The haunted plantation house known as Oak Alley
fits every idea that we might have
about the grand old homes of the south.
There is a ghost who haunts Oak Alley Plantation..... although who it might be is still unknown. Some say that it might be the ghost of a young girl whose life was destroyed here many years ago and some claim that the spirit is that of her mother.
But regardless, it is a legend that has been told many times over the years. But is it just another ghost story? Not according to the tourists who captured this ghost on film?
The Bernard's were just a couple of tourists who had stopped to visit Oak Alley plantation one afternoon. They took a number of photos in and around the house, never expecting to uncover proof that the legendary ghost of the plantation actually existed. When they had their film developed, they sent a copy of one particular photo back to the staff members of the house. In the photo appeared the image of a slender young woman with long, dark hair.... a woman who had not been present when the photo was taken.
The staff members were so impressed with the photo that they even sell picture postcards of the image today....
But who is this ghost and why does she haunt Oak Alley?
The house was built by Jacques Telesphore Roman III and the structure was originally called Bon Sejour (Pleasant Sojourn) and would later come to be known as "Oak Alley", thanks to the line of oak trees which were planted in the 1690's. The house was begun in 1832 and took four years to complete. When it was finished, it was the finest home in Louisiana.
The house had been built to suit the tastes of Roman's wife, Josephine Pile, who was every inch the proud Creole. The word, Creole, comes from the Spanish of "criollo" meaning "native born" but it was used to describe the children born in this country from European parents. French Creoles looked down on the Americans, who lacked the manners and refinements possessed by the Creoles. They clung to their old language and ways and created an insulated community of their own.
Some believe that the ghost who haunts the house may be that of Josephine Roman, who loved the place and gave the house its original name. The apparition has frequently been seen on the "widow's walk" of the house where the woman once stood to watch for her husband's boat when he returned on the river from New Orleans.
Other believe that it may be that of her daughter... a young woman whose life was ruined by an incident at the house.
Louise Roman held just as closely to the ways of Creole manners and honor as her family did. This was why she was so enraged when she was called upon by a drunken suitor one evening. He attempted to kiss her and she fled in anger. Unfortunately, Louise was wearing a hoop skirt with an iron frame at the time and she fell down, cutting her leg open.
After a few days, the terrible cut refused to heal and gangrene set in. The leg had to be amputated and Louise considered herself scarred for life. She never really recovered mentally from the wound and left the plantation. She journeyed to St. Louis, where she entered a Carmelite convent. She would later miss the south and would move to New Orleans, where she would start a new convent.
The amputated leg was put away in the family tomb so that when Louise died, it could be buried with her and indeed it was.
Jacques died of tuberculosis in 1848 and the management of the plantation fell to his only son, Henri. The Civil War and Reconstruction would ruin the Roman family, as it did so many others. They managed to hang onto the house for some time, but it was finally abandoned and left to the elements. The house was nearly destroyed by years of neglect but in 1914, the house was purchased and restored by several different owners throughout the 1920's.
In 1925, it became part of a non-profit organization which still manages the place, keeping it open for tours and even renting out bed and breakfast rooms in the cottages near the mansion.
Over the years, the house has become one of the most famous haunted houses in the state and visitors are always encouraged to bring their camera when they come to visit... you never know what you might capture on film!
Oak Alley is open daily for tours and is located in southeast Louisiana in St. James Parish.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
Return to the Ghosts of the Prairie Home Page