Thursday, October 27, 2016

Chretien Point Plantation - Sunset, LA (One Tough Little Lady)

665 Chretien Point Plantation
Sunset, LA 70584

            If I haven't already informed you, I am quite man enough to admit that I have an intense case of arachnophobia! It's pretty pathetic how severe it is, as I will literally freak out if I get near a spider bigger than a dime. I can remember putting laundry into the washer once and as I pushed down on the clothes, a spider about as big as a fifty cents piece sprang from the clothes, onto my arm! I honestly do not remember much, as I seemed to come out of my own skin, hitting a level of consciousness that is hard to comprehend. Next thing I remember, I am stripped down to my underwear, running around the house, flailing my arms like an idiot! Needless to say, it was quite a sight! Oddly enough, the types of spiders I hate the most are the ones that are the most harmless.  The proper term for this species is the golden silk orb-weaver but in Louisiana, they are referred to as banana spiders. They are massive in size, ominous in color and make gigantic webs with strange zig-zag patterns down the middle. I have always been told they are non-poisonous but I have never bothered getting close enough to one to find out. Ironically, the next location I will mention is home to the largest banana spiders I have ever seen. Maybe that's why it's one of the only plantations in Louisiana that I have yet to investigate!

            About ten years ago, a friend took me for a ride down the backroads of the small town of Sunset. Despite its size, the town was the stage for several Civil War maneuvers and skirmishes which we will go into more detail in the next blog. My friend wanted to take me to an old plantation, known as Chretien Point, found on one of these backroads that many have claimed has been haunted for years. We pulled onto the property around 8:00 pm to find a beautiful home surrounded by
Damn these creatures from hell!
ancient oak trees. As I got out of the vehicle, I was so enamored with the beauty of the home's exterior, I began taking several photographs, not really paying much attention to where I was walking. I noticed the feeling of cobwebs brushing alongside my forearm. After I snapped a final photo, I turned to brush my arm only to find a spider web of about ten feet in circumference! Yes, you heard me right, ten feet! In the center of this deathtrap was a colossus banana spider every bit of nine inches long. As the old saying goes, “I did not know whether to wind my ass or scratch my watch!” Almost dropping my camera, I stutter-stepped over a stump in a fashion that would have made Deion Sanders proud! What made matters worse was that this spider had an extended family and they were in full force that evening, as the grounds and trees were full of these things! As with any one of my arachnid-induced seizure-like maneuvers, laughter is soon to follow from any nearby witnesses. After my friend was done poking fun and I made sure I still had clean underwear, we proceeded to walk in a much more well-lit part of the grounds as I would hear all about the interesting history of this beautiful home.

            The grounds that Chretien Point sits on began as a Spanish land grant in 1776 when it was acquired by Louis St. Germain. Records indicate that on December 7, 1781, this land was then transferred to local farmer, Joseph Chretien. His son, Hypolite Chretien, would go on to inherit the land, eventually passing it down to his son, Hypolite II. On July 28, 1818, Hypolite II would marry Felicite Neda and the two would go on to have several children. As their family grew, Hypolite knew he needed a larger home to accommodate everyone. Construction began in 1831 and the house was complete in 1835. Once finished, the grand home would sit on over three thousand acres of prime farmland. During its prime, Chretien Point had a workforce of roughly five hundred slaves that ensured the day to day operations of this cotton producer ran flawlessly.
            Unfortunately, Hypolite would not get to enjoy his home for very long, as he and one of his sons would succumb to yellow fever in 1839, leaving Felicite and their other son, Hypolite III, to run the grand plantation. The Spaniard in Felicite was quite resilient as she would successfully operate Chretien Point for years to come. Standing only four feet, ten inches, Felicite was a tough little cookie, who smoked cigars, managed her servants and is said to have regularly worn slacks, which was unheard of for a woman at that time.
Photo of the home taken in 1934.
            This tiny ball of TNT would be most known for an encounter with one of Jean Lafitte's pirates. As I have mentioned, Lafitte and his band of looters and pillagers travelled throughout southern Louisiana making a name for themselves in the only way they knew how. Once Lafitte fled to refuge in Galveston, many of his cronies lingered behind to wreak havoc. On one particular night, one of these pirates approached Chretien Point with the hopes of robbing it blind. As the individual approached the home, he must have been elated to see that his only opposition was such a small woman. Surely, this would be an easy task for the rough and rugged man of the waters. To the pirate's dismay, Felicite was tougher than a two dollar steak, meeting the individual at the door to her home with more than her cigar. Felicite quickly brandished a pistol from her pocket and shot the pirate square between the eyes, killing him instantly! With the help of her loyal servants, they dragged the body and carried it to the rear of the property and disposed of it in a small pond. I guess it's like they always say: “When momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!”
            As Felicite grew older and the enormous size of Chretien Point began to be too much work for her, she would hand the house and land over to her son, Hypolite III, before moving to New Orleans. The home would nearly see its demise in 1863, but thanks to the quick thinking of Hypolite, it would be spared. Several Civil War skirmishes took place on Chretien Point's property, with all the fighting boiling over to the final battle, known as the Battle of Bayou Bourbeau, which we will come in the next blog. During one of these skirmishes, the home was caught in the crossfire between the Union and the Confederacy. Several of these shots lodged themselves into the home and the large oak trees. Running out of resources, Hypolite made a last ditch effort to save the home. He ran to the second-story balcony, giving the Masonic distress signal. Union leader and fellow Mason, General Nathaniel Banks, recognized the signal and agreed to spare the home. In true Union fashion however, they still burned the crops and slave quarters, and killed or confiscated all of the livestock.
            The mysteries entangled within the history of Chretien Point seem to grow with each passing year. Legends tell of the spirit of the murdered pirate still roaming the grounds as he once did that fateful evening when he ran into the wrong little lady. The pirate, nicknamed Robert, does not like being poked fun at, and is said to enjoy messing with visitors' automobiles. On several occasions, staff and guests alike will find the lights, car alarms or other electrical mechanism activated by themselves.
            As one may expect, the ghost of Felicite is a pretty predominate force at the plantation. Not
Photo of the home in 1938.
much has changed from her living being, as the spirit of Felicite is domineering and also does not like being teased or questioned. In one encounter, a visitor was openly joking about Felicite when one of her earrings was ripped from her ear and was flung across the room. Others have seen the apparition of an elderly Felicite rocking in chairs or gazing out of upstairs windows.

            Surprisingly, many feel that the single most active spirit is an individual whom we have not mentioned yet. Felicite's former daughter-in-law, Celestine, has been the most common apparition seen. Often witnessed wearing a long white dress, she gracefully glides through the home as a spectral host of sorts. Those who have had an up close and personal encounter with Celestine say she gives off a very positive energy and eyewitnesses feel at ease when in her presence.
            Chretien Point seems to be home to quite the smorgasbord of spirits. From a mean old pirate, a meaner old woman and a caring young lady, one can experience the full spectrum at this beautiful home. About the only thing missing would be the ghosts of deceased Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the several battles that took place on and around the property. Oh wait, I forgot to mention, employees and owners have also seen the vague apparitions of ragged soldiers stumbling through the fields in their tattered uniforms. Being host to so many spirits, can only mean one thing; an even wider assortment of activity. It's sort of like the joke, “You know what they say about guys with big feet? They wear big shoes!” A full range of ghostly encounters have been reported such as visitors hearing their names being called, furniture moving on their own, personal items coming up missing and even numerous pennies popping up throughout the house. Yes, pennies being strewn through the house sounds odd but it is an occurrence I have heard of several different times. Normally, this phenomena tends to center around old silver dimes or copper pennies. Uncertain as to if the specific metals play a role or not, but the acts are strange to say the least.
            Specific rooms at Chretien Point are also more active than the others. Primarily, the Magnolia Room, which has seen the deaths of several young children and the Prime Minister's Suite, which served as the former nursery. In other rooms, guests have reported the feeling of their sheets being pulled at night, their feet touched and the sounds of faint crying. I could probably go on for several more paragraphs regarding all of the encounters but instead of overly-citing this blog, I highly suggest that you check out the book, Louisiana's Haunted Plantations by Jill Pascoe. I would have to say that this is the most extensive book I have come across that goes into the personal experiences had at Chretien Point. She goes into painstaking detail and breaks down each room of the plantation, giving examples of paranormal encounters. To try and outdo the information she provides would be futile so I highly recommend that you check out her book if you would like the definitive reports of the home's haunted past.
            Today, Chretien Point is open for tours and is a popular place for weddings due to the home's beauty. For movie buffs, the entrance of the home may look familiar, as its grand staircase was the model used for Scarlett O'Hara's famous entrance in Gone With the Wind. The plantation has always been on the top of my investigative “to-do” list but I have never made any formal requests, as I have always heard the management has never been interested in allowing a paranormal investigation and I can respect that request wholeheartedly. I must be honest though, on several occasions I have begun to type an investigation request letter to the home then I thought of those damn spiders hanging from the trees and I suddenly had the urge to make other requests a priority!

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