Good Samhain!

Happy Halloween everyone!  This is my favorite holiday and probably had something to do with yesterday being my wedding anniversary.  It’s my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons.  Samhain, as it is known on the Wiccan calendar is the most sacred time of the year.  The final harvest is gathered and thoughts turn to telling fortunes for the coming year.  On this night, the veil between the worlds is believed to be at its thinnest, making it easier for spirit to pass back into the realm of the living and to share with us news of their welfare and our own.

I might have mentioned growing up in a haunted house.  The house was built two years before the civil war broke out, and so it was not occupied until the war ended and men came home from the battlefields.  The house was built along with five others on a beautiful hill, each surrounded by a stone wall.  Half of the basement is above ground making the additional four stories a very tall home.  This house was built by a man who had daughters and he intended to give the homes to his daughters as they married, in order to keep them close.

The house I grew up in was occupied by a family I knew, the grandparents of my sisters dear friend.  The owner, one of the daughters, told me her sisters had died either in childbirth or from influenza after the “Great War”, and she was the sole living heir.  When my parents bought the house, in about 1954 it was in terrific shape but had not been occupied for more than twenty years.  My sisters friend said the house was creepy, and she “heard people” inside the house when she knew she and her great-grandmother were alone in the place.

So my parents got a great deal and the house was magnificent.  Two living rooms, one of them a formal parlor with fifteen foot high oak pocket doors that allowed the two living rooms to accommodate more guests. An entry way with carved mahogany panels and stained glass windows.  Both front and rear staircases, with a formal dining room, a kitchen and a service kitchen.  The property also boasted a carriage house, which we initially used as a garage, with some storage in the hayloft.  A great place to grow up if you’re a kid with a vivid imagination and a full attic, filled with trunks and . . . junk, there is no other way to say it.  Paradise.  Because of the amount of room, at any given time either or both sets of grandparents lived with us.  Also fun for kids growing up.  In the summer my grandparents would sit on the porch, sipping tea and entertaining the neighbors.

One Halloween, by best friend and I had gone “Trick or Treating”  all through the neighbor hood, and the next day, the Feast of All Saints was a day when our parochial school was closed.  Late that night, after sorting through our treasure Nan and I settled down in my cannon ball brass bed, which was original to the house.  The owners didn’t want to remove it, and I loved it, so for the price of polishing it, it was mine to keep.

About an hour after we fell asleep, I awoke to the sound of someone turning the knob to my bedroom door.  Shaking my friend awake we huddled, terrified beneath the covers and watched as a man dressed in turn of the century clothing, came into the room, hung his jacket and waistcoat in the closet, settled his hat on the shelf, and proceeded to adjust the gas lamps.  Now let me tell you, the house was originally fitted for gas lamps, and the fixtures remained at that time.  He finally noticed us and raising a single finger to his lips, he leaned forward by the bed, and said, “Shh!”

We both screamed and bolted out of bed but my mother, who believed we had too much candy was really angry with us and shooed us back to bed.  We got a dressing down at breakfast, but my father and my father’s father exchanged looks that made me uncomfortable.

Later that day, my grandfather questioned me closely bout what I saw and treated me like this could have happened.  I felt better knowing he believed me. He explained that sometimes spirits get caught up in a time loop and leave a little residual energy behind and if we’re sensitive we see it.  Not everyone does, he said.

Several months later, the gas pipes were removed from the house.  My mother thought they were an unnecessary risk, and the night they completed the job I saw my “friend” again.  But I was alone,this time.  So I woke up my grandfather and had him come to my room.  When the man left, I along with my grandfather, followed him through the house into our basement.  Once downstairs, he accessed a second basement we didn’t know was there.

I was excited to find something out about the house that no one else knew, and felt vindicated in my mother eyes.  When I described the man for my sisters friends family, they brought out an old tintype of the man.  How shocked was I to learn the man had been a suitor of the young woman whose father built the house.  She told me her father had told her he ran off after promising to marry her, but she never believed it.

That day she cried and related the story of their courtship and how unsuitable her father thought the young man was for his daughter.  Having found he did not abandon her but remained at the house in spirit, she was relieved and I never saw him again.  When my own father died years later, he called to me on my next visit to the house, clearly calling my name and asking if I was alright.

My younger sister also claims to have seen my father at the house after his death.  I believe he’s checking to make sure we are okay.

And we’re all happy to know he’s still keeping an eye on us, and yes Daddy, we’re all okay!

So do tell, do you believe in ghosts?  Have you ever seen one?  Are they family or strangers?  After all, it’s Halloween.  If you have a ghost story, feel free to share.

Better Ghost Stories

When I first met my husband he didn’t believe in ghosts.  He once told me, “when you die you’re dead.  You go to heaven or the other place and that’s the end of it.”  This was soon resolved after a trip home to visit my family, when we stayed in the house where I grew up, which is of course, haunted.  No, this isn’t a story about that house–I’m saving the best for last!

The following fall, in celebration of our anniversary, which is at the end of October, we took a trip touring the plantations  in Louisiana from Baton Rouge through St. Francisville which included a stop at The Myrtles.  The Myrtles has a long and complicated history and was built in 1796 by a man from Pennsylvania who came to Louisiana to escape a death sentence after the Whiskey Rebellion.

The most famous ghost of the Myrtles, is Chloe, a murdered slave.  She was alleged to be the mistress of the master of the  plantation during her life, and when she was caught eavesdropping on her master, he cut off her ear as punishment.  According to local legend, she baked a cake laced with oleander to poison the mistress, who she then planned to nurse back to health and regain favor with the family.  Unfortunately, the plan did not work.  The mistress and her two daughters died.  The other slaves, fearing retribution from the master, hung Chloe in the oak tree in the courtyard.

On the day I visited the Myrtles, the house was alive with energy.  The group was small and as we passed through the entryway a mirror pushed out from the wall and banged back to get our attention. A moment later I saw a figure of a young woman in the mirror who appeared to be pressing against the glass from the inside out!  As the group turned to see what the noise was about, a palm print appeared on the mirror.  Feeling a little dizzy, my husband and I left the tour and went outside for some fresh air.  Deciding I want to take some pictures of the house, he waited with me until all of the tourists had vacated the porch and I took several shots with a disposable camera I had bought that morning in St. Francisville.

Yesterday, when I wrote this, I tried three times to load the picture to the blog and the entire file was lost, including the picture.

So, as much as I’d like to share that picture with you, I don’t think my ghost wants it to happen!

But I did take full frontal picture of the house, which is lovely.  In my shots, the two rockers to the right of the front door are occupied by a man in a white suit, with two little girls on either side of him.  He has one of his arms around each young girls waist.  They are wearing white dresses, and they appear as if they are being shot with black and white film.  The man appears to be smiling as are the girls, one about seven and the other approximately ten years old.  Apparently they like having their picture taken.  The odd part is the group begins to fade out at about thigh level.  Perhaps with so many photo opportunities they were running low on energy?

If you’ve visited the Myrtles you know the beauty of the area as well as the house.  Its history is complicated and sometimes tragic.  Since I was unable to up load my photo, I will provide a photo from their site, and hopefully a link.

And this maybe one reason ghost hunting has become so popular.

Pictures taken from the front of the house often show a young boy running across the lawn in a line horizontal to the front porch.  My picture was taken dead center, with my husband and I standing by the tree you see in this photo.

There are many sites with orb and ghost photos from The Myrtles.  I have never seen another picture like mine, with the Colonel and his daughters.  And sadly, you’re not like to see it either, since I was unable to load it a fourth time and lost the blog copy in spite of saving it manually every two minutes.

I don’t think these ghosts want my readers to see that picture.  Sorry!

Ghost Stories

As promised, personal ghost stories this month in honor of my DH who fancies himself a “ghost hunter”.  Or at least he did until one too many “coincidences”  made him give that up for some other hobby.

Let me tell you our wedding anniversary is Oct. 30, very close to Halloween.  In fact where I grew up, this was known as mischief night.  Very appropriate since my hubby has a great sense of humor and is always willing to laugh at himself or to play harmless  tricks for the amusement factor.

We usually celebrate our anniversary with a trip and it often include historical sites or haunted Bed & Breakfast Inns.  One of our favorites is T’Frere’s House, 1905 Verot School Road, in Lafayette La.

This is not only our favorite place to stay in Southern Louisiana but the favorite of many others.  The Hosts are always gracious and charming and you won’t be treated more hospitably anywhere in the world.

The story goes that a young Cajun woman who had been a bride very much in love, lost her husband before the end of the first year of her marriage.  As was the custom at the time she was to be secluded in her mourning period, not to socialize for any reason.  Her family knew her to be a lively young woman who often flaunted the conventions of society and she was often seen in public with her hair unbound and her shoes off exposing her lower legs and ankles.  Her family feared for their standing in the community and so she was sent to her single younger brothers property in the country to stay during her period of mourning.  She originally had servants with her but sent them away when the continued to report her lapses in etiquette to her family.

During on outbreak of “fever” possibly yellow fever, which commonly plagued southern Louisiana, Amilee became ill.  Alone without servants or neighbors to help her, she soon became delirious.  Historians and the Inn’s owner are not certain what happened to her but she was found at the bottom of the well, drowned.

I have a hard time believing this young woman killed herself, but rather that delirious with fever she fell into the well and was drowned.  And I have good reason to believe it.

We’ve had several stays at T’Frere’s House, and we’ve seen or heard Amilee every time.  On the first occasion she pulled my husbands big toe as he was falling asleep.  When I insisted I hadn’t done it, and it had to be “the ghost” he grumbled, and wrapping my arms around him and holding my hands he turned over to go back to sleep, only to have his toe pulled again.  It really scared him and was a long time before he drifted off.

Several hours later, after insisting there was no ghost, he and I saw and heard books fly across the room to hit the wall.  The noise was incredible and woke up the guests across the hall.  When we turned on the lights no books could be found.  There was a full moon and so we saw the books when the lights were out.  The other guests inquired if we were “all right in there”.  They told us the next morning they’d been awakened by the sound of someone running the spinning wheel in the weaving room.

On another stay my husband bemoaned the fact that you never “actually see” a ghost when you want to, and while loading the car in the drive we saw the curtain pull back in the second story window and a dark-haired woman waved to us.  The owner at the Inn  Maugey  was downstairs on the porch with her husband and we were the last guests to leave.

Creepy? No, I don’t think so.  I think because of her strict family and her history of flaunting the rules Aimlee is afraid to cross over.  Or maybe she just enjoys the guest at the B&B?

You can see pictures of the lovely house on T’Frere’s House website.  Again the hospitality is spectacular, the hosts are incredible innkeepers and the ghost is real. Even now with the well where she drowned covered over, she will make an appearance, usually on some daily chore.  She’ll caution you with a finger to her lips not to wake the other guests.  Very considerate for a ghost.