By Bud Steed
When you are a paranormal investigator and writer of books with a haunted theme, every day is Halloween. You look for the bizarre and strange, the legends and reported hauntings, all of which make for excellent writing material but also make for an interesting vocation; that’s why I love my job.
That’s also why I love Baton Rouge, which is full of these legends. Bear in mind that I am kind of a “history geek” which tends to color my perspective of the hauntings a bit; I like a reason behind the hauntings, a source of the story, if you will. I also like having several different people witnessing the occurrence at different times, which helps establish the validity of the hauntings.
With that in mind, here you have my top five haunted places in Baton Rouge:
- The Shadow Man of Pentagon Barracks: Built between 1819 and 1825, the Pentagon Barracks has a varied history to include an actual military post, university and now apartments for visiting legislators. It is also the home of several ghosts and one very menacing entity – the Shadow Man. Having been sighted on numerous occasions he has, for the most part anyway, kept to himself, seeming to be more interested in watching than engaging – except for one time. That time he actually grabbed a repairman from under the bathroom vanity where he was working and dragged him by the collar of his shirt across the room. Only when the victim’s coworker surprised him did he heave the unfortunate man across the room, hissing at them both in anger before bolting into the shadows. The victim had no doubt that if his coworker hadn’t heard his cries for help that he would have died that very night; he retired from his maintenance position just a few short days later and never returned. When I interviewed him for my book you could still see the uneasiness on his face and hear it in his voice when he talked about his experience. The Shadow Man is still seen from time to time lurking in the shadows near the apartments watching and waiting, perhaps biding his time waiting for his next victim to lower their guard.
- The Old State Capitol Building: This is a building with several ghosts who have been spotted multiple times. The most famous of them is the spirit of Legislator Pierre Couvillion, who is said to have died in his office of a heart attack in 1852 after engaging in a heated debate over gambling; he was only 47 years old at the time. He has been spotted wandering the halls and offices and is credited with random disruptions in the CCTV security monitoring systems within the building. A seemingly harmless individual, he likes to stroll around primarily at night, although glimpses of what is thought to be his specter have been seen in the daylight hours of the early morning.Another spirit is that of a Civil War era doctor who walks about the basement floor and inhabits a room that most likely was his work area. He seems to be a residual type of haunting, as he doesn’t seem to be aware of his surroundings or other people, he just continues on doing the same thing time after time.
- The Heidelberg Hotel: Now currently the Hilton Hotel, this structure was built in 1927 just a short time after the great flood. Many famous people have stayed there including President John F. Kennedy, Will Rogers and Elvis Presley, but one particular ghost liked the establishment so much that he decided to stay. Since the 1940s, the figure of a man strolling the tenth floor smoking a cigar has been seen by many people. He seems to relish his cigar and his privacy, as most times when approached he will simply fade away to reappear a bit farther down the hallway. The strong smell of cigar smoke is experienced quite frequently on the tenth floor as well as several other floors – although no logical source for it can be found.
- The Old Baton Rouge General Hospital: As one can imagine, the fact that this building – now the Guaranty Income Life and Broadcasting Building on Government Street – was once a hospital and contained a morgue, it has seen its fair share of pain, suffering and death, all of which would undoubtedly leave its stain upon the building. One spirit, said to be dressed like a nurse in the old-fashioned white dress and cap, is said to haunt the area in the basement near where the old morgue used to be. One witness that I interviewed told me of her encounter with the “angry nurse” one evening while working late. In the cafeteria area she turned around one night and almost ran into what she called a “nurse with the meanest eyes of any woman I have ever seen.” When she asked who the nurse was and what she wanted, utensils and pans started clanging and banging against each other until she literally screamed at the nurse to leave her alone – at which point it all abruptly stopped and the nurse disappeared in the blink of an eye. That she doesn’t like people in “her” area is a given, and other people have reported seeing her from time to time walking in the hallway. Some people, it would seem, don’t know when to retire.
- The Quarters House at Magnolia Mound Plantation: Built around 1830, the house was part of the Cherie Quarters at the old Riverlake Plantation and was moved to Magnolia Mound to be a part of the historical exhibit at this excellent example of plantation life. Apparently one of the former occupants caught a ride along with the house as he has been seen walking towards and entering the house in the evenings. Described as an average height African American man dressed in what was referred to as mismatched clothing and being barefoot, he is said to suddenly appear in the yard in front of the house and then disappear inside. When those who have seen him check the inside of the house no one is ever found. Soft singing and humming have also been heard coming from the house as well. Another strange phenomenon that has been seen on several occasions is that of a “spook light” or ball of light that moves along an erratic line as if moving without a specific purpose in mind. It pulses and meanders among the outbuildings before moving off towards the back of the property where it disappears. The Magnolia Mound Plantation is simply a beautiful place to visit and is filled with much information of historical significance and, haunted or not, I would highly recommend that if you haven’t visited the plantation, you should make time to check it out.
So there you have it, my top five picks for the most haunted places in Baton Rouge. For those of you who are interested you can find out more about these sites and others in my book, Haunted Baton Rouge. Stories like the grave digger at the St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Sadie’s ghost at the Pentagon Barracks, the Spanish Moon bar and the spirits who call the Baton Rouge National Cemetery home; all these and more are sure to make you look at Baton Rouge in a slightly different, if not eerie, light.
A published writer and accomplished photographer, Bud Steed, author of the Haunted Natchez Trace, the Haunted Mississippi Gulf Coast, Haunted Baton Rouge and a new Kindle eBook series titled America’s Ghosts, devotes his work time to writing, photography, paranormal investigations and historical research into potentially haunted sites. A naturally inquisitive person, his combination of historical research and the collecting of folk stories related to hauntings, have resulted in three of his books being accepted to, and included in, the Library of Congress. You can find out more about him at budsteed.com.