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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Marland's Bridge may be bridge to another world


            Arguably the most haunted area near Lafayette is just outside the town of Sunset, named by railroad workers who finished the job at dusk where the town is now located — or so the story goes. Marland’s Bridge, next to Chretien Point Plantation is the site of a Civil War battle known as the November 3, 1863, Battle of Bayou Bourbeau between Union troops under the leadership of Brigadier General Stephen G. Burbridge and approaching Confederate troops led by Brigadier General Thomas Green. The Confederates took the Union forces by surprise and chaos ensued, resulting in a solid victory for the South.
            The hero of the day was twenty-three-year-old Lieutenant William Marland of the Second Massachusetts artillery. When Texans approached and appeared to be about to capture him, Marland charged the bridge across Bayou Bourbeau. The surprise action forced the Texans to jump off the bridge into the water and Marland escaped. He was later honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor for his brave actions that day.
            Today the bridge is named for Marland, but that may not be a good thing, for folks near and far claim the bridge and area around the bayou as haunted. Locals have reported seeing unusual lights and hearing strange noises near the bridge, plus a woman wearing white has been spotted walking on the bridge — and she’s anything but alive.
            LouisianaSpirits made several visits to Marland’s Bridge and recorded unusual phenomena and “a large orange light crossing the bridge.” The photo is posted on their web site.
            GhostsN Spectors of Breaux Bridge experienced paranormal activity on three occasions at the bridge, including “phantom smells, disembodied voices, sub-zero temperature drops, unexplained free floating EMFs (Electro Magnetic Fields), shadow figures, feelings of being watched, feeling that you are being touched, and growls emanating from unknown origins…,” they reported on their web site.
            “One of our parked vehicles had the head lights and interior lights turned on when all investigators were across the bridge and this phenomena took place at the time we captured an EVP saying ‘get in your truck and leave,’” they claimed on the web site report, along with a recording of the actual EVP. “While walking the area on the anniversary of the battle, an investigator complained of sudden pain in the arm as if she’d been struck with something. After removing a jacket and rolling up a sleeve, a round red mark about the size of a dime was visible. The investigator reported feeling as if she’d been ‘hit’ with something small and it burned like being stabbed with a hot iron. The description of the sensation is similar to that given by gunshot victims. The pain eased after about thirty minutes but the mark lasted a few hours then faded.”
             They have posted paranormal activity — in this case EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) — on their web site as well.

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ghost hunting in New Orleans

            The lights dimmed in the historic ballroom of the Bourbon Orleans and only the sound of Chip Coffey’s voice could be heard. The medium known for A&E’s “Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal” was in New Orleans to promote his latest book, “Growing Up Psychic,” and after an introductory session wanted to see if the ballroom’s ghosts were real.
            The French Quarter hotel owns a long and varied history, first built as the Théâtre d’Orléans (Orleans Theater) with accompanying ballroom, then as the site for the Quadroon Balls, where light-skinned African American women became mistresses to Creole men through “plaçage” or a strict social arrangement. One of those women, Henriette DeLille, chose the church instead, forming a small congregation known as the Sisters of the Holy Family. The nuns later purchased the Orleans Ballroom.
            Today, the Sisters have moved to a different area of the city and the old buildings have been torn down and replaced for the gracious Bourbon Orleans hotel, complete with restaurant, center pool and patio area and lounge. The historic ballroom remains, however, the only original structure of the early incantation.
            Also remaining are a few ghosts.
            “We’ve done a lot of investigations in here,” explained Etienne Skrabo, an intuitive and tour guide with Gray Line Tours.
            Skrabo identified one of the ghosts as “Giselle,” a woman who received two contracts while visited the balls. The first gentleman died and the other left, Skrabo explained, and Giselle presently hangs out by the ballroom’s chandelier or looking forlorn while gazing out the ballroom windows.
            Another ghost is the Confederate soldier, a hazy apparition who floats through the hallways. On one occasion, a tourist captured the soldier in a photo, standing right behind Skrabo as he performed his tour.
6th Floor Hallway
            But the ghosts that Coffey picked up on the night he visited were the small children playing about, causing havoc with his flashlights. Coffey demonstrated an easy way to perform ghost hunting, by turning an LED flashlight off but by a hair, so that a small movement would cause it to turn back on. Once the two flashlights were off and sitting on the desk before him, Coffey asked the spirits present to turn them back on.
            They came on instantly. And then it happened again. And again.
            Back and forth the flashlights flickered while he asked questions, sometimes in response to his questions, sometimes just for fun.
            “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Coffey said.
            During his appearance in the Bourbon Orleans ballroom, Coffey felt the presence of two children and he believed their actions with the flashlights were mischievous. Skrabo confirmed that children have been seen in the hotel — the non-living kind — including a blond girl who plays on the staircase and enters hotel rooms, causing mischief. When the nuns owned the building they operated an orphanage and many children died in 1888 during a yellow fever epidemic.

Room 644
            I recently returned to the Bourbon Orleans to learn more about the apparitions haunting the hotel and the owners graciously placed me in the most haunted corner, Room 644. I’m not afraid of ghosts. After spending my career writing about ghost stories for south Louisiana newspapers and magazines, and just finishing my “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” book for The History Press, I was eager to see one for myself.
Room 644
            Legend has it that a nun committed suicide in Room 644, although the Sisters of the Holy Family have never confirmed such an event. The hotel claims that cries can be heard in this rooftop room over looking the city and actor James Franco, who stayed in the room during a recent film shoot, experienced the water faucet turning on and off on its own accord.
            Sadly, I experienced nothing. However, another travel writer in my party, only a few doors down, was kept up all night by an unseen hand turning the television on and off. She later related to me that she’s a sensitive, someone who picks up the paranormal easily and, like me, aren’t afraid of ghosts. But she did move to a different hotel to get some sleep. That night, I lingered in the hallway and invited whatever ghosts might be traveling the sixth floor into my room. But again, nothing.
            I spent the rest of my weekend in New Orleans sampling spirits of another variety, such as the refreshing cucumber martini in the Vive! Lounge of Hotel le Marais, a sazerac in the Sazerac Bar of the Roosevelt Hotel (does Huey Long haunt his old stomping ground?) and some amazing wine selections at Patrick’s Bar Vin in the Hotel Mazarin.
            What I did experience, however, was a long parade of stories from everyone I met. From the young ghostly girl who “travels” through the French Quarter, being seen at various hotels, to the smoking Confederate soldier who hangs out on the balcony of the Audubon Cottages. Muriel’s Restaurant in Jackson Square has its share, and then there’s the infamous Lalaurie Mansion, which could be its own story.
            Bottom line, if you visit New Orleans looking for ghosts, chances are you’ll find them, whether in person pulling your toes in the middle of the night, or in a great story told over a delicious cocktail.

This story was originally published in October, 2013, in City Social of Baton Rouge. Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana,” now on sale from The History Press.