Built in 1796, the Myrtles Plantation has everything an old Louisiana mansion should: live oak trees draped in Spanish moss; a wrap-around veranda with iron scrollwork; a history that includes at least one murder committed under its roof (and possibly many more); and a dozen ghosts willing to make themselves heard, felt, and even, occasionally, seen.
Thankfully, the house is now a haunted bed and breakfast that's open to the public, so intrepid tourists who don’t mind losing some sleep can spend the night and see who shows up. The house is rumored to have been built on top of an old Tunica Indian burial ground, and there are claims that at least 10 murders have been committed there over the years. These events left the plantation a fertile ground for restless specters and spirits, several of which have appeared in photos taken by visitors.
What Is the Myrtles Plantation?
The home was constructed in 1796 by David Bradford, a Revolutionary War general who was fleeing the authorities for his involvement in the Whiskey Rebellion. At the time, his Louisiana property belonged to a Spanish colony, and was outside of the United States’ jurisdiction. Bradford lived there for a couple of years until he was pardoned by President John Adams for his ties to the rebellion. After the coast was clear, Bradford brought his wife and five children to the plantation to live out the rest of his days in their company.
After Bradford died, the property was passed on to his daughter, Sarah Mathilda, and her husband, Judge Clarke Woodruff. Although the couple had three children, only one survived into adulthood. According to rumors, the deaths of the other two children may have been deliberate. They were said to have been murdered by a slave on the property. In fact, one of the most famous photos of the Myrtles Plantation shows a grim-faced little girl in antebellum clothing lurking behind a window as a couple of unsuspecting tourists get their picture snapped. Could she be one of the girls reportedly poisoned by a slave?
The Myrtles Plantation: The Ghost of Chloe
Another image is said to show the poisoner herself—a slave girl named Chloe—who also met an untimely end. Legend has it, Chloe was the recipient of owner Judge Woodruff’s advances. In return for her acquiescence, Chloe was able to work inside the house. When Woodruff became interested in a different young woman, Chloe feared she would lose her position in the house and be sent out to work in the fields. One rumor claims that Chloe poisoned the judge’s two daughters, hoping to only make them ill enough that she would need to nurse them back to health and be able to keep her current position. But the plan backfired, and the girls died.
Another story says that Chloe was extremely paranoid about Sarah finding out about her husband’s affair, so she constantly eavesdropped on family conversations. One day, Woodruff caught Chloe listening in, and cut her ear off as punishment for her behavior. After the horrific event, Chloe wore a green turban around her head in order to cover up her ear.
Seeking vengeance for her cruel punishment, Chloe decided to take it out on the judge’s wife and children. When Woodruff was away, Chloe slipped poison into the family’s food, and the meal proved to be fatal.
Regardless of her motives, Chloe’s story always ends the same way. After the family’s bodies were discovered, Chloe’s fellow slaves feared that they would be blamed. They hanged Chloe themselves and threw her body in the river. However, according to reports and sightings across the plantation grounds, her spirit continues to haunt the property. A famous 1992 photo, taken by the proprietress of Myrtles Plantation, is said to show Chloe’s apparition standing between the main house and an outbuilding called the General’s Store. According to Myrtles' website, a National Geographic Explorer crew "determined that the photograph definitely contained what appeared to be an apparition" and used the eerie photograph in a documentary.
The Myrtles Plantation: A Blood-Soaked Past
Although the gruesome lore behind this plantation is intriguing, it actually might not be as authentic as everyone makes it out to be. Skeptics point to a lack of proof that the Woodruffs ever owned a slave by the name of Chloe. Additionally, it appears more likely that the Woodruffs’ untimely demise was a result of yellow fever rather than poisoning. The disease was known to have plagued the South during the time the Woodruffs inhabited the plantation. Either way, additional deaths and strange occurrences have proven that the property is a magnet for tragedy.
After the death of his wife and two children, Clarke and his surviving daughter Mary Octavia sold the property and its slaves to Ruffin Gray Stirling in 1834. Stirling and his wife, Mary Catherine Cobb, renovated the entire home, and renamed the plantation “The Myrtles” in honor of the crepe myrtles that could be found growing throughout the property.
The one confirmed murder that took place at Myrtles Plantation was of William Drew Winter, an attorney who lived in the house just after the Civil War. After Ruffin Gray Stirling died in 1854, he left the plantation to his wife. In order to help manage the estate, Mary hired William Drew Winter, who specialized in property law. Winter eventually married one of Mary’s daughters, Sarah, and had six children with her.
However, a brutal murder would cut Winter’s life tragically short. He was shot by a stranger outside, and managed to drag himself inside and up the stairs, dying on the 17th step. After his death, Sarah, her mother, and the Stirling siblings spent the rest of their days on the plantation. To this day, visitors report they can still hear Winter’s shuffling footsteps, on his way to his death.
The Myrtles Plantation Today
As recently as 2017, bad luck continues to plague the Myrtles Plantation. Two recent fires have struck the grounds. The first fire occurred in 2014, and destroyed the gift shop. The second took place in March 2017, claiming the Carriage House Restaurant. Thankfully, no injuries were reported in either blaze.
With so many ghosts rattling around the house, it’s not surprising that supernatural phenomena are more or less commonplace. Reports include a chandelier that shakes and rattles, beds that levitate, and portraits whose expressions change.
Do you believe in things that go bump in the night? While we may not be able to fully separate fact from the urban legends surrounding the estate, one thing is certain: the Myrtles Plantation has made a name for itself as the dark home of more than one mysterious tragedy. Care to stay the night?