The Haunted History of the Battle House Hotel

Southern Travel Southern Vacation Southern Lifestyle

My interest in the Battle House Hotel was originally piqued when a colleague excitedly shared rumors of its hauntings over drinks one evening a couple of years ago.  Considering she was not only several years my senior but also in a high-paying professional position and not a self-employed palm reader, I thought her story (submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society) had credibility.

The one about the fixer-upper

As I was saying, my indoctrination into the mysterious happenings at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa occurred over cocktails one night at Bonefish Grill.  My companion had just finished sharing the story of her own haunted midtown abode to our other dinner guest—a disbelieving Texan. Presumably as a means to further shake his skepticism in the existence of spooks, she told the following story about the rumored ghostly occurrences during the Battle House’s renovations, which were completed in 2006.

Based on her story, it appears that the Battle House Hotel has friendly and not-so-friendly resident spirits.  During renovations, some of the more playful ghosts would move tools around while less friendly ghosts prevented some rooms from being renovated all together. Construction workers would leave after a day of progress only to return the next day and their work would mysteriously be un-done.

Stay in the beautiful Battle House Hotel in Mobile, AL

By George on all accounts…

If you ask George Moore, the hotel’s resident historian about that one, I’m betting he won’t back me up.  George, for one, doesn’t believe in ghosts.  This is possibly because his pragmatic nature as a historian doesn’t allow for him to indulge in this aspect of the fantastic, or it may be because he hasn’t had a ghostly encounter of his own.  Either way, George is absolutely delightful and has no problem sharing ghost stories that are now just a part of the tapestry that make up the Battle House Hotel’s rich history.

The one about the royal affair

“There was an incident where a person was killed at the Battle House,” George said in our recent candid phone interview.  I’m listening.

Stay in the luxurious Battle House Hotel in Mobile, ALOnce upon a time, there was a “gentleman” Henry M. Butler, Jr. a locally successful businessman as well as a former King Felix III of the 1929 Mardi Gras.  As it turns out, Mr. Butler was poking around where he didn’t belong (with one Mrs. Raymond Dyson, who had once been a Mardi Gras queen).  The story goes that the Dyson Brothers, Sam and Raymond, caught wind of this dillydallying—Mr. George’s delightful word of choice for the salacious affair—and decided to do sumfin’ about it.

The Dyson Brothers’ father, Marmaduke, lured Butler to the Battle House’s room 552, and when Butler got there, the brothers were waiting.  They beat Butler up and left, jauntily traversing back across the bay to Baldwin County where they resided.

Here’s where some of the details in Mr. George’s and another historic account differ slightly. In one account, the brothers began seeking a lawyer to prosecute Butler for the offense of dillying and—to a lesser extent—dallying with Raymond’s property wife.  Mr. George says Marmaduke himself called the hotel to advise that a beaten man could be found in room 552.
The House Detective—what they called security at the time (a term that should immediately come back into vogue)—investigated room 552.  Butler was indeed found there beaten and, perhaps surprisingly, dead as a doornail (or as dead as Dickens’ doornail, at any rate).

Historic accounts say that when the Dyson boys caught wind of this, the scamps took off for Jacksonville, FL, but a little telephone forensics traced the call to the residence of who reported the beatings (a bit of trivia Mr. George divulged and seem to find very fascinating given the year of this sordid mess was 1932), and the Dyson brothers were served warrants for the crime of murder.
At trial, the brothers were acquitted on the basis of unwritten law, and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.  Fiddle-dee-dee.

The old schtooping grounds today

If you’re wondering if you can still reserve room 552 to conduct your own lascivious affairs or private beatings in, you cannot, and it’s not necessarily because you might get caught or arrested (beatings are illegal in Mobile County to the best of my knowledge) … it’s because when the Battle House renovated in 2004, all of the original 250 rooms and suites were gutted and rebuilt into larger rooms.  There are now only 122 rooms on the hotel’s historic side.

That said, you can stay on the 5th floor.  Rooms are numbered in the thousands (ex: 5125 or 5152 on the historic side), so, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can kind-of stay in the room where Butler last got laid.

Try the spa at the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, AL

The one about the jilted bride

For those who aren’t from around here, the Battle House Hotel is beautiful and their Crystal Ballroom (pictured at top center) is a perfect place to host a wedding or wedding reception (your family and friends will be a delightful shade of envious and impressed).

Many events have taken place in the Crystal Ballroom over the years.  For example, in 1910, a recently married couple was staying at the Battle House.  He had to depart for reasons unknown but promised to return; however, he must have taken too long because his bride became forlorn and hung herself in the Crystal Ballroom.

Mr. George said that two weeks after the Battle House Hotel re-opened, there was to be a wedding reception in the Crystal Ballroom.  As part of the décor, a large portrait of the bride-to-be that had been taken just prior to the opening stood on an easel in the room.  The bride’s mother and two ladies from the concierge went in to view the room and were surprised to find a man in a grey suit standing beside the bride in the portrait.  When everyone else entered the Crystal Ballroom, the man disappeared.

Mr. George was skeptical when the concierge told him of this, but when the bride’s mother came back a year later and told him the same story … well … he admits that impressed him.

Call me a romantic, but I think the husband did go back for his lonely bride and that he was looking for her in the portrait.

Stay in the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, ALThe one you tell your friends

I know not everyone is intrigued by sordid love stories or the possibility of a supernatural sighting, which is another reason the Battle House Hotel is so fantastic: it’s like a choose-your-own-adventure luxury hotel.  On the one side, there is the historic section where you may hear bumps and rattles in the night, which if you’re on the 5th floor … keep calm and slumber on.  It’s just Mr. Butler looking for his room.

For those who would rather get a good night’s sleep, you can opt to stay in the tower, a modern, 100-percent non-haunted hotel stay.  Your only worry in the tower will be if you can get an appointment for the spa on such short notice (it’s one of Mobile’s best spa experiences).

If you are interested in challenging the fates, might I suggest you request a room on the 3rd floor where Mr. George says guests have actually come off that floor requesting to be relocated?  At this point in our conversation, Mr. George developed amnesia and couldn’t recall specifically what the guests see or hear that would necessitate their relocation to the tower.

I have a few ideas based on these stories.

• One guest on the 4th floor reported seeing bright flashes in the room but could not replicate the source of the flashes.

• Another saw an apparition in her room, which she found to be so frightening that she now sleeps with the television on as a means to rationalize any inexplicable sightings.

Stay in the luxurious Battle House Hotel in Mobile, AL• Another 4th floor guest witnessed an apparition and also felt several “dips” on the bed’s mattress but couldn’t identify the source of the movement.

• A guest who stayed recently says that during the middle of the night, their son awoke to the sound of running water.  Despite everyone being asleep, the shower was on, and someone had to literally shut it off.

Mr. George says that the concierge do not know which rooms are “haunted’”, so they can’t make any recommendations one way or another.  Most of the tales I’ve heard come off the 3rd and 4th floors, so keep that in mind.

Regardless of where you stay, you should schedule an appointment with Mr. George for a more in depth history lesson and a tour of the hotel when you visit.  You may not see any ghosts, but what you learn about the hotel’s past will be just as titillating and will give you all of the chills and thrills your stay at the Battle House needs.

If your curiosity about one of Mobile’s most unique hotel experiences is piqued, check out the Battle House Hotel webpage, and make your reservation today. Oh, and don’t forget your nightlight.

For even more intriguing Mobile history, learn about local legend Joe Cain and his Merry Widows (and when to see them!)

Photos courtesy of Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Resort Collection

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