A pilfering pirate who prefers to imbibe his spirits straight from a bottle, a politician who hungers to cast his vote from the grave, a heartbroken Confederate soldier who plays a haunting violin for his lost love, a voodoo queen who still dispenses gris-gris and favors to her acolytes, and a Bourbon Street madam who won’t lie still-the Bayou state’s legendary spirits run the gamut. From the courtyards of the French Quarter to the hallowed halls of the Old State Capital Museum in Baton Rouge, from faded plantations to fabled “Cities of the Dead,” Louisiana’s penchant for ghostly lore flows as freely as the mighty Mississippi. Yet, Louisiana has no exclusive on ghosts.
New Orleans may indeed be Ghost Central USA, but other locales boasting of an extremely high quotient of wandering souls include: Cape Cod, Charleston, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Natchez, Savanah, Salem, and Key West. Also garnering spectral reputations are the cities of Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Haunted tales know no boundaries. If you are someone like me who loves the past, this is a very good thing.
I am often asked if during my research have I found out why spirits or ghosts (the labels are interchangeable) favor some locations over others and why. Unlike aliens who populate Area 51, ghosts are really not that social. They do not crave a communal gathering place. For the most part they are solitary creatures. They rarely appear together. Even when a site such as the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana or Linden Bed and Breakfast in Natchez, Mississippi (both of which have multiple ghosts), the spirits within pop up one at a time.
Think of it this way, if you had a desire to make a grand entrance, you wouldn’t want to share the spotlight-you’d enter solo. So, if a ghost craves your attention or needs to get a message across, it’s usually a one-on-one situation.
Occasionally, ghosts do team up for a common goal. The long-deceased couple at Anchuca Mansion in Vicksburg, Mississippi, set off an indoor waterfall. It seems Mr. and Mrs. Hennessy’s portraits were buried in the insulation in the attic and they were tired of inhaling tiny pink fibers so they created a drip which flowed from the attic down through the ceiling of the first-floor dinning room. The owners of this historic bed and breakfast immediately called a plumber. According to owner Tom Pharr, “The plumber just started taking his bare hands and squishing in that insulation trying to find some dampness.” And then like in the nursery rhyme where little Jack Horner sticks “in his thumb and pulls out a plumb,” Donny the plumber pulls out not one but two old portraits in matching oval frames. The plumber never found the source of the prodigious leak, but at the moment he handed the portraits to Tom, the waterfall in the dining room ceased. No more drip onto the heirloom carpet.
Mr. and Mrs. Hennessey’s portraits now hang prominently once again in the lobby. In my interview with Tom Pharr for The Haunting of Mississippi, he happily concluded this unusual tale by stating that since the portraits have been on display “everything is cool and dry.” He adds that at the time of the leak, “I wasn’t seeing any shiny lights, no orbs, none of the usual paranormal trivia. Two pictures pulled me upstairs . . . I guess they just wanted to be back out. They hadn’t seen the light of day in a long, long time.” Tom swears, “I would never have been able to make up a ghost tale like this.”
Moral of the story? Don’t despair. Even when lost or forgotten for centuries, there’s always a way to make your presence known. Or, in the case of the ghosts of the enterprising Hennessys, an annoying drip can set you free.
To read more about this weird (and true tale), you’ll find all the details in The Haunting of Mississippi Chapter 2/Anchuca. Go to my Books page and click on the title.