I recently visited the Myrtles Plantation in Saint Francisville, LA. It is known for being one of the most haunted places in the United States with many photographic and personal accounts of paranormal activity. Aside from the stories and spooky photos, the mansion is full of Old South history.
The plantation is located near a busy highway, but the giant oaks muffle some of the sound. The massive trees with draping Spanish moss transforms visitors to another time in history.
After a short walk, the house comes into view. There is a path circling the entire home, so there are plenty of ways to spy the windows, porch, and grounds.
The surrounding courtyards were nicely landscaped for peace and quiet, shade, or a nice lunch.
Unfortunately, there was no photography or videography allowed inside the mansion, except for a brief period of time where photos in the foyer could be taken. This included the mirror that reportedly has the handprints and fingerprints of Chloe and the children believed to haunt the premises. I’ll tell the tale of the children below.
Quite a few visitors have submitted photographic evidence of apparitions on this stairway. I snapped two pictures fairly close together. One was with people standing in the room and the other when the tour started filing into the dining room (I’m always lagging behind). Do you see a difference from photo one and photo two?
Besides my left ear freezing throughout the tour (another detail in the story I’ll share with you below), the second photo was the only ‘strange’ thing I experienced while there. One of the gentleman in our tour kept fidgeting and pacing. It was slightly distracting, but he later admitted someone was pulling the hairs on his legs and tugging at his shorts. The tour guide told him the ghost children are mischievous and like to play around with the male guests.
All of that aside, I took some photos of some of the foyer’s interior designs that I found interesting.
Some of trivia tidbits of the time the house was built were interesting. The keyholes on the doors were upside down. This was to confuse the spirits so they wouldn’t enter the home. As an extra precaution, there were metal covers made for all the keyholes in the house. There were religious artifacts in every room. The most popular were the baseplates for the chandeliers. Most had ironwork of four nuns, one facing in each direction–north, south, east, and west. This was another safeguard to ward off evil spirits.
On the lowest post of the banister was a marble cover. Back in the day, before the Civil War, it was a proud moment to receive the deed to the property. When the deed was granted, owners would drill a hole in the banister, drop the rolled-up deed into it, and cover with an elaborate marble topper. This was known as the ‘brag knob.’ If a plantation owner did not have a ‘brag knob,’ they were looked down upon.
GHOST STORIES AND SUPPOSED HISTORY OF THE HOME
Our tour guide told us more detailed stories than the website explains. The history of the antebellum plantation starts in 1796 when General David Bradford fled to Louisiana to avoid arrest during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1796. The house was built using the labor of slaves, and the dishonor of the history, in my opinion, started there. In 1820, ‘Whiskey Dave’ sold the house to 46-year-old Judge Clarke Woodruff. The Judge became Whiskey Dave’s son-in-law after he gave his 14-year-old daughter to the Judge in marriage. The tour guide pointed out photos of the older Judge Woodruff and his very young bride, Sarah, thirty years his junior.
Chloe was a young slave woman who caught Judge Woodruff’s eye, so he moved her into the house, gave her a high position within the household, and forced her to become his mistress. Chloe was in attendance when Sarah gave birth to first a son and, a year later, a daughter. Chloe was mistress to the Judge, nanny to the children, and had a high position among the household slaves. She also had a growing deep resentment for Sarah, causing tension in the household.
The Judge was active politically and had meetings behind closed doors at his home. Chloe was found eavesdropping on these conversations by members of the household, but was caught outright when the Judge quickly opened one of the parlor doors and found Chloe kneeling at another door with her left ear against the wood. He was livid and took her to the courtyard for punishment. It was there he personally sliced her left ear in front of the house slaves and demoted her to work in the kitchen.
The children missed Chloe and she wanted her position back. For an upcoming birthday celebration for both children, Chloe volunteered to make the birthday cake with a plan to give the Judge incentive to reinstate her. She put oleander in the cake batter with hopes that it would make the children slightly ill so they would call out for her in sickness. She misjudged the amount she used, and the evening of the celebration both children and Sarah died of poisoning. Chloe was horrified and confessed to another kitchen slave she had poisoned the family. The Judge was informed of her actions and ordered Chloe to be hanged. She was then weighted down with bricks and thrown into the Mississippi river–the purpose being that spirits cannot leave water.
There are now accounts of sightings of Chloe with photographic evidence. She is known to try to scare or cause discomfort to touring guests. The children are known to appear in the windows, play on the chandeliers, and sit on the stairway. Often people feel strange sensations, such as children tugging at their clothing or coldness to certain areas of their bodies. The mirror in the foyer is known for reflecting ghostly images and streaks of blood.
To me, the history of the house is heavy and horrible. When the tour guide opened with the story of Chloe and the Judge, I felt such an affinity for Chloe and disgust with the Judge. The practice of slavery, forcing a mistress, and marrying such a young child makes my stomach turn at his character. Are there really ghosts that roam around the Myrtles, or are the instances just echoes of a treacherous life that’s left scars on generations to come? Others say the story about Chloe is entirely made up and there is no proof of her existence and there was evidence Sarah Woodruff and her daughter actually lived for years and later succumbed to yellow fever.
Other than a slight haze on the stairway in one of my photographs and a frozen left ear throughout my tour, I had no sensations of anything paranormal. I think the owners of the Myrtles simply have a great marketing tool for bringing paying guests hoping to see evidence of ghostly happenings. The home is quite lovely and there are artifacts and furniture of historical value. The tour guides have entertaining stories with dramatic moments, which may grow and evolve from one tour to the next. They also have an explanation for every little scratch, sound, and movement to attribute to ghostly activity.
I honestly would not go again or recommend it for someone visiting the area unless they want some lovely photographs or enjoy the Old South architecture and artifacts.
Maybe I don’t have the sixth sense needed to experience the paranormal phenomena, so visitors beware. Chloe just might introduce herself in unexpected ways.
Where we are: Austin, TX. Where we are headed: Jacksonville, FL Location of blog post: Louisiana.
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