According to the Smithsonian Institution, the Myrtles Plantation located three miles north of St. Francisville, Louisiana, is the most haunted house in the United States. Built on the site of an ancient Native American burial ground in 1794 by General David Bradford, the plantation has been the location for at least 10 violent deaths. Throughout the years, owners and their guests have fled the house in the middle of the night, terrified by the appearance of frightening ghosts—and the entities continue to be sighted to this day.
The haunting began when Bradford's daughter Sara Matilda married a young judge named Clark Woodruffe. Although the Woodruffes were happily married and their union had produced two daughters, Clark began an extramarital affair with Chloe, one of the house slaves, when Sara Matilda was carrying their third child, who would also be a daughter. Although Judge Woodruffe had a reputation for integrity with the law, he was also known as being promiscuous. At first, Chloe tried to deny the sexual demands of her master, but she knew that if she fought against them, she could be sent to work in the fields. Eventually, the judge grew tired of her and chose another house slave as his new mistress. When Chloe saw that she had fallen from favor, she feared that she would also lose her position as a servant in the mansion and be ordered to the fields.
Chloe hoped that she might somehow win back Woodruffe's affections and not be in danger of being sent to the brutal work in the fields. One evening, as she stood nearby the judge and Sara Matilda, listening for any mention of her name and what she feared would be her dreaded fate, Woodruffe grew annoyed with her presence and accused her of eavesdropping on a private family conversation with his wife. Angrily, the judge ordered his overseers to cut off one of Chloe's ears as punishment. From that time on, Chloe wore a green headscarf with an earring pinned to it to hide her missing ear.
Wise in the ways of herbs and potions, Chloe came up with what she believed might be the perfect means that would guarantee her status of house slave and keep her out of the fields. She baked a birthday cake for the Woodruffes' oldest daughter and placed oleander, a poison, into the mix, scheming that the family would become ill and her services would be required to nurse them back to health. Tragically, Chloe inadvertently sprinkled too much oleander into the cake mix and Sara Matilda and two of her daughters became extremely ill and died within hours after the birthday party. Neither the judge nor the baby ate any of the poisoned cake.
Grief-stricken and ashamed of what she had done, Chloe confided in another slave that she had only intended to make the mother and her daughters ill so that she would be the one to take care of them. Chloe's choice of a confidante proved to be her undoing, for rather than keeping the secret, the woman loudly proclaimed to her fellow slaves that the death of the mistress of the house and her two daughters had not been due to some mysterious sudden illness. A mob made up of both the Woodruffes' slaves and their white neighbors chased Chloe into the surrounding woods where they caught her and hanged her. Later her body was cut down, weighted with rocks, and thrown into the river. Judge Woodruffe closed off the room where the birthday party had been held and never allowed it to be used again while he lived. This decree was relatively short-lived, for Clark Woodruffe was murdered a few years later.
Since that scene of mob violence in antebellum Louisiana, the ghost of Chloe has been often sighted both inside and outside of the plantation house. She is most often seen wearing a green headscarf wrapped turban-style around her head with an earring pinned over her missing ear. Her spirit is also held responsible for stealing earrings from many guests over the nearly 200 years since her hanging.
John and Teeta Moss, the current owners of the Myrtles Plantation, have converted the place into a bed and breakfast, and Hester Eby, who manages house tours of the mansion and grounds, states that the haunting phenomena continue unabated. Teeta Moss even photographed a shadowy image of Chloe standing near the house. According to Eby and members of the staff, resident ghosts frequently reported include those of the two poisoned Woodruffe girls, who are often heard playing and running in the halls. Many guests have heard babies crying when there are no infants present in the mansion, and a floating candle moving slowly up the stairs has been often reported.
Other ghosts include those of a woman in a black skirt who floats about a foot off the floor and who is seen dancing to music that cannot be heard by the living; a man who was stabbed to death in a hallway over an argument concerning a gambling debt; an overseer who was robbed and killed in 1927 and who angrily demands that guests leave the place and return to their own homes; an unseen pianist who plays the grand piano but who ceases at once if someone enters the room. There is another ghost of a young girl that seems to appear only when a thunderstorm approaches the plantation. The spectral image has long curly hair, wears an ankle-length dress, and is seen cupping her hands and trying to peer inside the window of the game room.
Many guests have heard the sounds of footsteps on the stairs and have seen the image of a man staggering to reach the hallway at the top. Hester Eby says that it is commonly believed that the ghost is that of William Winter, an attorney who owned the Myrtles Plantation in the late nineteenth century. According to the story surrounding his death, a stranger on horseback who claimed to be in desperate need of an attorney called him to the porch one evening. When Winter stepped outside to see how he might be of service, the man shot him and rode away. Fatally wounded, Winter staggered through the house, painfully climbed the stairs, and died in the arms of his wife.
Throughout the years, many residents and their employees have heard their names called by invisible entities. The haunting phenomena seemed to fade and flow, intensifying and then lessening in its manifestations. Now that the place is also a bed and breakfast hotel, Eby said that the staff knows when the Myrtles is having a bad night by the number of guests who call up at midnight and demand to leave the place at once.