While I’ve been spending time working on a revision of my entry on Columbus, Mississippi, I decided to take a break and write a little something about another city. The basis of this came from a single 2009 article from The Daily Reveille, the student newspaper of Louisiana State University. Other than that article, and a few scattered references, there’s not much on the ghosts of Baton Rouge.
The name, Baton Rouge, “red stick” in French, refers to a red cypress pole festooned with bloody animals that French explorer Sieur d’Iberville, the founder of the Louisiana colony, encountered in the area. It was placed there to mark the boundary between the hunting grounds of the Houma and the Bayou Goula peoples of the region. Research and archaeological evidence reveal that the area now occupied by Baton Rouge has been inhabited since roughly 8000 BCE. These indigenous peoples have left the area dotted with mounds and other landmarks.
The city was incorporated in 1817 and made state capital in 1849. Architect James Dakin departed from the usual designs for state capitols which paid homage to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington and designed the building in a Neo-Gothic style complete with turrets, towers and crenellations. The site chosen for this grand castle, overlooking the Mississippi River, is believed to be the location of the red stick that Sieur d’Iberville named the city for.
Since its construction, the OLD LOUISIANA STATE CAPITOL BUILDING (100 North Boulevard), has had a busy and somewhat tragic history. During the Union occupation of the city, the building was used as a prison and a garrison for African-American troops. The building caught fire twice and by the end of the war was left a hulking, gutted ruin. The building was restored in 1882 and at this time much of the building’s noted stained glass was added. The legislature used the building until 1932 when a new, modern, art deco styled state capitol was opened. The building underwent full restoration in the 1990s and is now open as a museum of political history.
There is one particularly enduring legend about this Gothic edifice involves a late legislator. Pierre Couvillion, a representative of Avoyelles Parish had a heart attack amid a passionate debate. Though he was buried near his home in Marksville, he spirit may still reside within the halls and chambers of the old building. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.
Two organizations investigated the building in 2009 and uncovered much evidence. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations picked up a number of interesting EVPs including someone singing the old song, “You Are My Sunshine.” Everyday Paranormal, in their investigation had a few encounters in the basement of the building, the area used as a prison during the Union occupation. It seems that there are many spirits within the crenellated walls of the Old Capitol.
Many spirits, of the ghostly and liquor kind reside in an old bar on the waterfront. The building that now houses THE SPANISH MOON (1109 Highland Road) served as a temporary morgue for victims of the flooding that ravaged the area in the early 20th century. The spirit of a young girl who legend holds was trampled by horses in the building may also reside within the creepy structure.
Another spirit among spirits may be found at WILLIE’S ON THE RIVER (140 Main Street), so named for its resident spirit. Legend holds that Willie was crushed by a falling wall here sometime in the 19th century. Staff members have reported that the spirit is fond of billiards and balls were seen moving by themselves.
Also on the riverfront is the U.S.S. KIDD VETERANS MEMORIAL (305 River Road South), a ship named as a memorial to Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, the highest-ranking officer to die during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. This memorial ship now serves as a memorial to Louisiana’s World War II veterans.
This Fletcher-class destroyer saw a great deal of action in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean War as well as serving admirably during the Cold War. It was during service in the campaign for Okinawa that the ship was struck by a kamikaze resulting in the deaths of 38 and 55 wounded. It is perhaps this single event that has left a spiritual impression on the now museum ship. Visitors have encountered various apparitions onboard including the images of a single arm or leg moving as if still attached to a human being.
Along the famous River Road which stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge that is lined with many historical and haunted plantations are the ruins of THE COTTAGE PLANTATION (River Road at Duncan Point) just south of the city. Though now reduced to ruined columns forlornly sitting in a private field by the roadside, these ruins were once part of a grand plantation home until a lightning strike and fire reduced it to rubble in 1960. Legend speaks of a man seen wandering the ruins who is believed to be the specter of Angus Holt who served as a personal secretary to Frederick Conrad. Conrad owned the plantation during the Civil War and died before war’s end. Holt returned to run the plantation until his death in 1880. His spirit still lingers to check on the ruins of the mighty manse.
This handful of spirits is most likely just the beginning of the mélange of spirits still dancing about The Red Stick.
- Baton Rouge,Louisiana. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
- Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
- Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2007.
- Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
- Old Louisiana State Capitol. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
- Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.
- USS Kidd (DD-661). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 14 2011.