Around Louisiana: Central Louisiana
The Parker House ghost
Thirty-one years ago, when she was only 5, Brandy Parker moved with her family into a Depression-era house in the community of Tioga. The property, the previous home of her aunt and uncle, sprawled for 3 acres and had a large barn that once stabled horses behind the house. The old place was built on a pier-and-beam foundation, with the kitchen lying towards its front.
When she first moved in, she remembers hearing her name called by no one in sight, but Parker reports that the advent of her teen years saw a marked increase in paranormal activity in the house. She awoke one morning to see two candle sconces tumble down the wall and shatter across the floor. The kitchen cabinets sometimes came alive with the sound of energized dishes thrashing about on the shelves. Parker’s father became the target for objects that inexplicably flew off the top of a tall china cabinet, and a book flew off of a bureau in Parker’s room with her sister as its target. Parker’s mother was serenely working in her sewing room one day when she heard the sound of a heavy object hitting the floor coming from her daughter’s bedroom. The noise, which she said sounded like a bowling ball, traveled all the way down the hall and stopped moving. No object, however, was seen.
One stormy night, Parker fell asleep in the living room recliner. She awoke with a start. The front doorknob was rattling as though someone were desperately trying to get into her house, but no one was outside trying to turn the doorknob. Parker again began hearing her name being called.
When she was alone in the house one afternoon, Parker felt someone staring at her. She turned and had a vivid mental image of a little girl in a white nightgown. The child appeared to be 10 years old, and golden braids hung on either side of her face. The noncorporeal and the flesh-and-blood girls stared at each other, and the vision faded. After that encounter, the family never had another paranormal experience in the house.
“I think our ghost just wanted to be seen or acknowledged,” Parker says. “I had the feeling then that she … may have gotten sick there and died.”
The house accidentally burned down a few years ago as the result of a small garbage fire that got out of hand.
Old man Cloutier
Before Henry Miller Shreve cleared the great Red River Raft in the mid-19th century, the Cane River that flows like benediction throughout Natchitoches was the Red River’s main channel; it was a hilly land, fertile, filled with trees, fostering life. Alexis Cloutier, a determined man who hacked a plantation home out of the cane breaks of Central Louisiana, built a Creole-style home using slave labor between 1805 and 1809. The deep porch of the raised house with its pitched roof eventually became the home of writer Kate Chopin some 65 years later. But during Cloutier’s time of habitation, the planter accumulated vast wealth and became part of the crème de la crème of the Cane River muck-a-mucks. His first year in the house saw the death of his wife; soon he entered into a disastrous second marriage to Marie Rachal.
One of the wifely duties Cloutier imposed on his new wife was washing his feet. Her natural refusal to comply resulted in physical abuse suffered at the hands of her husband. She sought a divorce three months after the marriage. Cloutier later founded the village of Cloutierville and petitioned to have Natchitoches split in two, with his village as the parish seat. This plan was as popular with the public as washing his feet was with his wife. Embittered over its failure, Cloutier sold his plantation and moved downstream to a plantation named Little Eva. He died there in 1836.
Today the former home of Cloutier and Chopin, once open to the public as the Bayou Folk Museum, has been lost forever as part of our cultural heritage.
Former curator Amanda Chennault often regaled visitors with tales of ghostly encounters she and other witnesses had with the spirit of Cloutier during the glory days of the museum. At first, the beautiful old place beneath the sweeping oaks was serene. The serenity of the museum lasted until Cloutier’s tombstone was moved from its original spot to the grounds of the Chopin House. That’s when the mischief began.
A strange figure of a man who disappears has been seen wandering around the gate and also has been encountered in the area near Cloutier’s relocated tombstone. It is widely believed this is an angered Alexis Cloutier, returning to the site he vowed never again to set foot on, looking for his tombstone.
Chennault locked the shutters of the house each evening; in the morning when the staff arrived for work, the shutters were wide open. Chennault challenged the spirit of Cloutier to the leave the shutters alone, and he complied. But the smell of burning tallow, similar to candle smoke, frequently filled the house when no candles were lit.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 2008, the beautiful house and many of its artifacts were destroyed by fire; its gutted remains stand as a grievous loss of cultural heritage bequeathed by Chopin to the world via the Bayou State.
The Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches, (318) 357-5000
FORK IN THE ROAD
According to David Dinsmore of Alexandria’s Town Talk newspaper, Ladonna Cedus has 21-plus years of experience in the food industry. More than two decades ago, she left her duties as a floral designer at a craft store and put to use the cooking skills she learned growing up in a house filled with eight children and a door that was always open to company for dinner. Whipping up large feasts to feed the hungry hordes was old hat to Cedus, who promptly became the food manager at a Huber Oil convenience store on MacArthur Drive in Alexandria. “It was mainly finger foods,” Cedus told the Town Talk of her old menu.
She spent most of the next years working at convenience stores; eight years ago, she began cooking at an establishment that today is known as Bayou Barbecue. The restaurant started with a menu of pizza and sandwiches, and plate lunches and barbecue were then added to the dining repertoire. Soon, customers were picking up dinners to take home and enjoy.
Possessing a culinary creative streak, Cedus and manager Wes Hilborn began experimenting with seasonings and flavors; the results of their efforts yielded original seasonings and signature flavors sold in their restaurant today.
This concoction of seasonings is used in their signature Drunken Chicken. Saucy poultry is rubbed with Hilborn’s barbecue rub, and a can of beer is inserted into the cavity of the bird, which is cooked over a fire, imparting a scrumptious cacophony of hearty, juicy flavor. Tender fish breaded in Cedus’ own fish fry sizzle on-site in the pan.
These are truly wonderful dishes to pick up in time for a feast as you watch an LSU football game in the cool days of autumn.
Customers may also purchase the delicious seasoning and fish fry mixes at the restaurant. The same cooking ingredients can also be found at Mac’s Fresh Market on Louisiana Highway 28 East in Pineville.
Bayou Barbecue, 7518 Coliseum Blvd., Alexandria, (318) 442-3955