The fall season is a splendid time for travel in Louisiana. Our world-acclaimed food, music and unique culture are framed amid spectacular autumnal colors in lowland forests and swamps, further accenting cooler, breezy weather and pleasantly comfortable humidity.
But October in particular can provide desirable discomfort for thrill-seekers in one’s travel party, specifically ghost enthusiasts or the otherworldly curious. Louisiana has a reputation for eerie and reportedly haunted properties with great stories tied to the hauntings, and how better to agitate the sites’ spirits than a visit to Louisiana properties on or around Halloween?
Allegedly haunted properties with entertaining tales tied to their phantoms abound statewide, but here are a few of my must-dos for ghost chasers and spirit seekers.
Before tapping into the state’s storied haunted history, you can start at the 13th Gate in downtown Baton Rouge. It consistently ranks among America’s best haunted houses and also features escape games and a haunted maze inspired by Louisiana’s above-ground cemeteries. Visitors are guided through scenes inspired by Jack the Ripper, “Evil Dead” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” to name a few. The sets, props and actors’ makeup are film-quality with the goal of immersing willing fans into their favorite horror movies. This 40,000 square-foot indoor and outdoor attraction is a very intense fantasy horror experience that’s best suited for grown-ups.
The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville is said to be one of the most haunted structures in America, and their list of people who supposedly met tragic demise at the home is as long as the list of paranormal TV shows that have filmed segments at the antebellum mansion north of Baton Rouge. Tour guides talk about a former owner being shot dead in the yard, children being poisoned by a servant, the servant being hung in a backyard tree and the list goes on. Mix these stories with a hall mirror that’s said to have spirits’ fingerprints trapped between the glass and its reflection, and invisible spirits that are said to periodically pat visitors’ long hair and tug on pants legs and skirts during tours … the place honestly spooks the living daylights out of me and likely the average Joe, whether he believe in ghosts or not.
Another notable mansion that’s said to be haunted is that of Joseph Jefferson at Rip Van Winkle Gardens near New Iberia. Jefferson was a noted 19th century actor known for his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle in world theatrical productions, and he died only about a year after he built his south Louisiana retreat home and its adjacent gardens. Apparently Jefferson’s spiritual retreat continues because he’s said to make his presence known when visitors are least expecting it.
Both The Myrtles and Rip Van Winkle Gardens offer mansion tours, bed and breakfast overnights and on-site restaurants, and they are among several antebellum plantations and private mansions that are open to the public and allegedly have ghosts.
Louisiana public buildings that are said to be haunted include Shreveport Municipal Auditorium and the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse in Lake Charles. While the Municipal Auditorium is best known as the home of the Louisiana Hayride and the birthplace of careers for artists including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, the arena is said to also be home to the ghost of a little girl in a blue dress who slams doors among other mischief. In the case of the Lake Charles courthouse, its spirit is said to be that of a murderess and the only woman to die in Louisiana’s electric chair, and she’s alleged to emit traces ranging from soft footsteps and whispers to all-out screams and the scent of perfume.
I encourage you to come down and get a feel for Louisiana’s spooky side.