From the Vault: 1880s building has spooky reputation

Published on Thursday, 12 October 2017 18:47 - Written by FAITH HARPER fharper@tylerpaper.com

This story originally published on Oct. 29, 2012

The Beckham Hotel has been the source of spooky stories, folklore and the home of colorful characters for decades at its prominent position in downtown Mineola.

Exact historical information on the hotel is scarce, but it is believed to have been built in the late 1880s, said Lou Mallory, Wood County Historical Commission chairwoman.

"There has been so much history there that it would be folklore because of the things that may have happened there and are told," she said. "There were a lot of people in and out and a lot of things coming in and out. You have all these people coming in and out off the train. You are going to have a varied clientele."

Mallory said there are no clear records on who built the original structure, but it was purchased by Mr. Beckham in the 1920s.

The small hotel was heavily damaged in a fire in the late 1920s, and Mr. Beckham rebuilt to bigger three-story brick building, constructing 40 rooms, with a ballroom on the second floor and a restaurant and coffee shop on the ground floor. The home is now the private residence of John DeFoore, who teaches guitar lessons and uses the old hotel suites as practice rooms for his students.

DeFoore purchased the building in 1993 with intentions of remodeling the aging structure, but he soon found out he was not a great host and used the building to host concerts and to teach. The building is said to be haunted by visitors of the past.

DeFoore said he has never seen a ghost but has heard descriptions of the same three from many people.

"I don't look to see," he said. "I know strange things happen here, and I have experienced quite a few of them, but they are not threatening, so I leave them alone, and they leave me alone."

The most well-known has been named "Elizabeth."

She is described as a pretty woman, about 30 years old, wearing a long dress and usually carrying a parasol. DeFoore said she is most often seen going up the stairs, most often on Mondays about 3 a.m. Mallory said the most-often told story is the woman came to town to visit family.

"Her daddy was the one who owned the hotel (in the late 1880s) and came to stay for a few days, and (she) fell all the way down the stairs to her death," she said.

Then, there is a young girl, between 9 and 11 years old, who has been spotted in the hotellobby, peering through the glass doors into the adjacent restaurant. DeFoore said the restaurant has lost several employees over the sightings.

"I know one of ladies that saw the little girl ... she opened the door thinking it was a guest, and she looked on the other side of the door and there was no one," DeFoore said. "She literally closed the restaurant, went to her church and got some holy water. She quit the next day."

The other ghoulish guest of the hotel is a man, who is dressed as a gambler. DeFoore said he is seen walking the halls upstairs and usually disappears into a room. He said there are plenty of ideas on who the man could be. He said that in the 1940s, a man committed suicide in the lobby. Another did the same by drinking acid in one of the rooms.

"Someone was supposedly killed in a poker game on the third floor," DeFoore said of the most popular story on the man's identity. "He had his head cut off - that was in the 1930s."

Although DeFoore said he has never seen a ghostly figure, he has experienced other weird things in his home. When he first bought the building, he was in the lobby with a group of people when water started pouring down from the ceiling.

"It hadn't rained in two or three weeks, and there was no water on the second floor," he said. "There hadn't been water going to the second floor in 10 or 15 years, and when we went up there, there was no evidence of water."

DeFoore said the plumber came and said there was no physical way water could have been pouring out of the ceiling. During its heyday, the hotel catered to the train patrons.

"Sometimes back in the old days, they would stop in a place and had lunch and get back on the train ..." Mallory said. "Salesman came through (on the) the train, and they would get off, and lot of them would stay there."

Traveling musicians would also play while they were in town, and the ballroom was full of activity each Saturday night. DeFoore said an older man told him he used to pick up bottles thrown from the hotelwindows and turn them in for a cash reward.

DeFoore said the back-room gambling was routine, and during the 1950s, a clerk sold bootleg whiskey, which he stored in the hotel's vault. But, he said, Mr. Beckham did not allow women of the night in his hotel. Mallory said at the time, the town's single women might have hung around in hopes of meeting a new husband.

"A lot of women in town who weren't married came to the railroad track and wanted to get one of the railroad employees," she said. "(If you were) looking for a boyfriend you happened to be around, and around the hotel or through the general area to see who came and went." Mallory said the hotel's folklore and history are hard to separate. "There are all kinds of things and it's hard to sift through what actually happened," she said.