Are haunted houses for real? Do ghosts roam the earth and, if they do, what's the point? Why do some people experience them while others do not? These and other questions are often posed by Oak Alley visitors who seem open to the reality of a spirit world.
Old buildings appear to be particularly attractive to ghosts. These last are often alleged to be souls of former residents whose earthly mission was tragically cut short, leaving a frustrated spirit grasping at bizarre means to capture the attention and support of the living in order to resolve personal unfinished business.
Of course, the older the building the longer the list of resident souls and the greater the possibility of drama. No antebellum plantation home is without at least one ghost, running the gamut from wispy shadows to an assortment of aggressive, howling poltergeists. Oak Alley is no exception.
Generally speaking, Oak Alley is recognized more for the beauty of her setting than for mysterious disturbances, but tour guides, visitors and staff members alike have shared interesting experiences over the years. The following include some of the more obvious:
Upon closing the house one evening following a private function, Denise Becnel, assistant house manger, her daughter, Kaysha and tour guides Connie Donadieu and Billie Jo Bourgeois, were surprised to notice that the lamp in what is referred to as the lavender room was still on. The four ladies each remembered clearly that all but security system illumination had been turned off prior to their leaving the house and heading toward the parking lot. As they stood looking up in bewilderment at the light shining from the lavender room windows, they saw the shadowy figure of a lady closely resembling photos they had often seen of Mrs. Stewart, last resident owner of Oak Alley, gazing down at them from her pleasant bedroom lookout. Denise had no more asked, "What's that?", when the upstairs gallery lamps blinked once. That was enough! All four took off toward their cars and lost no time in exiting the plantation grounds. Not until they were passing by the alley on River Road did they look at the house and saw to their amazement that all windows were dark and everything was as it should be.
Mitchell Borne, maintenance assistant, experienced an unseen, but definite presence and a touch on his arm when he was working alone at the mansion.
Juliette Temple, tour guide, saw a figure seated on one of the beds in the lavender room and, on another occasion, had an encounter in the kitchen area with a ghostly man in gray wearing boots.
Helen Dumas and Theresa Harrison, tour guides and family retainers for many years, claimed they often felt and heard "things," not the least of which was the sight of billowing dust and the clear sound of a horse drawn carriage driving up one of the plantation gravel roads, but nothing ever materialized.
Louise Borne, office worker, claimed to have seen empty chairs rocking in unison, things moved from table and desk tops, and both she and Peggy Rodrigue, tour guide and restaurant assistant, attest to the phenomena of the clip-clop of an invisible horse drawn carriage, and the sound of crying from somewhere in the mansion.
Then there was the time that a candlestick flew across the room during a tour conducted by guide, "Petesy" Dugas. This baffling occurrence was witnessed by some 35 Gray Line bus passengers who were visiting Oak Alley.
These and other eerie events have been recorded over the years. Real or imagined? Who can be sure? Nevertheless, those adventurous mortals interested in taking a closer look beyond the shadows are invited to visit Oak Alley just in case some daring and mischievous spirit might reveal itself, to the enlightenment of us all.
Photos by S. Shackelford