Louisiana’s Bayou Region is rich in haunted history. Over generations, locals have passed down dark tales from the bayou, including legendary haunted swamps and plantation ghost stories. As time passes, and stories become more and more embedded in Cajun culture, the line between fact and folklore begins to blur.

One of the most famous hauntings of the Bayou Region is known by students and faculty at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. Ellender Hall, one of the student residence halls on campus, is known for its strange occurrences. According to Megan Henshaw, the assistant hall director, residents claim the dormitory is haunted by Helen Ellender helerself. A portrait hangs in the entrance of the lobby and students say her eyes follow you.

Henshaw is also the resident assistant on the sixth floor. She says students have reported lights turning on and off, objects moving on their own, footsteps, and scratching noises.

“Some say it’s the ghost of a student who died there in the 1970s,” says Henshaw. “It’s rumored that she fell to her death by jumping out of her sixth-floor window.”

Although many students treat this story as fact, The Nicholls Worth reported that there is no record of anyone’s death or suicide in Ellender Hall.

Not far from Nicholls is the Laurel Valley Plantation and Historic Village. The village contains cabins that can be seen from the road, and is said to be haunted by apparitions dressed in old-fashioned clothing. Visitors have also captured unexplained “floating lights” in their photos, according to volunteer worker Johnny Thibodaux.

Locals are the first to experience these unexplained events. Sometimes, just by taking a shortcut on the way home.

Devil’s Swamp, in Schriever, is appropriately named. An old train track runs across the road, allegedly haunted by the ghosts of buried slaves from Acadia Plantation, as well as the ghosts of people murdered or killed on the railroad tracks.

When cars park or stop over the tracks, they reportedly begin to violently shake. There have also been claims of stalled cars, windows fogging, and handprints appearing on the windows.

Ducros Plantation is also located in Schriever. The property is now privately owned by Richard Bourgeois and Angela Cheramine, who have restored the home. Dating back to 1802, no unusual deaths have been reported, but locals have passed on its ghoulish tale.

According to Cheramine, “It’s not certain, but there is said to have been a young child who accidentally drowned in a nearby well and listeners can hear cries.”

Cheramie says the most common activity reported is inexplicable sounds. When they were restoring the house, carpenters claimed to hear footsteps from the main hall. Richard himself has heard a strange dragging noise on the upper gallery.

Some supernatural experiences happen a little too close to home for locals.

Coteau Road, located in Houma, is known by locals for having apparitions that wander the fields at night. More common sightings happen around metal sheds that can be seen from the road.

The metal sheds and surrounding property belong to the grandfather of Houma resident Glynn Prestenbach. The road is very curvy in some areas and Prestenbach says many people have been injured or killed. Over the years, he has helped repair fences up and down Coteau Road, but has never seen anything unusual.

“We have lived on Coteau road all my life and I will be the first to say it is haunted,” says Amber Bourgeois. “I have witnessed a man, a little boy, and a lady walking across the street. It doesn’t scare me though, they don’t seem to mess with anyone.”

Located near the bottom of Houma and isolated from civilization, a historic ridge lies southwest of Bayou Dularge near Lake Decade.

Mauvais Bois Ridge, is the source of nightmares that have been passed down by generations of United Houma Nation families. Mauvais Bois, named after a French term for “bad woods,” has been haunted since Vincent Gombi, Jean Lafitte’s battle companion, discovered the ridge. According to Nicholls State University Louisiana History Professor, Steve Michot, Gombi was trying to find a route near the Mississippi River during the Battle of New Orleans.

“American Indians living on the ridge helped Gombi sink a British ship called the Josephine,” says Michot. “They cut down cypress trees from the woods so a barricade could be formed and the British could not cross Bayou Penchant.”

To this day, it is said that the dead rise from the sunken Josephine and continue to linger over the land.

Further down the bayou lies Bayou Sale Road, a long, curvy, and deserted road connecting Dulac to Cocodrie. Also known as LA-57, it is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Southern Louisiana.

Locals are familiar with the stories of a man on the side of the road looking for a ride. According to the locals, when cars slows down to pick him up, he either disappears or the driver notices that he is somehow transparent. The legend also claims that if a driver stops to pick up the ghost, they will receive treasures and good luck in return.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve heard strange stories about Bayou Sale Road. I’ve traveled down the road many times and personally, I haven’t seen any ghost,” says Houma native Kate Planchet. “But it is a dangerous place and I get a bad feeling when I have to drive it by myself.”

Local legends about hauntings are often passed down from generation to generation and have become a part of the Bayou Region culture. Although it has become difficult to determine folklore from fact, there is no denying that locals are interested in the unexplained. Many of these locations can be accessed for free and seen from the road, but simply stopping by and talking to the locals is where the real adventure begins.

Ashlyn Verda

STAFF WRITER & VIDEOGRAPHER

Ashlyn Verda is from Des Allemands, LA and is majoring in Mass Communication/PR.

Brandy Dunbar

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER & VIDEOGRAPHER

Wes Barnett

STAFF SPECIAL SECTIONS & VIDEOGRAPHER

Sam Gruenig

VIDEO EDITOR

Sydney Moxley

STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER & VIDEOGRAPHER

Sydney Moxley is from New Orleans, LA and is majoring in Mass Communication/Journalism.

Video by Ashlyn Verda

STAFF WRITER & VIDEOGRAPHER

Ashlyn Verda is from Des Allemands, LA and is majoring in Mass Communication/PR.

Photos by Hannah Grigsby

STAFF DESIGNER & PHOTOGRAPHER

Hannah Grigsby is from Oceanside, CA and is majoring in Mass Communication/PR.

Hannah Grigsby

STAFF DESIGNER & PHOTOGRAPHER

Hannah Grigsby is from Oceanside, CA and is majoring in Mass Communication/PR.

Ghost stories and slave quarters come to mind when thinking of plantations. But are those legends actual history? And, what are the real stories of these historical complexes?

Laurel Valley Plantation, one of the largest surviving sugar production and manufacturing complexes in the United States, is located right here in South Louisiana and is one of those places steeped in stories.

“Some people have seen what might appear to be a ghost in the store,” says Dr. Paul Leslie, a local historian and history professor at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. “There was a person who was killed right here at the end of this counter, with an axe hammer.”

Although at the time of that barroom brawl the store was serving as a bar.

Before the 1930s, Laurel Valley was a world within itself. People lived, worked, worshipped, and died within the confines of the plantation. They could buy supplies at the plantation store, which is still open today, and educate their children at the plantation school. Right from the start, Laurel Valley was different from other plantations because it offered more amenities to the members of its community.

“People tend to associate black workers with plantations, but in fact, for most of Laurel Valley’s existence it had white workers,” says Leslie “The majority of the cabins in the back were occupied by white sugar cane workers.”

The plantation itself has had a variety of owners, but most impactful were J. Wilson Lepine, Sr. and Frank L. Barker. In 1873, they expanded the land to serve as the sugar mill.

“We’ve had a lot of events out here, between slaves, Chinese, Italian, Irish and Acadian field workers,” says Paul Leslie “Each one of those groups had more than enough reason to come back and haunt civilization today.”

And while most locals agree, Alicia Delcambre of Thibodaux says, “but I’m sure if you were to go there with an inkling of suspicion, you’d be sure to have the hairs on the back of your neck stand-up.”

Laurel Valley is a historical representation of the sugar production industry in the deep South. The community around the Thibodaux area needed the resources that the plantation was offering, including the income it was providing. This time is what came to be known as the “sugar boom.” Between 1890-1924, Laurel Valley enjoyed a period of growth and prosperity. Today, there are 76 surviving buildings including a sugar mill ruin, the grinding mill, the worker’s houses, a church, and the store.

Beginning after the Civil War, the towns of Kramer, Choupic, and Chackbay were becoming overcrowded and began running out of jobs. Men used this as an opportunity to come to Laurel Valley to work.

“The plantation consisted of 301 workers, but after WWII we started to have machinery replace the workers and today there are only four,” says Clifton Theriot, archivist and associate professor at Nicholls.

In general, locals around the Thibodaux area all say the same thing when asked what they know about Laurel Valley, “Isn’t that place haunted?”

Of course experts like local historian Paul Leslie say that’s not true.

“A reflection in a window or a gleam of moonlight off the fog can easily convince someone who is looking hard enough that they’ve seen a ghost, especially when they’re surrounded by hundreds of years of history,” says Leslie.

Not that he hasn’t had his imagination tested himself. While working around the shop late at night, strange noises have raised a hair or two on his neck, Leslie said. Especially considering the museum store was once a beer parlor and the site of a brawl that left one man dead. But he remains unconvinced.

Since Laurel Valley Plantation opened in 1830, the experiences have yet to come to a halt as the general store is still open every day, and a small petting zoo visitors can go to. They offer tours of the plantation with historian Paul Leslie and they host an annual arts and craft spring festival.

For more information, look online at facebook.com/laurelvalleyplantationstore where they update their page frequently or call at (985) 446- 7456.

Morgan Ivers

STAFF SPECIAL SECTIONS & PR

Sydney Moxley

STAFF VIDEO & PHOTO

Dance lessons are available all across southern Louisiana for locals or visitors who wish to dig deeper into the rich Cajun culture of the bayou. Tourists can easily take home a piece of the culture by learning how to dance like a local in Cajun country.

A typical Saturday night in Cajun country is nothing less than a good time filled with food, music, and dancing.

“I do it for the exercise and the socialization,” says Marlene Savoy of Des Allemands, who travels all over the region to dance. “I also enjoy the friendly people and the Cajun atmosphere.”

Dancing has always been a big part of the Cajun culture in the Bayou Region, but according to locals, it is not as common as it used to be.

“It is mostly popular among the older generation,” Marlene says. “A lot of us learned the Cajun dances from our grandparents who were French.”

Others learned the traditional dances by taking dance lessons.

“Everyone has a different style of the dance and those who do not know the proper form simply improvise,” says Lutie Verda, a dance instructor from Des Allemands.

Lutie suggests dancing classes to anyone who is interested in learning the proper forms of Cajun dance. She says that it is important to carefully select a dance instructor – one that teaches the correct forms of the dance.

Cajun dances include the Cajun Jig, the Cajun Jitterbug, the Cajun Waltz, and Zydeco dancing. Each style is a unique form of the Cajun dance that is taught in classes that are scattered throughout the Bayou Region.

“Anyone can learn how to Cajun dance,” says Lutie.

All it takes is a Cajun instructor, a few lessons, and a lot of practice. The Bingo Hall in Boutte is a good place to start according to Lutie.

The Bingo Hall puts on music events twice a week. Live Cajun music is played frequently, and locals take this as an opportunity to show off their traditional dance moves.

Juanita Landry, owner of the Bingo Hall, says that around 70 to 100 people come to each music event. People travel from all over southern Louisiana for an evening of music and dancing.

A lot of the locals bring their relatives or friends that visit from out of state. Visitors end up loving the Cajun atmosphere, and usually make more frequent visits just to go to the Bingo Hall with the locals, Juanita says.

“It is wonderful to see these people come to our events and have a great time,” she says.

The Bingo Hall is just one of the many locations to offer Cajun music and dancing in the Bayou Region. The Cajun Country Casino in Raceland, Gina’s at the Legion in Thibodaux, and the Jolly Inn in Houma are a few places that give visitors the chance to experience a one-of-a-kind Cajun dance party.

Video by Wes Barnett

STAFF SPECIAL SECTIONS & VIDEOGRAPHER

Article by Madison Boudoin

STAFF WRITER & COPY EDITOR

These recipes were chosen by their versatility. Cajun food is not the easiest to make and according to Chef Patrick Beeson, most people don’t follow a recipe when cooking which makes it difficult to replicate. These recipes chosen can be easily substituted for ingredients commonly found across the country. These are some of the classic Cajun foods to eat like a local.

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Muffuletta
Prep Time 15 mins
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 mins
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, stir the pimento-stuffed olives with the giardiniera, capers and their respective liquids. Add the Calamata olives, garlic, shallot, oregano, parsley, thyme and crushed red pepper. Stir in the olive oil and let the mixture stand for 1 hour.
  2. Open the Italian bread on a work surface. Spoon the olive salad on both sides of the bread and spread evenly. Arrange the mozzarella slices on the bottom half of the bread, then top with the capocollo, Genoa salami and mortadella. Arrange the provolone cheese on the top half of the bread, covering the olive salad completely. Carefully close the sandwich. Wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic and let stand for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Cut the sandwich into 8 pieces and serve peperoncini on the side.
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Shrimp & Grits
Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 25 min
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 25 min
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
  2. Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turns pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes.
  3. Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.
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Jambalaya
Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 25 min
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 25 min
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. The most important thing is to use the right equipment: a 2-gallon cast iron Dutch oven and a large stainless steel chef's spoon.
  2. Use high heat to preheat the Dutch oven and add the sausage. Using a chef's spoon or large spoon, constantly move the sausage from the bottom of the pot. Be careful not to burn the meat.
  3. Add the thigh meat and brown the chicken on all sides. Again use the spoon to scrape the meat from sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot. Browning the sausage and chicken meats should take 20 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the thigh meat to the point that it shreds.
  4. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions and garlic; sauté for about 15 minutes or until the onions are very limp and "clear". Scrape the bottom of the pot to remove all the "graton". This is where the jambalaya gets its distinct brown color and taste.
  5. Add the tasso, thyme, basil and black and white pepper. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. This will give the seasonings time to release their oils and flavors.
  6. Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium and gently break up the rice. Using the stainless steel paddle, continue to insure that the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  7. After about 5 minutes, fold in the parsley. Continue to scrape the pot to insure that no rice sticks to the bottom. When the jambalaya returns to a boil, reduce heat to the lowest possible setting and simmer, covered, for at least 25 minutes. Do not remove the cover while the rice is steaming.
  8. If Manda's brand sausage is not available, any lean smoked sausage can be substituted. You may have to remove any excess grease from the pot after frying down an unknown sausage.
  9. If no stocks are available, then chicken soup base can be used. Be careful with your seasoning, as bases are usually full of salt.
  10. The jambalaya is best when served directly out of the cast iron pot.
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Shrimp Po’boy
Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 10 min
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 10 min
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. For the fried shrimp: Preheat oil in fryer to 360 degrees. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Dredge the shrimp in the flour.
  2. Make an egg wash with the egg and the water. Dredge the shrimp in the egg wash. Dredge the shrimp in the cornmeal. Fry the shrimp until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined plate to get rid of excess oil.
  3. To assemble: Slice the French bread and toast lightly in oven. Spread mayo and place lettuce, and tomatoes on the bread. Place fried shrimp on bottom bun.
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Red Beans and Rice
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place red beans into a large bowl, and cover with water by several inches. Soak overnight.
  2. In a large soup pot, add the oil, garlic, green pepper, onion, celery. Sauté for a few minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse red beans, add them to the soup pot with the vegetables. Cover with water and cook over medium to low heat. Season pot with salt, black pepper, and Creole seasoning.
  4. Reduce heat to low and cook until beans are tender, about 4 hours. When beans are tender add the sausage cut into bit size pieces. Stir to combine and let the flavors come together over low heat for 15-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Red beans should have a thicker liquid. If water starts to run low just add water slowly so it doesn’t create the consistency of a soup, these are very creamy beans. Serve red beans over hot cooked rice.
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Blackened Fish
Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 20 min
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 20 min
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over very high heat until it is beyond the smoking stage and you see white ash in the skillet bottom (the skillet cannot be too hot for this dish), at least 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, pour 2 tablespoons melted butter in each of 6 small ramekins; set aside and keep warm. Reserve* the remaining butter in its skillet. Heat the serving plates in a 250-degree oven.
  3. Thoroughly combine seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowl, Dip each fillet in the reserved melted butter so that both sides are well coated; then sprinkle seasoning mix generously and evenly on both sides of the fillets, patting it in by hand. Place fish in the hot skillet and pour 1 teaspoon melted butter on top of each fillet (be careful, as the butter may flame up)
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Dirty Rice
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion, celery, and poblano, and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add sausage; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add rice, thyme, paprika, and cayenne; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in stock, collard greens, salt, and black pepper.
  5. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until rice is tender, about 18 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork to serve
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Beignets
Passive Time 48 Mins 4 Hours
Servings
Ingredients
Passive Time 48 Mins 4 Hours
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Make the yeast mixture: Combine yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tsp. granulated sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Add milk, eggs, salt, and remaining granulated sugar.
  2. Form a dough: Microwave remaining 1 cup water until hot (about 115°); stir in shortening until melted. Add to yeast mixture. Beat at low speed, gradually adding 4 cups flour, until smooth. Gradually add remaining 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour, beating until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours.
  3. Roll and cut: Turn dough out onto a floured surface; roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2-inch squares.
  4. Fry until golden: Pour oil to depth of 2 to 3 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 360°. Fry dough, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack. Dust immediately with powdered sugar.
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Bread Pudding
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Bourbon Sauce:
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Bourbon Sauce:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place stale bread in a bowl with milk and squeeze the bread with your hand until well saturated with milk.
  3. With an electric mixer on high speed in a separate bowl, beat eggs with sugar until thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and raisins to the egg mixture. Add the soaked bread crumbs to the egg mixture and stir well. Let stand for 10 minutes. It is important to allow enough time for the bread to absorb the egg mixture or the bread crumbs will float to the top during baking, leaving a layer of custard on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish. Bake until firm, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let it slightly cool in the dish.
Bourbon Sauce:
  1. Meanwhile, near the end of the baking time, make the sauce. With an electric mixer, beat egg yolks until thick and pale.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar. Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the egg yolks, beating constantly with the mixer, until well thickened.
  3. Stir in bourbon by hand. Serve the pudding warm with vanilla ice cream if desired. Pass the hot bourbon sauce separately.
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Pecan Pralines
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
dozen
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease with butter. Grease a small spoon for scooping the pralines and set aside with the baking sheet.
  2. Add the 4 tablespoons butter, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, heavy cream and corn syrup to a 2 quart or larger heavy bottom sauce pot with a candy thermometer attached and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Whisk the mixture to dissolve the sugar then allow it to continue to cook until it reaches firm ball stage, 246 degrees °F, for about 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool, undisturbed, for 4 minutes.
  5. Add the pecans and vanilla to the pot and using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture vigorously until thickened and the nuts are suspended, about 2 minutes. Working as quickly as you can, portion the pralines with the greased spoon onto the prepared pan. Allow the pralines to cool completely before serving.
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Sources:

Chef Patrick Besson – Ellendale Country Club Executive

Al “Big Al” Mahler – Owner of Big Al’s Seafood Restaurant  

Southern Living recipes