I was born and raised in Louisiana. This state is well known for it’s colorful culture, divine cuisine, and of course, spooky history. As long as I can remember, pretty much everywhere we lived was either haunted, or several homes throughout neighborhood were. Abandoned schools, old factories, crumbling houses — practically everything was said to harbor one kind of spirit, demon, or other such boogins.
We moved around a lot as my parents looked for work, but the place I call my “Home Town” is St. Francisville, Louisiana. This may sound familiar to those who follow the Haunted House scene, as this is the town where the legendary Myrtles Plantation resides. It’s been featured on Unsolved Mysteries, National Geographic, and various other “Haunt Hunter” shows. The National Geographic Explorer filming crew famously determined that in a photograph they took, there is captured what appears to be an apparition. You can actually see the image of a slave girl. The exterior boards of the mansion are clearly visible through the body of the apparition. Pretty spooky, and worth a google search.
The Myrtles Plantation was built in 1796, and is touted as “one of America’s most haunted homes.” The main plantation house is rumored to be built on top of a Tunica Indian burial ground. Throughout the plantation there resides some 12 ghosts, and is often reported that 10 murders occurred in the house. For a house over 200 years old, I’m sure that part is no surprise.
One of these ghosts is said to be that of William Drew Winter, who was alleged to have been shot by a stranger in 1871. Mortally wounded, he staggered back inside the house and died trying to climb the stairs. He died on the 17th step, and to this day both visitors and tour guides report hearing his dying footsteps struggling up the stairs.
(Here’s a link to see and read more: https://www.myrtlesplantation.
Several of my friends in town would tell me about their ghostly experiences. One that stands out the most to me was from a friend who’s house was built on land where some of the Myrtles Plantation slave quarters once stood. As he went to his room one night to go to sleep, he opened his bedroom door, and as soon as he did, he saw a pair of feet quickly shuffle underneath his bed — as if the ghost were trying to quickly hide. That story still freaks me out.
While there are many stories from different friends I could share second-hand, I’d like to, instead, share with you the one of the scary things that I have personally experienced.
Having graduated high school, and not possessing any clue as to what next to do with my life, I took a job delivering pizzas. My mom worked at a mental hospital; the East Louisiana State Hospital next town over in Jackson, Louisiana. After several months of slinging pie and chauffeuring hot dough to non-tipping small town folk, my mom let me know they were hiring Orderlies at the mental hospital, and suggested I apply. Heck yeah! I was more than happy to do anything other than escort cheesy stix to meth heads, and po-dunks.
I applied for the Orderly position and was promptly hired. I was told to show up for 2 weeks of training. Makes sense; this was a mental hospital. I needed to know how to conduct myself, how to properly treat the residents, what to look out for, and so on… During the training, we were taught how to check blood pressure, how to properly apply restraints, what to do in case of emergencies, how to communicate with residents, – oh – and that East Louisiana State Hospital was haunted.
I thought, “Of course it is. What ISN’T haunted in this wackadoo state?”
What was originally known as the “State Insane Asylum,” was established in 1847. Honestly, the main building is beautiful, and is considered to be a particularly fine example of Greek revival architecture. Imagine an 1800’s take on a white pillared ancient Geek Temple, and you get the idea.
It was set on a pleasant 250-acre tract known as “Flowery Hill,” which a stone’s throw from down town Jackson, separated from the town by a small stream. The location of it’s building was chosen because Jackson is in a hilly well-drained location. Compared to the rest of the state, it is relatively free of disease-bearing mosquitoes, which plagued asylums in New Orleans.
Originally, it housed some 90 or so patients, and employed 12 staff. With the typical foresight of Louisiana politician, the hospital was woefully underfunded, so the already suffering residents went without proper nutrition, beds, clothes, and other necessities. Right off the bat, these already poor, miserable souls were made to suffer even more. Patients who were deemed fit enough were made to work farm land to help feed the hospital. As time went on, a brick factory was built, where the patients worked. Eventually, after selling over 3 million bricks, the State took notice of the facility and gave them funding enough to build on 4 more buildings.
The capacity of the hospital was increased from 100 patients to more than 600. In just one day, the hospital received 130 inmates that were bused in from New Orleans asylums. As time passed, and unclaimed patents would die, they would be buried in a graveyard on the asylum grounds. Rows of nameless crosses denote the graves of past residents on the side of a hill at the Rugged Cross Sanctuary. In it’s 170 year history, this graveyard has grown to hold over 4,000 dead. Until very recently, the burial grounds weren’t even properly maintained, which would make for restless spirits if I had to guess.
Madness, suffering, displacement, brutality, and death… This is the perfect recipe for the build-up of negative energies.
During my time working there, I saw and heard many horrifying things on a daily basis. I saw my first cadaver during a training tour of the morgue. I witnessed patients scream and swat at the nothings attacking them. Some would laugh endlessly at jokes only they heard. Or point and babble at you with a rage I never knew existed in human capacity. Many were gentle, and calm — even though they could move 800lb concrete tables as if they were made of particleboard because, “They didn’t know what heavy means.”
My co workers would often share experiences that chilled my soul. One of the places I was told about was called “The Dungeon.” It was built under the original hospital. The Dungeon was supposedly where the most violent or criminally insane were kept in the past. In addition to the dungeon, the hospital has steam tunnels too. The ghostly plumes of evaporation lent an eerie air to the already uncomfortable aged asylum.
I worked the night shift. During my breaks, I would often walk the grounds and through the buildings. The dungeon was no longer used, and sat empty. There was talk about turning it into a wine cellar, but once a closer look was given to the structure, it was deemed unsafe. Bolstering up the arches underneath the hospital was seen as too expensive. The decision was made to just fill the whole thing in with dirt. Since I hadn’t yet seen the Dungeon, I decided I should take a look before it was too late.
On the night I decided to go, the door to the stairs leading down were blocked by caution tape. It was quiet. Throughout the entire unused portion of this part of the building, the only thing I could hear was my own heartbeat and breathing. I don’t know how long I stood in that dimly-lit white hallway when I finally decided, “Heck with it. I wanna check it out…” I pulled up the plastic ribbon blocking my way just high enough to get passed… and then started down.
The stairs were made of stone, and as I descended, had to hunch down some so I wouldn’t smack my noggin on the ceiling. As I continued down, it began to feel very cold and clammy. The humid cold went straight to my bones and I began to shiver from the temperature change. The corridor was musty and dank. My mind began to reflect on all the people who must have come and gone through this very passage over the decades; either willingly, or in restraints, frothing at the mouth, singing loudly, laughing and jibbering — all of these sounds once echoed throughout this short tunnel.
At the bottom of the stairs, the room opened up into a large brick chamber, lined with arches. The brick looked as if it had been suffering from decades of frequent water damage, and I started to see why they wanted to fill it in. The ceiling had cables running along the tops of them with dim yellow light bulbs dangling down every 6 feet.
It was so very quiet down here. It’s hard to believe what once took place in these walls. I took a few steps forward, and realized the floor was mostly dirt and small gravel. The sound each crunchy step I took was unnerving. I just knew someone would her me and I’d get in trouble. But I padded along, walking heal to toe, as softly as I could.
As I got closer to one of the walls, I saw a wrought iron o-ring fastened at about head height. For a moment I wondered what it was for, and as I looked along the wall, I saw more of them spaced evenly along the face of the wall — then it dawned on me. These were to chain people up. My God… it really was a dungeon. I could still see a bit of rust, and wear on the bricks where the chains once hung. How many people had been forced to stay in this spot and dangle like so much unwanted meat? Imagine a row of people along each wall just hanging there, and being put there by a medical professional of the era. What hopeless times those must have been; for the patients and the doctors.
There was no circulation down in the Dungeon. Just cold dusty air that smelled of decaying wood and brick dust. Bricks made by the hands of the mad; those bricks then used to build this dark arched cavern, who’s only purpose was to house the most dangerous among them. There was no medicine to help them, no counseling to silence their affliction. There was no hope for the dwellers in the dungeon. They were sent to another level of the hell their minds were born in to.
How many had perished in this cold darkness, among the bellowing yelps of the insane? These unfortunate souls were forced to stay there, chained to frigid brick walls, alongside other raving, babbling confused and tormented minds — until they fell silent and were deemed “fit” enough to ascend those stairs again and join the others above.
The more I thought about the suffering endured down there, the more sad I became. It was time for me to leave this antiquated pit. My curiosity had been fulfilled. I turned to walk towards the exit and she stood face to face with me. Eyes bulging, mouth agape, she fell towards me! In the twinkling of an eye – I felt what she felt, and thought what she thought: Nonsense droned incessantly between my ears, and hundreds of voices barked out all manner of vile things. I saw… horrible visions.
Then it was over. I ran! I took strides in a rapid uncoordinated manner I didn’t know I was capable of. This wasn’t me running – this was my body on autopilot. My subconscious “flight” reaction put it’s foot to the floor — and while my mind was still shaking off the delusions and hallucinations – my body fled!
I don’t remember going back through the hall, I don’t think I touched a single stair back to the top. The next thing I can remember is unlocking the ward I was stationed to. I was lucky that my co-worker wasn’t at the front desk. I had a moment to compose myself.
I finished my shift in silence. I went through my duties roboticly, and trying to forget what I had experienced. But in so doing, I was dwelling on it.
In the rosey first lights of the morning as I drove home, she was on my heart and mind. I cried all the way home. I cried for her.
From that day to this, I believe because she shared with me her malady, I have gained a deep empathy for those who suffer all levels of mental illness. My heart breaks for those who struggle with a life filled with what I experienced for those brief moments.
I soon decided to go to college and become a psychologist. It didn’t work out for me, and maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know if I could ever harden my heart enough to properly shield myself from what others go through on that level.
East Louisiana State Hospital is still there. Today it houses some 500 patients, and over 1,000 doctors, cooks, and other staff. The graveyard adds nameless crosses for more residents each year. And the Dungeon… I don’t know if they ever filled it in or not. But if they didn’t I truly hope they’ve blocked off all access to it for good.
Submitted to Weird Darkness and My Haunted Life Too by D.
© 2018, G. Michael Vasey & My Haunted Life Too. All rights reserved.