Around Louisiana: Baton Rouge/Plantation Country
THE GHOST CORRIDOR OF THE RIVER ROAD
Alan Brown’s book, Ghosts Along the Mississippi River, chronicles a strange odyssey he undertook to write about haunted towns that nestle on the banks of the muddy river, north, mid-west and south. In his research, funded by the University of Alabama, he cites several beliefs that proximity to water causes a direct link to the paranormal; indeed it does seem that some of the nation’s most haunted places like Charleston, S.C; Savannah, Ga.; New Orleans; Alcatraz Island, Calif.; and Galveston, Texas, lie near oceans, bays and rivers. Therefore, with the plethora of ghost sightings at the string of plantations that grace both banks of the Mississippi’s River Road, one can certainly entertain this theory as a curiosity. According to Dr. Tony Ambler of the University of Texas, the vast amount of impurities found in the mighty Mississippi are perfect conductors of electrical energy – something that’s like candy to the materializing haint. Scientific questions may arise: Is this really supernatural, or is this some mysterious as yet undiscovered means to split the space-time continuum and cause scenes from the past to replay themselves?
But let’s just stick to ghosts. Brown, an English professor, describes ghost stories as something to be cherished and enjoyed because “they preserve the history and the values of the people who pass them along.” He retells true ghost stories that cover Louisiana to Wisconsin. Brown has included some pretty creepy stories of New Orleans hauntings in his book and devotes one chapter to Nottoway Plantation in White Castle that revealed some vindicating surprises for me. Three years ago on a mosquito-laden night with a full moon, I engaged in a ghost hunt that yielded very little evidence other than the fact I could not stand the atmosphere of the third-floor bedroom where I was to sleep. I wound up spending the night in the lobby instead.
According to Brown, the third floor of the mansion is rife with paranormal activity. A woman in a long black dress with a white ruffled collar has been seen on the third-floor stairway and staring out of the bedroom on the same floor. In another bedroom on the third floor, a woman in nightclothes has been seen sitting on the bed. One guest reported she was in a bedroom on this floor when she heard noises outside her door. When she arose to investigate, a picture flew from the wall, narrowly missing her. The woman in black bears a strong resemblance to the portrait of former plantation mistress Emily Randolph that hangs in the master bedroom – the room I was unable to occupy.
Another fascinating Halloween read is Jeff Dwyer’s Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. The section “Upriver From New Orleans” recounts some hair-raising true tales arising out of plantation country. Workmen on LaBranche Plantation grounds accidentally disturbed the grave of Hitler’s horse, Nordlicht back in 1980. Since then, the ghost of Herr Horse has been seen many times. Lisa Lentini, director of the grounds, spied a strange horse in the corral one day, whom she approached. She stroked his white spotted nose and told him go into the barn. The horse obeyed and disappeared before her eyes as he approached the barn door. She searched for him in the barn, found all the other horses in their locked stalls but no trace of the strange equine. Visitors and family members have seen the big brown horse with the white speckled nose frolicking on the grounds just before he completely disappears.
It’s Halloween. Time to pop the popcorn, settle into your armchair, read true ghost stories or get out your tattered copy of Dracula and embrace the gargoyle in all of us. While you’re at it, make sure your nightlight has a fresh bulb.