Odd Fellows Rest - New Orleans, Louisiana
Since the earliest settlers arrived in the wild woodlands that later became St. Tammany Parish there were among them men and women of faith charged with keeping the righteous right and evangelizing the natives to increase the ranks of the church. One such frontier ministry was instituted by the Benedictine brothers north of what is today Covington. Though the Benedictines now have a strong presence at St. Joseph’s Abbey and Seminary, the long ago monastery was a shadow of that modern edifice. Built precariously on the edge of the wild and left to fend for itself for long stretches of times between supply wagons, it is said that the brothers and laymen of the first Benedictine monastery were killed by Native Americans who attacked the holy place and burned all remnants of it to the ground. Legend has it that the Natives even dug up the dead from the consecrated cemetery that stood not far from the monastery walls.
Since that horrific event, which most likely took place in the early 1700’s, a strange apparition has been spotted in the piney woods outside of Covington: the apparition of the monastery itself is seen to appear and disappear at unexpected times in the shadowy woods.
Witnesses who claim to have seen the monastery say it is like seeing a grey, shadowy “photo negative” of a building – almost, but not completely transparent. Others claim to have discovered the desecrated graveyard where they say a feeling of such malevolence overwhelms them that it is impossible to linger there long. Invariably, they are never able to relocate the graveyard, despite any number of attempts. Still others have heard the sound of ghostly Gregorian chant and claim to have seen the shapes of hooded monks walking through the shadows of the trees.
The mysterious disappearing monastery is said to lie somewhere off the River Road, not far from St. Benedict and the present day St. Joseph’s. Where it was originally is anyone’s guess, but if you travel the old River Road, you just might see this number one most chilling place.
The sleepy little town of Abita Springs grew to prominence because of the luck of its location – in the heart of the ozone belt at the confluence of several healthy artesian wellsprings. People came from miles around to “take the waters” at Abita Springs and in an effort to provide accommodations to them more convenient than hotels in Mandeville or Covington, Abita Springs businessmen responded with style and pizzazz. One of the first hotels to be built in Abita Springs was located in what is now the Artesia Restaurant on Highway 59 just north of town. It is said that the hotel had all the accoutrements expected of such a place in its heyday and that the builder, a man not only of means but of high expectations, made certain that every part of the building and grounds met his demands.
It can be surmised that a man such as this might accumulate enemies as well as friends, as he accumulated money. Whatever the cause, the story goes that one summer day in the early 1930’s, the man left the hotel walking toward town: he was never seen or heard from again. Since that time, a restless spirit has haunted the old hotel and grounds. Workers in the restaurant have encountered the apparition of a man standing in the entranceway or in remote parts of the dining room. Guests arriving early have seen the ghostly spectre peering down at them from the second story of the old building. Visitors who stay over at the quaint Bed & Breakfast cottages at Artesia have reported being awakened in the middle of the night by the voice of a man calling out a name they can’t discern; there have also been reports of heavy footsteps around the cottage area; and at least one motorist has reported striking what he thought was a man standing in the middle of the highway in front of the hotel. When the rattled motorist came to a stop and ran back to help his victim he found himself alone on a darkened highway. (It doesn’t help that Highway 59 is known throughout the parish as the “Highway of Death,” but that’s part of another story…) Police have also been called by concerned residents who have seen a man wandering aimlessly along the road, perhaps concerned he is a criminal and up to no good; patrols have repeatedly failed to turn up anything, or anyone.
Employees and even the owners of Artesia Restaurant confess that they do not like to be the last to lock up at night. There is a presence, they say, that broods in the old building, constantly watching everything that is done.
Artesia Restaurant and Inn is open limited hours since Hurricane Katrina, so call ahead and prepare for a ghostly encounter!
Madisonville is a beautiful little town that nestles on the banks of the Tchefuncte River near where it empties into Lake Pontchartrain. One of the oldest settlements in what is now St. Tammany Parish, the town still sits amid wild woods and encroaching swamplands. Even in a heavy downpour there is threat of flooding from the nearby Lake, not to mention the surge and deluge recently experienced in Hurricane Katrina.
Highway 22 runs through the heart of Madisonville, crossing the Tchefuncte at Main Street and continuing on into the rural areas to the west. Guste Island Road intersects the highway approximately three miles outside of town and is the only access to the waterfront community of Port Louis. The road is a long, winding affair, like something out of a Cajun dream, alternately lined with frowning woodlands and empty, marshy swamps. Gators often crawl up out of the swamps and sit in the road or alongside of it, providing a scare or two, but the most frightening thing about Guste Island road isn’t the twists and turns or the local fauna: it’s the ghostly white spectre of a long-dead woman.
She appears out of nowhere, say most who have seen her; often she is just walking alongside the road, but as a car approaches she will suddenly turn and – hopefully – vanish. On the occasions when she has not vanished, witnesses have been aghast at the sight of her skeletal face and empty eye sockets. Many have been petrified out of their wits: some have backed up practically all the way to Port Louis, others have hit the accelerator and blown right by her, but not before she reaches out with a scratchy, skeleton hand against the car windows. One couple, who shall remain nameless, actually drove off the road and both nearly died: the driver swore that he had seen a deer, but his passenger was all too certain that the figure was that of a woman in white who rushed across the road and into the path of their car. The car was totaled and both ended up in the hospital, but they report that the most frightening thing was having to wait for the tow truck and ambulance in the dead of a dark and cloudy night with the ghost of Guste Island Road on the prowl.
Who she was and how she came to haunt this desolate stretch of swampy road, no one knows, but all agree that she is there and it is no pleasure to encounter her, making Guste Island Road number three on the list of most haunted places in “New Orleans North.”
The old Creole Cemetery faces the busy scenic route Highway 90 in the middle of the little hamlet of Lacombe, Louisiana. It is one of the few cemeteries on the Northshore where Day of the Dead celebrations are held regularly and on the night of November 1st every year the cemetery is alight with candles and festivities in memory of the souls who have passed on.
But for the other 364 days of the year, give or take a couple, the cemetery sits in silence and darkness. Few dare to enter it who do not have family already buried there, and no one, it seems will venture there after dark except on that one holy All Saints’ Day.
There are very old graves in the little cemetery. Many date from the earliest days of settlement in Lacombe and the surrounding areas. Most of the dead are Creoles who came across the Lake from New Orleans to found a new community in the piney woods of the Northshore. Once settled they mixed and ultimately intermarried with the Native Americans already living here, and as most were raised in the prevailing Catholic faith, most ended up buried in the little cemetery.
But many people say there is something else in the cemetery. Some don’t feel fearful of it, but most, especially those with no connection at all to the place, say there is an evil presence lurking among the old Creole tombs. One night of lights and prayers, they say, isn’t nearly enough to keep it still all year.
Late night drivers or those unlucky enough to be walking past the cemetery at night have reported seeing shadowy forms moving among the graves, hunched over, like someone looking at each tombstone for a familiar name. One driver reported that he witnessed a ghostly visitant literally rise from the ground of the cemetery and walk across the road, narrowly missing the moving car. Not far along is the Rumours bar and its not surprising that they get their share of spooked motorists in there on any given night.
But perhaps the weirdest thing about the Old Creole Cemetery is the traveling tombstone.
The story goes that late one night a motorist slowed and swerved to avoid something laying in the middle of the highway. Pulling over to the side, the motorist got out of his car to inspect the object and was appalled to see that it was a tombstone, laying flat in the middle of the road. Seeing no one in sight to offer any assistance, the motorist moved the stone himself and stopped at the next Sheriff’s annex to report what had happened. A sheriff deputy dispatched to the location was unable to locate the stone, however, another deputy on patrol eight miles in the opposite direction came upon the errant tombstone, once again in the middle of the highway. This deputy picked the stone up and, placing it gingerly in his trunk, went into the station to make a report. The stone was removed at the station and placed against a side wall. To his dismay, when the deputy returned, he found the tombstone missing yet again. Assuming a prank or some petty theft, the sheriff filed his report and went off shift for the night.
Two days later another deputy on patrol found the stone laying in the road across the street from the cemetery and called in a report. This time the deputy did not leave his vehicle, but, with lights flashing and headlights fixed on the stone, he proceeded to start his report about the finding.
When he looked up from his report some minutes later he was alarmed to see that the tombstone had moved and was laying at the gates of the Old Creole Cemetery!
Boldly, the deputy got out of the car and looked around. It was nearly 3 a.m. and there was no one around, nor had any vehicle driven by in the time since he had stopped. There was no plausible explanation for the movement of the stone and, not inclined to interfere with what he deemed “higher powers,” the deputy left the stone where it lay. Yet another deputy, however, on an early morning patrol, saw the tombstone at the cemetery gate and stopped to place it in his trunk. When he reached the station he was surprised to hear a chorus of “Not THAT thing!” from his cohorts. On hearing their wild stories about the moving tombstone, the deputy figured he’d put an end to it and locked the stone in a nearby maintenance shed while he attempted to track down family members from the name on the stone.
A call to the cemetery started the wheels in motion and a the deputy was told that a keeper would meet him at the gates within a half hour. The deputy decided to leave the stone in place and go out to meet the keeper, but before he even reached the cemetery he received a radio call that the keeper was on a pay phone near the cemetery reporting a TOMBSTONE laying out at the cemetery gate!
Shocked and confused, the deputy asked a fellow officer to check on the status of the stone locked away in the maintenance shed. He was shaken to hear that there was no tombstone to be found in the shed. Somehow, it had moved of its own volition, and had returned to the cemetery gates.
There was no living family to be found who could claim the stone as their own, but the with the help of the keeper the proper location of the stone was determined: it had somehow been moved, or had moved, from a spot under a shady oak tree at the rear of the cemetery. A sheltered spot, it was only when the keeper said aloud, “That the old Indian oak, you know the one where they found those Indian skulls buried inside it?”
Soon it became clear: the name on the tomb was that of a prominent Catholic Creole who had, in his lifetime, hated and mistreated Native Americans. It never was clear whether the spirits of dead Indians were responsible for evicting the old Creole, but it was obvious, in a weird way, that the Creole was trying to get his stone back in.
The traveling tombstone was finally completely buried in a separate plot not far from the remains of the old Creole man and the haunted tree. So far, it hasn’t resurfaced … well, not yet anyway.