HAUNTED HISTORY OF MOBILE – THE BATTLE HOUSE HOTEL
by: Katherine Sprinkle
The Battle House Hotel is a historic hotel located in Mobile, Alabama. It was recently named the Best Historic Hotel in the United States by the Historic Hotels of America. Three Battle brothers built a 4-story hotel in 1852 at the corner of Royal and St. Francis Streets. The same location that Andrew Jackson had set up his headquarters during the War of 1812. From the moment it opened, The Battle House Hotel has been the center of Mobile’s social scene. The hotel has hosted numerous parties, balls, and dignitaries. It also has a haunted past like not other building in Mobile.
These three stories prove why the Battle House is the most haunted hotel in Alabama!
“1910 – Lady in Red”
After a disastrous fire in 1905, the newly renovated and beautifully restored Battle House reopened in 1908. So you can imagine the excitement of the unnamed young bride of legend when she and her new husband took up residence in the hotel in 1910. However, that joy was to be short lived. They had been in residence only two months when her husband left her in the beautiful hotel, supposedly to handle business out of town. He would be back soon, he assured her. However, as the days of his absence turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, the beautiful hotel where she had once made her happy home became a place of deep despair for the poor woman. At last she conceded that her husband had abandoned her, and hanged herself in the elegant Crystal Ballroom.
What happened to this vanishing husband? Did he intentionally abandon his young wife, perhaps to return to a secret family elsewhere? Maybe he was innocent, and tragically killed on the road trying to return to his pining bride, never to be found. Whatever the case, guests to events at the hotel are always advised to keep an eye on their photographs. They just might spot an unfamiliar, mournful woman in a red dress, looking for her lost love.
“1932 – Crime of Passion: ‘The Battle House Honor Killing’”
The whole world loves a scandal, and Mobile is certainly no different. On August 22, 1932, twenty-seven year old Henry M. Butler, Jr., a local real estate broker, agreed to meet a potential client in Room 552 of the hotel. Unfortunately for him, this “potential client” was actually the husband of a woman he had had an affair with two years prior. In True Mobile Fashion, the lovers met while serving together in the 1929 Court of King Felix III. The affair wasn’t particularly long lived, but its effects might have been. See, Mr. Raymond Dyson had reason to believe that, not only had Henry been “overly friendly” with his wife, Dorothy Grassfield Dyson, but that Henry might actually be the biological father of he and Dorothy’s young son, born in July of 1930.
Now, understandably this was upsetting, but it upset Raymond enough that he and his brother, Sam, decided to lure Henry to the hotel room and teach him a lesson. No doubt Henry realized he was in for some trouble when he recognized Sam, who he knew, although I doubt he had any idea exactly how much. Because if he had, he might have had a different answer to Raymond’s question of “when exactly were you having an affair with my wife” than “That’s none of your damn business.”
That hot retort immediately caused a scuffle, with Raymond punching Henry so hard in the face he broke his glasses. At this point Henry realized he was in some serious trouble and attempted to yell for help, but after a bit more fighting the brothers gagged and restrained him. They then continued to brutally beat him until he was unconscious, at which point they drug him to the room’s bathroom and quickly left the hotel. When Henry was found by hotel staff some hours later, he had died.
Despite loads of evidence and even confessions, the brothers were acquitted and allowed to go free. This was largely thanks to Dorothy openly admitting her affair on the stand, which caused the Court to rule in favor of an “Unwritten Law” of the time, which was the understanding that a man was justified in killing his wife’s lover. This undoubtedly hasn’t set well with the Henry’s spirit.
The hotel underwent major renovations in 2003, at which time many single rooms, like Room 552, in which Henry was killed, were combined to make larger suites. This significant change has left Henry’s wandering soul at a disadvantage, and guests and staff alike report that he is known to rattle doorknobs of rooms on the fifth floor, trying in vain to find his way back to Room 552.
“2007 – Uninvited Guest”
In 2007, the Battle House Hotel was preparing for its Grand Reopening as the beautiful venue we know and love today. Before that official re-opening, they hosted a wedding reception. The bride was so taken with the hotel that she even arranged to have her pre-wedding photos taken ahead of time at the hotel. The photographer wanted to take advantage of the stunning lighting and architecture of the lobby’s rotunda, and so posed the bride so that he could photograph her standing the side of the mezzanine in front of the Trellis Room while they were across the opening above the reception desk. This photo turned out exactly how they hoped, and was enlarged for a canvas sized print to be displayed at the entrance to the wedding reception. However, the day of, the bridal party was quite distraught to discover that the bride wasn’t alone in the photograph – a mystery man in a grey suit could be seen standing on the mezzanine near her. Now, this should have been impossible. The hotel wasn’t officially open yet, so the guests were very limited, and obviously a professional photographer wouldn’t made sure to get all random passerby out of the shot. Not only that, but they had reviewed the print before this and the man certainly hadn’t been present! Yet there he was, standing plain as day in his grey suit. The bridal party went to advise the bride, who came to inspect the photo herself and see if she could determine the identity of the mystery man. Yet when they returned to look at the canvas, the gentleman had disappeared!
Who was this vanishing picture ghost? Could it be the husband of the poor lady in red, searching the hotel for his bride as she once searched for him? Or could it perhaps be Mr. Butler, who we already know had a penchant for young married ladies?
Be sure to stop by the Battle House and ask Mr. George for a tour. You just might catch the Grey Man in a photo of your own!