Myrtles Plantation, built in 1794, and rumoured to be on top of an Indian burial ground, is believed to be haunted by more than ten different ghosts.
St. Francisville, Louisiana, USA
BACKGROUND, HISTORY AND LORE
Myrtles Plantation was built in 1794 by David Bradford, reportedly on top of an ancient Tunica Indian burial ground and is today considered ‘one of America’s most haunted homes’ and is believed to be home to at least twelve ghosts.
The plantation is believed to be the site of ‘at least’ ten murders but there is reportedly evidence of only one murder on the property, that of William Winter.
The most popular story about a ghost of Myrtles Plantation reportedly begins in 1817. Sarah and Clark Woodruff had two daughters and Sarah was carrying a third. Clark Woodruff reportedly ‘had a reputation in the region for integrity with men and with the law, but was also known for being promiscuous’. He is believed to have started an ‘intimate relationship’ with one of his slaves, named Chloe who was reportedly a ‘household servant’.
It’s not known whether Chloe was forced to be Clark’s mistress but she would not have had a choice and would likely have been sent to work in the fields, the most brutal work on the plantation, if she resisted.
Clark Woodruff reportedly tired of Chloe eventually and ‘chose another girl with whom to carry on’. Some versions of the story tell that Chloe then started to eavesdrop on the Woodruff family’s ‘private conversations, dreading the mention of her name’.
Reportedly, Chloe was caught eavesdropping one day and one of her ears was cut off as punishment. From then on she is believed to have always worn a green turban around her head to ‘hide the ugly scar that the knife had left behind’. Other versions of the story, however, claim that Chloe was never Clark’s mistress and was only punished for eavesdropping on the Woodruff’s conversations.
Sources disagree as to why, but it is believed that Chloe then put a ‘small amount of poison’, believed to be oleander flowers or leaves, into a birthday cake that was reportedly made ‘in honour of the Woodruff’s oldest daughter’. Some sources reportedly suggest that Chloe was trying to get revenge on the Woodruffs by doing this while. Others say that she may have been attempting to ‘redeem her position by curing the family of the poisoning’ and maybe to gain the ‘gratitude’ of the local judge and be safe from working in the fields.
Sarah Woodruff and her two daughters each reportedly each had slices of the poisoned cake but Clark Woodruff did not. The story goes that ‘before the end of the day’ all of them were ‘very sick’ and Chloe ‘patiently attended to their needs’. She may not have intended to kill them, but the dose of poison in the cake she made was ultimately fatal and, in a matter of hours, all three were dead.
Most sources seem to agree that Chloe was then hanged by the others slaves on the plantation then weighed down with rocks and thrown into the Mississippi River, either to punish her themselves, or to avoid punishment themselves from Clark Woodruff for ‘harbouring’ her.
Clark Woodruff reportedly then ‘closed off the children’s dining room, where the party was held, and never allowed it to be used again as long as he lived’. His own life reportedly ended ‘a few years later’ at the hands of his murder and the room was never used again for dining but today is reportedly used as a ‘game room’.
Despite this legend being so popular, the ‘historical record’ does not reportedly support the story. There is no record of the Woodruffs owning a slave named Chloe and Sara Woodruff and her children James and Cornelia Woodruff were not reportedly killed by poisoning but died due to yellow fever. However, many claim that ‘a woman wearing a green turban haunts the plantation’.
The story of Myrtles Plantation has reportedly also changed over the years, taking on more deaths and murders. It is now alleged that ‘as many as six other people had also been killed in the house’. One of the reported deaths is that of Lewis Stirling, the oldest son of Ruffin Grey Stirling, is believed to have been ‘stabbed to death in the house over a gambling debt’. However, burial records in St. Francisville reportedly states that he ‘died at the age of 23 in October 1854 from yellow fever’.
Another part of the legends tells of three Union soldiers who were killed in the house after they ‘broke in and attempted to loot the place’ and were reportedly ‘shot to death in the gentlemen’s parlour, leaving bloodstains on the floor that refused to be wiped away’.
Reportedly, years later the plantation was opened as an inn and a maid was mopping the floor and came to a spot that was ‘the same size as a human body’ and was supposedly the spot where one of the Union soldiers fell. It’s said that ‘no matter how hard she pushed, she was unable to reach’ and that this ‘strange phenomenon’ lasted for a month but has not reappeared since.
Again, there is reportedly no record of soldiers ever being killed in the house and that ‘surviving family members denied the story was true’.
Another murder that reportedly occurred in the house was that of a caretaker killed during a robbery in 1927 however, no record exists of this either. However, an event that there is reportedly record of is the death of Eddie Haralson, in a ‘small house on the property’, also during a robbery.
Reportedly, the ‘only verifiable murder’ on the Myrtles Plantation was that of William Drew Winter. Winter was ‘lured out of the house by a rider’ then shot and ‘mortally wounded’ on the side porch. He then, according to the Myrtles legend ‘staggered back into the house, passed through the gentlemen’s parlour and the ladies parlour and onto the staircase that rises from the central hallway’. There he reportedly ‘managed to climb just high enough to die in his beloved’s arms on exactly the 17th step’.
Since then it has reportedly been claimed that ‘ghostly footsteps’ can be heard ‘coming into the house, walking to the stairs and then climbing to the 17th step where they, of course, come to an end’. However, Winter reportedly ‘immediately fell down and died’ when he was shot and ‘his bloody trip through the house never took place’.
GHOST IN THE GREEN TURBAN
Reportedly, in the 1950’s ‘wealthy widow’, and owner of the plantation, Marjorie Munson began to notice that ‘odd things were occurring in the house’. She then began to ‘ask around’ and ‘the legend of Chloe got its start’. According to Lucile Lawrason, her aunts ‘used to talk about the ghost of an old woman who haunted the Myrtles and who wore a green bonnet’.
They reportedly ‘often laughed about it and it became a family story’ but the ghost was never given a name. Apparently, this story of the ghost was repeated to Marjorie Munson and she ‘soon penned a song about the ghost of the Myrtles, a woman in a green beret’.
Reportedly, as ’time wore on, the story grew and changed’ and the plantation ‘changed hands several more times’ until the 1970’s when it was ‘restored’ under the ownership of Arlin Dease and Mr and Mrs Robert F. Ward. During this period the story ‘grew even larger and was greatly embellished to include the poison murders and the severed ear’.
Frances Myers reportedly claimed that she ‘encountered the ghost in the green turban in 1987’ when she was ‘asleep in one of the downstairs bedrooms’. Reportedly, she was ‘awakened suddenly by a black woman wearing a green turban and a long dress who was ‘standing silently beside the bed, holding a candlestick in her hand’.
Frances claimed that the figure was ‘so real that the candle even gave off a soft glow’ and that, ‘knowing nothing about ghosts’, she was ‘terrified and pulled the covers over her head and started screaming’. She then reportedly ‘slowly peeked out and reached out a hand to touch the woman, who had never moved, and to her amazement, the apparition vanished’.
Reportedly, the story of the Myrtles Plantation also began appearing in ‘magazines and books’ and received a ‘warm reception from ghost enthusiasts’.
In one well-known photograph reportedly taken at the plantation by ‘the proprietress’, a figure of a woman in a turban can be seen standing between two buildings in a ‘breezeway’. The figure is believed to be that of a ghost and many believe it to be the ghost of Chloe. The photograph was reportedly taken because the ‘insurance company had required photographs to be taken that would show the distances between the buildings to aid the underwriters in rating a fire insurance policy for the plantation’. The image was turned into a postcard for the plantation.
The ghost of Chloe has reportedly ‘often been seen in her green turban, wandering the place at night’ and some claim that ‘sometimes the cries of little children accompany her appearances and at other times, those who are sleeping are startled awake by her face, peering at them from the side of the bed’.
“The National Geographic Explorer filming crew determined that the photograph definitely contained what appeared to be an apparition of what they believe to be a slave girl. The slave girl appeared in the breezeway between The General’s Store and the Butler’s Pantry of the mansion. The horizontal exterior boards of the mansion were clearly visible through the body of the apparition. National Geographic Explorer used the photograph in their documentary and suggested that a postcard should be made of the photograph.”https://www.myrtlesplantation.com/history-and-hauntings/the-legend-of-chloe (Myrtles Plantation, 2020)
Reportedly, Mr Norman Benoit, a patent researchist, visited The Myrtles Plantation in May 1995 and ‘requested permission to research the postcard’. After he enlarged the postcard and did a ‘shadow density procedure’, Benoit ‘discovered that all of the physical measurements of the apparition were of human dimensions and proportions’. The postcard is now commonly referred to as the ‘Chloe Postcard’.
OTHER PLANTATION GHOSTS
Another ghost which is reported to haunt the Myrtles Plantation include a ‘young Native American’ and there is reportedly a blood stain in one of the house’s doorways, ‘roughly the size of a human body’, which will not ‘come clean’. Reportedly, during the Civil War the house was ‘ransacked by Union soldiers’ and ‘three were killed in the house’ and left the blood stain. Other legends apparently say that ‘cleaners have been unable to push their mop or broom into that space’.
A large mirror in the plantation house is also believed to be haunted. Reportedly, according to ‘some owners’, the mirror is said to ‘hold the spirits of some of those who have died in the house’. The legend also claims that, per tradition, after the deaths of the Woodruffs, all the mirrors in the house were covered but this particular mirror was ‘overlooked’ and the spirits of Sarah Woodruff and her children were trapped inside the mirror. You can see a photo of these handprints on the mirror here.
It’s also said that those who photograph the mirror will ‘often find that the developed picture holds the images of handprints of a number of people, seemingly inside of the glass’. Reportedly, when ‘these spectral images first appeared’ the mirror was ‘thoroughly cleaned but the prints remained’. The owners reportedly then tried replacing the glass but the handprints returned!
Some sources claim that those who have studied the mirror have suggested that ‘perhaps the handprints are in the wood behind the mirror and not in the glass at all’. This could explain why the handprints appear in every mirror that hangs in this location ‘no matter what glass is used’.
The plantation is also reportedly haunted by a young girl who, despite ‘being treated by a local voodoo practitioner, died in 1868. She reportedly ‘appears in the room in which she died, and has been reported to practice voodoo on people sleeping in the room’.
Another well-known ghost of the plantation is that of William Drew Winter, whose ghost reportedly ‘walks, staggers, or crawls up the stairs and stops on the 17th step’.
Also reported at the plantation are sightings of ‘children who are seen playing on the wide verandah, in the hallways and in the rooms’. The children’s ghosts are reportedly that of a ‘small boy and girl’ and are believed to be two other of the Woodruff children who were not poisoned but ‘died within months of each other during one of the many yellow fever epidemics that brought tragedy to the Myrtles’.
There have also reportedly been sightings of a ‘young girl, with long curly hair and wearing an ankle-length dress, has been seen floating outside the window of the game room, cupping her hands and trying to peer inside through the glass’. It’s thought the ghost may be that of Cornelia Gale Woodruff ‘or perhaps one of the Stirling children who did not survive until adulthood’.
There are also reports that the grand piano on the first floor ‘plays by itself, usually repeating the same chord over and over again’ and ‘sometimes it continues on through the night’. It’s also said that when someone comes into the room where the piano is to investigate the music, it stops and ‘will only start again when they leave’.
In one account, a man who had been hired to ‘greet guests at the front gate each day’, encountered ‘a woman in a white, old-fashioned dress walked through the gate without speaking to him’. The woman ‘strolled up to the house and vanished through the front door without ever opening it’ and the gateman reportedly ‘quit his job and never returned to the house’.
In 2001, Unsolved Mysteries filmed a segment about the alleged hauntings at the plantation and, according to host Robert Stack, the production crew reportedly experienced ‘technical difficulties during the production of the segment’.
THEORIES AND EXPLANATIONS
Multiple sources agree that the legend of Chloe and the Woodruffs, and several other deaths claimed to have occurred on the plantation, differ from, or are not backed up by historical records.
“In all likelihood, the infamous Chloe never existed and even if she did, historical records prove that Sarah Mathilda and her children were never murdered but died from disease. Instead of ten murders in the house, only one occurred and when William Winter died, he certainly did not stagger up the staircase to die on the seventeenth step, as the stories of his phantom footsteps allegedly bear out.”http://dark-stories.com/eng/the_myrtles_plantation.htm (Troy Tailor, 2007)
Sarah Mathilda Woodruff, for example, was not murdered and died from yellow fever ‘according to historical record’ in 1823. Her children, a son and a daughter, also did not die after eating a poisoned birthday cake.
While living in Louisiana, researcher David Wiseheart reportedly ‘spent countless hours tracking down information about the plantation’. He found while looking through ‘property records of the Woodruff family’, that ‘they had not owned a slave, nor was there any record of a slave, by the name of Chloe, or even Cleo, as she appears in some versions of the story’.
Sources still acknowledge however that the history of the Myrtles Plantation is ‘filled with more than enough trauma and tragedy to cause the place to become haunted’ including ‘a number of deaths in the house from yellow fever alone’.