Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bienvenue House - St. Martinville, LA (The Cajun EVP)

421 N Main St.
St. Martinville, LA 70582

            Being raised in such a Cajun household is quite a unique experience. Some may call it the simple life while others refer to it as good old country living. As a child, it wasn’t a matter of eating your vegetables. As a Cajun kid, you would be more likely to hear, “Boy, if you don’t eat all of your rice and boulettes (meatballs), I’m gonna get you with the palette à mouche (fly swatter)!” I can never forget growing up, my dad would come home with huge snapping turtles that he would catch in a nearby lake. He would bring them home and proceed to clean them to make a good sauce piquante, or red gravy. In a bucket, he would throw away the feet and scrap pieces. If the turtle was a female, my cousin and I would always gather the eggs and chase each other around the yard as we threw them at one another. Consider it a poor boy’s paintball game! Yes, it sounds disgusting because it is!
               A stereotype of country folks is the comical story of eating road kill found on the side of the road. As I have often said, “The thing about stereotypes is that they are normally true!” I can attest to this, as one Sunday morning on the way to church, my mom ran over a squirrel. It wasn’t horribly marred, as it simply died of a head wound. I remember my mom saying, “I guess I should go pick it up for your daddy.” To my amazement, she swung a u-turn that would have made Bo “Bandit” Darville proud and had me get out the car to pick up the lifeless corpse. She popped the trunk and I threw the squirrel in as we proceeded to church. After Holy Communion was over and our Hail Mary’s had been said, we returned with our catch. Sure enough, my dad was pleased to see what we brought him as he would skin it and freeze it, adding with the rest of his collection. After about seven or eight had been collected, it was supper time!

             One of the things I hated growing up was when my mom would drag me to her great aunt’s house. The house stayed at a miserable ninety degrees in the summer and a chilling fifty degrees in the winter. A hundred year old house with more windows than insulation; what do you expect? They had an old black and white television that only caught three stations and two were duplicates. All that was ever watched were damn soap operas. Visiting the home, there was absolutely nothing to do. In the summer, you were too hot to move yet these old folks could put away a gallon of coffee faster than greased lightning. I never dared ask to change the channel to watch cartoons, as I would be bombarded with a barrage of Cajun French, much of which were obscenities. Being born when my mom was older than most, forced me to be around a majority of elders. As many of you know, Cajun French was the primary language spoke in much of the southern half of Louisiana even up until the 1960’s. Today, there are still a few older folk, including my mother, which can still carry on a full conversation in this dying language. By attrition, I learned a great deal of this broken form of French. As with any foreign language, you begin with your obscenities and progress to other words and phrases. Today, I can speak about forty percent and comprehend about ninety-five percent. I have tried to pass down some of what I have learned to my children but they seem to be stuck on the obscenities!
            Of all those years of “sweating to the oldies” in my great aunt’s home, I never would have thought that the bits and pieces of French that I would learn would eventually come in handy, much less in paranormal investigating! The few times I have watched some of the paranormal “reality” shows, I never could understand why the investigator would visit an ancient landmark such as the Paris Catacombs and do EVP sessions in English. I mean, do the dead automatically become bilingual or something? Such was the case here in southern Louisiana where French was pretty much the only thing spoken during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To this day, I regularly use Cajun French in many of my EVP sessions. In one interesting case, this tactic would prove to be quite rewarding. The home was a small bed and breakfast with an interesting past and an even more interesting owner.
             The Bienvenue House is a quaint two-story bed and breakfast that sits in the historic small town of St. Martinville. The frontage sign at the home shows a circa date of 1830, although some records indicate the home was built around 1850. By the late 1800’s, the home was ran as a small hotel for transients and was known as the Evangeline Hotel. Operated by a single mother by the name of Isabell Robertson, she and her two daughters, one an invalid, one a toddler, also lived in the home. In 1896, on one tragic night, an individual broke in, robbed the home and killed not only Isabell but her invalid daughter as well. The two were murdered in the room now known as the Evangeline Room. The horrendous crime became etched in the minds of locals as well as the annals of St. Martinville history.
             In 1906, the home was sold to Luke and Blanche Bonin where it would remain in their family until 1964 when it was sold. In 1969, the home returned to the Bonin family when it was purchased by Luke and Blanche’s grandson, Dr. Willie Z. Bienvenue. In 1996 the home would fall into the hands of Alfred Leonpacher, who would allow his daughter, Leslie, to transform the home into a successful bed and breakfast and oversee its operations. In 2007, the home was sold to Jill Kuhn and the cozy bed and breakfast continued to operate.
             For years, I had heard of the hauntings that reportedly resided at the Bienvenue house. Isabell’s invalid daughter was said to ring a bell when she was in need of help. Former owners have reported hearing the random sounds of a bell ringing. Previous guests have also reported that small objects seemed to move on their own in the room where the girl died. While the home was being renovated, workers' radios turned on and off without visible cause. Another common activity reported both by neighbors and the previous homeowner is that the interior lights would appear to come on and off on their own.
              We were extremely excited to investigate the Bienvenue House, as it had been in the works for nearly a year! It was rare that a location that I had sought for so long would literally fall into my lap. Sometime in 2006, I was contacted by the soon-to-be new owner, Jill Kuhn, who was still living in Seattle, yet had just purchased the Bienvenue House. Hearing all the stories of paranormal activity, she was very curious to have us offer whatever assistance we could by investigating the historic home.
             A year would pass and once Jill was settled into her new home, she would have us over to investigate. We arrived early and were immediately greeted by the extremely kind homeowner, Jill, with a great meal and overnight accommodations. Needless to say, we were very gracious for such hospitality! Jill was quite a character, making us laugh throughout the night with her witty charm.
             Unlike many cases, we were able to really take our time, going through the home to find the most suitable camera placements. Taking base EMF readings, we found many spots of increased EMF energy, which was due to the older wiring in a home; a problem often had when investigating homes of this age. We finally went "lights out" around 10:00 pm, going through our usual methods of investigating.
             During the night, we did not encounter any first-hand experiences, which is often normal. It isn’t until we review our hours of audio and video, when we discover potential evidence. During the night, I was conducting an EVP session in the Evangeline Room where Isabell and her daughter were murdered. As I mentioned earlier, I was using my slight knowledge of Creole French to ask the standard questions such as “Did you die here?” and “What is your name?” When I reviewed the audio, I was amazed as to what I would find. The clip contained a very audible female voice saying, “Gette pas!” In English, this translates to “Don’t look!” The voice definitely sends a tingle down your spine, as there is some noticeable distress in her voice. Was the spirit reliving that horrible moment where she had to possibly watch her own child be murdered?
             When we presented the evidence to Jill, she was shocked yet elated to hear that the years of claims may hold some validity. We were extremely thankful for Jill’s graciousness and we promised her that we would be making a follow-up of some sorts. As time went on, we all got tangled up in the
Rest in peace Ms. Jill.
daily bustle that makes up life. As the group became busier, it became harder to return to previously investigated locations, as there were still so many new ones to visit. About six months ago, I decided that enough time had passed and it was necessary for me to keep to my word and visit Jill again and the lovely Bienvenue House. I would send her an email and a day or so get a response simply saying that the business was temporarily closed due to health issues. Time passed as I continued regular group events and began working on these blog articles. When I reached this portion, I began researching and decided to visit the Bienvenue House’s website. I would send a general email to the home's e-mail address and soon received a response back from Skip. I was shocked to learn that Jill had passed away only three weeks ago from the day that I initially typed this. She was only sixty-two years old and was survived by her life partner, Skip Littlefield. At this time, I would like to formerly give my condolences to the friends and family of Jill Dorothy Kuhn, as she was a great woman with a vivacious personality. Skip told me that even until her last days, she often spoke about how much she enjoyed our visit and even had a picture on the wall that our group had taken with her. This blog is dedicated to her memory. May your spirit be as alive and active as your being and may you rest in peace.

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