Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cross Timbers Winery offers variety of spirits

The historic Grapevine, Texas, home
            There’s more spirits than just wine at the Cross Timbers Winery in Grapevine, Texas. Some claim the former owner of the historic home still resides within its walls, letting guests and staff aware of her presence on many occasions.
            And then there’s the 12 spirits in the barn.
            The winery began as a farm in 1871 when Dr. William E. Dorris moved to Texas from Starkville, Miss. It passed through several hands before Patti Weatherman purchased the L-plan farmhouse with clapboard siding, gabled roof, front porch and folk Victorian stylings.
            Patti came down with pneumonia, according to current owner Don Bigbie. Her fireplace had been built improperly and was unable to provide much heat so in her sickness Patti moved her cot next to the wooden stove for warmth. She later died in the kitchen.
Storage units
             Those who have worked in the house or have visited the winery have captured flashes of light on photographs and on the winery’s night cameras. Odd unexplained images appear in wedding photos as well; the winery accommodates about 120 weddings a year on its lovely grounds.
            The first time Bigbie had an encounter with Patti was arriving at the winery and finding the built-in storage units — which are located up high — opened.
            “We came in the morning and all those units were opened and they were not easy to open,” he said.
            Patti had kept her Christmas decorations in the units and once the staff removed them and decorated the house, the phenomenum ceased.
            “The minute I did that the activity stopped,” Bigbie said.
            Another time Bigbie heard someone knocking at the front door but every time he appeared at the threshold there was no one there. Finally, he came up to the door and peered out, wondering to himself if it was Patti making mischief. At that moment, the window blinds began to hum.
            “I promise you the minute I had that thought that shade starting shaking,” he said.
            People who have visited the winery have reported feeling that the house was haunted. Two guests even located Patti’s exact place of death in the kitchen. “The odds of that happening just don’t compute at all,” Bigbie said.
            But the strangest part of this story is the barn. When the North Texas Paranormal Society arrived to check out the property, according to Bigbie, they found 12 spirits in the upper levels of the barn. The current barn structure is not original to the property. The previous barn was razed in 1975 but replaced in 2001 by a structure that fits the 1800s footprint of the original barn. So far, no one knows why a dozen members of the afterlife hang out there.
            A visit to Cross Timbers is anything but scary. The quaint home features a tasting bar and gift shop. Group wine tastings and special events occur on the grounds which include a gazebo and expansive patio. The gracious 200-year-old on the property has become the image on wine bottles and the nearby shed was the original carriage house that housed the first Model T Ford in Tarrant County.
            Cross Timbers Winery is located at 805 N. Main St. in Grapevine. For information, visit www.crosstimberswinery.com.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Southern Superstitions

            I’ve had friends who have tackled me rather than let me sweep dirt over my threshold after twilight. One former coworker of mine refused to drink from a cup that she had left on the table, convinced that bad mojo could be placed in a drink when a person is not looking.
            Superstitions? Or do they know something we don't?
            Here’s a few Southern "superstitions" gleaned from newspapers and one I related in my ghost book, "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana."
            Happy Halloween!
            The 1893 Logansport Pharos-Tribune: “At Washington, Ky., there is an old bridge reported to be haunted at nightfall by a decapitated duelist, and a branch of the old Marshall family of Virginia, settled there, owns a plantation, which, like the White Lady of the Hohenzollerns, never fails to make its appearance just before a death.”
            The 1902 Charlotte News: “No person who touches a dead body will be haunted by its spirit. To kill a ghost it must be shot with a bullet made of a silver quarter dollar. To see the new moon through clouds of tree tops means trouble; if the disk is clear, good luck; if seen over the right shoulder, joy; if over the left, anger and disappointment.”
            The 1967 Monroe News-Star: “Amusing superstitions have leapt out of the flickering of a candle light. If a flame burns blue, there is a ghost in the house. A spark signifies that a letter is coming to the person sitting nearest the candle.”

            The 1965 Lake Charles American Press: “A piece of wood taken from a gallows will keep away ghosts. A baby must fall out of bed three times before its first birthday or it will grow up stupid. To get rid of a wart, rub it with a piece of pork stolen from a neighbor.”


Madame Long Fingers and Tai Tais
Excerpted from “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” by Cheré Dastugue Coen, published by The History Press
            Karlos Knott of Arnaudville makes excellent beer through his company, Bayou Teche Brewing. One day after a tour of his new facility, we got to talking about ghosts and legends. He was told as a child that if he didn’t behave, Madame Grand Doigt would get him, arriving at night to eat his toes!
            In English, Madame Grand Doigt means Mrs. Long Fingers but Knott envisioned the woman with incredibly long fingernails and capable of sliding said nails into door locks so she would have easy access to bad little children.
            Mrs. Long Fingers has to be related to the tataille or Tai Tai, part of the larger boogie man family. Blanche M. Lewis wrote in the Acadiana Gazette that the Tai Tai were giant bugs, “usually a roach,” that came after bad children at night, which would definitely be enough to scare my roach-fearing sister after any wrongdoings. Roaches grow quite large in the South Louisiana swamps — and they fly!
            The Dictionary of Louisiana French defines tataille as a “threatening beast or monster.” The reference book further states that “ta-taille is said to be a giant creature that resembles a cockroach. It comes after dark and cuts off the toes of mean children.”
            “All my life, we heard that the Tai Tai (or however you spell it) was going to get us if we weren’t good,” said Lafayette resident Judy Bastien. “Also, when someone was looking really bad, like unkempt, you might say they look like un Tai-Tai.”
            “Tai Tai's were only supposed to scare little ones into not digging or wandering off,” said Alice Guillotte of Lafayette. “ ‘Stop or Tai Tai will get you.’ Later, Tai Tai would be used as sort of joking about what might be out in dark like a boggie man. A little bit serious.”

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Learn tales of 'Haunted Lafayette' Thursday at Vermilionville

            It’s that time of year, when the sun’s descent toward the horizon produces shadows long and sinewy. And if you follow the old Celtic calendar, and the origins of Halloween, the veil between living and dead grows thin.
            Or maybe we just need an excuse to be scared.
            I’ll be telling ghost stories from my book Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Vermilionville for the presentation “Ghosts Along the Bayou.” And if that’s not enticing enough, Donner-Peltier Distillery of Thibodaux will be handing out samples — to adults — of their Rougarou rum. Come out and hear about Lafayette’s haunted spots.
                         Looking for some more haunted suggestions to keep you up at night?
             Sarah Bartlett travels the world for ghost tales, vampire myths, UFO sightings, sacred spots and more in National Geographic’s “Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places.” There’s well-known sites such as Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and Area 51 but lesser-known odd places to pique your interest, such as the astronomical Ocmulgee in Macon, Georgia, the more than 30 labyrinths of Zayatsky Island or the Manchester, Vermont, church where a dead woman’s organs were burned in the hopes of releasing her husband’s current ill wife from a vampire’s grip. Naturally, the Deep South is well represented. Spotlighting 250 sites, the book offers a great trip around the world for lovers of the mysterious and the unexplained.
            Grab your EMF readers and go. Travel writer Kathleen Walls, a native of New Orleans, takes readers on a Southern road trip with “Hosts With Ghosts: Haunted Historic Hotels in the Southeast.” In addition to well-researched ghost tales at numerous inns and hotels of the Southeast, Walls offers a travel guide to the areas mentioned, plus a handy resource list. It’s the perfect addition to a southeastern road trip ghost tour.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Shreveport's Logan Mansion and other haunted sites

            I’ve been to some of the most haunted properties in Shreveport and had some interesting experiences during Shreveport’s inaugural Paranormal Festival in 2013. For instance, I joined paranormal investigators at the Spring Street Museum, the oldest building in Shreveport and once the site of the precursor to First National Bank. The bank’s founder Edward Jacobs, originally Ephraim Jacobi, arrived in Shreveport with his brother Benjamin from Pomerania in 1844. Both were of Jewish heritage but changed their names and married non-Jewish women.
Spring Street Museum basement
            We used a “ghost box” on the top floor, a device that captures white noise and radio frequencies. After nothing but static for several minutes, we asked for a name and immediately received “Edward.” Other comments on the box were the number “six” when we asked how many we were (we were six). In the basement, we saw shadow movement, heard a boy’s voice on the ghost box and a flashlight turned on by itself.
Logan Mansion
            Then five loud knocks happened on the cellar door. We opened the door, located at the top of a set of stairs, and asked why those on the first floor had knocked. Those on the first floor replied, “We heard it too, were wondering why you were knocking.”
            We also visited the Logan Mansion, located at 725 Austin Place not far from historic Oakland Cemetery and the Municipal Auditorium, once home to the radio show, Louisiana Hayride, of which one of its performers, a Mississippi native named Elvis, became famous.
            The Victorian-style Logan house was built in 1897 and has been lovingly restored by current owner Vicki Lebrun, who has been living there for years. The story as to who is haunting the Logan Mansion may be a young girl who fell out of the third-story window.
Logan Mansion
            When I visited the Logan during the paranormal tour — Lebrun had been gracious and was allowing people to tour in small groups during the day — there was only three of us following Lebrun through the mansion. As we paused in the kitchen for her to explain odd happenings within its wall someone spoke loudly behind us, “Hey!” We all turned around — it was that loud — but no one was there. Lebrun said it may have been her cell phone but we weren’t convinced; the voice had been loud enough, right behind where we stood, that all three of us jerked around.
            But don’t take our word for it. Visit the Logan Mansion and see for yourself. The Logan Mansion will host haunted candlelight tours on Halloween night, which is Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. Guided tours exploring the house will begin every 20 minutes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 and tours last approximately one hour; reservations not required.
            At the Halloween tour, guests will see all 17 rooms of the mansion as well as the 2,000-square-foot attic, hearing ghost stories along the way.
Logan's third floor
            “This isn’t a staged tour, there aren’t people jumping out at you or anything like that,” said Lebrun in the tour’s press release. “Guests will get a tour of the entire house, and they’ll hear stories about the haunting that we have here.”
          
            Of related interest, the house across the street was used in the opening credits of HBO's "True Blood."                                    
            Historic Haunts of Shreveport, a “historic and haunted” trolley tour of historic sites in Shreveport that are reputed to be haunted, will be rolling on Saturday, Nov. 1. Tickets are $55 per person, and may be purchased at www.historichauntsofshreveport.com. Net proceeds from the Historic Haunts of Shreveport tours benefit historic preservation efforts.  
            Want more? Oakland Cemetery has some wonderful stories, including young Cora Lee Wilson whose grave constantly falls apart, the bricks routinely pushed out — from the inside!  The cemetery also contains an eerie mound of hundreds of yellow fever victims buried hastily without markers. Across the street is the Municipal Auditorium, rumored to be haunted, according to those who work there. Many people swear it’s the ghost of Elvis, but we think Elvis would have made it home to Graceland and not the site of his early career.
            Who’s haunting the auditorium? You’ll have to visit and find out. Or watch the GhostHunters episode when they recently visited looking for the King.


Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans

            The historic Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans remains an elegant landmark, home to the Carousel Bar and its literary heritage and fine dining at Criollo restaurant.
            And then there are the ghosts.
            There are many spirits refusing to check out of the Monteleone, including former employees, jilted lovers and children.
            Maurice Begere was on vacation to New Orleans with his parents, Josephine and Jacques, and an au pair, staying in Room 1462 in the late 19th century. The family wanted to take in the show at the French Opera House on Bourbon Street but young Maurice stayed behind to nurse a head cold. On the way back to the hotel, the horse bolted and Jacques Begeres was killed after being thrown from the carriage. Josephine died a year later.
            I’ve heard two tales, that both parents died leaving the boy an orphan and that Josephine lived only to die from grief a year later. The first story maintains that Maurice’s sickness developed into scarlet fever with the young boy dying at the Monteleone, forever haunting Room 1462. The later has him searching the hotel for his parents.
Carousel Bar
            Remember how your parents told you not to jump on the bed? A young boy in the 1960s ignored his parents’ warning while staying on the 14th floor. He fell off the side of the bed and went through the window, being killed instantly on Royal Street below. There are people who swear the young boy still resides on the 14th floor, heard playing in the hallway with other children. Perhaps he and Maurice enjoy taunting guests together.
            Andrea Thornton was in charge of the hotel’s sales and marketing when I talked to her for a story on the hotel in 2009 for the Lafayette Advertiser newspaper. She recounted comments left behind by guests. “We got a few comment cards that ‘Everything was great, including the ghosts,’” Thornton told me.
            Room 1467 attracts the brave since it’s said to house five spirits. Several psychics have visited the room and one of them passed out on the bed, Thornton said. The psychics also felt strong energy on the roof, where one of the guests in Room 1467 allegedly jumped to her death. A psychic claimed to have seen a woman dressed in a formal black and white gown, like a cotillion ball gown, and believed she had been engaged to be married.
            Thornton also related that the visiting psychics felt strong energy in the café, which is now the Criollo restaurant, and in the part of the hotel that was once a neighboring building called the Hotel Victor. Psychics picked up soldiers and nurses in the former Hotel Victor once used as a Civil War hospital for Union soldiers.
            The International Society of Paranormal Research visited the Monteleone and found several spirits lingering — and we’re not talking the excellent cocktails in the Carousel Bar. Two men remain, including “Red,” a former hotel engineer who worked in the boiler room below the restaurant, and William Wilderner, a former guest of the hotel.
            All spirits at the Hotel Monteleone are friendly, claim owners, more mischievous than scary.
            “As far as seeing things, it’s the little children,” Thornton had told me in 2009. “Not so much people as things moved around, misplaced.”
            Click here for an account of a guest’s haunted experience at The Monteleone.
            If you want to get in the spirit of things, pun intended, Criollo Restaurant is offering a “The Legend Of The Rou-Ga-Roux” spirited dinner this month. Want to know who the Rou-Ga-Roux is (and that's not the correct spelling)? Check back here next week.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ghost experiences revealed by 1886 Crescent Hotel tour guides

The following is a collection of paranormal accounts from the tour guides of the 1886 Crescent Hotel of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, known as the most haunted hotel in America. Printed by permission.


            Every night of the year, dozens of different people wind their way down the hallways and open, serpentine staircases of the five-story 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” Final destination: the hotel’s “morgue.” They just know they are strolling amidst what some would say are hundreds of spirits who still frequent this Historic Hotel of America located here atop Crescent Mountain. Each tour patron is eager to see something, feel something, smell something that they would categorize as a ghostlike experience enabling them to share that close encounter with their world. However, several of those strolling along those same paranormal pathways have been there before, every night of the year. These are the stalwart souls known as the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour guides.
            “From smelling mysterious pipe tobacco to seeing an orb entering a boy’s skull, our (ghost tour) guides are exposed nightly to the hotel’s ‘guests who check out but never leave’,” said Keith Scales, director of the hotel’s ghost tour department. “With that said, each has not only a unique ‘nom de guide’ but a special supernatural experience of their own to tell. It is their raison d’être for being a tour guide in this world-famous haunted hotel.”
            Aunt Reba had always admired the Crescent since moving to Eureka Springs and had her first unexplainable happening while exploring the hotel as a tourist. The smell of cherry pipe tobacco got her attention when she reached the second floor. She did not find out until two years later during her training to be a guide that her earlier encounter with that tobacco essence had probably emanated from one of the Crescent’s more illustrious spirits, the hotel’s in-house doctor circa late nineteenth century. Dr. John Freemont Ellis, whose office was in what is now Room 212, was known for being a heavy pipe smoker of cherry tobacco.
            Since then she says that she has detected “that charming aroma” occasionally, both while alone and while leading a ghost tour. The most bizarre sensing, she explained, came during a recent tour of 24 people, “We all simultaneously experienced that olfactory sensation for well over a minute. And let it be understood that our entire hotel is a ‘no smoking’ property and has been for years.”
            Duchess Debra, who gives tours and performs in a two-person paranormal play, Not Really A Door, at the hotel on Friday and Saturday nights, was on stage with her co-star during a recent performance. One scene in the play has the two actors delivering the line “Ghost!” simultaneously. At that exact point in time, four books used as props on a shelf went flying out toward the audience “as if someone -or something- had tossed them like a Frisbee”. The books hit no one; however, the unpredictable, unexplainable occurrence got everyone’s attention.
            Sweet Lady Sandra had one woman excitedly announce during a tour that she “clearly saw” and “emphatically heard” a man with a buzz-cut hairstyle say the words, “What about my treatment?” Two others on that same tour said they saw in their peripheral vision a blurred figure of a man go by in that same vicinity at that same moment.
            Miss Katherine was standing at the very bottom of the hotel’s open staircase with her tour group pausing before they entered the zigzagging trail to the morgue. While all were standing still, Katherine experienced a chill causing her to “grow goose bumps” and then momentarily she found it hard to breathe. The two ladies standing next to her turned pale and quickly asked, “Did anyone feel that? It’s the little girl. She is here. I can feel her!” They were referring to the story of the little girl that reportedly fell to her death from the fourth floor railing sometime during the early years of hotel operations. Where she supposedly landed was the exact spot where the tour group was standing during the literal chilling experience.
            To add to this story, one man said, “Oh, my. Look at this photo!”, a photo he had just taken prior to the ladies’ verbal declaration. He passed his camera around and clearly everyone could see a foggy mist in the shape of a little girl standing right next to the three women. Unfortunately he did not submit the image to the hotel’s paranormal website AmericasMostHauntedHotel.com as he said he would and as many do when they capture an apparition on a digital device.
            Major Tom had a man and wife on a recent tour that had differing attitudes about the plausibility of the paranormal. She believed in the phenomena; he did not. The husband said nothing during the entire tour, giving off negative body language throughout. This was about to change.
            As part of the tours’ conclusion in the morgue the lights are turned off. Guests, standing next to the autopsy table and the walk-in cooler that once stored cadavers and body parts during the cancer “curing” hospital days of the building, are encouraged to take digital photos to see if they could catch the image of an orb, the “energy essence of a ghost”. While Major Tom’s back was turned, a frightful scream was heard and all witnessed the skeptic running out of the morgue. The lights were quickly turned back on and the ashen gentleman was invited back into the room whereupon he meekly confessed he had seen an orb with his naked eye as it flew between his face and his camera. Result: the non-believer had become a believer and his wife had a great story to tell friends and family once they got back home.
            Willow also had a strange morgue experience. Each guide carries an EMF (electromagnetic field) meter during the tour to detect any electrical emissions that might be given out by a nearby spirit. Reacting to one lady saying she sensed that this one certain spot on the morgue’s floor was energy filled, Willow laid her meter down on that spot. As the entire tour witnessed, the meter went crazy beeping and flashing. To follow up, Willow asked, “If there is indeed a spirit in this room, please make the meter slow down.” It slowed down immediately. After moments of heartbeat-like pulses, the spirit was asked to speed the meter back up; it did for a few more moments then went dormant.
            But perhaps the most macabre morgue story happened during one of Marshal John Law’s spooky sojourns through the hotel. At the very end of the tour, after the lights come up in the morgue, the guide usually asks if anyone would like to enter the morgue’s infamous walk-in cooler and have the door shut behind them leaving them in total darkness. Only two brave souls stepped up, a mother with a video camera and her 12-year-old son with a look of cautious zeal on his face. They stepped into the space that had housed hundreds of dead bodies and innumerable severed body parts during the hotel’s hospital days and the door was closed behind them. After about thirty seconds the door was opened and the boy, looking ill, staggered out from the cooler with his mother saying, “Please, move. My son is getting sick.”
       The lad plopped into one of the two chairs always kept near the entrance of the morgue for just such occurrences since ever so often someone will feel faint or ill from their time spent in a room where time had ended for so many during the three years a charlatan killed rather than cured unsuspecting cancer patients. Once the mother was assured her son was okay and with the whole tour group watching, she announced, “You have to see this!” At which time she played the video she had captured in the closed, darkened cooler.
            The video showed an occasional glint of colored light coming from a dot high over her son’s head illuminating his face just enough for brief recognition. One such dot did not fade like the others but began swinging back and forth. As this light did begin to fade, a larger, brighter, white light, “as bright as a camera flash”, appeared and continued to glow just above her son’s head. It slowly descended and disappeared as if it were entering his head only to suddenly reappear seemingly escaping from the boy’s skull just a nanosecond before the door opened allowing the boy to make his quick and queasy exit.
            “Something as bizarre as these stories does not happen every night on every tour,” Scales concluded, “but sometimes they do happen. It is this unknown factor and these documented accounts that have made the ghost tours here in our mountaintop spa resort so popular. That is why believers and non-believers alike can enjoy and co-exist on our tours. Some come to find proof, some come to debunk, but all come to have fun. And that’s what the Crescent Hotel ghost tours are all about.”
             Want more stories? Click here. For ghost tours of the 1886 Crescent Hotel, click here.
 
Crescent Hotel Morgue
1886 Crescent Hotel Becomes More “Intriguing” On Halloween Night
            Sean-Paul and Juliane Fay, the headliners of Intrigue Theater, will return for the third consecutive year to this 1886 Crescent Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom on Friday, Oct. 31. The two-hour performance begins at 10 p.m. with seating at 9:30 p.m.
      The performance opens with illusionist Sean-Paul opening his antiquarian doctor’s bag and sharing some of the newest mysteries from Intrigue Theater, followed by medium Juliane Fay, who will call upon the energies of the spirits said to be residing in the hotel during a séance. Randomly selected members of the audience will be invited to the stage and a seat at the séance table to assist in reaching back to and communicating with “those who have crossed over.”
            Past performances have been sold out so those interested in attending should reserve tickets early. It is an adjunct to the numerous Crescent Hotel ghost tours that will be conducted day and night on Halloween. Tickets for both the ghost tours and the Halloween Intrigue performance may be purchased online at ReserveEureka.com and IntrigueTheater.com, respectively.
            The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, at 75 Prospect Avenue on Eureka Springs’ Historic Loop, is a proud member of Historic Hotels of America.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gold and ghosts to be found in Dahlonega, Georgia

            I love a good ghost story so imagine my joy upon learning that Dahlonega, Georgia, has more than it’s fair share.
            We’re talking way more.           
            The town dates back to the Cherokees, who settled in northern Georgia’s rolling hills, mountains and peaceful streams and lakes. When gold was discovered in 1828, however, the area exploded with early American settlers who pushed the Native Americans west. With its newfound prosperity to early European-American settlers, Dahlonega became the site of a courthouse and some rip-roaring saloons and hotels.
            Even though 80 percent of the Georgia gold remains inside those mountains, the gold Dahlonega residents now find is tourism. The town is only one and a half hours from Atlanta and boasts numerous bed and breakfasts, mountain cabins and upscale hotels. It’s one of Georgia’s hot spots to get married, the area’s wineries are taking off and it’s an outdoors paradise, with great hiking and biking through the mountains and tubing and canoeing on the Chestatee and Etowah rivers.
            It’s also very haunted.
            Some say it’s because there’s gold still in those hills, some of the purest in the world, along with quartz, stones that attract paranormal activity.
            When I visited I picked up “Dahlonega Haunts: Ghostly Adventures in a GeorgiaMountain Town” by Amy Blackmarr, a collection of more than two dozen haunted sites. The book’s required reading for those ghost haunting in Dahlonega. Blackmarr discusses spirits lingering in places such as the Lumpkin County Courthouse in the center of town, the Crisson Gold Mine, the Holly Theater, several restaurants and stores (like the Picnic Cafe, shown) and the historic Mount Hope Cemetery.
            There are tours to show you the paranormal hotspots, such as Dahlonega Ghost Walk - Historic Hauntings Tour and Haunted Dahlonega: Spirits, Legends & Lore, the latter conducted by the Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site (which is located within the haunted courthouse).
Lumpkin County Courthouse
            Some of the stories you’ll hear are the Civil War soldiers playing cards in Mount Hope Cemetery, a ghostly little girl in a long white dress who plays in rooms in the Historic District and ghosts who rattle dishes and pans in restaurants on the Public Square.  
             Here’s a story the tourism folks gave me: “A visitor to The Crimson Moon Café once left their young daughter in an upstairs room for a few minutes, only to come back and find her playing hide and seek. ‘With whom?’ asked the parent. ‘Don’t you see that little girl in the white dress over there?’ answered the daughter.”
             The Dahlonega Ghost Walk - Historic Hauntings Tour visits 14 locations by tour guide and founder Jeremy Sharp, weaving through streets, back alleys, historic buildings and the historically significant cemetery. Sharp has studied Dahlonega’s history and has also worked with paranormal researchers to document sightings.
             The Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, a not-for-profit organization, is also conducting fun, interactive tours with a new narrative being written by local author Trisha Slay, who is working on a paranormal mystery novel. “Haunted Dahlonega: Spirits, Legends & Lore” explains why Dahlonega is such a hotbed of activity, includes Cherokee folktales and explores local mysteries and benevolent hauntings. 
             Both tours are suitable for adults and children.
             Need more ghost fodder? How about in your accommodations? Try the elegant Park Place Hotel or the Hall House Hotel that dates back to 1881 and is the second oldest building on Dahlonega's historic square.
            
Information:
Dahlonega Ghost Walk - Historic Hauntings Tour
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, August through November
Tickets are adults $10, children $5, available at The Attic Upstairs, 19 East Main St. Call 706-482-8795 or email dahlonegawalkingtours@gmail.com.
Tour is approximately 1.3 miles long on paved, designated walkways, with the exception of Mount Hope Cemetery, and ends in front of the Visitors Center, 13 South Park St.

Haunted Dahlonega: Spirits, Legends & Lore, conducted by the Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site
7 p.m. Saturdays on Sept. 6, 13 and 20; Oct. 4, 11 and 25; Nov. 1
Tickets $10, benefit the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site and are available at the Dahlonega Gold Museum. Visit www.facebook.com/FODGM or call 706-864-2257. 


For a self-guided tour, visit http://dahlonega.org/tours-a-scenic-drives-2/ghost-tours. For tourism information on Dahlonega, visit www.dahlonega.org.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Can you see the face in the Pickens County Courthouse window?

     "The face in the courthouse window in Carrollton, Alabama, the finest or one of the finest ghost stories in the state."
      —Kathryn Tucker Windham

     Genealogist Donna R. Causey discusses the ghost story of Henry Wells, an African American suspected of burning down the Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton in 1876. It's one of the most unusual ghost stories you will ever hear, involving a lynch mob, a garett window and a bizarre strike of lightning.
      Click here for Causey's story, "The Face in the Window in Pickens County, Alabama — Can You See It?" which also includes a video by storyteller and author Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Geospirits offers interactive map of paranormal sites

            Louisiana Spirits has a new interactive map that lets viewers search for paranormal sites throughout the United States, including all over the Deep South!
            You’ll find everything from haunted hotels and bed and breakfasts to cemeteries, battlefields and historic buildings. Some are suspected to be haunted, some have research to back them up and some contain “some sort of unknown phenomena,” claim organizers.            
            Want to add your site? Submit your location by email to Louisiana Spirits.
            Note: The icon at right gives the URL as GeoSpirits.com but when we clicked on the link it came to http://www.laspirits.com/geospirits, for what it’s worth.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Who haunts the Opelousas Museum?

Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center
            Living history roams the Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center, walking among the Clifton Chenier zydeco records, Civil War relics and around the barbershop chair where Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame got his last haircut. There are specters who refuse to leave the 1935 building, whose incarnations included the Sibille’s Funeral Home, a church and the Opelousas Library.
            Director Delores Guillory had no idea of the building’s history when she first started working at the Opelousas Museum. Her first clue came when she was alone in the building, sitting at her desk inside the office.
            “The front door opened and it closed,” Guillory said. “I looked over and nobody came. I looked at the door and there was no one.”
            Guillory even went so far as to check the outside porch and sidewalk and both were empty. When her supervisor returned, she recalled the story. To her surprise, the supervisor laughed.
            “That’s when she told me about it once being a funeral home,” Guillory said.
            Other events followed, including hearing startling noises like something falling from the wall. Once a loud noise emanated from the Civil War room and Guillory smelled cigarettes after investigating.
            Another time she was sitting in the hallway when the back door opened and closed. At first she chalked it up to the security guard who liked to tease her about the ghosts, but when she called him up on the phone, he was the park.
            “I said okay, that was our ghost again.”
The Civil War Room
            Others have experienced sightings as well. One employee spotted something white and whispy moving across her line of sight by the Civil War Room.
            “All of sudden something went across cold cold and she smelled perfume,” Guillory explained. “We told her about the ghosts. The next day she quit.”
            A worker performing community service at the museum halted at the mannequin in the Mardi Gras display, a man bedecked in a long mink and velvet robe. The elaborate robe was created for Nolan Simmons, who reigned as King Orme XLVIII in the 1994 Carnival season in Opelousas. Today, it adorns the mannequin inside a glass case, with a mirror behind so visitors can view all sides.
            “She said I have to get out of here,” Guillory related of the woman’s experience at the mannequin. “She said there’s a bad vibe in here.”
            Some people halt at the front door, feeling the paranormal vibe and refusing to set foot inside, Guillory said.
            Louisiana Spirits paranormal investigators spent an evening in the museum and heard unusual sounds they couldn’t account for, but they did debunk the mystery of the moving dolls in the display cases. The dolls were not laying flat within the cases so footsteps in the hall caused the cabinets to shake and move, said Jennifer Broussard of Louisiana Spirits. Investigator Charles Gardner managed to get one doll to turn completely as he walked in the hallway, he said.

This story was an excerpt from "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" by Cheré Coen, published by The History Press.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ghost in the Grevemberg parlor

    The Grevemberg House in Franklin, Louisiana, was built in 1851 by town lawyer Henry Wilson. He later sold the home to Mrs. Frances Wyckoff Grevemberg, who had lost her husband, Gabriel Grevemberg, in the 1856 hurricane that devastated Last Island or Isle Derniere off the coast of Louisiana. Mrs. Grevemberg and her children lived in the house for many years, then different owners purchased the home until the City of Franklin took over the property in 1948.
            Today, the Greek Revival house is a museum operated by the St. Mary Landmarks Society. Most of the furnishings are not original to the house, but are appropriate period antiques. However, the cypress floors and the downstairs black marble mantles are original.
            The Grevemberg House Museum offers Civil War memorabilia, an iron casket, an extensive toy and doll collection and a large statue of Justice saved from the demolition of the old Franklin courthouse.
            Ghosts have not been reported here, but a psychic visited the museum and claimed an older woman was standing near the center table in the front room, the one housing the Steinway Grand Square piano beneath the portrait of handsome Charles Alexander Grevemberg, who built Albania Plantation in nearby Jeanerette, Louisiana. The psychic claimed the woman found the room nicely furnished, but the pieces were not where they were supposed to be. She hovered by the table and then walked toward the fireplace.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Who remains at Loyd Hall Plantation?

            I’ve heard that Loyd Hall Plantation near Alexandria was haunted but never got the full story until I spent the night. The main house was full the night we visited so I shared the old kitchen out back — newly renovated, of course, and accented with antiques — with a friend who had not known it was haunted. Needless to say, she taped on my door several times in the night because she was scared someone less alive than I would visit.
            The story goes that William Loyd built the impressive home around 1820, after he was cast out of the Lloyd family in England, the ones associated with Lloyds of London. Hence only one l in his name, which he changed upon arrival in America.
            The black sheep of the Lloyd family didn’t do so bad for himself in central Louisiana, creating a plantation of tobacco, corn, indigo and sugarcane on hundreds of acres. Stories claim he was a bit eccentric, however, and the local natives weren’t too fond of him, which explains the spent arrowheads in the kitchen doors.
An upstairs suite.
            Another story claims he worked both sides of the Civil War and was hanged from an oak tree in the front of his house for treason.
            Today, the home is listed on the National Historic Register and serves as a bed and breakfast with guests enjoying a full breakfast in the main house with walls of windows overlooking the property. In addition to two elegant suites on the second floor (hint, this is where to stay if you want to see ghosts), there are numerous “cottages” in the rear, including the old commissary and kitchen, where we stayed (without incident).
            William Loyd haunts the home, some people think, and favors the front porch. A Union soldier killed on the third floor still hangs around as well. And there are more, as Miss Beaulah Davis explained to us in the morning when we were enjoying our breakfast. Guests have reported things moving on their own, pressure on furniture when no one was there and unusual sounds.
The third floor schoolhouse.
            According to Louisiana Spirits paranormal investigators, “Mr. Loyd's relative, Inez Loyd, jumped to her death from the third story attic. The suicide was said to have taken place due to Inez being stood up by her fiancé. The third floor was also said to have been home to a small schoolhouse on one side and the room of the teacher on the other. It was this teacher that was said to have been in a relationship with a Union soldier who chose to stay behind after the troops left. He was often seen on the front porch, serenading the teacher with a violin. It is at his point that the history is unclear. Some sources say that the soldier was then shot by the teacher's sister, while others say it was an angry neighbor that committed the murder. Needles to say, the soldier was, in fact, shot on the third floor and buried under the house. Years later, his remains were exhumed and moved to an undisclosed location.”
            We visited the third floor and witnessed a large stain near the window, said to have been the blood stain of the fallen soldier.

            Loyd Hall is located at 292 Loyd Bridge Road in Cheneyville. For information, call (318) 776-5641 or visit http://www.loydhall.com.

Cheré Coen is the author of "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" published by The History Press.