Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant - Washington, LA (Food and Phantoms Alike)

525 N Main St.
Washington, LA 70589

            As I have said numerous times, I love to eat! It doesn’t help matters when you live in a state that is known for its rich and delicious dishes, which are not often the healthiest for you. I jokingly tell people that our great food has given me the body of a God. It’s just too bad that God happens to be Buddha! I have always enjoyed travelling the state not only to look for new haunted areas to investigate but for new places to eat. Louisiana is filled with these hidden jems just waiting to be tried out. After finding a new restaurant that has a superb dish I have never tried before, I will often try to replicate it at home as cooking is another passion of mine. My wife often says she cannot remember the last time she has even cooked while the kids regularly place their meal orders with me like they are at a diner. I only have two rules that I tell me wife. The first is that I’ll cook until the cows come home but she has to clean behind me as I hate doing dishes. The other is quite simple: Never trust a skinny cook!
            For years, one of my favorite restaurants in all of Louisiana has been the Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant located in the historically quaint town of Washington. Although the town is quite small, it is normally known for three things: Antique shops, the Steamboat Restaurant and one hell of a speed trap, as the local police seem to have an erotic obsession with writing tickets faster than a scalded cat. The town of Washington was founded in 1720 and incorporated in 1835, making it one of the oldest settlements in the state. The town is bordered by a main body of water, originally known as the “River Opelousas” but was later named Bayou Courtableau in honor of one of the first pioneers of the area, Jacques Courtableau. The bayou served as a major source of transportation and importing. Small settlements began to spring up along these waters, making Washington the largest inland port between New Orleans and St. Louis during much of the nineteenth century.

            As the area began to grow, several large warehouses were constructed along the bayou to easily unload the steamboats of their goods. Steamboats would travel the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis, distributing these goods to various locations along the route. One of the most common ports to stop at was Washington. The warehouses were used to store cotton, tobacco and many other goods. Of the ten large warehouses along Bayou Courtableau, the largest of them all would eventually become the Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant. Construction of the warehouse began in 1819 and was complete sometime around 1823. After serving the town and the port well for many years, the warehouse would shut down with all the others soon after the beginning of the 1900’s when the last of the steamboats would pass through the bayou, laying way to the quicker and more proficient railway system as a means to transports goods and supplies.
            After sitting vacant for many years, the warehouse would be renovated in 1977 and
A view of Bayou Courtableau.
transformed into the present restaurant. Although the town of Washington is a mere shell of its former self as a busy port, stepping in to the restaurant will quickly educate customers on how important this area once was. Rare can an empty spot be found on the walls of the restaurant, as every inch is decorated with either some form of antique tool, official documents, or some other reminder of the rustle and bustle that once took place on a daily basis. Looking up, one will find nineteenth century newspapers plastered along the walls along with exposed massive original beams that must be every bit of sixteen to eighteen inches thick. To the rear of the restaurant is a cozy courtyard one can use to enjoy a beer while they await an open table, as the restaurant is normally busy no matter when you go. As you sit on the old wrought-iron chairs, you catch a glimpse of an overgrown bayou only to put yourself back in time, imagining the daily commotion that took place here on a regular basis.

            As you snap back into reality and you are taken to your seat, be prepared for an excellent meal. Far from an upscale establishment that requires a suit and tie, the magic that comes from the kitchen is equivalent to any five-star restaurant. My favorite dish by far, is the Steak Annie, an incredible rib-eye with a delicious crab and shrimp stuffing. As if that isn’t good enough, they accompany the dish with a side of honey glazed carrots that I swear must be laced with cocaine, as they are that damn addictive!
            Ok, now that I have babbled long enough about the Steamboat’s incredible food, let’s move on to the real issue at hand, especially before I begin gnawing on this keyboard! For years, staff who has stayed after closing have reported numerous strange events taking place at the Steamboat Restaurant. One of the staff claimed that she witnessed a cart rolling several feet one evening during close out. Another evening, a female staff member claims that she was pushed in the back while waiting for her order from the kitchen. The owner and chef, Jason Huguet, stated that one night he came to the restaurant around 2:00 am and while there, he heard dishes being knocked around in the kitchen area. Upon further examination, he could not find anything out of place. Another employee witnessed seeing a female and young girl walking along the bayou. The reasons for the encounter
Rear of the restaurant leading from the bayou, which once
served as the dock and unloading area.
remain a mystery, as very little is known of any deaths or significant events that took place in the warehouse that could justify such a haunting. Seeing the apparition of a woman and child walking along the bayou banks could very well be remnants of possible deaths by drowning that occurred years ago but no such records could be located.

            To our elation, the owner of the Steamboat was more than willing to have our group conduct an investigation, in the hopes of validating years of experiences. Our investigation started with a thorough walkthrough of the building to decide on camera placement and get a general layout of the land. During the walkthrough, we heard several unexplainable knocks and voices. We became quite excited, as we were hoping these early incidents were indicative of an active night to come. After our walkthrough we began to set up our equipment in the normal fashion. While setting up our infrared cameras, several investigators continued to hear knocks, bangs and what sounded like disembodied voices. As one investigator was setting up a camera in the dining room area, she heard a strange noise. She looked up and noticed an unknown dark figure walk by. As she stood there for a second, just to see if her eyes were playing tricks on her, she started hearing the sound of people carrying on a conversation. At this time, no one was around. Due to all the strange sounds and voices, we started recording early, just in case we could capture some of the unseen commotion.
            It is quite rare that this many strange events take place while simply setting up our equipment. Needless to say, everyone was quite eager to officially start the investigation. Once we began, several investigators continued hearing the strange sounds of what sounded like singing and talking. As team members would move to where the noises seemed to be originating from, the sounds would vanish and reoccur in the location that they had just left. The talking, singing and mindless banter continued all night, with no one being able to find their origins. The sounds began to get quite annoying, as investigators began to question themselves, as the sounds could not be found. It’s sort of like that crazy paranoid feeling you get while sleeping and you hear a humming in the walls or a mosquito buzzing around. The frustration of not being able to find where the sounds are coming from is enough to drive anyone up the walls. Later in the evening, an investigator heard what sounded like two men fighting and yelling outside right next to one of the windows. Several of the team members rushed outside and not a soul was found. Well, at least not of the living sorts! Around midnight, the nerve-racking sounds finally subsided, but the activity seemed to shift in another format. Several of the investigators noticed what appeared to be a shadow standing on the staircase. Simultaneously, a sudden temperature drop was recorded on the thermocouple thermometer along with several unexplainable spikes in electromagnetic energy. Just as quick as the activity appeared, it quickly faded until around 2:30 am, when the group was about to call it a night. Suddenly the group heard a very loud bang from the kitchen area, followed by another loud knock in the dining area. The team all got up to explore, turning on all the lights, only to find nothing or no one inside!
              It seemed that whatever was with us was quite mischievous and enjoyed toying with us, sending us on a wild goose chase all night long. Audio analysis would produce numerous clips of undecipherable speaking and sounds, while video showed one interesting clip of what appears to be a black mass moving passed the bar area. Our group has made several visits to the restaurant following this but no visit would be as active as the first encounter. Activity seems to occur at the late hours of the night when very few people are present. I am quite intrigued to learn of the true reasons that the Steamboat Restaurant remains to be so active once all of the patrons have gone home. Perhaps they too are as equally addicted to those damn narcotic carrots! Maybe that's why rabbits are so fast!

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