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In St. Francisville, Louisiana, there is an inn which is reputed to be the most haunted place in the USA. Exactly how many ghosts are said to haunt The Myrtles plantation is unknown, but it seems that the number is around 12 to 15 of them.
According to legend, the plantation house was built in 1794 by General David Bradford on top of an old Indian burial ground. General Bradford is also reportedly the first person to have seen a ghost in the house. It is said that he saw the ghost of a naked Indian girl, which is still seen on occasion today. When the General died, the management of the estate passed on to his daughter, Sarah and her husband, Judge Clark Woodruffe. Together, he and Sarah had three children, Cornelia Gale, James, and Mary Octavia. Judge Woodruffe eventually bought out the plantation from his mother-in-law before she died in 1830.
Judge Woodruffe was apparently not very faithful to his wife, taking on a mistress. Her name was Chloe and she was one of the plantation slaves. After some time the Judge tired of his mistress and she began to worry about her eventual fate. She started listening at keyholes to try and hear what would happen. One night the General caught her eavesdropping and as punishment cut off her ear. Due to the disfigurement, Sara took to wearing a turban to hide her mutilated ear.
Chloe decided to try and ensure her continued place in the home by pretending to save the family from harm. She decided to poison a cake with Oleander leaves and then nurse the family back to health – thus becoming the hero. Unfortunately her plans went awry and Sara and her two daughters died from the poison. The Judge did not eat the cake so was spared an agonising death.
Chloe was terrified that she would get found out and rather than face the wrath of the community, she fled to the safety of other slaves. When the other slaves heard what had happened, they turned on Chloe, dragging her out of hiding and hanging her from a tree. They then weighed down her body and disposed of it in the Mississippi river. Since then the ghost of Chloe has often been seen wandering around the Myrtle plantation.
According to the present owners, Teeta and John Moss, Chloe helps to keep their children safe, but also often peers in at guests while they are sleeping. No one knows who she is looking for but they all agree that Chloe is not a bad spirit, she seems to be wanting redemption by watching over the kids.
The murder of Sara and her daughters are not the only murders to have occured at the plantation. Since the building of the house, there have been at least 10 other homicides or suicides on the property.
In 1834, the plantation was purchased by Ruffin Grey Stirling. From that time the family was often the victim of great tragedies. Four years after buying the property, Stirling died of consumption. Of nine children, only four of them lived to be old enough to marry. His oldest son, Lewis, died the same year as his father. His daughter’s husband was murdered in the same year on the front porch. Their ghosts are said to still haunt the homestead.
Eventually the family lost all their wealth due to plunder in the civil war.
Of course no haunted house in the US is very good without the ghost of a Civil War soldier.
In the height of the Civil War, the house was thrown into turmoil when a confederate soldier stumbled into the house and collapsed dead on the floor. Legend has it that an impression of his dead body remained on the floor and that attempts to clean it were in vain. Mops were prevented from coming near the area and people (particularly the maids) were filled with dread whenever they ventured near the spot. On occasion the ghostly body of the fallen soldier can be seen on the floor near the doorway.
According to the January 1871 issue of the Point Coupee Democrat newspaper, William Winter, who was married to Stirling’s daughter, was teaching a Sunday School lesson in the parlor of the house when he heard someone approach the house on horseback. A stranger called out to him and told him that he had some business with him. Winter went out onto the side gallery of the house and was shot. He collapsed onto the porch dying. Those inside the house, hearing the sound of gunfire and the retreating horse, hurried outside to find the fallen man. To this day people report the sounds of gunfire and ghostly hoofbeats in the night. There is no record of his murderer ever being caught.
In 1927 some burglars broke into the plantation to see what they could steal. They were surprised by a man who they subsequently killed. The man’s ghost is also often seen around the plantation where it orders strangers to leave the property!
The murdered Woodruffe children are also often seen or heard around the plantation. Visitors often report hearing children laughing, only to find none around when they go to investigate. The children are often seen up in the chandeliers, as well as staring at sleeping visitors from the foot of the bed.
Other ghosts reportedly haunting the mansion incluse a Voodoo priestess who chants over the body of a young girl, disembodied hands and candles are often reported to float through the air. One of the strangest and inexplicable is the ghost of a ballet dancer dressed in a black tutu. No-one seems to know where she came from!
If you are lucky / unlucky enough not to see a ghost itself, you could still witness strange sounds like the crying babies or the sound of a man staggering up the stairs before dying on the 17th step. This is apparently the ghost of William Winters.
Other strange occurances include phantom handprints on mirrors or windows, strange smells which come and go and of course the strange cold spots.
But are all these stories real, or just hometown tales which have taken on a life of their own?
Let us look at the Chloe story.
Sarah was not murdered by Chloe, or in fact anyone. She died of Yellow fever in 1823. Her children died more than a year after she did. It is also certain that they did not die from poisoned cake. In the legend Sarah has two children, when records show she had three. The last would not yet have been born at the time if the poisoning. In fact we kknow the last child, Octavia, grew up and got married and died at a ripe old age.
Woodruffe also was not murdered. Historical records prove that he died peacefully at his son-in-laws plantation in 1851.
Researcher David Wiseheart has conducted an in-depth investigation into the Chloe story and has never discovered a slave by the name of Chloe, or anything similar being owned by the family. Not only did she not murder the family, but probably never existed in the first place!
So where did ‘Chloe’ come from? In the 1950′s, the Myrtles was owned by wealthy widow Marjorie Munson. She began to notice that odd things were occurring in the house. Wondering if the place might be haunted, she asked around and that’s when the legend got its start. Marjorie immortalised the story by penning a song about the ghost of the Myrtles, a woman in a green beret. This was taken from accounts from the Williams family about the ghost of an old woman who haunted the Myrtles and who wore a green bonnet. Not a young slave girl.
It was only in the 1970′s that the story evolved into the present form to include the poison murders and the severed ear.
It was only after the plantation was purchased by the Myers in the 1970′s that they began telling the stories to newspapers and magazines. The house appeared in a November 1980 issue of LIFE magazine, complete with the legend in all it’s glory.
The murder in 1927 is also widely seen as being a product of legend. No record of sucha murder has ever surfaced in local documents or papers. Such a murder would have been widely reported on. A man was murdered on the property, but this took place in a seperate small house and is probably the source of the legend.
The only verifiable murder to occur at the Myrtles itself was the murder of William Winter.
So does this mean that the house is not really haunted? Of course not.
Chloe may have not existed in history, but the woman in the green bonnet (or turban) may have. The story had been part of the Williams family heritage and Marjorie Munson herself could have seen the ghost which prompted her to ask questions.
Even though many of the stories of The Myrtles can be discounted, the house has seen many other tragedies and deaths. The history of the Myrtles is still filled with more than enough trauma and tragedy to cause the place to become haunted.
Essortment: The Myrtles plantation in Louisiana
Prairie Ghosts: THE LEGENDS, LORE & LIES OF THE MYRTLES PLANTATION
Official website: The Myrtles Plantation