With the rise in popularity of television programming dedicated to investigating all-things-paranormal, some haunted houses, and their respective stories, have grown to near-legendary status. One such house, the Myrtles Plantation, located in West Feliciana, Louisiana is considered the most of one of the most haunted locations in America. Paranormal experts from across the globe as well as curious thrill-seekers and tourists come to Myrtles Plantation seeking ghosts and other paranormal activities. But unlike many of the other haunted sites across America, the Myrtles Plantation isn’t some run down abandoned building with rotting timbers and sour smells. It in fact a very well maintained Bed & Breakfast with a full staff and, if you believe the stories, at least twelve different ghosts.
Brief History of the Myrtles Plantation
The house was originally built in 1796 and was later expanded in the 1850’s to its current size. There are a total of twenty-two rooms in the two-story mansion, with five bedrooms, a formal dining room, parlors, and several ornate staircases. The decor is splendid and most of the flooring and windows are original. The surrounding 600 acre yard and gardens feature a large pond, complete with its own island, where a gazebo is located. There are several cottages sprinkled throughout the grounds and one very old building now known as the General’s store; the name is traced back to the humble beginnings of the property and it served as a temporary residence for General David Bradford while the home was being built.
General Bradford has a place in American history for his role in the Pennsylvania Whisky Rebellion of 1799. He was eventually pardoned by President John Adams and moved his family into the Myrtles Plantation in 1799; at the time the property was called Laurel Grove. The General passed away in 1808 and his wife Elizabeth managed the property until 1817 with the couples five children. Elizabeth’s daughter Sara married Mr. Clarke Woodruff, one of the General’s former law students and they took over the management of the Myrtles. The Woodruff’s has three children, but tragically two of them along with Sara died of Yellow Fever over a two-year period, 1823-1824.
Elizabeth passed away in 1831. Distraught, Clarke and his surviving daughter moved away from the house and later sold the property, the house, and the slaves in 1834 to Ruffin Gray Stirling and his wife Mary. The couple supervised the expansion of the home and also were the ones who changed the name from Laurel Grove to the Myrtles. The name originated from the many crepe myrtles that grew on the grounds. The couple filled the house with expensive and rare furniture and decor from a Europe and when completed it was magnificent. Unfortunately, Ruffin died in 1854 and Mary was left the entire estate.
The American Civil War and the Reunification
The American Civil War was unkind to the Myrtles as looters stripped the fine furnishings and anything else of value from the home, yet the structure itself remained intact. Mary’s daughter Sarah married William Drew Winter, also a lawyer, and the couple had six children. Winter managed the estate, but were forced to sell it in 1868 due to insolvency. The wealth accumulated prior to and during the war was in Confederate dollars and became worthless after the defeat of the South and reunification of the nation.
All was not lost though it seemed so. Several years later Winter was able to buy the Myrtles Plantation back in 1870. There are no records of how he was able to finance the purchase. Tragically he was murdered in 1871 on the front porch of the house by a stranger; some say his name was E. S. Webber, but there are no court or trial records to prove it. In fact, no one was ever punished for the killing and the case remains unsolved to this day.
The house changed hands several times over the next twenty years until eventually becoming owned by Harrison Milton Williams in 1891. Williams heirs divided the land amongst themselves, but the house remained. It was later sold in the 1950’s to Marjorie Munson. It was Munson who started noticing strange things around the house and is suspected of being the source for most of the ghost stories.
What’s Real, What’s Embellished, and the Ghostly Evidence
There have been countless stories about sightings, strange apparitions, objects that vanish without any rational reason why, odd smells, mysterious footsteps, and more. Over the years, staff members have reported seeing a shadowy woman, ghostly children on the front porch, and unsettling faces and hand prints in mirrors. Also they’ve reported sounds which cannot be explained, no matter how hard they try, footsteps, terrifying voices, and cold spots throughout the property. Each incident adds to the storied history of the Myrtles Plantation and most are simply accepted by the public as part of the history and grows the reputation of the haunted house.
There is no doubt that the property is haunted, but the reasons why are in question. So many stories exist that each must be examined on their own merits to determine what, if any cause, can be attributed to the tale. As stated previously, Marjorie Munson, the wealthy widow who lived in the house in the 1950’s told ghost stories of sightings on the property, which grew unchecked for decades afterwards and without scrutiny or questioning.
The most famous story is about a slave girl named Chloe, who was purported to be a murdered who poisoned Clarke Woodruff’s two daughters and his wife Elizabeth. It was rumored that Mr. Woodruff was the type who appeared virtuous to the public, but was just the opposite in his private life; rumor said he was quite promiscuous and while Elizabeth was pregnant with her third child, began a relationship with one of his slaves. The story continues that the slave girl, Chloe, was not at all happy at having to succumb to the sexual advances of her master, but because working in the mansion was preferred to working in the fields, she didn’t argue at his carnal desires. The real problem began when Clarke became bored with her for some reason or another and moved on to another slave girl to satisfy his lustful machinations.
Chloe was certain she’d be sent to work on the plantation in the brutal hot conditions. She began to eavesdrop on Clarke, Elizabeth, and even the children whenever she had the opportunity, hoping to learn of her plight. Her plan didn’t work out so well because she was caught in the act by Mr. Woodruff, who punished her by cutting off one of her ears. The story continues saying she always wore a scarf wrapped around her head from that day forward to hide the mutilation. Her humiliation and rejection led Chloe to devise a plot where she would make the family ill, but then miraculously cure them to maintain her position in the mansion. She put a small dose of poison in a cake that was to be served to the family in celebration of the oldest daughter. Unfortunately for Chloe, she put too much of the poison in the cake and before the night was over, two children and Mrs. Woodruff were dead.
The other slaves knew Chloe was behind the poisoning and dragged her out of her bed in the middle of the night and hung her from a tree until she was dead and then dumped her body unceremoniously into a nearby river. Since her death, Chloe’s ghost has been “sighted” too many times to be counted. There is a famous photograph which was taken that shows her ghost hovering between two of the Myrtles Plantation buildings; to this day, it’s still being used as a postcard to promote the residence. Some guests have seen her walking or floating around the property and a few claim to have seen her hovering over their beds as they slept.
What is astounding about this story is the fact that no record of any slave named Chloe ever existed, nor one with a similar name. Death records show the Woodruff children died of Yellow Fever, one in 1823 and the other in 1824 and Elizabeth died many years later in 1831.
Sorting Out the Mystery Behind the Chloe Tale
The story of Chloe can be traced back to an old family ghost story told by Lucile Lawrason, granddaughter of Harrison Williams, one of the former owners. The Williams told the tale of a mysterious old woman who wore a green bonnet who haunted the Myrtles Plantation. In their version of the story, the woman was older and was never named or identified as a slave. She was supposedly having an affair with one of the home’s former owners. Marjorie Munson took the story, made some changes to it, and eventually wrote a song about the Myrtles Plantation ghost called the, “a woman in a green beret”, which I’ve been unable to find the lyrics for.
The story about Chloe changed and grew more sensational almost as many times as the Myrtles Plantation changed hands. The backstory was enhanced to include the severed ear, the poisoning of the family, and the slave girl narrative. The plantation was purchased and restored to it’s old-world charm, complete with period furnishings. The story of Chloe became a local legend that older kids would tell the younger ones to scare them, but that would soon change courtesy of James and Frances Kermeen Myers. The couple passed through on a riverboat and decided to purchase the Myrtles. The house had enough ghost stories by then to attract people from all over the country.
The Myers had great influence and soon stories of the haunted house were known nationwide. Ghost hunters and the curious from across the nation started flocking to the house to get a first-hand experience with the ghosts. In 1980, the house was featured in the November issue of Life magazine along with eight other haunted houses (Pg 152 Terrifying Tales of Nine Haunted Houses: the residents report on bills and other inexplicable phenomena.) Frances also went on to write a book in 2005 about her personal experiences while living at the Myrtles Plantation.
Personal Experiences of Frances Kermeen Meyers
Frances and James were only in their 20’s when they purchased the Myrtles Plantation, and later made the claim that they knew nothing about the history of the house. She lived in the property for ten years and documented her personal experiences, which seem to mirror other encounters reported by guests and visitors. These included random footsteps on the stairs, lights than would go on and off without explanation, children crying, rattling doorknobs, and a presence felt when no human was in the vicinity. She also stated that a black woman in a green turban came toward her and that her hand actually passed through the ghostly figure, which caused it to fade away entirely. She reported that this was just one of nine different ghosts that have been sighted on the property. During her time as owner, she claimed that more than one thousand reports were given to her from guests; most similar to her own experiences, but a few others such as a bed floating off the ground, were also reported.
The Body Count Grows
As time passed and the Myrtles Plantation became more famous, many other stories began to emerge about the property. Included in these stories were tales of multiple murders that supposedly occurred on the grounds or in the house itself. The believers already had the death of Chloe, Elizabeth and her two children, and William Winter as a basis for the haunted house stories, but several others emerged. Lewis Stirling, the oldest son of Ruffin Grey Stirling, was supposedly murdered with a knife over a gambling debt at the age of 23; records indicate his actual cause of death was yellow fever.
Another story that became popular was one in which three Union Army soldiers were shot to death in one of the home’s parlors during the looting of the house. The tale also says that the floors were stained with blood in the spot where they were killed and the spots could not be wiped away. No record of any soldiers being killed in or around the home has ever been discovered.
Still another tale states that an unnamed caretaker was shot in 1927 while trying to thwart a robbery. No records exist of any caretaker being killed, but there was event which may have spawned this part of the story. The brother of Fannie Williams, Eddie Haralson, was living in a small house on the property and he indeed was murdered during a robbery, but it wasn’t near the main residence.
What’s the Final Verdict?
The supposed murders never occurred, Chloe never existed, and no Union soldiers were killed on the property, but the sheer number of strange events and sightings cannot be discounted or ignored. It’s obvious that something strange is going on at the Myrtles Plantation and that it indeed haunted. There may be a ghost that wears a turban, but what’s odd is that everyone seems to state that it wore a green turban – ghostly apparitions don’t usually have a color scheme.
Regardless of the fact that the number of murders was exaggerated, many residents died of yellow fever and some were very young. Without a guide to help them cross over, these fever victims could still be lurking around the Myrtles Plantation, desperately trying to find someone who they recognize. At this point in time, no one has reported being harmed or harassed by any of the entities; just scared and shaken. There is no question that the Myrtles Plantation will remain a popular place for those interested in the supernatural or haunted houses to visit, even though the questions remain. Perhaps that alone is part of the allure.