Friday, October 7, 2016

St. Landry Parish Courthouse - Opelousas, LA (A Temporary State Capitol)

118 South Court St.
Opelousas, LA 70570

            As I previously mentioned, with Opelousas surprisingly being the third oldest settlement in Louisiana, it is only fitting that it have an ample amount of historic locations. One must not look any further that its government seat, the St. Landry Parish Courthouse. Up until the present, day, St. Landry parish has had a total of five courthouses that have stood on the current grounds, each unique in design and history.
            On March 31, 1807, Governor William C.C. Claiborne signed the legislation which created nineteen parishes, with Saint Landry being the eighteenth and encompassing most of Southwest Louisiana. Now an established parish, St. Landry was in need of a courthouse and jail so a crude structure was said to have been built something around 1806. With a growing local community, the parish was in need of a larger structure. In 1822, a large brick building was erected to serve as the new courthouse. Later, parish records indicate that the 1820's courthouse was subsequently replaced in 1847 by a more substantial two-story, frame structure flanked by two outbuildings housing the District Clerk and the Recorder’s offices.

            This third courthouse would become the most known, as it sat as the temporary state capitol around 1862. At the rise of the Civil War and the fall of New Orleans, Louisiana's confederate
Drawing of the third courthouse during the Civil War,
which also served as the temporary State Capitol.
government fled westward to the town of Opelousas, where they would set up their makeshift center of command before eventually setting up shop in Shreveport. During this time, the courthouse was seriously neglected and fell into substantial disrepair. As a major refurbishment was being planned, the courthouse was ironically destroyed by a large fire on March 22, 1886, saving repairmen a great deal of hassle and allowed them to start from scratch with a new construction. At this time, a Victorian-style courthouse replaced the ashen remains and served the parish needs until 1939 when it was replaced with the fifth and final grey-stone faced structure. The third floor of the building has served as the local jail for many years. During its tenure, three executions have been carried out at the current court house. According to the Director of Administration, two brothers were hanged and another individual was electrocuted.

The fourth courthouse, photographed in 1938, prior
to being demolished in 1939.
            To substantiate the claims of paranormal activity over the years, we have conducted several interviews of the staff at the St. Landry Courthouse. One of the staff claims she witnessed two men walking up the staircase late one evening after the building had been closed. When she looked for the two men to advise them they were closed, she could find no one. Some individuals have heard the old, broken elevator running while some claim to hear bangs and knocks late at night. The maintenance man for the court house said he was working one evening and felt an unexplainable rush of cold air pass him. He looked around and could find no logical explanation for such a strange occurrence.
            Our team has been very fortunate to investigate the courthouse. It is rare for a paranormal investigation group to be allowed inside a currently-operating government building. For us to be given such access is evident of our impeccable reputation and work ethic. As we arrived, we met with the staff who would take us around the building for a tour. During this time, we would conduct our walkthrough, taking baseline EMF readings as well as determining camera placement. During the walkthrough of the jail area two of our investigators heard a strange sound, similar to a growl, which was actually caught on one of our recorders.
            Once the walkthrough was complete, we began the daunting task of setting up our equipment. We positioned an infra-red camera aiming down the hallway of the jail, one in the room where the executions were carried out, another in the courtroom and the last was placed in the old engine room in front of the broken elevator. While the cameras were being set up, several of the investigators heard unexplainable banging sounds and knocks. These noises were investigated but nothing could be found.
           After the multiple personal experiences and the recording of the strange growl, the group determined that a follow-up investigation was not only feasible, but necessary. We would later return to the old courthouse in the hopes of further backing the claims that the historic building was haunted. As with the first investigation, our members heard the disembodied sounds of footsteps, whispers, growls, grunts and knocks. Upon every incident, further examination could find no origin for these sounds.  Evidence analysis proved to be quite rewarding, as the group was able to capture several audio recordings of these strange sounds, further substantiating what they heard with their own ears. The most interesting audio clip captured was recorded in the main courtroom and sounded just like the sound of a gavel banging on the stand. You can here these audio clips that we obtained by clicking the following links:
            - GROWL
            - FOOTSTEPS
            - WHISTLE
            - GAVEL
            - KNOCKS
            As fruitful as our two investigations of the courthouse were, the cause of these reported hauntings are yet to be determined. Whether it is due to one of the executions that took place here, an employee who refuses to leave their former work place, or something that dates back further in time, the courthouse is proof that a haunting does not discriminate. It can happen anywhere and anytime. Who knows, your own house may be haunted at this very minute! Haven’t you ever wondered where all those missing left socks are going?

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