Tragedy after Tragedy – LeBeau House
- Ghosts and Hauntings
- When writing this piece I was a little torn about what topic I should place it under. Is it a ‘ghosts and hauntings’ piece, being that it is a known haunted location? Is it an ‘urban legends’ piece, as many of the stories are local folklore that have built up over time? Maybe it’s best served under ‘true crime’ considering events that took place here in November, 2013.
Since it is the original ghost story that seems to have everything else stem from it, ghosts and hauntings it is.
The LeBeau plantation house was one of Arabi, Louisiana’s, lesser known, but greatest treasures. It was the last, unrestored, antebellum (pre American Civil War) plantation mansion within the metropolitan area. Mostly ruined and run down, plans were underway to restore it to its former glory until fire left it a complete ruin.
The story of settlement on the land LeBeau House stood goes back to the 1720’s, when the first grants were handed out. For a good hundred years it was the site of many different plantations until the land was sold and used as a brickyard.
In 1851, Franciouse Bathelemy LeBeau purchased the land and started construction of his plantation and mansion. It was built brick between post style, had sixteen main rooms and a central hall. At one stage there were a number of internal staircases that led to the upper floor, but with a new tax coming in, one were a home owner was taxed per internal staircase, LeBeau had all but one ripped out.
The house also had a cupola, like a miniature tower, located on its roof. From here the LeBeau’s could take in the grand view of their land and get early warning of trouble that might be brewing on the horizon.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck. Franciouse LeBeau did not get to enjoy his new home for long as he died in 1854, shortly after construction was completed.
The plantation and home stayed within the LeBeau family for another fifty years until they sold it. The reason for the sale was probably financially motivated, but legends have sprung up about the LeBeau’s use of the land and their slaves causing the families downfall.
Legend has it that the LeBeau’s were very cruel to their slaves, that they would often beat them severely for the slightest infraction. At times these beatings would result in the death, and it was the slaves friends, families and co-workers that would be responsible for taking the body out to the fields to be buried – no ceremony, no rites, nothing marking the person’s passing.
The legend goes on to say that it was the slaves who would drive the LeBeau’s off their land, the twist being not the living slaves through some revolt, but rather, the dead ones. These embittered souls would make their way back to the LeBeau’s and torment them, driving them to insanity and, legend has it, two of the LeBeau’s took their own lives, hanging themselves, up on the second floor.
In 1905, the house was purchased by Friscoville Realty and turned into the Friscoville Hotel. Gambling houses were extremely popular in the early 1900’s, and with booze and gambling taking place, it is hard to not see why. However, laws came to be, making such places illegal, and in 1928 the Friscoville Hotel closed its doors and was sold to Jai Alai Realty.
At this point in time it went from a legitimate venture into one more akin to a seedy underground. As the Cordone Hotel it was a place of illegal gambling. Large amounts of illegally gained coin changed hands, and with it, no doubt, more than a little trouble. The closets in the main rooms were armoured and had vision and gun slits so the owners could protect their business. It would no doubt have been a fairly dangerous location, with a wrong move against the establishment seeing you bruised or worse…
After the Cordone Hotel closed its doors the house and land changed hands many times until 1967 when Joseph Meraux took ownership and the building began its steady decline.
It is the 1970’s where another of the legends takes place. During this time the building was rented to a young family who had a little girl. One night they heard a scream and the smashing of glass. The couple ran through the house to see what had happened, and that is when they found their little girl, outside, dead. The smashing of glass came from the cupola, she had been thrown out and many believe, once again, it was unseen hands at play.
In 1986 a fire went through much of the interior of the house, and it has been unoccupied ever since. It stood alone out amongst the land that was once the fields populated by work groups of slaves. The house began to crumble, and although stabilisation work was completed in 2003, it was still a shadow of its former glory.
However, more and more people began to take an interest in the house. School groups would tour past it and learn how life was lived back in the 1800’s. People would learn of the history and the hauntings. Haunted and dark history is always a good drawcard for people who might not otherwise take an interest, and such an interest saw that there was in fact a need to have this place properly protected and restored. Plans were underway to gather the several million dollars needed for a full restoration, but in November 2013, tragedy struck.
For years, decades even, stories of the ghosts of LeBeau House had been told in the area. Everyone who knew of the house also knew of the strange lights that had been seen about it, especially the fourth floor cupola. On some nights a flickering light could be seen, but on investigation, no source could be found – no electricity was present in the building and no one else was there.
There were also reports of strange white shapes seen about the property, solemnly walking as if a heavy burden were placed upon them. And the shadow figures seen flitting across the landscape, making a not-all-too-direct route to the house, but never making it there, disappearing within feet of the walls.
Many people would journey to the house to see if they themselves could witness these events, mostly a good thrill or scare. Of course the ghosts would not always be present, so some people would attempt to draw them out.
On November 22nd, 2013, a group of men aged between 17 and 31 entered the fenced off house and attempted to witness the events for themselves. When the ghosts would not show, they attempted to lure them out by… setting a part of the building alight.
The fire soon took hold in the ancient dry wood of the structure and it burned, completely destroying it. All that stands now are four chimneys and the foundation - the final tragedy in this history.
Ashley Hall 2013
Photos: LeBeau House as the Friscoville Hotel in 1910.
Inset left: The Fire of 22nd November, 2013. Daniel Gibbs
Inset right: All that remains. Brett Duke