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Visiting the Lorraine Motel

In October of 2008, we traveled to Memphis, Tennessee and one of the locations that we visited was the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel. This is the location of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

During this trip to Memphis, we stayed down at the Sheraton on Main Street and were able to take the trolley to Beale Street and and a few other historical places up and down that area. As we were looking at postcards in the gift shop, I saw one that had a picture of the Lorraine Motel. It didn't hit me until then that the Lorraine Hotel was in Memphis, so we decided we would head out on an adventure to locate the motel and the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum is located at 450 Mulberry St., Memphis, TN 38103. Please see their website for hours and admittance.

Not to give away my age, but I was born in the late '60's and don't remember a lot of the Civil Rights movement and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; however, I do remember my parents being upset over the reports coming across the television. Over the years, I recalled seeing photographs of the motel, and we were amazed to see how the façade of the building has been restored to appear like the location has been suspended in time since April 4, 1968. Replica cars are parked outside the front of room 306, where Dr. King was staying. We thought that they might be the actual cars, but according to the National Civil Rights Museum website, they are replicas.

One of the reasons why we produce the "Our Haunted Travels" series is to help preserve and pass on some history to younger generations. If you are reading this and do not know about the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination, here is an experpt of the events that took place.

On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of the black sanitary public works employees, who were represented by AFSCME Local 1733. The workers had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.

On April 3, King addressed a rally and delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address at Mason Temple, the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. King's flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane. In the prophetic peroration of the last speech of his life, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:

"And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

King was booked in Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel (owned by Walter Bailey) in Memphis. Abernathy, who was present at the assassination, testified to the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations that King and his entourage stayed at Room 306 so often that it was known as the "King-Abernathy suite." According to Jesse Jackson, who was present, King's last words on the balcony before his assassination were spoken to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at an event King was attending: "Ben, make sure you play 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty."

King was fatally shot by James Earl Ray at 6:01 p.m., April 4, 1968, as he stood on the motel's second-floor balcony. The bullet entered through his right cheek, smashing his jaw, then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder. Abernathy heard the shot from inside the motel room and ran to the balcony to find King on the floor. Jackson stated after the shooting that he cradled King's head as King lay on the balcony, but this account was disputed by other colleagues of King; Jackson later changed his statement to say that he had "reached out" for King.

After emergency chest surgery, King died at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m. According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's autopsy revealed that though only 39 years old, he "had the heart of a 60 year old", which Branch attributed to the stress of 13 years in the civil rights movement.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the Motel, please watch our paranormal history profile video below.

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