Dear Julia,

Each year around Halloween time I hear mention of Grunch Road and Mona Lisa Drive. Where are they located and what is supposed to have happened there? Nothing good, I imagine. Best to Poydras, Janetta Bourgeois (Prairieville, La.)

Isn’t that the way? I do all the work and Poydras gets all the best wishes. Grunch Road falls into the category of urban legends that were lovers’ lane stories. The road was usually located wherever the hot spots, so to speak (not to be confused with the internet term) were located. Early versions of the story had Grunch Road along Hayne Boulevard in Lake Pontchartrain’s then undeveloped south shore area. According to one legend there had been some sort of research facility nearby where a mad scientist created creatures that were part human and part goat. They were known as “grunches,” and as fate would have it, they escaped and hid in the nearby thickets. For some reason they did not like cars parked for romantic purposes in their neighborhood so they would throw stones at the vehicles. 

That of course made the night a lot less amorous. The late Ethelyn Orso, an anthropologist at the University of New Orleans, did a study on urban legends and noted that the location often shifted with the demographics. As the region became more suburbanized, Grunch Road was more frequently identified with Jefferson Parish, particularly along the Kenner lakefront. Do Grunches still exist? Perhaps. Poydras advises not to make-out in the parking lot if you go to the Treasure Chest casino.

Mona Lisa Drive was located in City Park in the vicinity of the old mansion that now houses Christian Brothers school. This urban legend was not in the lovers’ lane category, but a ghost story. A family that once lived in the house had a beautiful young daughter named Lisa, who fell in love with a sailor. The couple would frolic along the lagoons near the building. Eventually the couple became engaged, although her father was critical of the news. Then things got worse when the sailor was ordered to ship out. Something went wrong because the sailor was never heard from again. Lisa became quite mournful and would spend her evenings pining away along the lagoons. Then one night she jumped in, never to be seen again; except perhaps for the ghost of a mournful young female sometimes spotted near the water. The ghost would become known in popular legend as “Mona Lisa,” although Ourso noted in her research that in school yards, which were the hotbeds of urban legends, many students referred to her as “Moaner” Lisa. As for the sailor, Poydras has checked the ship logs and says he is due to return to New Orleans, coincidentally, this Halloween.