Monday, August 22, 2016

Old SSA Priory/Nunnery - Covington, LA (The Doorway to Hell)

Stafford Road
Covington, LA
30.529746,-90.063429

         Another one of those urban legend locations, the old St. Scholastica Academy Priory, also known to locals as the SSA Nunnery has long been a hot topic amongst haunted enthusiast wanting an adventurist investigation as well as drunk teens looking for a place to break the law. Legends tell of a large group of nuns dying here in a fire years ago and trespassing teens that went missing, never to be found again, however none of these claims can be substantiated. Adjacent to the building is a cemetery, said to be the resting place of several nuns. Although there were a few graves from the early 1900’s, most were from the sixties through the early eighties. Some claim that the building was built in the early 1900’s but this is impossible, as the building and its fixtures suggests a construction date of approximately the fifties or sixties at the earliest. There could have very well been an older building that existed prior to the current one but we were unable to find the history of it.
          The land and building is in complete shambles and I can only presume that it is frequently patrolled by local law enforcement, as to avoid trespassing so I do not recommend even attempting to visit this place. However, as you will continue to learn as you read on; do as I say, not as I do!

           Along with a few investigators, I paid the old nunnery a visit in early 2006, shortly after Hurricane Katrina completely ripped this area apart. Many homes were still empty and those that were present were in the process of rebuilding. There was an old home right next to the priory that was being remodeled. We spoke with the homeowners, and they had no problem with us investigating the building next door to them. They were very hospitable and even grilled steaks for us that evening and made some sort of alcoholic concoction. It had strange things floating in it but it was still good! Any fellow well-mannered southerner will agree that when offered food or drink, you really don't question the ingredients. You just smile and consume! Fortunately it was neither a narcotic nor anesthetic because none of us passed out and woke up with our kidneys missing!
           Due to the enormous size of the building, we quickly realized that running a full DVR system would be useless, so we decided to go "old school", using only handhelds, digital cameras, voice recorders, and EMF meters. The building greets you with an ominous entrance, holding a massive
Creepy altar at entrance. I believe these days, the structure has
been completely torn apart by vandals.
altar. The building then branched off into long and narrow wings, containing dormitory-style rooms. The place literally looked like something out of a movie, definitely having a "spook factor" to it. Many urban legend websites lists that at the priory there is a door said to be the "doorway to hell", as once you enter the room, you never get out! Although this made for great reading and story telling, I can tell you there is of course no truth to this. The door in question was just like the dozens of others except some teen had spray-painted the words "Doorway to Hell". I often find it amusing how something so little can often be blown way out of proportion but that is often the basis for most of all urban legends.
           We broke into two small groups to conduct the investigation. About fifteen minutes into it, one of the investigators stepped on a piece of broken beer bottle, going through his shoe and sticking him in his foot. He sat down near the altar to assess the damage. In doing so, he placed his EMF meter on the ground. Humorously, I began filming his foot, not realizing that the EMF meter next to him began going off. Could this of been a concerned spirit, checking on the investigator’s injuries?
           Around the same time frame, the other investigators were inspecting the other side of the
One of several hallways that seemed to go on forever.
building, conducting EMF sweeps and EVP work. Other than the strange EMF spikes correlating with the injury and constant instances of feeling like you were being watched, no other firsthand encounters were experienced that night.
           Evidence review proved to be interesting as we captured an interesting electronic voice phenomenon. As two investigators are talking about their handheld camcorders, we heard a third voice clearly say, “lights, camera, action!” It is well known that some spirits have a sense of humor. Could this have been an example of one! I’ve often told people that ghosts are just like people; you have nice people and you have pieces of crap! Nothing really changes when you die!
           As I mentioned, the old nunnery is quite a creepy location. One who visits can understand where the years of haunted tales come from. I'm sure the area has been rebuilt a great deal since I visited soon after Katrina. About a year ago, I found a site that had more modern pics of the priory and it was even in more disrepair than before, as vandals had done even more damage.  After even more years of neglect, damage and police presence, I recommend not trying to visit this area for various reasons; arrest being number one!

21 comments:

  1. I have 2 aunts that were nuns, buried there. Are there any graveyard pictures available? Can the graveyard be visited?

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    1. my Aunt was interested in who your deceased aunts were, she is sure she would either know them, or heard about them

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    2. Sister Dorothy, Sister Mary Grace, and Sister Inocensia. Thank you for your comments also.

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  2. It's been years since I've been there so I am unsure as to whether or not the grounds are open to the public.

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  3. Thank you for your help and the article.

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  4. Just visited with a friend an hour ago. Suuuppperrr scary

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    1. Yep, definitely has a spook factor to it. Be careful visiting there!

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  5. My Aunt was a nun there, untill the dwindling group of nuns decided to disban and either go into retirement or move to another priory. The facility was filled with asbestos, and they were forced to do abatement before putting it up for sale. a lot of the deplorable condition of the inside was due to the removal without refinishing. That was many many years ago. nothing was done after the sale, which resulted in continued decay. As for the rumor of the deaths of nuns there....... a total urban legend...... the only deaths resulting in the need for the cemetary on site, were the result of old age. The priory was swiftly becoming a nursing home for the sisters who were retired, and succumbing to their age. This article of the "Doorway to Hell" is very misinformed though it did bring back memories of trips there several times a year.

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    1. Two of my aunts died of lung cancer, said to be from the asbestos.

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  6. there was a stately white house on the property that was a retreat house.... and the entrance to the property went through a planned forest of pine trees that were planted on a grid.... as you drove through, the trees were in perfect alignment... it's sad that a blight of insects attacked it then hurricanes finished destroying it, only a few of the pines remain

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  7. My family used to attend retreats there. It was beautiful and serene. With tall pines and lots of flowering trees and shrubs, the priory certainly felt like holy ground. Two of my older sisters were married in the chapel, a gorgeous church with rose colored stained glass. The chapel and Corpus were very much mid-century modern, the altar was simple but beautiful. They have pictures, of course. My mother was very close to the nuns there, she cared for many of them in their old age. There were only a few left at the time of her death, she died way too young. After her funeral, the nuns approached my father to ask if she could be buried at the priory, they said she was like family to them but that they had not known how to approach him during her sickness and subsequent death. My father had her casket exhumed and moved out there. At the time, he bought three plots, one so he could be buried beside her, and the third plot for my handicapped brother. Those two additional plots were never used as the priory was soon closed, the remaining nuns were elderly with no new postulates coming in. I believe those nuns were moved to Saint Scholastica Priory in Massachusetts, but that's just a guess, it is another (vibrant) Catholic Benedictine order by the same name.

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    1. Wow, that is amazing. Thank you for sharing such a touching story!

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  8. They have a subdivision that will back up to the backside of the old nunnery. Alexander Ridge by DSLD.

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  9. Some facts from my aunt who is a nun and was at the Prior for many years up to its closing.
    She taught for many years at Mater Dolorosa School in New Orleans until it closed. Which was also her grammar school and church as a child.
    She then was at the Priory full-time helping care for the retired and elderly nuns.
    Around 1987 13 of the sisters relocated to St Walburg Monastery in ironically Covington KY! She believes a few went to the Priory in MA. I
    She is still at St Walburg and has many fond memories of the Priory. She claims the fire that killed a group of nuns is just a well told story. She also confirmed the older house on the property. She remembers it being the care takers home before it became a retreat house.
    As a child in the 60-70s we visited there on a number of vacations to the area.
    Hope this info helps those interested.

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    1. Great clarification! Thanks for the comments!

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  10. me and my friend went there 1 month ago and we drove her moms car we were there for about an hour and we heard screaming from a room and we went in that room and there was no one in there. when we went to leave and the car was gone so we had to file a police report once her dad picked us up. a couple days later the cops found the car near the nunnery still on fire. i’m going back tonight and placing cameras near are car and around the nunnery.

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  11. My Father was caretaker of St Scholastica Priory from
    1964-about 1987. We lived in the house in front near the highway. The property that now has a subdivision on it “terra Marie” once held beef cattle and was used to grow hay to feed the cattle. The property is over 200 acres and has graveyard and guest house and s pool. The guest house has been sold, pool filled in and hay field was sold. I spent most of my childhood on that property and it was the best place to grow up. We were taught Cathechism, learned how to Tat, worked in the vegetable garden side by side with the Nuns. We climbed the big oak
    Trees where the Assisted Living place is near the highway. We played hide and seek in the big hay barns, picked mulberries till our hands and face were stained purple. We Enjoyed lunch with the Nuns, helped with the flower beds and so much more. If we needed help with homework we asked one of the Nuns. There were our family and we were devastated when it was decided that the Priory would disband. Such a beautiful place has now been vandalized and trespassers sneak around the place looking for “ghosts” . I can tell you this there is nothing haunted about this holy place, only good kind Nuns who loved their neighbors. The altar you speak of when you walk in was once a gorgeous chapel where the Nuns worshipped every day. Hard to believe vandals would want to destroy such beauty. I’ve heard the Priory has been sold so I’m hoping someone does something really special with this beautiful piece of property. As for me I have my precious memories!

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    1. Thanks for sharing. Yes, it’s a shame the disrepair it has fallen into due to vandals and time.

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  12. I would love to visit this place as to I can see sprits without any equipment what so ever

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