Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Haunted Plantations of Louisiana's River Road, Part I

Stretching some 70 miles from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, River Road has been a major artery in the region for centuries. Sugar barons established extensive plantations along this thoroughfare and along the banks of the nearby Mississippi River. With the cruelties of slavery and the drama of rising and falling fortunes it is no wonder that this road is lined with haunted houses. The ghosts of some of these plantations have been well documented while others haven’t. As I research these further, I will present my findings here.

Oak Alley Plantation
3645 Louisiana Highway 18
Oak Alley Plantation. Photo by Rolf Müller. Courtesy of
Oak Alley is the quintessential Southern plantation. Its main feature, an alley of 14 oaks that frame the approach to the house from the river, makes it one of the most photographed and memorable plantations in the South. The oak alley was planted some years prior to the construction of the grand colonnaded house which began construction in 1837 and was completed two years later. Jacques Telesphore Roman, for whom the house was constructed, owned the house until 1866 when it was sold and passed through the hands of a number of landowners. When Andrew and Josephine Stewart purchased the property in 1925, the house was in a state of serious decay. With the help of architect, Richard Koch, the house was returned to its former glory. It was the restoration of this plantation that started the movement to preserve other plantations in the area.

Among the shadows of the oaks and the house’s massive colonnade numerous spirits have been reported. At least two female spirits have been seen in and around the house including one that appeared in a photograph in 1987. These spirits are believed to be the wraiths of Celine Roman and her daughter, Louise. Jeff Dwyer in his 2007 Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, describes the sound of a carriage, complete with the rattle of chains and the neighing of horses, has been heard on the drive leading to the house. Investigations by Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigators have produced EVPs and many recorded personal experiences.

Destrehan Plantation
13034 River Road

Destrehan Plantation. Photo by Michael Overton. Courtesy
of Wikipedia.
One of the oldest plantations on River Road, Destrehan Plantation is intimately linked to the history of the region. Its second owner, Jean Noël D’Estrehan, was one of four men selected by Thomas Jefferson to aid in the transition of the Louisiana Purchase area to American ownership and with his brother, perfected the process of granulating sugar. Legends linking the plantation with treasure buried by pirate, Jean Lafitte, led to the house’s near destruction at the hands of treasure hunters once the house was abandoned in 1959. Preservationists took over the house in 1971 and began the process of restoration.

The ghosts of Destrehan may include the spirit of Jean Lafitte, but no one is certain. A few male spirits have appeared throughout the house, but the only spirit that can be identified with certainty is that of Jean D’Estrehan, who appears with a cape. D’Estrehan, who later anglicized his name to Destrehan, wore a cape to hide the fact that he was missing an arm which was lost in a piece of farming machinery.

Nottoway Plantation
30970 Louisiana Highway 405
White Castle
Nottoway Plantation. Photo by Matt Howry. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Nottoway can boast the largest plantation house in the South at 64 rooms in the Italianate style. It was constructed in 1858 by John Hampden Randolphe and barely survived the Civil War unscathed. A Union gunboat on the river aimed its guns at the house, though when the officer in charge realized that he had once been a guest at the magnificent manse, he spared the house. The house is now a house museum and bed and breakfast.

Nottoway was investigated by Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigators and they apparently found very little. A few members of the team had some odd experiences which included hearing a bell and also capturing an EVP, but there seems to be a fairly low level of activity. Jeff Dwyer in Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, tells of a phantom slave who is still working to help people out of their coaches and carriages at the driveway.

San Francisco Plantation
2646 River Road

San Francisco Plantation. Photo by Russell Lee, 1938, for the
Farm Security Administration. Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.
It’s not hard to imagine that San Francisco Plantation was designed by a deranged carnival clown who delighted in whimsical architecture. The house is representative of Steamboat Gothic architecture, a style the National Park Service describes as a “potpourri of architectural designs.” The immense cost of the house’s construction in 1849, may have led to the name of the house, being a bastardization of sans saint-frusquin or “shirt off his back.”

A few deaths have occurred in this location, notably, the deaths of two of the daughters of Edmond Marmillion, the builder of San Francisco. One daughter died in infancy while the other fell down one of the house’s staircases. Jeff Dwyer reports that the International Society for Paranormal Research has investigated the house and discovered the spirit of Charles Marmillion, Edmond’s son on the first floor. Charles, a veteran of the Civil War, had possibly been injured in battle and worked hard to keep his father’s plantation together following the war. He died of some type of lung infection in 1875 and the plantation was sold a few years later.

Visitor Information
All plantations featured in this section are open for tours by the public. For further information, please see the following sites:

Destrehan Plantation. Destrehan Plantation Brochure. Accessed 6 September 2010.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing,
Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory: Ghostly Abodes,
     Sacred Sites, UFO Landings, And Other Supernatural Locations. New York:
     Penguin, 2002.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Investigation Report for Oak Alley
     Plantation. Accessed 7 September 2010.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Investigation Report for Oak Alley
     Plantation, Follow Up. Accessed 7 September 2010.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Investigation Report for San Francisco
     Plantation. Accessed 7 September 2010.
National Park Service. Destrehan Plantation. Southeastern Louisiana: A National
     Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. Accessed 6 September 2010.
National Park Service. Nottoway Plantation House. Southeastern Louisiana: A
     National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. Accessed 6 September
National Park Service. Oak Alley Plantation. Southeastern Louisiana: A National
     Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. Accessed 6 September 2010.
National Park Service. The River Road. Southeastern Louisiana: A National
     Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. Accessed 6 September 2010.
National Park Service. San Francisco Plantation House. Southeastern Louisiana:
     A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. Accessed 6 September


  1. http://louisianaghost.blogspot.com/

  2. I think plantations is a sore on African Americans there's so much hatetread in the world forced to work at theses places for 2centrys .but now they still making money off our sweat an tears sore eye I say

    1. That's selfish to say. These places are unfortunately part of our history and are there to remind us of that past, no matter how horrific. You can say money is made off of the blood, sweat, amd tears but its for the upkeep of landmarks like these. Otherwise, the memory of what took place will be lost. Would you rather have that? People are charged to visit Macchu Picchu in Peru, South America, a place where a decimated people once flourished. Don't say 'making money off our sweat and tears'. As a Hispanic, I want people to see my history, where my people suffered. I could care less if they make money off of it, as long as people experience it.

    2. It is indeed horrific, but I feel they are a part of our history and should be seen as such. I am a descendant of slaves, and slave owners. My lineage is a product of that life from long ago. I exist because of that life. I don't say that proudly, or not proudly. I just say it as a fact. These places are our history. Black and white, and we can't ignore it. I want to be able to see where these atrocities took place. To understand better.

    3. It is the history of this country - there are a lot of others that were slaves besides blacks! Ya'll need to get over it and act like Americans -"not africian American" as you are an American!

  3. The things people do now have nothing to do with history except to explain how roughly people were treated. No one can change anything. This is no one's fault except for the people AGES ago that did it so stop blaming today's society.

  4. "Plantations is a sore" Try plantations are a sore. Hatred and centuries are spelled correctly here. An is not and. Last, but not least, it's eye sore, not sore eye. If you are trying to make an intelligent point then you should try to at least sound intelligent, even if your message is completely ignorant. You give the rest of us a bad name.