nowhere as Bentley firmly told me, “This is my place. I am staying here.”
The Hotel Bentley had a number of owners and periods of dormancy between its lavish 1908 opening and the most recent closing of the doors in 2004. Despite periodic infusions of hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations the property didn’t seem to be able to stay open for financial reasons rather than paranormal events.
Next up was Finnegan’s Wake, an Irish pub across the street from the empty Hotel Bentley. Co-owner Shannon Nolan told TAPS about a variety of unexplained paranormal activity throughout the building. Like its next door neighbor, the Diamond Grill, Finnegan’s boasted cathedral ceilings with a second floor balcony that framed the main floor.
The bar itself was the focus of much activity. Imported from a brothel called Ma Humbles a number of glasses tended to leap off bar shelves and shatter. Bottles also had the habit of moving around the bar regardless of where they were last placed. Owners and staff reported routine sightings of shadow figures glimpsed out of the corners of assorted individual’s eyes.
Co-owner Galen Bohannon shared the time he was working the bar and had leaned against the cooler for a few moments. He looked down and noticed, “… a glass busted on the floor in front of me. It had come over my right shoulder….above my head.”
Shannon also related hearing disembodied footsteps on the stair to storage on the floor above. He claimed he frequently heard large crashes in the attic. Each time he rushed up to figure out what had fallen over nothing had been disturbed.
Bartender Dana Brodhead shared the story of a late female employee named Stella. Local lore maintained that Stella started working in the building around the time it opened as a jewelers in the 1930’s. She worked there until her death in the early 1960’s. Allegedly she never left.
I had to agree with the never left part of the story. Stella showed up periodically during the walkthrough and TAPS lights out investigation. Stella’s ghost told me she didn’t like the glasses the bar currently used. Perhaps that was motive for the numerous glasses that seemed hell-bent on suicidal leaps off the bar shelves?
Dana told TAPS, “Our lights have a personality of their own.” She said they routinely flickered and turned off an on. For some reason old wiring was not suggested as a possible logical explanation. Dana explained a recent incident with the glassware. Several weeks before TAPS arrival Dana had entertained guests at the bar. Abruptly a glass on the bar tipped over, “As if someone walked up and touched one glass and it hit the bar and shattered.” Jason clarified with Dana, “It fell over and shattered?” She said yes. Grant asked which direction the glass fell. Dana replied it fell toward the bar.
Additionally Dana confirmed she was among the staff that often saw “something” walking by along the balcony out of the corner of her eye. She wasn’t prepared to say they were people.
Assistant Manager Ben Wighteon spoke of table candles that moved or were misplaced on a regular basis. Migration of objects was not limited to candles as Ben told TAPS it was, “Unexplainable how things come up missing in this place.”
With three locations to cover, one of them a huge hotel, TAPS took two nights to investigate. The first night their focus wasFinnegan’s Wake and the Diamond Grill. Although they didn’t get to the Hotel Bentley until the second night they did set up static cameras on the grand stairway, the second floor balcony overlooking the length of the lobby and the third floor hallway where Mr. Bentley once lived.
Additional cameras were set up to monitor the balconies of both the Diamond Grill and Finnegan’s Wake. A camera was dedicated to cover the bar at the Diamond Grill.
Jason and Grant started the investigation in the Diamond Grill kitchens. As soon as they walked in I saw the ghost of a former cook flipping food on the grill. Jason and Grant didn’t see him. They did pick up on exceptionally high EMF fields in the kitchen located directly under the bar. They used their familiar EMF field debunk to dismiss any possible paranormal activity around the bar.
As Grant and Jason moved father back into a second kitchen area a distant clanging noise was heard. Jason asked Grant, “What’s that?” and explained, “Something just moved!” Jason said to him it sounded as if “Something was dragged.”
Both Jason and Grant saw one of the kitchens swinging doors move. Suddenly Jason saw a black mist he realized was “looking back” at him. He told Grant he had seen someone and followed the unrecorded apparition which promptly vanished. What Jason saw as black mist I saw as the ghost of a former chef as he tried to figure out who these guys were and why they were in his kitchen.
Tango and Steve took on the bar at Finnegan’s Wake. Steve tried to debunk accounts of falling and flying glassware by wetting down a glass which he placed on one of the glass shelves to see if it would slide. Despite the moisture the glass stayed put. Steve tried to rattle the heavy wooden bar with no success. He then headed upstairs where the stomped around to see if vibrations would travel through the floor and impact the bar. Despite his best Godzilla-esque efforts the bar was sturdy and didn’t move.
Next Steve placed an empty beer bottle on its side and invited any ghosts around the bar to roll it around. Nothing happened. He tried to elicit a response as he tapped the handle of his flashlight against a heavy glass ashtray on the bar. No dice.
It was disappointed they didn’t get anything because Stella’s ghost was at the bar watching their activities with narrowed eyes. Arms crossed she told Steve, “I don’t play with little boys.”
Adam and Amy headed up to the third floor at Finnegan’s where Shannon often heard loud phantom crashes. Their EMF meter registered high readings just as Jason and Grant’s had in kitchen below the bar, doubly dismissing any paranormal employee experiences as the impacts of working in an EMF saturated environment.
Amy asked Adam, “Wait a minute… Did you hear a voice?” Amy described the voice as a soft “whoo” exhalation. She realized she might be onto something and asked Stella’s ghost, “Are you not happy with the way things are? Do you want to move it back to the way it used to be?” Neither Amy nor Adam heard her, but Stella’s ghost replied with a vehement, “Yes!” Once again Stella’s shade mentioned to me how much she disliked the current glassware. I asked her why and got the unhelpful answer of, “I just don’t.” With a little further prodding Stella said, “They are ugly. No class.”
Although Adam and Amy didn’t hear Stella’s spoken response they both heard a noise they traced to a heavy hydraulic hinged door that was ajar. Amy moved the door slightly and said the creaks that resulted were the noise they had heard. Adam noted there were no discernible breezes around them. Amy scouted out the stairs beyond the door to check for other open doors or possible cross breezes. She didn’t find anything that might debunk the door but neither could she or Adam duplicate it. They set up a camera to monitor the door and left the area.
The second night of investigation was spent exclusively at the Hotel Bentley. Jason and Grant started in the Venetian Room off the lobby where the ghost of a woman had been seen looking out a window. I did not see a female ghost at the windows, but did see a male ghost in a monkey suit balefully peering out the formal dining room windows. When I asked him who he was glaring at, the ghost of the concierge told me he was keeping an eye on the lazy gardeners who worked on the grounds. He said they would wander off and the appearance of the hotel would suffer if he didn’t keep on top of them.
The moment Grant and Jason walked into the Venetian Room I saw it in use as a busy, elegant formal dining room. The diners of yesteryear were in formal dinner wear. The women had on different colored dresses, the men tuxedos.
As soon as they entered the Venetian Room Jason felt the air around him suddenly get thick. He asked Grant if he felt the pressure on his head as well. Grant confirmed, “Yeah, got that feel.” I was not surprised Jason felt the atmosphere in the room change. It was jam-packed with the ghosts of diners, waiters and busboys. Whatever past evening I saw in progress it was stifling hot despite the Bentley’s much vaunted air conditioning.
A few moments later both Jason and Grant heard a noise like a cart rolling across the floor. I saw the cart they heard. It was pushed by a waiter to a table of hungry guests.
Based on past reports of a female ghost, Grant asked, “Hello? Is there a woman in here with us?” Both men said they heard a faint response that might have been, “yeah”. Unfortunately this was not heard upon review.
Despite the lack of EVP backup the guys were onto something. I saw the ghost of a young woman, about 17 years-old in a formal dress, complete with corsage. Her bobbed honey-blond hair was styled in soft finger waves, so I would place her in the 1930’s. I think the teen was the source of the noise Jason and Grant followed out of the Venetian Room and back into the lobby. They were right about her location. She was nervously waiting just outside the dining room for her date. Grant nailed that one.
Once in the lobby Jason saw shadow play he later described as legs headed up the grand staircase. He mused that the shadow figure could not have been caused by cars passing by on the street as TAPS had it blocked off in front of the hotel.
Jason told Grant, “Whoa, I just saw someone.” They raced upstairs and checked out the second floor rooms but found nothing. Grant and Jason continued to call out “Hello” at regular intervals until Jason told Grant he had heard something, “That really sounded like a hello response.” As Jason recapped for his camera man he abruptly stopped speaking and asked Grant if he had heard whatever Jason had. Grant once again replied, “Yeah”. Jason asked Grant, “Did it sound like, ‘No, you don’t?’” Grant confirmed, “Yeah, like forceful.”
Grant said yeah a lot in the episode. He also seemed preoccupied and although he backed Jason up a number of times he came across as not particularly interested in what was going on around him.
The next bit of disembodied vocals sounded like singing to Jason and Grant. I had the impression of children singing although during the reveal Grant said it sounded more like a room of well lubricated pub customers. Did TAPS pick up additional singing at Finnegan’s that they didn’t show on the episode?
Grant thought perhaps a radio was on in one of the many hotel rooms around them, but they couldn’t find the source despite Jason hearing it twice.
Steve and Tango tried their luck on the third floor of the Bentley. Joseph Bentley’s ghost had been reported in front of the elevator doors, so the guys sat in the hallway instead of Mr. Bentley’s suite.
Steve tried to draw Bentley out when he loudly announced, “Mr. Bentley we’re on the third floor.” Steve and Tango didn’t get much beyond a few responsive knocks and thumps. I was disappointed because the ghost of Joseph Bentley was standing in the hallway watching them. He was not a happy camper and rebuked Steve, “People are trying to sleep here!” Steve wasn’t aware of Mr. Bentley’s presence or irritation.
Steve continued, “If you are not Mr. Bentley, make a noise right now. This was followed by a thump Tango had nothing to do with. When Steve asked again Tango commented on a knocking noise they both heard. The ghost behind both the thump and the knocking was the concierge I had first seen in the formal dining room off the lobby.
Steve couldn’t determine if the noises he and Tango heard originated inside on the third floor from an outside source. He said, “The idea that it happened on command made it that much more interesting.” When no additional responses were forthcoming Steve and Tango packed up their gear and left.
Amy and Adam tried for better results on the third floor. Like Steve and Tango they set up in the hallway. Why didn’t any of the TAPS teams actually enter Mr. Bentley’s suite? If his ghost was seen at the elevator wouldn’t it follow it might be seen in his former living space?
Granted the Bentley suite probably would not have worked as well for the laser grid Amy and Adam set up in the hallway. What really bothered me was one of the dots of laser light that should have been in a fixed matrix seemed to detach itself and float around the upper right corner of the grid. It could have easily been dust but TAPS would have enjoyed greater credibility with what happened next if a voiceover had tagged the anomaly. Instead it wasn’t mentioned at all.
As Amy and Adam sat in the hall looking annoyed and bored respectively the entire laser grid shifted about a quarter turn. The laser grid stick was propped up on the rubberized handle of a flashlight on the hallway carpet. Amy tried to recreate the shift in the laser grid when she duplicated her action of setting down her recorder on the floor nearby. The laser joggled a bit but didn’t move a quarter turn as it had before. Amy concluded that setting down her recorder might have contributed to the movement of the grid. Although she couldn’t duplicate it, the movement was ruled not paranormal. This time I agreed with her. The laser pointer rolled. There wasn’t a ghost nearby as far as I could tell.
Steve and Tango worked to debunk reports of figures on the balcony above the hotel lobby. Steve noted the angle was wrong for the headlights of passing cars to reflect off the marble pillars and cause the illusion of shadow figures. It was never made clear if the past reported sightings of shadow figures on the balcony had taken place during daylight, in darkness or both.
Steve concluded that if he aimed the beam of his flashlight along the ornately decorated tops of the marble pillars that flanked the balcony that the shiny marble reflected enough light onto the rounded roundels to create the illusion of a phantom head and shoulders on the balcony.
I didn’t see it, but maybe. What I did see was the balcony jam-packed with couples. The various pairs flirted, gossiped and watched the formal dance going on in the lobby below. There were even velvet lined chairs for the erstwhile dancers to sit on when they took a break or sought a bit of privacy.
TAPS resident comedy team didn’t disappoint when they checked out the base of the grand staircase where the ghost of a little girl reportedly liked to trip unwary guests. Steve turned his thermal camera on Tango as he went up the first central set of steps. No interference from the ghost girl was evident. (I didn’t see her around at this point at all.) Steve suggested Tango invite the ghost girl to trip him on the stairs. Round two, Tango trudged up the central stairs and managed to trip himself.
Steve speculated that since people in general manage to trip over their own feet on regular basis that perhaps they were embarrassed and to cover their awkwardness they blamed the ghost girl for their gaffes.
Jason and Grant took a turn on the Mezzanine as they looked down into the gloom of the darkened Hall of Mirrors. Grant took a half-hearted shot at debunking reports that the chandeliers moved by themselves. He noted the crystal and the sheer size made his air current theory unlikely. That line of thought was abandoned when both guys saw a light from what Grant said was the “basement”. In the dark I couldn’t tell if Grant meant the lobby floor or if the lobby had a direct line of sight from the Mezzanine into the basement at some point. I thought it unlikely as elegant hotel lobbies generally try to make such mundane realities as the basement levels unseen or at least unobtrusive. Looking down into a utility space would ruin the effect of the grand scale, the series of domes and the marble pillars and floors.
Shortly thereafter a second burst of light was recorded in the lobby. Jason described it as if a camera flash had suddenly gone off. Grant said he saw a third, dimmer light in the lobby but despite the split screen and review of the shot several times I didn’t see the third dimmer light. I did get a psychic glimpse of a photographer with an old style 1880’s camera with a powder fueled tray flash taking a picture of a group of people in the lobby. This puzzled me because the Hotel Bentley wasn’t built until 1908, well past the camera technology of the 1880’s. I asked my guides about it and was told the entire shot had been part of a publicity campaign for the hotel.
After the light flashes Grant and Jason headed down stairs. Grant heard and recorded 3-4 disembodied footsteps. He and Jason tried to follow them down the hallway but didn’t find anything.
The Town Hall reveal was more like a publicity event as TAPS was greeted with applause and cheers. First the EVP of singing was played. The crowd was told it had been recorded at Finnegan’s Wake. Co-owner Shannon agreed it sounded like singing but had no idea what the song was. He also agreed that a faint, indistinguishable EVP sounded like a female voice. Based on two faint EVP’s and no personal experiences at Finnegan’s, Grant reassured Shannon that “I see no reason to be afraid of the place.” Grant suggested Shannon think of the unseen inhabitants of his bar as regular people, as patrons. How Shannon was reassured by this that whatever haunted his pub was benign, I didn’t follow.
Dana from the Diamond Grill listened attentively to an exceptionally faint EVP captured talking over Adam. Dana said she heard what sounded like a voice but had no idea what was said. Jason mentioned the voice was exceptionally close to the microphone when it was recorded. If that was the case, why wasn’t it louder or at least had a discernible word?
An almost equally garbled EVP Amy and Adam captured in the Diamond Grill was played. Jason thought it said, “Hey Adam” and Dana agreed. All I could hear for certain was a strong “h” sound.
An EVP recorded in the Diamond Grill bar was determined to have said, “I’m sorry.” Jason noted TAPS had no context for the comment. Yet Grant told Dana there was definitely something going on in her business and Jason claimed the EVP “Definitely…” was an, “…intelligent haunt.” With no context or apparent response to investigators questions how did Jason conclude that the source behind the garbled EVP was intelligent?
The evidence was better for the Hotel Bentley. Jason shared his personal experience of seeing ghostly pant legs headed up the grand staircase. The flash of light video was shown. Grant explained that he and Jason had headed upstairs, seen a shadow on the right that hesitated and then went down the hallway. While on the stairs landing they recorded an EVP of unidentified footsteps. I heard the footsteps clearly but wondered why the first step was so much louder and heavier than the following ones? Increased distance? A heavier tread as a ghostly figure climbed the stairs? I don’t know and it wasn’t discussed during the episode.
The final EVP was when Jason was talking to his camera man and was interrupted by a disembodied voice that TAPS decided had said, “No, you don’t.” Bill commented that the voices in the final EVP were related to the room Grant and Jason were in at the time and concluded “…they were calling to you.” It was good Bill was happy but once again I felt as if I had missed some key conversation or back story that was left on the cutting room floor. I had a hard time hearing anything TAPS heard on EVP except the footsteps. Suffice to say they were not Class A EVP’s.
To wrap things up Grant told the town of Alexandria “Something was going on.” They already knew that. Jason stated that although there was definitely paranormal activity going on in the downtown core, “It doesn’t appear they are the least bit tied to one another.”
Shannon felt reassured by TAPS investigation. Dana was pleased to have her personal experiences confirmed.
Bill stretched a bit when he said, “If it is Joseph Bentley (in the hotel) he is trying to reach out to say he is happy to have people in his hotel again.” I don’t know how large a stake Bill had in the current cluster of Hotel Bentley owners, but what I got from Bentley’s ghost when Steve and Tango were yelling outside his suite, was no, he really didn’t want TAPS there. He perceived them as intruders. If the hotel could be gotten up and running again, perhaps Joseph Bentley’s shade would feel differently about paying guests. It was and remains an elegant and impressive building. I would stay there if it was operational.
Lynne Olson can be contacted for private readings via email at: email@example.com
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