If it’s a good ole 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”.
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.
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.
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 unexplained 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 the stories 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 their interests 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.
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 it from history.
The murder of Lewis Stirling
Lewis Stirling was supposedly stabbed to death in the house over a gambling debt. 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.
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 and are 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.
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.