Myrtles Plantation Eighteenth-century plantation known as “One of America’s Most Haunted Homes.” The Myrtles Plantation, located near St. Francisville, Louisiana, houses Ghosts, but some of its most famous stories have been called into question, including the tale of a slave girl, Chloe. For example, 10 murders are alleged to have taken place on the property, but only one murder has ever been documented.
The Myrtles Plantation originally was known as Laurel Grove. It was built in 1794 by David Bradford, the son of Irish immigrants, who became a successful attorney in Washington County, Pennsylvania.
Bradford married Elizabeth Porter in 1785. With the start of a family, Bradford decided to build a larger home. He spared no expense. In 1794, Bradford was a wanted man for his role in the Whiskey Rebellion, a violent protest in Western Pennsylvania against taxes that left one tax collector dead. Bradford fled, leaving Elizabeth and their children behind. He eventually arrived in Bayou Sarah, what is now known as St. Francisville. There he purchased 600 acres of land and built a small home that he christened Laurel Grove.
Bradford lived alone at Laurel Grove until President John Adams pardoned him for his role in the Whiskey Rebellion. Then he brought his family to Laurel Grove. Unfortunately he was unable to sell his expensive home in Pennsylvania. He finally traded it for 230 barrels of flour, to be delivered to Bayou Sarah, where there was a flour shortage. Bradford believed that he could sell the flour for enough money to recoup his investment in the Pennsylvania house. He never received the flour, however, to his dying day, despite his repeated attempts to have the deal honored.
Bradford became a judge and took in law students at his home, including one named Clark Woodrooff, a young man from Connecticut. Woodrooff married Bradford’s daughter, Sarah Mathilda, on November 19, 1817.
After Bradford’s death, his widow Elizabeth hired Woodrooff to manage the plantation. Woodrooff was an astute manager, planting crops of indigo and cotton that brought in a great deal of money. He and Sarah had three children, Cornelia Gale, James, and Mary Octavia.
In 1823, a yellow fever epidemic swept through the area, and Sarah Mathilda died on July 21. James died soon after on July 15, 1824, and Cornelia Gale in September of the same year. Woodrooff was devastated and never remarried.
He bought the plantation from Elizabeth and continued to live there with his mother-in-law and surviving daughter until Elizabeth’s death in 1830. He and Octavia moved, and the plantation was placed under a caretaker. Woodrooff, who changed his named to Woodruff, became a judge in Covington, Louisiana. In 1834, he sold the plantation to Ruffin Grey Stirling, a member of a wealthy family of plantation owners.
Stirling and his wife, Mary Catherine Cobb, moved in and set about remodeling the place to suit their high social status. They nearly doubled the size of the home and renamed it the Myrtles, after the crepe myrtles that were abundant on the property. The Stirlings had nine children, only four of whom survived into adulthood and marriage.
Stirling died of tuberculosis on July 17, 1854, and left the house to his wife. Mary proved to be a sharp businesswoman, although she lost her fortune in the Civil War. Sugar plantations in which she invested were ruined and Union troops ransacked the property. However, she managed to retain ownership of the house and other properties.
In 1865, at war’s end, Mary gave the house to her daughter Sarah and her husband, attorney William Drew Winter. She appointed Winter to manage her other properties. In the financial chaos following the war, Winter went bankrupt in 1867. A year later, the Myrtles was sold to the New York Warehouse & Security Company. Somehow, Mary Stirling was able to buy it back in 1870.
Family happiness was short-lived, for on January 26, 1871, Winter became the only known murder victim at the Myrtles. He was teaching a Sunday School class in the gentleman’s parlor when he heard someone ride up to the house on horseback. A man said he had business with him. Winter went to the side gallery. He was shot. He collapsed and died on the porch. The murderer fled on his horse. Winter was buried the following day. Eventually a man named E. S. Webber was arrested and tried for the murder, but his fate is not known. Sarah did not remarry. She stayed on at the Myrtles and died in April 1878 at age 44.
Mary Cobb Stirling died in 1880, and her son Stephen Stirling bought the plantation. He sold it in 1886 to Oran D. Brooks. The plantation went through several ownerships, winding up with Harrison Milton Williams in 1889. Williams worked hard to keep the plantation going, but lost his interest and will when son Harry fell into the Mississippi River and drowned while trying to round up cattle in a storm. Another son, Surget Minor, took over running the plantation.
By the 1950s, the land around the house was divided among Williams’s heirs, and the house was owned by Marjorie Munson, a wealthy chicken farmer who restored it. More ownerships ensued, and in the 1970s, James and Frances Kermeen Myers bought it and did more restoration work.
Today, the house is a haunted bed-and-breakfast. Ghost stories have made the Myrtles famous, and tourists come in hopes of experiencing phenomena. The house has been featured in documentaries and films.
The Myrtles does have resident ghosts, including an older woman in a green beret or bonnet, seen by the Williams family. Her identity either was never known or was never told. Stories of the ghost were related to Munson in the 1950s; she wrote a song about the apparition. The woman in the green hat was seen by Frances Myers in 1987, and also by others. The ghost purportedly was photographed. According to Myers, she was sleeping in a downstairs bedroom, awakened and saw the figure of an older black woman wearing a green turban and holding a metal candlestick. The candle glowed and the woman appeared to be solid. Frightened, Myers screamed and dove under the bedcovers. When she looked out again, the apparition had vanished.
Phantom children have been seen playing on the verandah, in the halls, and in various rooms. Ghosts of a small boy and a small girl may be the Woodrooff children who died of yellow fever. A young girl with long, curly hair in a fl owing dress floats outside the window of the game room and attempts to peer through the glass. She is thought to be either Cornelia Gale Woodrooff or a Stirling child who died young.
The grand piano on the first floor sometimes plays by itself, repeating the same chord. If someone enters the room, the playing stops, but starts again as soon as they leave. A woman in a white dress was reported seen walking through the gate of the property; she walked through the closed front door and vanished.
The crew of the television remake of The Long Hot Summer experienced Poltergeist phenomena on several occasions while filming at the Myrtles. They moved furniture in the game and dining rooms, only to find the furniture restored to original positions.
Numerous other experiences have been reported by the annual visitors to the plantation.
The Myrtles’ most famous and sensational ghosts appear to be stories embellished over time. They may have started during the ownership of Munson and her song about the woman in the green headdress. After the Myerses bought the plantation, stories about the ghosts began appearing in the media and became embroidered, over time. Among the stories are:
Chloe. Chloe supposedly was a household slave girl owned by Clark Woodrooff. According to the story, he was a promiscuous man, and when his wife Sarah was pregnant with their third child, he engaged in a liaison with Chloe. The girl gave in to his demands in order to stay in the house, rather than be punished by being sent to work in the fields.
Woodrooff soon tired of Chloe and abandoned her for another slave girl. Chloe was terrified that she would be banished to the fields and began eavesdropping on the Woodrooff family. Woodrooff caught her at it and punished her by having one ear cut off. From then on, she wore a green turban to hide the disfigurement.
Chloe hatched a scheme to get back in the good graces of the family. For Cornelia Gale’s birthday, she baked a cake and mixed in a poison of crushed oleander flowers. Her intent was only to sicken the family and then heroically nurse them all back to health. But her plan tragically backfired. She had put in too much poison. Sarah and her children Cornelia Gale and James died within hours of eating the cake.
Other slaves, fearful that they all would be punished for Chloe’s crimes, executed her by hanging her from a tree. Her corpse was taken down, weighted with rocks, and tossed in the Mississippi. Woodrooff closed down the dining room where his family had been poisoned. This room is said to be the game room today. A few years after the tragedy, Woodrooff was himself murdered.
The ghost of Chloe has been reported by visitors many times and supposedly was photographed; the image is cloudy and blurry. Chloe is said to drift about in her green turban at night, sometimes accompanied by the phantom screams of children.
This story may have arisen from the real story of the older woman in the green bonnet. There are no records of Woodrooff ever owning a slave by the name; Chloe may never have existed. Sarah in fact gave birth to a third child; according to this story, she was murdered while pregnant. Furthermore, historical records show that Sarah and her two oldest children died of yellow fever, not by murderous poisoning. And Woodrooff was not murdered, either, but died at the plantation in 1851.
So why do visitors experience the ghost of Chloe? It is possible that they experience genuine phenomena and conclude Chloe is the cause. Another possibility is that collective expectations have literally created a Thoughtform type of ghost fitting the story.
Murdered Union soldiers
. According to this story, three Union soldiers were shot to death in the gentleman’s parlor while attempting to loot the plantation. They left bloodstains on the floor that could not be removed. A human-sized bloodstain mysteriously appeared years later where one of the soldiers fell. There is no record of such an event.
In 1927, a caretaker supposedly was killed by thieves. There is no record of such an event.
Embellishments to the Winter murder.
Legend holds that instead of collapsing and dying on the porch after he was shot, William Winter managed to stagger back into the house and go up the central hall staircase. He died on the 17th step in the arms of his wife. His ghostly footsteps are heard retracing his final steps, ending on the stairs where he died.
A large MIRROR in the house reportedly holds some of the ghosts. When photographed, strange images of handprints appear to be on the inside of the mirror. Most likely, such effects are caused by lights and camera flashes.
- Taylor, Troy, and Len Adams. So, There I Was . . . More Confessions of Ghost Hunters. Alton, Ill.: Whitechapel Press, 2006.
The Myrtles Plantation has been called “One of America’s Most Haunted Homes.” It was built in 1796 by General David “Whiskey Dave” Bradford, who was driven to the Louisiana Territory from his home in Washington County, Pennsylvania for his role in the Whiskey Rebellion. Bradford originally purchased 600 acres from Spain and built a modest, eight-room home there that he called “Laurel Grove.” Bradford died in 1817, but the plantation stayed in his family. Eventually his daughter, Sarah Mathilda, and her husband, Clark Woodruff, took over the land and planted indigo and cotton. Many slaves were brought in to work the land, and though the exact history is fuzzy, depending on who you ask, most agree the many ghostly legends trace their beginnings from when this was an active plantation.
The most predominant legend at the Myrtles is that of a slave girl named Chloe, who was a house servant. The legend says that Clark Woodruff was a bit of a philanderer, and he began having a sexual relationship with Chloe. Chloe didn’t protest the affair because her alternative was to live a much harder life working in the field. Eventually Woodruff grew tired of Chloe and started to take up with another slave woman. Chloe was then caught eavesdropping in the home while trying to find out if Woodruff was indeed going to send her to the fields. As punishment, one of her ears was cut off. She would forever wear a green turban to cover the disfigurement.
The local lore says that Chloe then poisoned a birthday cake for the children with the hope of making them ill so she could be useful and help nurse them back to health. But she used too much poison and wound up killing all three children. The other slaves, fearing reprisal from the family, dragged Chloe out and hanged her from a nearby tree. After she was dead, her body was weighted down with rocks and thrown into the river.
Visitors and staff have reported seeing the ghost of a turban-wearing woman all over the grounds of the plantation. Additionally, there is a mirror by the staircase in the mansion where the spirits of those who were murdered at the plantation are said to manifest themselves. Phantom handprints on the mirror and unexplained smells and noises are also part of the Myrtles Plantation’s ghostly experience.
Written by — Jeff Belanger Founder, Ghostvillage.com
THE MYRTLES PLANTATION
P.O. BOX 1100
7747 U.S. HIGHWAY 61
ST. FRANCISVILLE, LOUISIANA 70775
TEL: 1 (256) 635-6277