Ghoulish accommodations

From eerie to bizarre, Sellers has seen them all

Sellers poses in front of the house from “Amityville Horror” in Amityville, NY.

Sellers poses in front of the house from “Amityville Horror” in Amityville, NY.

Sellers stands at the front door of the Lizzie Borden home in Fall River, Mass.

Sellers stands at the front door of the Lizzie Borden home in Fall River, Mass.

The hall of the Eastern State Prison in Philadelphia is seen here.

The hall of the Eastern State Prison in Philadelphia is seen here.

Brenda Sellers checks out the Ice Hotel in Quebec, Canada.

Brenda Sellers checks out the Ice Hotel in Quebec, Canada.

Brenda Sellers knows a thing or two about hauntings. She has a list of the Top 10 Haunted Hotels in the United States, and she has stayed in all ten.

None of them produced any ghostly spirits for Brenda and her husband, Ed, to write home about, but other adventures on Brenda’s list have proved to be rather eerie.

The Weather Station Inn bed and breakfast in Key West, for example, might want to check out getting on a “haunted” list, based on Brenda and Ed’s experience.

“It was 11 in the morning, broad daylight. Ed was with me, and he asked me why I kept coming in and out of the room. I wasn’t. I was on the balcony putting my makeup on.

“Then I actually saw the wooden floor move, and the door handle move. We both saw it in broad daylight and that was weird,” Brenda said. “Ed is ‘black and white’ about things like this, and it was weird for him, too.”

Ed said as hard as he tried, he could find no rational explanation for what happened. “I really can’t explain what the heck happened. She was outside getting ready to leave, and I’m inside and see the door knob turn and hear a weird sound, twice. When she came in, we could see and hear footsteps going across the wood floor,” Ed said. “I nearly took the door apart to figure out how that happened. I thought the hotel staff rigged it. I talked to them, and they blew me off and thought I was crazy.”

Brenda Sellers is partial to staying in places that are haunted, just out of curiosity and for the fun of it. A dedicated “list maker,” Brenda likes to make lists of things she wants to do or accomplish, and then have the fun of crossing things off. The list of haunted hotels was compiled by Citysearch editors. The places where Sellers has slept include the following:

17 Hundred 90 in Savannah, Ga., is said to have ghosts and is the oldest bed-and-breakfast in Savannah.

Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago is where some say they have seen the ghosts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thomas Edison and Franklin Lloyd Wright.

Hotel San Carlos in Phoenix, Ariz., is where a woman leapt to her death from the downtown hotel. Now people say her ghost walks the halls.

Lemp Mansion in St. Louis is where mysterious deaths, suicides and the tragic ruin of one family is said to have left ghostly traces.

McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, Ore., is a historic estate with amenities that include a golf course, brewery and mysterious floating objects.

Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, La., is the site of 10 murders and an Indian burial ground.

Notchland Inn in Bartlett, N.H., is a bed-and-breakfast where some say a woman who tragically died during a storm still searches for her lover.

Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach, Calif., is a famous cruise ship that lost many souls during its time crossing the Atlantic. Some say the ghosts of those individuals haunt the ship.

Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco is where suicides, a murder and ghostly figures add to the mystique of this luxury hotel.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Col., is the birthplace of the horror classic “The Shining” and is said to host the spirits of the original owners.

Brenda Sellers said one of the weirdest things that has ever happened was last year when she and her husband were in California the weekend after Michael Jackson died. Because of this historic event, they drove four hours in stop-and-go traffic to Jackson’s home at Neverland Ranch. The public was directed to park down the road. As they made their way to the parking spot, Brenda says she made a comment to Ed about all these people coming to see an accused child molester.

She made the comment just as they drove past the front gate.

“I made a derogatory remark (about Jackson), and, at that moment, the CD flew out of the CD player and into the back seat and a Michael Jackson song came on the radio. It was ‘Thriller,’” she said. “It was creepy.”

Ed said the incident was creepy.

“Brenda looked at me, and I looked at her, and she said, ‘Are you going to put the CD back in?’ and I said, ‘Not until the song is over,’” Ed said. “I had no rational explanation. The CD didn’t just eject. It flew out.”

Brenda isn’t just attracted to haunted places. She also enjoys staying at unique and unusual places when she travels.

“I’m looking all the time for places to go and things to do. I’m very big into historical plantations and hotels. I’m not a ghost-seeker. I’m more about architecture and the history of a place.”

Brenda has also slept with polar bears near the North Pole, in a monastery, an ice hotel, an underwater hotel and a haunted lighthouse.

Nothing happened in the 10 hotels, but sleeping in the room where Lizzie Borden’s stepmother was killed “was the creepest one,” Sellers said.

The hotel is in Fall River. Mass., where Lizzie Borden allegedly killed her step-mother and father, Abby and Andrew Borden, on Aug. 4, 1892.

“The picture of the crime scene is in the room you sleep in,” she said. “I felt something odd when I slept in the room and laid in the spot where Lizzie Borden hacked up her step-mother. It just felt weird, but nothing happened during the night.”

So how did Sellers’ tour of all things haunted or unique begin? The Chroma president and United Way of Blount County board chair said it all started when she was in elementary school.

“When I was a child, I kept a list of things I wanted to do. In fourth grade, we had a coloring contest, and I did the Golden Gate Bridge. I said I wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge,” she said.

She was in her 20s when she accomplished that, and she liked crossing it off her list.

“That was a dream come true,” she said.

Sellers said it all goes back to her attitude about life. “I’m a very bored individual. I’m very list-driven, and it’s a challenge for me to find something I have not seen before,” she said. “If anybody sees something bizarre, I’m writing it on my list. The list is getting shorter, but I am still adding to it.”

Sellers said she started with just visiting all the states and going to places like the Statue of Liberty.

“I have also visited all the state parks and all the U.S. Presidential libraries,” she said. “And I’m working on my list of prisons.”

That’s right, she said prisons.

“The prison list started when I was doing Citizens Academy, and we toured Brushy Mountain State Prison.”

Sellers said she has toured, among others, prisons like Alcatraz, Folsom Prison, and San Quinton Prison.

“People have mixed feelings about me visiting prisons, but if I can make the prisoners laugh, and I can give them a ‘Mom’ talk, then I can tell them they need to get their acts together because their kids need to see them.”

After helping clean up and restore a family cemetery in Loudon County, Sellers also developed an interest in cemeteries. “I also go to bizarre cemeteries. I saw on a tombstone (in Key West) a message inscribed that said, ‘I told you I was sick,’” she said. “I’ve been to a lot of bizarre graves over the years.”

And she records it all in pictures.

“I’ve done this my whole life because I’m a photographer,” she said. “I’ve got 399 photo albums of all these places.”

The list to see all the Wonders of the World actually has to be more than one list. The avid traveler said she’s seen most of the four categories of Wonders of the World.

“There’s only one Wonder of the World I’ve not seen. I figured if I slept with the polar bears, I could see the Northern Lights, which is on one of the Wonder’s lists. But it was overcast, and I couldn’t see the lights,” she said.

Sellers said the experience that had the most profound effect on her wasn’t haunted or eerie.

“Of all the things I’ve seen, the Taj Mahal, spoke to me. The way the light came in with the evening sun, it illuminated the room in a pinkish-purple hue. It moved my spirit.”

Sellers is always looking for new places to visit. If you want to make a suggestion for her next adventure, she says to just call her at 865-970-3963, ext. 123.

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