Poltergeist is one of the most famous horror movies of all time. Steven Spielberg was one of the writers of the movie and we may now know where he got his inspiration from.
According to the story, back in the 1970s while looking for a filming location for The Sugarland Express, Spielberg stayed at the Excelsior Hotel in Jefferson, Texas. He was staying in room 215 (also called the Jay Gould Room) when he experienced some pretty strange events. When he entered the room, he tossed his briefcase onto a chair but it immediately flew right back at him. And apparently later that same night/early morning hours, a boy wearing clothes from the 1800s woke Spielberg up, asking him if he was ready to eat breakfast. Needless to say, he quickly packed up his belongings and checked out of the hotel.
Other paranormal activity in that room includes strange sounds in the middle of the night, lights flickering off and on, and the chair rocking on its own. While the Jay Gould Room is said to be the most haunted, there are at least two other rooms that have reported paranormal activity.
What’s even stranger was that the idea for the movie Poltergeist came to Spielberg’s mind not long after his encounter in room 215. Coincidence?
Built in the 1850s, the Excelsior Hotel is the oldest continuously running hotel in the state of Texas and has a pretty creepy reputation for being haunted. Guests who have stayed at the hotel have reported seeing a ghostly soldier in an oval mirror. A headless man is said to reside on the second floor and roams around the corridors. A woman wearing all black who is holding a baby has also been seen. The ghostly female is rumored to be a thief and who will steal money if it is left on the table.
Additional accounts of paranormal activity include guests hearing the closet door rattling and the bathroom door swinging open. Some people have smelled cigar smoke and perfume, while others have experienced their sheets being torn off the bed.
One frightening story dates back to the 1800s. The previous owner of the property named William Perry received the land as a gift from the City of Jefferson in 1846 as a way to thank him for his services as a steamboat captain. He built a hotel and named it the Irving House which is still present today in the northwestern part of the Excelsior.
As a busy port town, there were many deaths that occurred in Jefferson. One of those deaths was a woman named Diamond Bessie (also known as Bessie Moore or Annie Stone) who died in 1877. She and her husband Abe Rothschild arrived in Jefferson for a visit and one day while they were there, they went out for a picnic. Rothschild returned without Diamond Bessie and she was found a week later with a bullet wound to her head. Rothschild was charged with murder but was acquitted after three trials.
There are rumors that they stayed at the Excelsior Hotel although it hasn’t been proven. Many people believe that Diamond Bessie is one of the many spirits who allegedly haunt the hotel.
With all of the paranormal activity, it’s very possible that Spielberg did in fact come up with the storyline for Poltergeist while staying there.