Mourning widowers, chopped up bodies and a Nazi horse—St. Charles Parish has them all, and some people claim they continue to haunt the living.
With a settlement that began as early as 1682, St. Charles Parish has been home to no shortage of tragic events that inspire tales of hauntings. A few of the physical pieces of that history are found today, connecting St. Charles resident to the characters that form a rich, sometimes eerie, heritage.
Perhaps most famous is the Destrehan Plantation. It is here that some allege the ghost of Stephen Henderson continues to walk the halls. The Herald-Guide previously found that the stories link Henderson to Jean Lafitte. Some claim that the infamous pirate had buried treasure on the site. The more tragic story, however, is that Henderson was married to plantation descendent Elenore Destrehan for only a year before her death. Stricken with grief, Henderson joined her in a cemetery on the property only two years later.
For many years, employees, their families and visitors have reported seeing ghosts on the property. Henderson’s ghost is the most sighted.
One of those who reported seeing Henderson was Annette Roper, whose parents were employed by the plantation in 1984. Roper said that she was reading in her bed when she saw a transparent form that appeared to be sitting in a chair. When Roper tried to touch the figure, she says her hand went through the misty shape.
Roper said she saw the figure two more times. One day she saw it in a second-floor window, and the next time she observed it walking across the driveway.
During the Destrehan Plantation Spring Festival in June of 2006, Australian mystic Victoria Maison said she saw a ghost on the stairway in the back of the plantation. This alleged ghost was also captured on film. The photo was at the on-site gift store until the owner decided to take it back.But not everyone appreciates the spooky publicity—most notably, the plantation’s present-day caretakers.
“Destrehan plantation has established itself as an education,” said Destrhan Plantation’s Executive Director, Nancy Robert, “therefore, we don’t include ghosts or hauntings as part of the tour.”
Down the road, Ormond Plantation has what is arguably the largest number of spooky stories associated with it. It’s original owner, Pierre d’Trepagnier, who built the home in 1790, answered the summons of a man claiming to be a Spanish official in 1798. After leaving with the man, d’Trepagnier was never seen or heard from again.
It was another Trepagnier namesake, Jean Francois, that would become St. Charles Parish’s most gruesome tale. Living in a house in present-day Laplace, the later Trepagnier refused to leave during the famous slave revolts of 1811. As a result, he was murdered and, according to accounts, chopped into small pieces.
“If any place deserves to be haunted, it was the old Trepagnier, or Myrtleland house,” wrote historian Leonard Gray in 1999.
Trepagnier’s home was razed in 1957.
The strangest tale of haunting comes from St. Rose where the apparition comes not in the form of a human, but as a horse.LaBranch Dependency, like many historic homes, has changed hands throughout the years. One such owner was C. Walter Mattingly, a local doctor and a horse enthusiast. Mattingly bought a horse in the late 1940’s from Germany named Nordlicht, or North Light.
The history here becomes something of conjecture—as the Third Reich fell, liberating powers allegedly began claiming possessions from the fallen German power. At that time, it was well known that Hitler had a horse named, yes, Nordlicht. This was a prized horse that won various European derbies. Nordlicht may or may not have been Hitler’s horse. But the horse was valued in such a way by Mattingly as to be used as a stud.
The site HauntedPlaces.org, has collected claims from people who have witnessed hauntings from the dead Nazi racer, as well as apparitions from Ormond and Destrehan.
The LaBranch Dependency is now closed to public tours.
Regardless of whether you believe in ghosts or not, some of these places are available for residents to enjoy and hear about St. Charles’ history. The Ormond Plantation, at 13786 River Road in Destrahan, now operates as a bed and breakfast and restaurant, though the owners are not likely to talk about suspected hauntings. The Destrehan Plantation, on 13034 River Road, now offers tours that discuss the history—though not spooky—of the area. Admission to Destrehan Plantation tours cost $18 for adults, $7 for children older than seven years old, and is free for children under seven.