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The Myrtles Plantation - St. Francisville, Louisiana

A profound sense of longing and loss clings to the moss draped trees surrounding the Myrtles Plantation, thick as the heady azalea-laced air. Legends abound here and the Myrtles Plantation is one of the most recognized haunts in the South, known as “one of America’s most haunted homes.” A beautiful antebellum mansion founded in the late 1700s, the Myrtles Plantation of St. Francisville, Louisiana, has most recently been honored as one of the 150 best properties to stay at according to National Geographic Traveler’s April 2008 issue. But although the rooms are beautifully furnished and appointed, and the estate is rich in history, neither reason is why many visitors choose to spend a night in this dramatic setting.

The architecture and gentle landscaping of the Myrtles evoke a mood of old-fashioned comfort and relaxation; but there are things at the Myrtles that remain restless. Visitors have mentioned jewelry disappearing and waking to find themselves fully tucked into their beds. Strange noises on the staircase, furniture that moves, a grand piano that plays by itself, mysterious handprints on the mirrors, odd things appearing in photographs – There is no doubt that the Myrtles is haunted, but the debate rages even now as to who or what is doing the haunting.

Most of the stories regarding the Myrtles revolve around a string of unfortunate choices that brought disturbance and death. It begins with David Bradford who helped quell the Whiskey Rebellion, and bought the land with a special grant from the Spanish, building a humble eight-room main house. Unfortunately the land had previously been the burial ground for at least one Native American tribe and when his builders happened upon bones, Bradford supposedly ordered them burned.

Bradford’s daughter married Clark Woodruff, a main figure in the most popular tales about the Myrtles. According to popular lore, Woodruff married Sarah, but was quite the philanderer! Woodruff’s most damaging affair was with a household slave, Chloe. When his attentions turned to a new slave, Chloe began eavesdropping to figure out ways to prevent being sent out to harsh labor in the fields. Catching Chloe listening to a private conversation, Woodruff drew a sword and cut off one of her ears. As a result Chloe began wearing the turban that has become her ghost’s signature in photographs. Even more desperate than before to prove her worth as a household staff member, Chloe baked a birthday cake for one of Woodruff’s children. In the batter she included some oleander, thinking the amount would make them ill enough that she could show her value by nursing them back to health. Unfortunately she overestimated the amount she needed. Quickly Woodruff’s wife and children succumbed to the poison-laced birthday cake. Afraid they’d be found guilty of murder by association, Chloe’s fellow slaves lynched her. Rumor claims Chloe’s ghost still haunts the grounds and the eerie sounds of children playing where none can be seen suggests that the Woodruff children have remained as well.

As the property was passed through other owners, tragedies mounted. Children died young (a horribly common occurrence) and diseases like yellow fever ravaged families. William Winter was murdered on the front porch of the Myrtles following the Civil War, supposedly rallying long enough to drag himself inside and partway up the main staircase where he died in his wife’s arms. In 1886, the Myrtles passed out of the original family’s grip forever.

Although historical records do not support every story that has helped make the Myrtles Plantation so attractive to would-be ghost hunters, enough paranormal researchers and curious visitors have investigated and experienced creepy and unexplained things that it seems certain the plantation is haunted. Precisely who is haunting the grounds is up to speculation, and perhaps we will never know the full truth, but murder, tragic accident and deadly disease seem to be the causes of most of the ghostly activity at the Myrtles. Financial difficulties caused the plantation to change hands several more times before the present era. Beginning in the 1950s, people began to mention odd occurrences happening in the house.

Today the Myrtles Plantation is a welcoming respite from the hustle and bustle of modern living. Rooms and cottages are available for rent and public ghost tours run several times a day. The Myrtles Plantation has a connection to true tragedy that makes it worth a stay, whether you are a spirit or not!
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