Ghostly Getaway

If you doubt ghosts exist, a night or two in this historic bed-and-breakfast may just change your mind.

“Oh, you’re booked into the Judge Woodruff room,” my tour guide says knowingly, then quickly decides to clam up.  After he protests that he’s not allowed to relate specifics, I prod him into admitting that, “Well, let’s just say that we’ve heard stories from folks who claim to have had some pretty unusual experiences while staying in that room.”

Not surprisingly, I have mixed feelings about this revelation.  When it came right down to it though, it was the chance to have just such an otherworldly encounter that drew me to the quiet town of St. Francisville, Louisiana and the Myrtles Plantation in the first place.

At first glance The Myrtles—a grand mansion turned bed-and-breakfast that many experts believe may be the most haunted house in America—appears to be the picture of tranquility, a distinguished-looking remnant of a more genteel time.  The historic 1796 home’s 120-foot long front gallery is shaded by massive moss-draped live oaks and lined with rocking chairs and a decorative wrought iron railing.  Inside, you’ll find an early 1800s-era interior complete with hand-painted stained glass, intricate plaster friezes, rich tapestries, Baccarat crystal chandeliers, Carrera marble and gold-leaf accents, and fine period furnishings.

Historical tours of the home are offered daily.  But, as interesting as all these antebellum artifacts may be, it’s what lies just beyond the physical plane that’s the real attraction here.

“With a lot of places, the paranormal activity drops off when there are people around, but here it seems to be just the opposite,” my Myrtles tour guide went on to explain.  “We hear stories pretty regularly from both guests and employees who’ve had experiences ranging from hearing the sounds of some invisible cocktail party or heavy footsteps staggering up the main staircase, to one woman who said she felt herself being tucked in bed by Chloe, the former slave who’s the property’s most famous ghost.”

Even if the Myrtle’s 11 guest rooms are booked up when you call, you can still join one of the special “Mystery Tours” offered on Friday and Saturday nights.  While no one can guarantee a close encounter with one of the property’s dozen-plus ghosts, these tours are full of enough unnerving stories to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end from now till Halloween.

“The ghosts are pretty friendly for the most part,” says my guide. “But we’ve had some guests—including some pretty tough-looking ex-Marine types who tell us they don’t believe in all this ghost stuff—who have checked out in a pretty big hurry in the middle of the night.”

Being the sound sleeper that I am, I managed to make it through my night at The Myrtles without a serious fright.  I did have some uncharacteristically spooky dreams, however.  Or, come to think of it, did they only seem like dreams?

Xtrordinary Xtra
Because many unusual—dare we say ghostly—images have shown up in photographs over the years, be sure to bring your camera, take lots of pictures, and study the details in the resulting photos carefully.

Xtrordinary Xtra
Some folks say many of the stories you’ll hear told to explain The Myrtle’s hauntings are largely the work of a previous owner’s fertile imagination.  But, interestingly enough, those same detractors don’t dispute the tales of paranormal activity that have been reported here over the years.

The Facts
Name: The Myrtles Plantation
Location: U.S. Highway 61, 30 miles north of Baton Rouge and about 120 miles north of New Orleans.
Phone: 225-635-6277
Website: www.myrtlesplantation.com

My Advice

  • If you’re staying overnight, make a point to arrive early enough to take part in the complimentary tour that will give you some fascinating background on the home and its history.
  • Rooms here aren’t equipped with televisions, so be sure to throw a good book ( a little Stephen King novel, anyone?) or a deck of cards in your bag to pass the time after dinner.
  • The Myrtles offers a excellent restaurant on-site.  Staff members can also direct you to one of several good eateries in town.
  • If you book an upstairs room it’s best to pack light as the staircase leading up to the second floor is both steep and narrow by modern standards.