Sunday, September 4, 2016

Shadows on the Teche Plantation - New Iberia, LA (A Message from Mickey Mouse)

317 E Main St.
New Iberia, LA 70560

            Deep in the city of New Iberia, along the murky waters of Bayou Teche, lies an interesting plantation home, ever so deservingly named Shadows on the Teche. We have often heard the old saying “if these walls could talk.” If this is the case, you could hear quite an earful out of this beautiful home! Over its many years of existence, it has seen its fair share of birth, sickness, and death; much of it being documented in over seventeen thousand pages of the previous owners' accounts. Known as the Weeks Family Papers, these documents account for every purchase, sale, and substantial event that took place here throughout the years.
            Our story begins with a young builder and sugar entrepreneur by the name of David Weeks. As a young man, David Weeks began working with his father, William Weeks, accumulating a great deal of property in the Felicianas and the Attakapas in the early 1800's, purchasing most of Grand Cote (now Weeks Island), over two thousand acres by 1818. They grew cotton in the Felicianas, and attempted indigo and cotton in the Attakapas before David Weeks began concentrating on sugar in the early 1820's. While establishing the plantation at Grand Cote, David found time to court and marry Mary Conrad, Mary being twenty-one years of age and David thirty-two. The couple resided on William Weeks' plantation on Bayou Sarah near St. Francisville.

            After David's father died, they decided to move to their Attakapas properties to concentrate on the production of sugar at Grand Cote. Though Grand Cote was ideal as a sugar plantation, its location was considered too remote for his family, so David first acquired property on Bayou Parc Perdu where they lived for four years, before he bought the property in New Iberia on Bayou Teche in 1825.
            Construction of the new house began in 1831 and was finally completed in 1834. One of only three brick structures on the bayou in the vicinity, the Shadows was constructed in a Classical
Early photograph of the home in its infancy.
Revival style on the exterior with the distinctive eight white columns across the front facade. As the house neared completion in May 1834, David Weeks left on a sea voyage to New Haven, Connecticut, in an attempt to find a cure for a recurring unidentified disease. In mid-June of 1834 Mary and six children moved into the new house. The happiness of moving into the new home was overshadowed by worry about the absent David Weeks, who died August 25, 1834, never having lived in the new house on Bayou Teche.

            Following the death of David Weeks in 1834, his widow Mary C. Weeks was kept extremely busy seeing to the well-being of the estate, which would ultimately become her children's inheritance. Not only was she responsible for feeding and providing education for her six children, she was also accountable for the one hundred and fifty slaves on the property, consisting of men, women and children.
Bedroom where Mary Moore passed away.
            In 1841, Mary married John Moore, as they continued to raise the children and see the home prosper. Sometime in the early hours of December 29, 1863, Mary died peacefully in her sleep as Union troops occupied her home and its grounds. She was ultimately buried in the garden located on the property. Not long after, John Moore also died at the Shadows on June 17, 1867 at the age of seventy-eight and is buried next to Mary.
            The home continued to pass down through several generations of the Weeks’ family until eventually ending up being owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation society. The group now proudly displays the home as a centerpiece for the community, regularly offering tours and other special events. As an interesting piece of collectible history, one of the doors to the home has become a celebrity graffiti wall, so to speak. Great-grandson of David Weeks, Mr. Weeks Hall, had quite the list of friends. This is apparent by their names they scrawled on the door, visible to this very day. Some of the names include author Henry Miller, Elia Kazan, the director of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and a guy by the name of Walt Disney; you may have heard of him!
            For years, guests and staff have reported haunted activity at Shadows on the Teche. Many feel
Signed message from Walt Disney himself.
that the home is primarily haunted by the former owner, Mrs. Mary Moore. Her shadowy apparition and ghostly footsteps have been reported here as the main forms of paranormal activity.

            During our investigation, our night was filled with unexplainable sounds and disembodied voices. It began with audible footsteps in the empty attic. This was soon followed by an unknown cough, heard by two investigators. They examined all adjacent areas and no one else was present. Further activity seemed to concentrate in the room where Mary Moore had died. As various questions were being directed to her, an unexplainable cold spot and a sudden spike in electro-magnetic energy was simultaneously detected. The night concluded with additional strange noises being heard in the master bedroom along with what sounded like music appropriate for the era that Mrs. Moore had been alive.
            About a year ago, I was hosting a Continuing Education course through ULL. Portion of the course consisted of a hands-on investigation, which we chose Shadows on the Teche as the location. We were accompanied by a reporter and cameraman from one of the local news stations to cover the investigation. The reporter covered the story as usual and we concluded the group investigation with no significant activity. The next day, we wrapped up the class with a summary and a lecture on matrixing and false positive evidence. The reporter returned to finish up her story. Once the class was
Small property on the grounds where several of the Weeks'
family members are buried.
dismissed, I was approached by the reporter who wanted to share an interesting story. Although she remained quiet and completely neutral to the belief of the paranormal during her reporting, it was apparent she had experienced something that caught her attention. She stated that weeks before, she had been involved in a traffic accident that had left her hand and arm in severe pain, causing her to wear a brace on a regular basis. She went on to say that while she was in one of the bedrooms of the home, as we conducted our investigation, she felt a strange tingle in her arm. Following that, she stated that her arm no longer was in pain and for the first time since the accident, she did not need the brace. I was quite surprised by the story, as I had never heard of something like this taking place outside of a “pay to pray” televangelist sermon. She told me the story in confidence and stated that she did not feel comfortable including the incident in her news report, which I completely understood. Trust me, after investigating the paranormal for years, one can catch quite an amount of hell and be poked fun at, no matter how sane you may be.

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