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The Lorraine Motel



The Lorraine Motel

The Lorraine Motel allows visitors to take a glimpse into the past. Memphis’s haunted Civil Rights Museum is the exact location where Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s life was tragically cut short in 1968. His sudden and tragic death has left a strange spiritual aura around the motel, especially in his old room. 


His sheets are still unmade, his car is in the parking spot out front, and old cigarettes remain in the ashtray. Perhaps this is why visitors to the historic motel-turned-Civil Rights Museum feel incredibly uneasy near Dr. King’s old room. 

 

King wasn’t the only casualty that day, as you’ll learn on this tragic trip down horror lane. 

 

The Lorraine Hotel is one of many stops along the #1-rated ghost tour in Memphis. Come and experience it for yourself with US Ghost Adventures by your side. 

 

History of The Lorraine Motel

 

The Bluff City is much more than the blues, Beale Street, and Elvis. Before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination, the iconic Lorraine Motel served an important purpose. It was one of many establishments deemed safe for African Americans by the “Green Guide” during the Jim Crow era of American history. 

 

The legendary Motel’s story trails back even further, however. 

 

The Lorraine Motel first opened its doors at 450 Mulberry Street in 1925 as the 16-bedroom Windsor Hotel. This “white’s only” Hotel slowly began to cater to the large black population in Memphis, eventually changing its name to the Marquette.

 

Walter and Loree Bailey stepped into the picture in 1945, purchasing the hotel shortly after the end of World War 2. It was renamed the Lorraine Motel after the popular 1920s song “Sweet Lorraine” and in honor of Loree Bailey. 

 

The Lorraine Motel 

 

The Bailey’s catered to the growing number of black entertainers coming to Memphis. Just a block away was, and still is, Beale Street, the capital of live music in Memphis. Stax Records, the record label responsible for recording Otis Redding, Albert King, Booker T and The MGs, and many more, opened up in 1957 just a few blocks away. 

 

Famous black musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, and Sam Cooke have all stayed at the Lorraine. Sadly, this fact would get lost to one of the most heinous crimes committed in US history.

 

In a time before the internet and one of increasingly violent racial segregation, finding a safe place to rest was difficult. A designated list of safe establishments for African Americans, The “Green Guide,” was produced and distributed by New York City postal worker Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966. The Lorraine became a safe haven for these traveling troubadors and many others.





The Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King

 

On April 4th, 1968, Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel. He was gunned down by James Earl Ray in front of room 306—a room he stayed in so often that it had already been named after him in his honor. 

 

King was in town to support striking sanitation workers and had experienced a bomb threat, delaying their initial flight to Memphis. Tensions were already high when King arrived in Memphis. The events of that day reflect a much larger situation in America, one that is still evolving today. 

 

The Death of Loree Bailey

 

Loree Bailey also became a victim that day. Tragically, the shock from the day’s events caused her a brain aneurysm. She was discovered when Reverend Samuel Keys, who was standing next to King during the assassination, attempted to call the hospital but received no response from the switchboard, one of Loree’s many duties. 

 

She was eventually rushed to the hospital and died five days later, the same day as Dr. King’s funeral. 

 

Spirits of The Civil Rights Museum

 

Walter Bailey continued to operate the Lorraine Motel without Loree for another 14 years before declaring bankruptcy in 1982. The Save the Lorraine Foundation stepped in and purchased it, continuing operations as a motel until 1988, when Walter Bailey died. 

 

In 1991, it reopened officially as the National Civil Rights Museum. Dr. King’s room was left just as it was on the day of his assassination, and the adjacent room, Room 307, was decorated in honor of Loree. 

 

Could this be the reason why many guests feel an overbearing presence when entering these rooms? Their breathing becomes short, and their chests begin to feel heavy. Many feel an overwhelming sadness as if Dr. King is there with them. They are frozen in time, along with the cars out front, accurate to those parked under the balcony to the moment when Dr. King lost his life. 

 

In fact, one verified account comes from actor Chi McBride. Before he became famous for his role in Boston Public, he experienced what so many had before. On an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories, he described being frozen in time and even experiencing a flashback to that ill-fated day—a memory that has never left him.

 

Memphis’s haunted Civil Rights Museum almost invites the spirits of these forlorn Civil Rights leaders to continue to exist. 

 

Haunted Memphis

 

The beats on Beale Street, of both past and present, mingle with Memphis’s heavy racial tensions. These tensions created a dark history that still permeates the murky waters alongside Bluff City. 


Experience the Lorraine and the other haunted locations around Memphis on a tour with US Ghost Adventures. Our ghost tour is the most historically accurate and frightening in the entire city. Grab an EVP reader from one of our experienced tour guides and communicate with the spirits on your own! 

 

Until then, keep reading our blog and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for more spooky stories and content!

 

Sources:

 

https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2016/jun/3/civil-rights-museum-highlights-motels-storied-history/

 

https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/news/posts/the-famous-lorraine-motel

 

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-lorraine-motel-and-martin-luther-king

 

https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2016/jun/3/civil-rights-museum-highlights-motels-storied-history/

 

https://thepointsguy.com/news/in-memphis-the-national-civil-rights-museum-honors-a-tragedy-and-highlights-an-icon-of-mid-century-travel/

 

https://www.nps.gov/places/tennessee-the-lorraine-hotel-memphis.htm

 

https://staxrecords.com/history/

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Negro_Motorist_Green_Book

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