Around Louisiana: Baton Rouge/Plantation Country
Its arched windows and crenelated towers watch the Mississippi River from a green bluff, looking like a medieval castle. Louisiana’s Old State Capitol Building is a beautifully Gothic 150-year-old structure that was the hot seat of Louisiana government after the capital was moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in the 19th century. It was there that Louisiana legislators voted to secede from the Union, and it was from there they fled when Union troops occupied Baton Rouge in 1862.
The building was turned into a Union garrison and also served as a prison for Confederate soldiers. It was gutted by an accidental fire started by the blue-clads the same year. It was eventually restored in 1882, and the beautiful wrought-iron spiral staircase was added and ascended to the new exquisite stained-glass dome that transformed the old stone building into a crystal palace of reflected cobalt, scarlet and gold color.
Under the auspices of Huey Long, who reportedly hated the old Gothic structure because it had been the site of his impeachment, the Legislature was moved to the present skyscraper building. The old Gothic building was opened as a museum in the 1990s, and visitors and staff began having ghostly and unexplained experiences.
Visitors reported smelling cigar smoke with no smokers around and hearing the swishing sound of unseen long skirts billowed by petticoats. Late one night, a young security officer named Ivy Christy was on duty when motion detectors throughout the building tracked a form that moved steadily through the rooms. The trail ended in a room set up as an antique bedroom. Christy didn’t find a living soul in the building, but she did see evidence that someone had sat on the side of the bed just recently. Other staffers reported that flashlights and ladders disappeared only to be found in an entirely different location from where they had been left. The wide, heavy doors have been witnessed flying open and closing of their own volition. The museum also houses the gun that killed Huey Long.
In March of this year, according to Jennifer Broussard, director of Louisiana’s pre-eminent paranormal investigative organization, Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations, co-founded by Brad Duplechein and Brandon Thomas, an extensive paranormal investigation of the Capitol was mounted. A group of 12, divided into six pairs, swept the building with electronic voice phenomena and video recorders, electromagnetic field readers, curiosity and courage. According to Broussard, the team immediately began to have personal experiences of the supernatural. While in the tower, two marked electromagnetic field spikes were noted when the question, “Did you start the fire?” was asked. On the third floor, the group heard untraceable whistling in the background. One pair of team members was in the House Chamber when both of the heavy doors suddenly slammed shut. They attempted re-creation of the odd event but didn’t succeed. Down in the basement, another group witnessed a black shadow walking past. All 12 investigators reported sudden battery drainage from flashlights, usually a sign that a spirit is trying to materialize.
Review of audio recordings reveal eerie electronic voice phenomena findings. The word “die” was caught on tape after a member asked, “What year is it?” As the team climbed the winding staircase, repeated disembodied whispers of “hey, hey, hey” that seemed to follow them up the stairs are clearly audible on tape. In the House Chamber, someone says the name “Molly.” Perhaps most eerie of all the electronic voice phenomena is the sound of a man’s voice singing “You Are My Sunshine,” which none of the team members heard until they listened to the recordings.
Old State Capitol Building, 100 North Blvd., Baton Rouge, or visit laspirits.com
FORK IN THE ROAD
I always associate this pie with my mother’s kitchen in autumn: the cool crisp air that came through the window curtained with red calico, the pumpkin sitting on the black baker’s rack near the round table covered with a red-and-white-checked cloth. It was a custom to make this pie each October –– it’s easy and deliciously accompanied by coffee, good friends and scary ghost stories on Halloween night. The recipe comes from the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper.
Pastry for a two-crust pie (Top layer will be a lattice cut)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cranberries
1 cup peeled, diced and cored apples (Granny Smith is my preference)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter.
Prepare the crust. Combine the cranberries, apples, raisins and walnuts with the sugar, flour and cinnamon, and shake to coat. Slowly add the cranberry juice and vanilla, spoon the mixture into an unbaked pie shell, and dot the top with pats of butter. Place the lattice strips over the top, sprinkle the top of the pie lightly with sugar, and bake for 40 minutes at 425 degrees.