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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Gateway to Evil or Just a Game

ouija-board

The belief and/or desire to communicate with ghosts of loved ones, historical, famous, or infamous, is a common human behavior and has always been a part of human culture.  Examples of communing with the dead can be found in the Bible, mythology, classic literature, and on the shelves of your nearby children’s toy store.  Does the Ouija Board really work or is it just a game for entertainment purposes only?  

seance-scene-in-dr-mabus-008

Spiritualism in America

During the year of 1848, the obsession of spiritualism, already popular in Europe, spread like a wildfire in the U.S. when Kate and Margaret Fox; two sisters who lived in Hydesville, NY, became instant celebrities by claiming they contacted the spirit of a dead peddler.  The word “medium” is used as a label that identifies the talented or “gifted” person who has the ability of communicating with the dead by using various methods such as table turning (tilting or taping).  The medium along with the attendees would sit around a table and place their fingers lightly on the edge of the table top.  The medium would ask questions and then call out letters or numbers and if the table taps the floor on the letter or number the answer is presumed to be the spirit communicating back.    Another method was developed by placing a pencil sticking through the center of a small basket and the spirit would write out the answer of the questions  asked by the medium.  Later this tool developed into what is now known as the planchette, French for small plank.

hisc  Interesting historical tidbit…

Mary Todd Lincoln conducted a séance in the White House after their 11 year old son died from illness in 1862.

Other methods and tools were also used and developed to commune with the spirits but failed in the market.  The planchette tool became the most popular method of communing with the other side, due to the cost of manufacturing, this device was cheaper than its competitors such as the various types of dial plate instruments which were sometimes referred to as psychographs.  

In 1886 certain variations of talking boards where becoming the latest craze in the spiritual culture.  Business partners Charles Kennard, Elijah Bond, and a few other investors created their first version of their talking board.  They managed to convince a patent worker that it worked and the first patent talking board gave credit to Kennard and Bond in 1890.  The Ouija board got its name supposedly from a séance that took place with Kennard, Bond, and Helen Peters, Bond’s sister-in-law, who had a reputation of being a strong medium.  When Miss Peters asked the board “what would you like to be named?”  The board responded by spelling out Ouija.  Miss Peters asked, “What is the meaning of the word Ouija?”  The board answered back, “Good Luck”.

william-fuld

William fuld

Starting as a varnisher for the Kennard Novelty Company, Fuld managed to climb the company’s ladder and became a major stockholder and eventually ended up running the company.  Fuld never claimed and is not the creator of the Ouija board, but somehow the New York Times  reported  this mis-information by declaring him the inventor.  In 1927, Fuld died from falling off the roof of his new factory.  Ironically, supposedly the Ouija board told Fuld to build the factory in the first place.

Does the board work?

If you have ever used an Ouija board at a party there are always those who will try to get a scare or a quick laugh, but it is also common when people are using the board to claim that they  are not the ones moving the planchette and accuse the other person and of course the other person denies it and says the same thing.  The ideomotor effect is the culprit behind this phenomenon.  Ideomotor actions are unconscious movements that occur when we focus on not trying to move.  The movement of the planchette on the board can occur naturally for the same reason dowsing is believed to be a good way to find water.

Is the Ouija Board evil?

Spiritualism was a very popular trend during the Civil War era.  During and after wars it is very common for people to try to contact lost loved ones.  In 1967, a year after Parker Brothers bought the rights from Fuld’s company, the Ouija board sold 2 million boards which outsold Monopoly that year.  The year 1967 was also the same year where more American troops were sent into Vietnam and also the year of  “Summer of Love” in San Francisco.  The evil reputation of the Ouija board didn’t really start developing until the movie The Exorcist was released in American theaters in 1973.  Then more horror movies used the Ouija board and helped create the evil reputation of the Ouija board that is now known today.

References

Waxman, O. B. (n.d.). ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ and the True History of the Ouija Board. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://time.com/4529861/ouija-board-history-origin-of-evil/

Jackson, J. (n.d.). The ideomotor effect. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.critical-thinking.org.uk/psychology/the-ideomotor-effect.php

Museum of Talking Boards: History of the Talking Board. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/history.html

Museum of Talking Boards – Board Gallery Page One. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/gal1.html

McRobbie, L. R. (2013, October 27). The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-strange-and-mysterious-history-of-the-ouija-board-5860627/