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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Haunted Myrtles Plantation, Louisiana

Northwest of New Orleans, and just east of the Mississippi River lies a sleepy plantation that is a grand example of antebellum style architecture found in the deep South, known simply as the Myrtles Plantation.  

As you approach the facade of the clapboard mansion in St. Francisville, you cannot help but be impressed to see an intricate grill-work design of grape vine made of cast iron, that has been painted in a soothing pale green color, and outlines this long (120 foot) veranda.  Lovely pink myrtle trees fill the southern air with their sweet scent.  

However impressive this southern beauty may be, it has been long suggested that this mansion was originally built atop of an ancient Tunican Indian burial ground.  The Tunica were Native Americans who lived in the Mississippi Valley.  While researching this article, I learned that the Tunicans used a language now referred to as "isolate" which simply means that the tongue in which they spoke had no relationship to other languages known. Their language was their own: unique and isolated.

This southern beauty plantation was originally dubbed "Laurel Grove" and it was built by General David Bradford (somewhere between 1794 to 1796).  Bradford lived by himself there for a few years until he was pardoned by President John Adams because of his activity during the Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion.

After things died down a bit, he brought his wife and 5 children from Pennsylvania.  Bradford did not remain long on this earth after this, and died in 1808.  

Almost a decade later, his daughter Sara Mathilda married a law student by the name of Clark Woodruff.  This couple eventually inherited the plantation and produced 3 children by the names of Cornelia Gale, James, and Mary Octavia. 
During the unfortunate era in time, Clark obtained a lovely slave named Chloe.  

Now, Chloe was naturally interested in her surroundings and took to listening to the family's conversations, and reportedly spying through a keyhole.  She was discovered by Clark, who promptly cut off her ear to teach her a lesson about eavesdropping and spying.  It has been documented that after this terrifying incident, Chloe donned a green turban to cover her disfigurement.  

[Other versions of the story declare that Clark forced Chloe into being his mistress against her will, and that he repeatedly forced himself upon her.]

To put it mildly, Chloe was not impressed by this infraction  and devised a twisted plan to earn back the trust of Clark and the family.  Luck was on her side, as the oldest daughter's birthday was just around the corner, and Chloe was responsible for making the birthday cake.  

And so, Chloe set about mixing the cake with the basic ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla bean and just a touch of boiled orleander leaves.  The orleander would add just the right amount of poison to make the family sick and then she would aid in their rescue by returning them all to perfect health.  This would certainly earn back the lost trust of her master!

When the occasion came, the family sat around the table to celebrate the day and to devour the scrumptious cake.  After a few bites, the festivities waned ,as forks were dropped and coughing and choking ensued.  Chloe rushed to their aid by bringing each to their respective beds, but alas! it was too late.  Every one who ate the cake died, including Sara Mathilda who was carrying a baby.  (Mary Octavia survived and lived well into adulthood; and, Cornelia, who did not eat the cake, later died of yellow fever.)

Chloe was very frightened and returned to the homes of her kin and friends, where she confessed that she had poisoned the cake in an effort to make amends.  She was mortified and literally feared for her life.  She returned to the mansion and fell into a deep sleep.  

Her confession did not bode well with the other slaves, for now their own lives may be endangered.  They wanted to keep their homes and their lives so they devised their own plan to show their loyalty to their master. 

In the darkest hour of the night, some of them crept into the room where she slept and silently stole her.  Once they had her outside, she was hung by the neck in a nearby tree, and then her body was brought to the Mississippi River, weighed by rocks, and tossed in.  Her body was never to be seen again.

Today, and is known as one of "America's Most Haunted Homes".

The mansion changed hands, on several occasions through the years and along the way, many strange reports have been told.  

Subsequent owners and their family members suffered hardship and many met their fate by tragedy or disease.

Whether or not the site is build over an old burial ground, has not been fully substantiated, but one must ask - haven't you seen the movie, Poltergeist?  Apparently this is not a smart move!

During the Civil War, the Myrtle Plantation was looted and many personal belongings were annihilated. 

Some say that during this loot, three Union soldiers were killed after they gained entry and were shot to death in the gentlemen's parlor.  Today it is told that bloodstains are left on the floor of that spot, and cannot be washed away: 

"...William Drew Winter was lured out of the house by a rider, who shot him to death on the side porch. It is here where the stories take a turn for the worse. In the legend, Winter was shot and then mortally wounded, staggered back into the house, passed through the gentlemen's parlor and the ladies parlor and onto the staircase that rises from the central hallway. He then managed to climb just high enough to die in his beloved's arms on exactly the 17th step. It has since been claimed that ghostly footsteps have been heard coming into the house, walking to the stairs and then climbing to the 17th step where they, of course, come to an end."  
- prairieghosts.com

Today, some claim steps can be heard on the stairs, during the middle of the night.  People have counted the steps, as they occur and state that the footstep sounds stop on the 17th step.

At the end of the Civil War, one owner went bankrupt (but the family was able to regain their fortune).  This same owner,  William Winter - who was actually a caretaker, not an owner - was shot on the front porch and died.

His wife, Sara, died at the young age of 44.

A child died of typhoid.

Another owner's son went to round up cattle during a storm and drowned upon falling into the Mississippi River.

In one of the upstairs bedrooms, a young lass died of yellow fever. Distraught, her parents called upon a Priestess of VooDoo to work her magic because conventional medicine did not work.  But alas! the little girl died.  The enraged parents hung the witch doctor from the bedroom chandelier.  

An elder son of another owner was stabbed to death in the mansion over a gambling debt.

A tale is told that a caretaker was murdered during a robbery that allegedly occurred in 1927.  One with a sharp eye may witness him at the plantation gate, advising people to leave.

A soldier from the Civil War died at the interior entry (near the front door) after suffering from battle wounds. 

He was known to be a heavy cigar smoker, and he had stayed at the house before before he died. 

Today, the Myrtles Inn is non-smoking but those who have stayed in his room can sometimes smell the smoke of his cigar.

The ghostly mirror of Myrtle's Plantation
One of the most enduring tales is that of a mirror which has actually been in the house since it's construction.  Some say that the mirror has ensnared the souls of some of the former occupants, that died there. 

When ghostly images of hand prints began to appear, the mirror was exhaustively cleaned...but they hand prints returned.  Perhaps it is the glass in the mirror, they thought, and the glass was replaced.  With the original frame intact, a new glass was installed but eerily, the hand prints continued to return.  This was repeated once again (replacing the glass) but the hand prints continue to appear.

"Those who have seen the mirror up close describe it as “unsettling.” A faint residue of “drips” running from top to bottom mar the glass."  -eldoradofurniture.blogspot