For years, tour guides and visitors have had their hair pulled or watched doors being closed inside Shreveport's Municipal Auditorium, but there was no one there. Some visitors have even spotted apparitions, from a “lady in white” to a man in overalls.
Because Elvis Presley performed here in the mid-1950s for the Louisiana Hayride radio show before fame whisked him away, many believe Elvis hasn't left the building. When Ghost Hunters television series visited the auditorium, paranormal investigators hunted for the ghost of Elvis and other past performers such as Hank Williams, who also got his start on the Louisiana Hayride.
Chris Jay, social media and public relations manager
with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, believes there are ghosts in the Municipal Auditorium, but says they harken back to the 1920s when the building was created as a military site.
“Over the years, the idea that one of the more active spirits is connected to the building's military history has really taken hold among tour guides, who call this spirit Sarge,” Jay explained. “Sarge is thought to be a male presence because of his penchant for interacting with women–stroking their hair, for example.”
Jay snapped a photo during a tour of the auditorium, shooting up from the stage and capturing what appears to be the shadow of a person standing in front of a door with his hand over his heart.
“He is facing a flag that sits onstage, looking down from a backstage door,” Jay said.
“Between Sarge and the spirit of a young girl who appears in a blue dress, those two spirits account for the majority of reports in the building,” he said.
The auditorium is one of many sites throughout Shreveport that is said to harbor the spirits of the dead. For example, Edward Jacobs has been known to revisit historical Spring Street Historical Museum, the oldest building in Shreveport and a former bank of which Jacobs was founder.
Another incident involves one of the city's best-known homes. A young girl thought to have jumped out a third-story window is the focus of the Victorian Logan Mansion hauntings. The mansion hosts annual Haunted Candelight Tours from 6–9 p.m. on Oct. 31. The cost is $10 per person.
Oakland Cemetery contains many stories, including Cora Lee Wilson who routinely pushes the bricks of her gravesite out–from the inside. The dead may not want to leave Shreveport, and it's a phenomenon shared throughout a state some claim is one of the most haunted in America.
Black sheep of the family
William Loyd allegedly was cast out of the famed Lloyd family of England, the ones associated with Lloyds of London. When he moved to America, he distanced himself by changing the spelling of his last name.
Around 1820, Loyd built an impressive home in central Louisiana and grew hundreds of acres of tobacco, corn, indigo, and sugarcane. For a while, things started to look up for him.
Stories insist his eccentricity got him into trouble in England and with his neighbors in Louisiana. Loyd apparently worked both sides of the Civil War, whichever gave him an advantage, and this double standard resulted in his death. He was hanged for treason from an oak tree in front of his plantation.
Loyd haunts his former home, now an elegant bed and breakfast that's listed on the National Historic Register. Guests at Loyd Hall Plantation near Alexandria have felt his presence on the front porch, and nothing grows where the famed oak once stood, according to Beaulah Davis, who has managed the property for decades.
“He's mischievous,” Davis said of the original owner. “If he could spook you, he would.”
Loyd isn't the only spirit who remains, however. A Union soldier who deserted his military post to romance the schoolteacher teaching the plantation children was discovered in the third-floor classroom. During a struggle with his superiors, the Union soldier's gun went off, he was killed, and his bloodstains remain in the center of the floor.
In addition, William Loyd's niece, Inez Loyd, was jilted by her fiancée and is believed to have jumped from the third floor to her death.
Over the years, guests have reported items being moved, pressure on furniture when no one was there, and unusual sounds, Davis said. Davis has heard her own unaccountable noises, felt cold spots throughout the house, and saw images out of the corner of her eyes, but she doesn't fear the apparitions.
“That was their way of letting me know they were here because I was a hard believer,” Davis said. “But I would take ghosts and spirits over a live one any day.”
The last dance
The Bourbon Orleans Hotel's history is as complex as the cocktails offered up at its Bourbon O Bar by award-winning mixologist Cheryl Charming.
The building during the late 18th and early 19th centuries housed the Théâtre d'Orléans, the place where popular Quadroon Balls were hosted. At the balls, mixed-race young women were introduced to wealthy white men, probably rich planters from the area, with the idea to enter into plaçage, which was an extralegal system providing for common-law marriages. This system flourished in New Orleans' society, especially between 1769-1803.
Later, the Sisters of the Holy Family purchased the building and operated a convent and orphanage at the site.
Today, some guests at this boutique hotel witness apparitions within the ballroom, including Giselle, who hangs out by the chandelier waiting for her past lovers, one of whom died in her lifetime, and the other who failed to return to her loving arms. It's also said the ghost of a Confederate soldier floats through hallways.
Chip Coffey, the medium known for A&E Channel's Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal, believes there also are invisible children playing in the hotel. Coffey gave a lecture at the hotel when he was in New Orleans promoting a book, and the flashlights he uses as a psychic experiment kept turning on and off all night.
“I've never seen anything like this before,” Coffey said.
Etienne-Emile Skrabo, an intuitive and director of the tour guide program at Gray Lines Tours of New Orleans, believes a blond girl plays on the staircase and enters hotel rooms to cause mischief. When the sisters operated the orphanage, many children died in 1888 during a yellow fever epidemic.
One ghost story has a nun committing suicide in Room 644, and many tourists request that room in the hopes of witnessing paranormal activity. Actor James Franco, who stayed in the room while he worked on a film in the city, wrote in the Huffington Post that he experienced the water faucet turning on and off of its own accord.
Cities of the dead
Much of New Orleans rests below sea level so it's not a good idea to bury the dead in ground that can become waterlogged. For centuries, residents have buried their loved ones in aboveground tombs, creating what locals call “Cities of the Dead.” These massive cemeteries throughout the city contain famous citizens, unmarked graves of yellow fever victims, unusual burial stories, and fascinating architecture, which is why there are several cemetery tours visitors can take. Recently, the local archdiocese mandated that St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery is only open to the public through an organized tour to aid in its preservation.
Some of the cemetery tours veer toward the paranormal, while others include the city's voodoo history with a stop at voodoo priestess Marie Laveau's grave.
The non-profit organization Save Our Cemeteries hosts daily tours by licensed guides with a focus on the history of St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, the oldest in the city, and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 near Commander's Palace restaurant. The group also occasionally tours St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.
In addition to history and information on those buried within, the tours discuss the city's unique burial customs, such as how city residents visit and clean family tombs on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, and honor those who have passed. Like most traditions in Louisiana, they treat it like a party.
Cheré Coen is a contributor from Lafayette, La., and the author of Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana by The History Press.
September/October 2015 Issue
You'll scare up plenty of fun at these events
Make way to the Vieux (or should we say Boo) Carré to see the annual Krewe of Boo Parade, which steps off at 6:30 p.m. from Elysian Fields and eventually winds up at Mardi Gras World, where a costume party rocks on from 9 p.m. to 3 p.m. Info: www.kreweofboo.com
The Voodoo Music Experience returns to City Park Oct. 30–Nov. 1. The musical lineup features dozens of artists, including Third Eye Blind, The Cult, and the Zac Brown Band. Ozzy Osbourne is set to perform on Halloween. Info: www.worshipthemusic.com
For those who love a good ghost story, Haunted History Tours of New Orleans has a bagful to share. Nightly tours with many themes are waiting for you. Info: www.neworleansghosttour.com
Children don't have to miss out on Halloween fun. Parents, check out Boo at the Zoo at 5 p.m. on Oct. 16–17 and 23–24 at the Audubon Zoo. A safe, fun-filled holiday event suggested for children up to 12. Come trick-or-treating dressed in your best Halloween costume. Info: www.auduboninstitute.org/boo-at-the-zoo
Take the Shreve Town Ghost Walk tour that departs on Saturdays at 8 p.m. from the Caddo Courthouse, 501 Texas St. The 1 3/4-hour walking tour of downtown includes stops at Oakland Cemetery and the Rendall Building, featured on The Ghost Hunters in 2013. No reservations needed, but only cash accepted ($10 for adults, $5 for children 12 and younger). Info: www.shrevetownghostwalk.com
The Krewe of Boo will roll out its annual Halloween parade this year on Saturday, Oct. 24. The city's official parade winds through the French Quarter and ends at Mardi Gras World. Pat Garin/New Orleans CVB photo
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