Sunday, September 4, 2016

Fort Derussy Cemetery - Marksville, LA (Spiders, Witches and Hell Hounds, Oh My!)

31.17711,-92.062072

            Long before the days of investigating grand plantations and historical buildings, this small cemetery is pretty much what started it all for me; and what a way to start! The Fort Derussy Cemetery, established in 1862, is located on the outskirts of the previously mentioned battlefield. You cannot access it via the route you would take to get to the battlefield, as woods divide the two. About a mile before you reach the location, you come to a fork in the road. Veering right will take you to the battlefield and left, to the cemetery. In my previous book, I go into great detail as to what got me started investigating and how this place became so special to me. I will try to sum up those encounters as closely as possible without repeating myself verbatim.
            In the mid 1990's I had heard of the cemetery through friends. As a teenager, it was known as a creepy hangout where kids would go to play with Ouija boards, perform pseudo-séances, get drunk, etc. The legend was that there was a witch that was buried on the grounds. Due to this, she was buried on the outskirts of the cemetery, as the land was considered unconsecrated.
            A couple of years later, I would meet an individual who still remains one of my best friends. He was from the Marksville area and knew of the cemetery in great detail. To this day, I am grateful that he introduced me to this place, while simultaneously cursing him, as he is the catalyst for me becoming so hooked on these crazy adventures!
 
            The most popular of the urban legends was when visitors arrived to the cemetery; they would park their vehicle in the roundabout, shut their engines off and wait for a sign from the supposed witch. The initial tale my friend would tell was quite interesting. His friend, along with two girls, made the drive to the cemetery and did actions I just mentioned. After sitting there for a while, they began hearing what sounded like scratching alongside his truck. Just then, the guy's girlfriend began screaming, saying that it felt like someone was choking her. The once brave guy then decided to leave so he attempted to start up his truck to no avail. The damn thing wouldn't start! Just then, the other girl turned around and claims to have seen a small solid black creature at the rear of the truck. She began to scream as the truck finally started and the three left, vowing never to return to this place again!
            When I first heard the story, all I could think of was “what a crock of crap!” It all sounded way too theatrical. My friend swore that these three were telling the truth, as they all told the same exact story on separate occasions. The cat was saved in this case, as curiosity killed the Cajun! On one dark summer night in the late 1990's, after enough “liquid courage” had been consumed, I demanded that my friend take me to this cemetery. After all, how creepy could it be?
            As we drove down the small highway 1192 in Marksville, my friend would constantly giggle. “What are you laughing at?”, I questioned. He replied, “Oh, you'll see. You sure you still want to
The ominous tunnel of trees headed towards the cemetery.
Imagine driving this at night!
go?” Of course I still wanted to go! We then approached a small gravel road with a sign marking the cemetery. We pulled in and began traveling down an extremely narrow gravel road. The trees were extremely overgrown, so as we drove, the branches would slap alongside the truck and radio antenna. All I can remember was the road was so dark and narrow and seemed to go on forever. In actuality, the curvy road may only be a few hundred yards but the illusion is amazing, especially when all you can hear are the branches pelting the truck along with the crunching of the gravels under the tires.

            As we approached the cemetery, all I could keep thinking about was that small black creature climbing in the back of that truck. I made quick glances to the rear of the truck every few seconds, just to make sure the coast, or ghost, was clear! As we rounded one last curve, the trees opened up to the cemetery. We followed the roundabout and parked in the center. Suddenly, like the buzz I had from the beer, my bravery and courage suddenly vanished. I was as sober as a priest on Sunday and sweating like a pregnant nun in confession! Something told me to get the hell out of Dodge and forget the whole idea. Yes, in the days prior to becoming a paranormal investigator, I chickened out and demanded that my friend forget the whole idea and leave the cemetery. So much for that expedition!
            After this sad debauchery of an investigation attempt, I would put the event behind me as a few years would pass. Once I gained more courage and began visiting more places, I knew I had to conquer my fears and revisit the cemetery. I continued to research the grounds that the cemetery sat on. In a conversation with a true “old school” investigator, I questioned him on the validity of this creature that was seen by my friends. According to the individual, these creatures are actually very real and often referred to as devil dogs, imps and hell hounds. These mysterious creatures are said to haunt dark areas of cemeteries that contain lost buried souls. They wander the grounds at night and are said to focus their attacks on pregnant women. Going back to the initial experience, we located the guy that had encountered this creature and asked him, “Was either of the two girls with you that night pregnant?” In a perplexed look, the guy said, “Yea, my girlfriend, the one who got choked was. Why?” I was shocked to hear this, as this all seemed a little too eerily coincidental.
            Future research would learn of the various rumors of what was known as the witch buried here. Some say the grave is to the outside left of the fence while others say it is a very old grave just
Close-up of the cemetery
inside the gate, surrounded by a small wrought iron fence. At one point, this grave was also on the outside of the current gate which wasn't added until 2000. Another theory is that the unmarked grave is home to Valaree Redfield, who was a Marksville native yet died in Shreveport. She was said to have practiced the Black Arts and for the time period, could have very well been looked upon as a witch.

            After a few years of research and other investigations, I knew now was the time to face my fears and make the much needed return visit to Fort Derussy Cemetery. I would bring my friend who introduced me to the cemetery along with another friend. We made our approach to the creepy gravel road which looked exactly as it did on my initial visit. I knew there was no turning back this time as we pulled up. In the days of just starting out as an investigator, you quickly learn elementary rules such as bringing a flashlight for each individual. Such was not the case, as we all exited the vehicle with one flashlight. Yes, one flashlight, three scared guys and an unknown cemetery said to house something called a “hell hound”; what could possibly go wrong!?
            We exited the truck and all hovered around the one flashlight, looking like three pups climbing on top of one another wanting to be petted. The cemetery was actually quite small, probably an acre or so. We slowly entered the gated cemetery and began our trek into the unknown. To make matters worse, the cypress trees we were walking next to were covered with gigantic banana spiders. In case you were unaware, I have an extreme arachnophobia! As Bill Murray did in the comedy “What About Bob?” I took “baby steps” through the cemetery, looking in all directions, praying a spider wouldn't drop down on me.
            We approached the center of the graveyard, which is marked by three large trees and a few fenced in graves. As soon as we got to this area, the three of us looked at one another as we all received the same feeling of “You're not wanted here!” Suddenly, the rechargeable flashlight, which has been fully charged, dimmed down to a very dull yellow glow! We shook it, turned it on and off and beat it like it owed us money, yet all it did was give off this soft glow. We knew we had to get out, but how? The three of us slowly turned around and shuffled back, trying to find our way out of a pitch black graveyard with only the slight glow of a flashlight, while simultaneously trying not to run into spider infested trees!
            After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it back to the entrance which was a small wooden gate. As soon as we crossed the gated area, the flashlight that only would emit the ominous 
Picture sent to us by a local group of a mysterious mist hovering several graves.
glow, suddenly returned to the extremely bright beam that it has been projecting when we arrived! It was pretty apparent that whatever was with us that night did not want us there and did not mind showing us in a pretty obvious way. We knew it was time to leave. Although disappointed, I still felt a sense of accomplishment. After all, I at least made it outside of the vehicle this time! Remember, baby steps!

            A few months later, we would make a return visit. This time, we ensured we came with multiple flashlights and we waited until the weather was cooler and the spiders had fled. Amazingly, there was an entirely different vibe this time, as we exited the vehicle, crossed the gate and wandered completely around the cemetery as if it was a leisurely stroll. No immense fear, no dimming flashlights and no sense of retreat. Due to this, I was able to focus on the cemetery itself which is oddly laid out. To the left of the cemetery are a large group of children graves. Beyond that is an empty portion of cemetery ground that is roped off with a small sign that says, “NOTICE: No burial beyond this point because of the unmarked graves of Civil War soldiers.” It appeared that this area was basically a dumping area years ago and no one knew exactly who, or what, was buried there. Regardless, we truly felt we had conquered Fort Derussey Cemetery. The fear was gone and we thought, “Maybe there isn't something here after all!”
            Around 2006 we returned to the cemetery, this time with a film crew who was conducting a small documentary on hauntings around Louisiana. We brought them here, as the location would be great for the film. The crew decided to set up at the center of the cemetery and interview me regarding the experience I had with the flashlight dimming and coming back on. About midway into my story, the three cameras that were filming me from different angles all simultaneously died! These cameras had all been fully charged prior to filming.
            Such has been this ongoing tradition at Fort Derussy Cemetery; one visit will be serene while the other a terrifying encounter. Since we have visited there and brought a little attention to the grounds, numerous other groups have visited. I heard of one group who visited and not long after they arrived, a member fell and broke their arm. If you do decide to visit, please be courteous of the area and respect the grounds, as you never may know who, or what, is around to suggest you leave!

5 comments:

  1. I live near the cemetery. Nothing scary ever happens when I go. I wish it would. I do clean valarie's grave on my visits.

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  2. Nothing ever happens to me there but my great great grandparents are buried there! So maybe they know their kith and kin!

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  3. I have many family members buried there, The small children you were talking about on the left or all my cousins they were buried next to my grandmother and grandfather and my great grandmother and great grandfather I have been to this cemetery many times a day and night and never once had a bad feeling.

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  4. I have investigated this place multiple times. I have a video of an apparittion, pictures, recordings, and tons of stories of personal experiences and equipment malfunctions. Awesome and unique place.

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  5. My daughter and friends went there one night during high school and had a very terrifying experience. Of course I , the mother of said daughter, didn’t know about it until years after. Enjoyed the read!

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