On a lush ridge in St. Francisville, only three miles from the Mississippi River, stands what’s been called one of the most haunted houses in America. Those seeking a thrill during this Halloween season are visiting the house in droves, all in hopes of spotting a ghost…or two… or three.
Steeped in history, mystery and folklore, a visit to the Myrtles Plantation will surely keep one a little uneasy and, if you choose to spend the night, possibly trying to sleep…with one eye open! “You can tell when they (spirits) are with you,” says Hester Eby, the manager and 40-year fixture of the Myrtles who loves to talk about ghosts.
Before delving into the spirits said to lurk here, one can’t ignore this breathtaking setting. To begin with, this one-of-a kind plantation, with its Creole cottage-style architecture trimmed with its signature Wedgewood wrought iron, sits among one of the most stunning natural scenes in West Feliciana Parish. (Interesting Fact: 200 feet of the plantation’s iron railings were hidden in the cisterns during the Civil War to protect them from war thieves in search of iron needed to make weaponry.)
It’s easy to be swept away as you drive on the curvy entrance road past Spanish moss-draped trees, native plants and flowers kissing the grounds, toward the historic house which dates back 220 years. Across this exquisite structure is said to be the longest porch (125-feet) of any plantation in Louisiana; you can bet men and women of the day danced upon it after they entered through the open floor-to-ceiling windows of the main parlor rooms.
Behind the house is a breathtaking centuries-old pond once used by wallowing cows. This large pond is dotted with old cypress trees, whose withered trunks rise from the water; a plethora of ducks swim about, and at the pond’s center is a lush island with a gazebo and a quaint bridge to take you there. (Tip: Be sure to take the time to stroll on the pathway, cross the bridge and relax inside the gazebo; it’s a charming and tranquil scene.)
Amid this picturesque beauty is the unexpected sightings and sounds that have been reported over and over again throughout the years at the Myrtles. “They are just endless,” adds Eby, who has seen visitors pack up and leave in the middle of the night because of alleged paranormal encounters. The Myrtles has been featured on a slew of television shows like "Ghost Hunters," "Unsolved Mysteries," "Ghost Adventures," "Oprah," and "Montel Williams."
Taking the Evening Mystery Tour is a must if, as the tour guides suggest, you want to get all the highlights of the spirits. These guides mix the history and mysteries of the dimly-lit house, and show guests what they say is the most haunted artifact: a 170-year old mirror, which, although re-silvered eleven times, is said by some to contain the outline of a woman’s face, plus claw marks, and child-sized finger prints.
Among the most popular ‘spirits’ who are said to roam the house are Chloe, a slave whose ear was cut off for eavesdropping, and the original owner’s two children – who, according to legend, were accidentally poisoned to death after Chloe accidently baked their birthday cake with oleander leaves. (Tip: During the tour, be sure to get a close look at the blown up photo, which some say shows the shadows of Chloe and the children. At the request of the Myrtles’ current owners, this photo underwent a shadow density test to help prove its authenticity; however, you will have to be the ultimate judge.)
The next most popular ghost of the Myrtles is William Winter, the fourth owner of the plantation, who died on the 17th step after being shot by a man with a double-barreled shot gun. Tour guides say there are a dozen spirits that roam the Myrtles, and the stories you will hear about them are certainly fascinating.
Want to spend the night? You can stay either in the house in a room full of antiques, or in one of the newly-built cottages. (Tip: The rooms said—allegedly by numerous accounts – to be the most haunted and with the most paranormal activity are: The Fannie Williams Room, also known as The Doll Room; the Judge Clarke Woodruff Suite; and the William Winter Room.) While many people stay in the cottages thinking they will avoid ghosts, Eby says there are reports of children’s spirits running right through those structures, laughing and playing. The pond is not devoid of reported ghosts either; singing children, an Indian maiden and Red Coats are among alleged sightings. (Tip: Each quaint cottage has its own porch with rocking chairs that face the beautiful pond. There is also the Cocoa House, which is great for family or a group gathering and sleeps up to six people.)
An overnight stay at the Myrtles Plantation includes a full Southern-style breakfast with mouthwatering made-from-scratch biscuits and chocolate chip scones, all courtesy Chef Marcus Pattum. What’s for lunch or dinner? There are plenty of dining options in Saint Francisville, one of which is the longtime staple the Magnolia Café. Popular dishes include the tasty crawfish dip appetizer, the spicy shrimp po-boy, the chicken magnolia sandwich, sensation salad made with their secret dressing, and the famous turkey sandwich, which has been a popular menu item 1982. (Fun Fact: Owner Robin Marshall first opened her business as a health food store.)
Want live entertainment? At no extra charge, Magnolia Café has live music on Friday and Saturday nights and there’s a kid’s play area, too. (Tip: Be sure to check out the row of tiny motel cottages, dating back to 1938, right outside the café. These renovated accommodations still have the old plumbing fixtures, a small kitchenette, a queen bed and come with a price tag of only $75 a night.)
Love shopping? Downtown St. Francisville is brimming with shops, boutiques and antique stores. Don’t miss Grandmother’s Buttons, a neat boutique where you will find handmade jewelry made from 100 year old buttons, plus many, many unique and one-of-a-kind finds. There’s even a museum full of fascinating buttons inside this store, and the shop itself is located in a historic bank building. Be sure to visit the Tourist Commission Office, which is also home to the West Feliciana Historic Society and a fascinating museum; it’s here you will meet Mrs. Sue, who will give you all the highlights of the town and the brochures to go along with them.
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