Bayou Lore // Hauntings

by Ashlyn Verda, staff writer

Louisiana’s Bayou Region is rich in haunted history. Over generations, locals have passed down dark tales from the bayou, including legendary haunted swamps and plantation ghost stories. As time passes, and stories become more and more embedded in Cajun culture, the line between fact and folklore begins to blur.

One of the most famous hauntings of the Bayou Region is known by students and faculty at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Ellender Hall, one of the student residence halls on campus, is known for its strange occurrences. According to Megan Henshaw, the assistant hall director, residents claim the dormitory is haunted by Helen Ellender helerself. A portrait hangs in the entrance of the lobby and students say her eyes follow you.

Henshaw is also the resident assistant on the sixth floor. She says students have reported lights turning on and off, objects moving on their own, footsteps, and scratching noises.

“Some say it’s the ghost of a student who died there in the 1970s,” says Henshaw. “It’s rumored that she fell to her death by jumping out of her sixth-floor window.”

Although many students treat this story as fact, The Nicholls Worth reported that there is no record of anyone’s death or suicide in Ellender Hall.

Not far from Nicholls is the Laurel Valley Plantation and Historic Village. The village contains cabins that can be seen from the road, and is said to be haunted by apparitions dressed in old-fashioned clothing. Visitors have also captured unexplained “floating lights” in their photos, according to volunteer worker Johnny Thibodaux.

Locals are the first to experience these unexplained events. Sometimes, just by taking a shortcut on the way home.

Devil’s Swamp, in Schriever, is appropriately named. An old train track runs across the road, allegedly haunted by the ghosts of buried slaves from Acadia Plantation, as well as the ghosts of people murdered or killed on the railroad tracks.

When cars park or stop over the tracks, they reportedly begin to violently shake. There have also been claims of stalled cars, windows fogging, and handprints appearing on the windows.

Ducros Plantation is also located in Schriever. The property is now privately owned by Richard Bourgeois and Angela Cheramine, who have restored the home. Dating back to 1802, no unusual deaths have been reported, but locals have passed on its ghoulish tale.

“It’s not certain, but there is said to have been a young child who accidentally drowned in a nearby well and listeners can hear cries,” says Cheramine. 

Cheramie says the most common activity reported is inexplicable sounds. When they were restoring the house, carpenters claimed to hear footsteps from the main hall. Richard himself has heard a strange dragging noise on the upper gallery.

Some supernatural experiences happen a little too close to home for locals.

Coteau Road, located in Houma, is known by locals for having apparitions that wander the fields at night. More common sightings happen around metal sheds that can be seen from the road.

The metal sheds and surrounding property belong to the grandfather of Houma resident Glynn Prestenbach. The road is very curvy in some areas and Prestenbach says many people have been injured or killed. Over the years, he has helped repair fences up and down Coteau Road, but has never seen anything unusual.

“We have lived on Coteau road all my life and I will be the first to say it is haunted,” says Amber Bourgeois. “I have witnessed a man, a little boy, and a lady walking across the street. It doesn’t scare me though, they don’t seem to mess with anyone.”

Located near the bottom of Houma and isolated from civilization, a historic ridge lies southwest of Bayou Dularge near Lake Decade.

Mauvais Bois Ridge, is the source of nightmares that have been passed down by generations of United Houma Nation families. Mauvais Bois, named after a French term for “bad woods,” has been haunted since Vincent Gombi, Jean Lafitte’s battle companion, discovered the ridge. According to Nicholls State University Louisiana History Professor, Steve Michot, Gombi was trying to find a route near the Mississippi River during the Battle of New Orleans.

“American Indians living on the ridge helped Gombi sink a British ship called the Josephine,” says Michot. “They cut down cypress trees from the woods so a barricade could be formed and the British could not cross Bayou Penchant.”

To this day, it is said that the dead rise from the sunken Josephine and continue to linger over the land.

Further down the bayou lies Bayou Sale Road, a long, curvy, and deserted road connecting Dulac to Cocodrie. Also known as LA-57, it is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Southern Louisiana.

Locals are familiar with the stories of a man on the side of the road looking for a ride. According to the locals, when cars slows down to pick him up, he either disappears or the driver notices that he is somehow transparent. The legend also claims that if a driver stops to pick up the ghost, they will receive treasures and good luck in return.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve heard strange stories about Bayou Sale Road. I’ve traveled down the road many times and personally, I haven’t seen any ghost,” says Houma native Kate Planchet. “But it is a dangerous place and I get a bad feeling when I have to drive it by myself.”

Local legends about hauntings are often passed down from generation to generation and have become a part of the Bayou Region culture. Although it has become difficult to determine folklore from fact, there is no denying that locals are interested in the unexplained. Many of these locations can be accessed for free and seen from the road, but simply stopping by and talking to the locals is where the real adventure begins.