Around Louisiana: Northern Louisiana



Autumn is here: heady, winey days; LSU football; Halloween; lead pencils; crisp days filled with what I call “apple weather.”

Bite into the spiced custard flavor of a ripe persimmon or a piece of cheddar cheese softened to room temperature, and then sink your teeth into a crisp apple a second later like a tequila shot with lime. Take a second wind to wax poetic like the October moon and to sift through memories like old baseball cards laid away for the summer.

Visit open-air markets looking for fresh produce perfect for pies –– pecans, persimmons, walnuts, apples, squash. Check our Lifetimes section for a whole plethora of festivals and activities to enjoy in the North Louisiana fall.

It came from the fourth floor

The Biomedical Engineering Building on the campus of Louisiana Tech University in Ruston shares the same eerie, almost vacuous quality  as other reputedly haunted places –– its windows look like hollow eye sockets holding an empty presence within. At one time, the building was the old Lincoln General Hospital; its morgue was on the first floor, and the operating room was three more flights above. It later became a nursing home. According to Lacy Patterson of the Tech Talk, the scientists and students who have worked in the Biomedical Engineering Building were hard-pressed to explain some of the occurrences they experienced as anything other than supernatural.

Ricardo Cerna, a rehab technology specialist at the Center for Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation Sciences, didn’t hesitate to tell of his eerie brushes with the beyond.

“We had kids with special needs coming, and the day before, we put new batteries in the toys to make sure all of them were working, and the next day, the batteries were drained, including the clock battery that stopped around 11:30,” Cerna told the Tech Talk.

Paranormal experts hold the general consensus that entities drain batteries when they attempt to materialize or their presence is near. One evening after 6 p.m., when Cerna had the dubious luck of having the entire building to himself and was working in his office, he heard doors opening and closing down the hallway as though every occupant on the floor decided to leave their offices simultaneously.

“I got up and looked down the hall, and it was empty,” he reported.

The unflappable Cerna decided to make his way down the hall to try to open each door only to find all of them not only closed but also locked tight.

“I thought maybe it was time for me to leave, also,” he said.

Cerna recounted the experiences of a young graduate student who was there alone one night working late on the fourth floor, the site of the old operating room. The graduate student told Cerna that the radio suddenly began blaring in the silence of the room. The young man tried to turn it off, but it kept playing, even after it had been unplugged.

 Another graduate student was alone working there at night when Cerna got a phone call at home. When he answered the ring, the graduate student cried, “You’re home!” Cerna asked her why she was so surprised. The young lady replied, “Someone from your office here keeps calling me.”

Added to the paranormal potpourri of haunted radios, phones and doors is “The Elevator.” Mike Atencio, an instructor of Louisiana Tech’s course Paranormal Investigation as a Hobby, was informed by repairmen that the elevator has a long and storied history of going to the fourth floor and then down to the first (site of the old morgue) on its own. No offices are located on the fourth floor, yet the elevator treks there continually. Although unsuspecting riders may select a different floor, the elevator habitually makes its way to the fourth floor, then back down to the first.

Biomedical Engineering Building, Louisiana Tech University, 711 St. Vienna Street, Ruston
The legend of Juju

“Juju” is a word of West African origin, derived from the French “joujou,” meaning “toy.” Jujus were venerated by West African native tribes as a kind of fetish, amulet or charm. They were often placed near possessions or hung upon a stick as a means of protection. In the Bossier area, Juju is the name of a character in a widely shared urban legend, a former slave who lived there and met a horrific fate in what is now a very green and isolated area called Juju Road. The slave was supposedly accused of improper behavior with a white girl and was hung from a tree near Juju Road. Another story says that he killed two children fishing on a nearby bridge and was executed for his evil act. Juju’s hanging tree stretches over the road, and many a time his dangling body has been sighted as it sways from the gnarled tree branch.

Teenagers who congregate in the out-of-the-way place after football games have had the living daylights scared out of them by Juju. A group of teens in companion cars reported that one night they heard a tree branch break nearby; when they turned in the direction of the sound, all of them stated they saw a black man hanging from the tree, his head leaning down at an odd angle in the direction of the river. The group fled the area posthaste but, in the time-honored tradition of triple-dog-dare-you teenagers, returned to the scene of the hanging. One car led, and the other followed. The driver of the second car saw the car ahead of her swerve suddenly. Unable to stop in time, she drove straight through the black man standing in the road ahead of her. A rope hung around his neck. No trace of his body was found. The little band of ghost-sighters never returned to Juju Road. Likewise permanently frightened away is another band of teens that claimed to have seen phantom Ku Klux Klan members with flaming torches striding across the field toward Juju’s hanging tree. Somewhere added into all of the paranormal mix are the eyewitness accounts of a phantom police cruiser who travels down Juju Road sans driver.
Of course, the possibility that parents have employed holograph experts to work in the secluded area at night should not be excluded.