Stories of murderers, deaths by poisoning, blood stains that won’t clean, mysterious handprints and an array of apparitions — there seems to be not a single thing that’s missing in the haunted world of Myrtles Plantation, the place said to be America’s most haunted.
Of course, much of it seems to be human invention, but who doesn’t like hearing some good scary stories?
Myrtles Plantation was built in 1796, in St. Francisville, Louisiana, roughly 30 miles from Baton Rouge. The haunted mansion lurks behind a veil of oak trees, looking older than time itself.
Girdled by a beautiful, 125-foot-long veranda decorated with finely detailed iron trellising, the main house features 28 rooms packed with extravagant furniture. It boasts original antebellum molded plasterwork, a grand crystal chandelier, 18th century French tapestry wall hangings… and an intriguing legacy of creepy stories and ghosts. Some of the stories are based on real events, albeit tweaked with a little bit of imagination over the years.
The first owner of this opulent mansion was General David Bradford, who is also infamously remembered as “Whiskey Dave” due to his involvement with the Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion. Bradford built the Myrtles Plantation as his Louisiana bolt hole, and settled there in 1796.
Years later, when the property was inherited by Clark and Sara Woodruff, a slave called Chloe stirred up a tragedy that would ignite the estate’s fearsome reputation of being regularly frequented by death and ghosts.
There are several variations of the tale. In essence, all tell of a tragic event that took place in 1823.
When two of the Woodruff children fell sick, Chloe made a cake that contained oleander leaves. The story goes that her intention was not malicious — she thought the herb would have a positive medicinal effect. Alas, Chloe’s knowledge was incomplete. While some herbal practitioners might apply the plant for certain severe skin diseases, ingesting it is lethal.
After eating the cake, the two children, as well as their mother Sara who also took a slice, were found dead.
As you might imagine, Chloe was severely punished and then hung by her distraught master. Her body was tossed into the Mississippi River. This episode is disputed among historians for no evidence has been found that the Woodruffs ever owned a slave named Chloe. The three Woodruffs did die around this time, but most likely after they contracted yellow fever.
Nevertheless, Chloe’s legend is one of the most popular tales associated with the haunted mansion. Her benevolent ghost has supposedly been sighted on numerous occasions across the plantation. She appears wearing a green turban on her head, to hide the missing ear which is said to have been lost in another instance when she was punished.
Another legend based on a Victorian superstition tells us that the spirits of the two Woodruff children and their mother have also not found peace. One of the mirrors in the house was not covered immediately after their deaths — and their souls became trapped inside. House visitors have reported sightings of the mother and her two children in that very mirror. The ghosts are keen to leave handprints on the glass as well.
The Myrtles Plantation is rumored to have been the site of up to a dozen other killings and violent deaths, but only one such event has been authenticated as true. The case concerns a lawyer by the name William Drew Winter who lived in the house in between 1865 and 1871.
He was shot with a pistol and died while trying to climb the stairs to call for his wife. Since his death, his ghost is said to continue to haunt the staircase, and footsteps can sometimes be heard late in the night.
The site, which is further speculated to have been built on a Native American burial ground, today offers evening mystery tours, as well as bed-and-breakfast accommodation for the intrepid, ghost hunting tourist.
One of its former contemporary owners, Frances Kermeen, has even penned a book about it, The Myrtles Plantation: The True Story of America’s Most Haunted House, in her attempt to persuade readers that there are regular paranormal activities going on at the site.
In a podcast from 2005, Frances describes some of her unusual experiences. “I’d hear footsteps coming up the stairs and I didn’t think anything of it, but I had left my light off and I woke up and it was on, so I turned it off.
Then the footsteps started up the stairs again. I figured it was one of the other guests but then the doorknob started rattling. I called out and nobody answered,” she said according to CountryLiving.
In the past decade, Myrtles Plantation has also appeared on television, in the TV series’ Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. Whether the place is really haunted…. you can probably tell after spending a night out there.
Some of the spooky, unexplained experiences reported by visitors include an eerie sensation that there are children outside playing, hearing someone playing the piano, and broken clocks that still tick. These walls just might be America’s most haunted.