A Weekend at the Myrtles

photo of the myrtles

If it’s a good ol haunted house getaway vacation that you are looking for, or you just want to visit the South, then check out the Myrtles Plantation Bed & Breakfast in St. Francesville, Louisiana.  A cursed ancient Indian burial ground, home to death from disease, slavery, murders, and a survivor of the Civil War; “the Myrtles” house has a very dark and deep history that has been the influence of many ghost stories that have been told over decades that has led this now Southern B&B to be a topic of focus on TV shows such as Unsolved Mysteries in 2002 and Ghost Hunters in 2005.  “The Myrtles” has been given the title of being one of the most haunted houses on the United States soil.  Plus, they even have a gift shop.  What more can you ask?

History of the Myrtles

James Bradford an attorney, businessman, Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and then later a criminal for his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion, fled the Pennsylvania area and eventually settled in an area in Louisiana which is now known as St. Francisville.  He purchased six hundred acres of land and then built an eight room home near Baton Rouge and named it “Laurel Grove”.  Due to Bradford’s efforts of settling a territory dispute between Spain and the United States, President John Adams pardon Bradford in 1799.  After being pardoned Bradford moved his wife Elizabeth and their five children to “Laurel Grove”.

William Bradford

William Bradford

Clark Woodrooff; a student of Bradford’s, earned a law degree and married his teacher’s daughter Sarah Mathilda.  After Bradford’s death, Clark Woodrooff took over managing the plantation for his mother in-law Elizabeth.  Eventually, Clark and Sarah had three children, Cornelia Gale, James, and Mary Octavia.  Then the yellow fever epidemic, which ran rampant through Louisiana, claimed the life of Sarah Mathilda on July 21, 1823.  In 1824, the fever took the lives of two of his children James and Cornelia.  Elizabeth Bradford sold the farm to Woodrooff, who later changed his name to Woodruff, and continued to manage the plantation until he sold “Laurel Grove” and the plantation in 1834 to Ruffin Grey Stirling.

Clark Woodruff

Clark Woodruff

The Stirlings were a wealthy family who owned many plantations on both sides of the Mississippi River.  “The Laurel Grove” house went under some serious renovations and remodeling that ended up doubling the size of the original house and the name of the house was changed to “the Myrtles”.  The name change was inspired by the myrtle trees that decorated the landscape of the property.  After four years of completion, Ruffin Stirling died from tuberculosis on July 17, 1854.  His wife Mary Cobb inherited most of his estate and quickly developed a strong reputation as a hard business woman and managed to operate all of her fields almost single handedly.  The Stirling family was frequently visited with tragedy.  Only four of the nine children survived and lived long enough to marry.  In the same year of his father, Lewis Stirling; the oldest son, died from yellow fever.  Sometime during the Civil War many of the family’s personal belongings were looted by Union soldiers.  The wealth that backed the Stirling family’s bourgeois lifestyle, was confederate currency, and became worthless after the war ended.    Mary Cobb hired William Drew Winter, the husband of her daughter, Sarah Mulford, as an attorney to help manage the estate on December 5, 1865 and as one of the perks William and Sarah got to live in “the Myrtles” house.  The January 1871 issue of the Point Coupee Democrat newspaper wrote an article about William Winter.  He was teaching a Sunday school lesson in the house when a stranger on horseback rode up to the house and called out William.  William walked out of the house onto the front porch and the mysterious horseman shot and murder the Sunday school teacher.  William Winter died on January 26, 1871.  The newspaper stated that a man named E.S. Webber was to stand trial for the murder but the outcome of the trial was never recorded.  After Mary Cobbs death in 1880, her son Stephen Stirling purchased and maintained ownership of “the Myrtles” until 1886.

Bradfords Laurel Grove

Bradford’s Laurel Grove

The property changed hands for decades and was divided up many times.  In the 1950s, the house itself was sold to Marjorie Munson.  Supposedly after experiencing unexplainable events in the house, Marjorie asked locals in the area if they knew anything about the history of the property.  This is where the ghost stories behind the Myrtles gave birth.  After changing hands for several more years, “the Myrtles” was purchased by Arlin Dease and Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Ward and the stories were continuously evolving with greater embellishments as time went by.  The stories were spread by word of mouth and for a great while they only existed in the area until James and Frances Kermeen Myers purchased the property and soon after, the story of “the Myrtles” was being covered in magazines.  The house appeared in the November 1980 issue of Life magazine and the ghost stories involving the house spread all over the country.

The Ghost of Chloe

The most infamous of the stories is the story of Chloe.  There are several variations to the story of the vengeful slave girl that haunts the property.  One of the versions of the story apparently took place in 1817 when Sarah Mathilda was pregnant with her third child.  Clark Woodruff had a strong reputation for being a man of integrity and a man of law.  He also had a reputation for having intimate relationships with the slave girls.  One of these girls was named Chloe.  Woodruff brought Chloe in from  the fields to be a household slave.  Chloe hated having to be forced to have sex with her master, but she realized that if she resisted her master’s sexual demands that her household slave position could immediately change and she would be forced back out into the fields.  Chloe had a habit of eavesdropping on Woodruff’s  private conversations and in one incident was caught.  Woodruff and had her ear chopped off and to cover her deformity Chloe started to wear a green turban around her head.

Out of fear of being thrown back out into the fields with the other slaves, Chloe hatched a devious scheme to paint herself as a hero to the family by baking a birthday cake that was laced with poison.  When the children ate the cake her plan was to rescue the sick children by giving them the antidote and then become the savior to the family.  Her heroic efforts would be greatly appreciated by the family and her position as a house slave would be permanent.  Well, that plan went south real quick.  According  to the story Sarah and two of her children died from eating the cake.  During the incident Woodruff was out of town, so the other slaves decided that it would be best for them to hold her accountable before their master returned to alleviate a backlash towards all of the slaves.  They dragged her off to the woods and hanged her from a tree.  Later her body was cut down and had a rock attached to her body and was thrown into the Mississippi river.

The haunted Staircase

Reports of phantom foot steps that can be heard going all the way up to the seventeenth step are the footsteps of William Winter who was murdered.  The story claims that after he was shot by a mysterious horseman, William dragged himself from the porch into the house and climbed the seventeen steps and died in his wife’s arms.

staircase at the myrtles

The everlasting Bloodstain

During the Civil War, three Union soldiers were caught looting the house and were shot in the gentleman’s parlor thus leaving a bloodstain that refuses to be wiped away.  When the Myrtles house became a B&B, a maid was mopping the floor and when she tried to mop over the stain the mop was being mysteriously held away from stain.  No matter how hard the maid forced the mop over the stain an invisible force was preventing her from erasing the stain.

The murder of  Lewis Stirling

Lewis Stirling  was supposedly stabbed to death over a gambling debt and his ghost allegedly is one of many that haunt the house.

The Myrtles haunted mirror

The mirror that holds the spirits of Sarah Woodruff and her two children are the main attraction to this Southern inn.  Visitors frequently have their pictures taken in front of this mirror in hopes of possibly getting photo bombed by Sarah and or her children.  Supposedly the mirror was the only mirror that wasn’t covered during the wake.  It is a custom in many cultures to cover mirrors in a home to prevent the recently deceased from being trapped.  People claim to have seen ghost children in the mirror and some have stated that hand prints mysteriously appear on the mirror.

haunted_mirror_myrtles_plantation

Final Thoughts…

Of all of the stories that have been created that revolve around the “Myrtles”, only one of the murders was actually documented.  William Winters was shot and died on the porch.  There is  no other documented proof that all the other murders took place within the house.  The documented facts surrounding the house contradict many of the ghost stories that are currently still being told to visitors of the famous B&B.  This leads to the question is the “Myrtles” really haunted or were these stories, originally created to entertain the locals, now being used to generate business?

There is suspicion that the Myrtles house was originally built over an ancient Indian burial ground.  There was an enormous amount of misery surrounding  the property such as slavery and death.  There is a saying that is commonly said from upper management types, “if it’s not documented then it never happened”.  That saying can go both ways.  Just because someone failed to document their evil deeds for posterity purposes doesn’t mean it never happened.

Another Thought…

I wonder if they do kid’s birthday parties and the staff can tell the story of Chloe while the children are eating their birthday cake.

References

C. (2016, June 6). The Myrtles Plantation Mirror. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://realunexplainedmysteries.com/the-myrtles-plantation-mirror
Myrtles Plantation. (2017, July 28). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrtles_Plantation
Taylor, T. (1970, January 01). American Hauntings. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://troytaylorbooks.blogspot.com/2016/08/debunking-history-of-myrtles-plantation.html
Myrtles Plantation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/louisiana/myr.htm
Rhodes, C. (2016, December 07). History vs. The Ghost Story. Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://catierhodes.com/2011/10/history-vs-the-ghost-story/
Myrtles Plantation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from http://unsolvedmysteries.wikia.com/wiki/Myrtles_Plantation
Posts about General David Bradford on Where the Ghosts Live. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from https://wheretheghostslive.wordpress.com/tag/general-david-bradford/
For more information visit
Ask if they will do kids birthday party events.

 

 

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The Origins of Christmas

christmas-tree-with-candles

Family and friends gathering together on a day of exchanging gifts, eating themselves to food stupers, laughing and singing, and getting blitzed on grandma’s eggnog, are just some of the traditions that have been around long before the concept of commercialism.

Winter Solstice

Various cultures have been celebrating the shortest day of the year on the northern hemisphere for thousands of centuries.  Pagans in the Scandinavian regions a.k.a Vikings, would have fire festivals to encourage the sun to return and to pay tribute to Thor.  Yule; depending on the year of the Gregorian calendar, was and currently celebrated sometime between December 21 to 23.  A Yule or Juul log would be brought into the home and burned in the fireplace.  Pouring wine on the log to add a sweet smell when burning or adding other chemicals onto the log to give the flame a certain color became part of the traditions of Yule.  The log would be burned until there were nothing but ashes and then collected. Some people would throw the ashes out onto their fields for good luck.  Others would keep the yule log ashes as a charm or use them for medicine.  Sometimes a piece of the log that remained from the fire would be kept for goodluck and used for next years celebration as kindling.  The Yule tradition lives on even today in Europe and North America.

yule-log-tree-budnik-serbian-church-local-tradition

Saturnalia

The Romans celebrated the Winter Solstice by honoring Saturnus the god of agriculture, liberation, and time.  Saturnus was the inspiration behind the naming of the planet Saturn and also Saturday.  During the celebration of Saturnalia laws were ignored and slaves were temporarily freed.  Drinking, singing and gambling became open in the public view with no fear of getting busted by the authorities.  Orgies, feasts, gift giving, and sacrifices were also common traditions during the festivities.  Cookies shaped as humans were baked and given as presents that would be later consumed by the recipients.  The statue of Saturnus would be unbound from its woolen shackles connecting it to its base and carried through the streets of Rome and placed in a public courtyard while the public wines and feasts to celebrate the liberated god that is amongst them.  

saturnalia

The festival started off with a tradition known as the “Lord of Misrule”.  The leaders of the Roman communities would select a criminal or slave and free them.  They would allow them to sit at their table as an honored guest and wine and dine them.  At the end of the festival the honored guest would be sacrificed as a representation of vanquishing evil from society.  How much of this practice is true or was even commonly practiced is uncertain.  However, one of my sources stated that Gaius Petronius Arbiter; a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero, wrote about an incident that involved a slave who was allowed to sit at the table of his masters.  After heavy consumption of alcohol the slave started to mock emperor Nero and the slave’s master joined in and encouraged his impudence.  Towards the end of the dinner party, the master and his guests circled the slave and brutally murdered the foolish man for acting like the emperor.

Saint Nicholas

Also known as “Nikolaos of Myra”, was a fourth century Greek Orthodox saint who was born in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey.  Nicholas was born into a well-to-do christian family.  His parents died from an epidemic and Nicholas inherited a great fortune.  Nicholas was then raised by his uncle and the Greek Orthodox church and became highly educated.  Later becoming an ordained priest himself,  St. Nicholas developed a strong reputation for being a generous and kind man.  

13th-century_unknown_painters_-_icon_of_st_nicholas_-_wga23492

Legend has it, a very poor man had three daughters who were going to be forced into prostitution due to their father not having any money to pay dowries towards potential husbands.  Once Nicholas got wind of this, Nicholas visited the man’s home and threw in a bag of gold coins through an open window to pay for the eldest daughter’s dowry.  Later Nicholas came back to do the same thing for the other two daughters.  The poor man caught Nicholas in the act the third time and was so grateful, even under Nicholas’s advisement not to,  the poor man announced to the public about Nicholas’s kindness and generosity.  St.  Nicholas’s acts of kindness spread greater than the own man’s deeds themselves and later ended up making him the Patron Saint of Children and Sailors.

The Nativity of Jesus

The discussion of Jesus’s birth didn’t appear until after 200 years of his persecution. The telling of Jesus’s birth originated from  the gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Neither gospels mentioned a date or the year of Jesus’s birth.  The first date that was documented was from Clement of Alexandria and he stated that Jesus’s birthdate was on Pachon 25 (May 20th).  Other religious scholars have placed the date on March 21, April 15, April 20, and April 21.  It wasn’t until around the fourth century when Pope Julius I set the date on December 25th.  The first staged nativity scene occurred on Christmas Eve night in a town of Greccio, Italy in 1223.  St. Francis of Assisi was inspired to create the live nativity scene due to his disgust with the greed and materialism that plagued Italy.  It was to serve as a reminder that Jesus didn’t come to us a rich king but as a poor child.

free-nativity-clipart-public-domain-christmas-clip-art-images-6-2

The First Christmas Tree

Germany has been credited of starting the Christmas tree tradition sometime during the 16th century.  It is believed that Martin Luther, a renegade catholic priest who became a Protestant reformer, was the first to add lighted candles to a tree.  Supposedly Martin Luther was walking home one night and was bewildered by the stars in the sky twinkling behind the backdrop of the evergreen trees in the forest.  According to the story, Martin Luther chopped a tree down and brought it to his house.  He set the tree up inside his home decorated the tree with the first homemade wired set of candle holders.  Martin Luther wanted to share his previous experience in the woods with his family by lighting the candles that were draped around the tree that represented the twinkling stars in the heavens.

christmas-tree-with-candles

References

Understanding the Nativity Scene. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://archstl.org/stewardship/page/understanding-nativity-scene

Nuwer, R. (2012, December 14). The First Nativity Scene Was Created in 1223. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-first-nativity-scene-was-created-in-1223-161485505/

Saturn – God of Agriculture – Crystalinks. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.crystalinks.com/saturnrome.html

Haskell, C. (n.d.). How to Celebrate Yule With a Pagan Family. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/113242/how_to_celebrate_yule_with

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://bible.org/article/should-christians-celebrate-christmas

History.com Staff. (2009). History of Christmas Trees. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees

St. Nicholas to Santa: The Surprising Origins of Mr. Claus. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

St. Nicholas – Saints & Angels. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=371

(n.d.). St. Nicholas, Santa Claus & Father Christmas on whychristmas?com. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml

The Winter Solstice – Yule Lore. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://wicca.com/celtic/akasha/yule.htm

December Solstice Customs. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice-customs.html

Saturnalia. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/saturnalia.html

The Origins of Christmas. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/history/2009/Origins-of-Christmas.html

Origin of Christmas | The history of Christmas and how it began. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

Auletta, K. (n.d.). The Most Unique Christmas Traditions Around The World. Retrieved December 29, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/world-christmas-tradition_n_4479333.html