Crixeo: 'Haunted' Louisiana Mansions

 

Ghosts Along the Bayou: Three Haunted Louisiana Mansions

There’s always been something gothic about Louisiana, with its haunting beauty and alluring ghost stories. Natives are no stranger to tales of the swamps, odd paranormal activity and haunted places. They’re practically tradition! And when I was growing up, there were three homes in particular that captured my imagination, with backstories filled with blood and gore. Over the years, these stories have become a part of me, in a sense, still sticking to my bones and memory like a bowl of my mother’s gumbo or my great-grandmother’s rice and gravy. More than that, these tales have become a form of Southern mythology, with lessons folded into each haunting. So let me share these tales with you, and tell them as they were told to me:

The Myrtles, St. Francisville

There was a young, beautiful girl named Chloe who worked as a field slave for the Laurel Grove Plantation on Bayou Sara (now known as St. Francisville). She labored beneath the hot Louisiana sun most of her life, picking cotton and indigo petals, until one day the owner of the plantation — Judge Clark Woodruff — discovered the girl and decided to make her his mistress. Once Chloe began her work in the house, she realized her role was twofold: tend to the judge, as well as the children — all under the watchful eye of the judge’s wife, Sarah.

Sarah neither liked nor trusted Chloe and often complained to her husband about her, saying the girl should be sent back to work in the fields. Afraid of losing her position in the house, Chloe turned to eavesdropping, hoping to gather information that might give her an advantage over Sarah. The only problem? Chloe was terrible at eavesdropping, and she was often caught. Each time, the judge would warn her to stop or else he’d have to punish her — but still Chloe listened in. Sarah increased the pressure on her husband to do something, and soon he did.

On that fateful day, Chloe made the mistake of listening in on one of Judge Woodruff’s confidential conversations with a visitor and was caught when the visitor opened the door to leave, resulting in Chloe falling into the room on her knees. It was then that the judge dragged her out to the courtyard and sliced off her left ear, just before banishing her from the house to work in the kitchen.

Now, for Chloe, working in the kitchen was worse than working in the fields. The space made her feel claustrophobic, and the temperature was blistering hot. She soon felt the strongest urge to win her way back into the house — and the judge’s good graces. She took to wearing a green scarf around her head, tilted to the left to cover the scar. And one day, as she watched the young children playing without her, Chloe hatched a plan. She knew if the children were sick, they’d call for her, so she decided to put an extra ingredient into their birthday cake, just enough to have them cry her name.

The celebration was only a few days away, so Chloe acted quickly. She plucked leaves off an oleander plant growing very near the house; then she boiled the leaves in milk and butter, which she added to the cake batter. And yes, the children soon got sick, as did their mother, Sarah, but because the poison of oleander is so potent, Chloe was unable to nurse them back to health. Two of the three small children died, as did Sarah, all while the judge was out of town.

Fellow slaves, fearing they would be punished for such a crime, made Chloe stand trial for the deaths in the family, found her guilty and sentenced her to hang from an oak tree. To make sure she never returned, they weighed her body down with stones and threw her into the river. But some say Chloe is still in the house, playing with the children. Guests who have stayed overnight at the bed and breakfast swear they’ve heard them laugh in the night, as Chloe whistles and works.

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