Located in the deep American south, where summers are warm, and the air is thick with the spirits of overworked slaves and brutal masters, lies the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana. With its majestic wrap around veranda, blue trim, and 20 rooms, it sits on high ground, appearing like a fortress as you approach. It appears to be something out of a storybook. However, its history is not for the faint of heart.
Our story begins with a newly married couple, Mr. & Mrs. Clarke Woodruff. Mr. Woodruff was a prestigious Judge and owned numerous slaves – as was the norm at the time. One of his house slaves went by the name of Chloe, who for many years fell victim to Woodruff’s cruelty.
Chloe tried to protect herself from the abuse by listening in to the Woodruffs’ conversations and modifying her behaviour. One day, after being caught eavesdropping, Woodruff had Chloe’s ears cut off. Forcing her to carry the shame and disfigurement the rest of her life. Her mutilation was hidden, at the request of the Woodruff’s, by the use of a green turban. No one would see this terrifying mark, but the painful experience would stay with Chloe and inspire her to make plans for revenge.
On the 9th birthday of the Woodruff’s daughter, Chloe placed poisonous oleander leaves into the cake. Chloe’s plan was to poison Mrs. Woodruff and their children. Some sources claim that it was never her intention to kill the three family members. They suggest that Chloe wanted to get them sick so she could nurse them back to health. In the south, local healers were among the most respected of the community. If Chloe could heal the family, she would be safe from the harsh reality of working in the fields.
Tragically, the dosage was lethal, and it ended up killing Mrs. Woodruff and her two children. After word spread of her actions on the plantation, the other slaves were the ones to take revenge. Chloe was hanged by the neck, for everyone to witness, until the life was drained from her body. She was then weighed down by rocks and thrown into the Mississippi river.
The plantation was the sight of other gruesome activity after Chloe’s death. The new owner, a wealthy family-man, and his five children would pass away from tuberculosis on the property. The home was later passed to one of his surviving daughters & her husband, the Winters. Mr. Winter was a proud member of his community and did his part by teaching Sunday school at his home. One day, as Mr. Winter was teaching, an unknown man rode up on a horse yelling to see him.
As he came out to address this man, he was shot at point-blank range on his front porch. He retreated into the home and staggered up the stairs to eventually die in the arms of his wife. The sound of his strong and forceful stomps still linger in the home today as visitors report hearing heavy footsteps from empty staircases.
The plantation went on to be used as a film set for movies like The Long Hot Summer. These visitors were not safe from having their own paranormal encounters. While filming, cast & crew members reported witnessing furniture moving around the home all of its own. They could find nothing to explain this activity.
The paranormal activity became more noticeable beginning in the 1970s once it was purchased by the Meyers family. Multiple guests and residents reported seeing the transparent and ghostly apparitions of a young girl wearing a green turban moving throughout property. In 1992 the owner took a famous photo that they believe captures Chloe spirit.
This photo was intended to be used to secure an insurance policy for the home in case of fire or other natural disasters, not to prove paranormal activity. The presence of a human figure within the photo was undiscovered until it was developed. The owner reports that there was no one in that area at the time the photo was taken.
The Mirror in the Myrtles Plantation
One of the most disturbing paranormal reports occurs inside the home. In the grand hallway, there is an antique mirror just outside of the dining room. The visitors report seeing Woodruff’s children appear in the mirror near the room where they were poisoned. One researcher noted that each time the mirror is replaced or re-silvered, the same handprint reappears as if they refuse to be ignored.
Despite the many ghost stories, there is some debate if Chloe ever existed, or if that was her real name. Today this residence is known as the Myrtles Plantation Bed and Breakfast, but is also recognized as one of the most haunted houses in America according to the National Geographic. They offer historical tours through the day and into the dark of night.
Interested in exploring more about the paranormal? Perhaps even in your own home? Try our Haunting at Home for the ultimate spooky “at-home” Halloween adventure!
Capital Heritage Connexion Mentorship Program Intern
Carleton University, History & African Studies