When I had the opportunity to visit a beautiful River Road antebellum mansion, I had no idea I was going to be touring a haunted Louisiana plantation house and its grounds.
The historic Houmas House showcases what life was like on a sugarcane plantation in the 1800s and provides insight on the families who once lived there.
Located near New Orleans, the 250-year-old house is just one of the estates located in Louisiana’s River Parishes that is open to the public.
Once a sprawling plantation of over 300,000 acres, Houmas House is a magnificent historical landmark that has survived wars, floods, abandonment — and the test of time.
The charm of the house, the land and the stately old oak trees is eternal and so are the memories you will make there.
Step Back In Time At A Haunted Louisiana Plantation
As I soon discovered during my visit, residents of the New Orleans area and all of South Louisiana have a deep sense of heritage that goes back many hundreds of years.
The result is a rich tapestry of history that is woven between families, their houses, and the land they owned.
Along with deep ties to the land comes stories passed down from generation to generation. And among those stories are those that include the supernatural.
Here are two of the ghostly tales that reveal why the Houmas House is definitely a haunted Louisiana plantation.
Plantation Haunted By Nature…And The Unnatural
Little Girl Spotted By Houmas House Work Crew
The glamour and opulence of yesteryear is part of the enchantment of the Houmas House and Gardens, but I learned during a tour of the historic plantation that it was not always so.
In fact the plantation — once called “the crown jewel of Louisiana’s River Road” had lost its luster and fallen into disrepair in the 1990s.
So much so, that when a new owner bought the estate at an auction in 2003, he did an extreme makeover. The Houmas House was stripped, scraped, scrubbed and renovated from top to bottom.
They say the process was a bit disruptive, as no part of the property was left untouched.
Some say that all of that activity is what led one of the workers to see a young girl descending the beautiful freestanding stairway in the house. The crewman’s natural reaction was to express concern that a little girl was in a construction zone because it was not safe for children.
Two other crew members also reported seeing the little girl in the blue dress when they were working late, but no one knew who she was. Everyone who saw the girl said she had dark eyes and brunette hair, but disappeared before they could question her about her name.
In the hustle and bustle of bringing the house back to life and opening it up to the public, the mystery of the little girl was forgotten for the time being.
But when the renovated house opened to the public, sightings of the little girl began again. Both guides and guests have seen her and say she seems curious about all the activity.
After doing research into the history of the house, the Houmas House staff thinks they may know the girl’s identity — though it remains somewhat of a mystery.
La Petite Fille (The Little Girl) At The Haunted Louisiana Plantation
According to records, the young daughter of Col. John Preston was the belle of Houmas House in the mid 1800s. She played games of tag in the gardens and hide-and-seek in the great house until she fell gravely ill in 1848.
The family left for Columbia, South Carolina, where the young girl then died. They never returned to Houmas House, but those back in Louisiana who knew of the child’s love for the plantation mourned the loss.
Around 1900, another daughter of Houmas House died, this time on the plantation. Col. William Porcher Miles and his wife, Harriet, lost their daughter at the age of 7 to illness. She was laid to rest in the family cemetery, which was located down by the river.
Unfortunately, when the levee was built after a major flood in 1927, several of the gravesites were disturbed and the cemetery pretty much disappeared. Today the graveyard would be located under the levee and out onto the batture.
The little girl in the blue dress does appear to be the figment of someone’s overactive imagination because her presence has been witnessed by many people at Houmas House.
If you’re interested in visiting this haunted Louisiana plantation, read on, because the Houmas House has another ghostly story tied to the construction of the levee.
The Legend Of ‘The Gentlemen’
Another supernatural story told at the Houmas House plantation is close to my heart since it has to do with the impressive old live oak trees on the property.
In its early years, Houmas House plantation had an oak alley leading from the river’s edge to the house. These “allees” were (and still are) common in Louisiana because the trees help funnel the cooler air from the river straight to the residence.
The estate also had a formal English garden with a central walkway, as well as carriage pathways meandering off through the older oaks.
As the oaks grew, the intertwined canopy created a welcoming scene to visitors from the River Road who enjoyed their cooling shade.
John Burnside, who owned the Houmas House in the late 1800s, lovingly called these giant sentinels “The Gentlemen,” a reference that stuck with the trees through succeeding generations.
That is, until the Great Flood of 1927. During that historic event, the area around Houmas House was inundated with water for weeks.
Thankfully, the house itself sits on high ground so it was spared. But it was completely surrounded by a sea of destruction all along the River Road.
Louisiana Plantation Haunted Down To Its Roots
On the heels of the great flood came the Great Depression, which spawned the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The construction of new and higher levees was among the projects that helped create work and wages for people who no longer had the means to support themselves.
At this point in time, only a caretaker and his wife lived on the Houmas House property because the plantation was out of the sugarcane business. (The couple lived in what is now used as the plantation’s Bridal Cottage).
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Despite the national economic depression and decline in plantation life, “The Gentlemen” stood as a reminder of a more opulent time. The 24 stately trees leading from the river to the house continued to stand guard and provide cooling breezes.
But as the levee construction crews continued their work, tree after tree crashed to the ground beneath the saw blades of the workers. In the name of progress, the “Gentlemen” were downed, the levee was raised, and the road was widened and paved.
Unfortunately 16 of the workers devised a scheme to profit from the large trees by floating the logs downriver to New Orleans. Not only did these men fail to make it to the city and collect any money, something happened to all of them and none of their bodies were ever recovered.
Less than a week after the work crew felled its last victim at Houmas House, the caretaker and his wife came onto the porch and couldn’t believe their eyes.
Literally overnight, the eight remaining “Gentlemen,” that had maintained their stately symmetry through hurricanes, droughts and floods for more than 100 years, had reshaped themselves into grotesque sculptures of grief and agony.
According to the couple, their tops were bowed and their limbs “drooped like mourners at a funeral.”
The engineers assigned to the project cited a change in the water table, damage from heavy equipment and other construction factors for the overnight transformation.
But the caretakers, as well as many local residents and members of the Houmas Tribe (the original owners of the property) insist that the remaining “Gentlemen” became disfigured when they were occupied by wandering spirits of the lost workmen who desecrated their fallen brothers.
The old timers in this Louisiana Parish insist that they are still inhabited by the spirits.
More About The Houmas House Plantation
If you visit the Houmas House, you will see that it has been restored to its “crown Jewel” status. The house is stately and majestic inside and out, with period antiques, artwork and artifacts helping tell the story of plantation life.
The historic plantation now includes 38 acres of one of the South’s most beautiful gardens, as well as three restaurants and a luxury Inn.
The tour of the house by period-dressed guides highlights the architectural evolution of the mansion and details how both the owners and the mighty Mississippi River transformed the manor house to what it is today.
(And now that you know it is a haunted Louisiana plantation house, you can ask about the resident ghost and hear more details about the legend of “The Gentlemen”).
During your visit to the Houmas House you can also visit the adjacent Great River Road Museum that features displays about life on the Mississippi. A bridge on the property leads to the Mississippi River and provides sweeping views of the mighty river.
As you can imagine, the Houmas House is a popular site for filming movies, television shows and commercials, starting with Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte with Betty Davis in 1964.
Houmas House is located in Darrow, LA at 0136 Highway 942, about 50 miles from New Orleans.
With its expansive gardens, stately mansion, restaurants and cottage, the Houmas House also makes a wonderful wedding venue and is available for corporate events.
The Houmas House Plantation is located about 20 miles from Oak Alley Plantation, which is famous for its photographic appeal.
If you enjoy Southern Plantation and Garden tours as much as I do, you may want to read The Splendor of Middleton Place in South Carolina.