Haunted Destrehan Plantation – The Story Behind It

What spookiness lurks at Destrehan Plantation? Read on to find out…

The word “plantation,” to some modern ears, conjures up images of old, over-privileged white land owners sitting on a porch sipping mint juleps.  They don’t do work themselves, but enjoy the wealth produced by their legions of slaves. The slaves toil endlessly in the fields of cotton or sugarcane, spurred on by cruel and sadistic overseers, wielding stinging bullwhips.

The slaves are regarded as property.

Slave with Scars
Slaves were regarded as property.
Image courtesy Wikimedia.

They’re not human beings and therefore do not enjoy the rights accorded by God to human beings. This idea, as insane as it sounds to us, was regarded as the natural order of things in the early 19th century. It was as ordinary as the law of gravity.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the first psychiatrists, even listed “negritude”  as one of the first officially acknowledged psychiatric disorders. “Negritude” was a slave’s urge to run away from his master and be free. This was a disorder because slavery was regarded as a natural and desired state for a black man by the then medical establishment. The only cure was to become white.

Can you think of any better way to propagate and legitimize something evil than by wrapping it up and disguising it with a cloak of “science?” It is certain that the wealthy Southern aristocracy of the time had their position at the top of the food chain well justified with this sort of thinking, along with the usual justifications that ending slavery would bring economic ruin to the South.

A devil’s brew of cruelty and injustice such as this provides a ready catalyst for a virtual parade of troubled souls. Spirits angry for the injustices done to them. Spirits racked with guilt and remorse for their having committed those injustices. A panorama of betrayals, treasons and deceits that will keep the disembodied and deceased hanging around for centuries.

Destrehan had more than its share of the above. The most notorious of these being the trial of several of the insurgents behind the German Coast slave rebellion of 1811.  The insurgents were dealt with very harshly, with methods that belonged more to the 1300s than the 19th century. Punishment was always death, either by decapitation or hanging. Severed heads were placed on pikes and dead bodies displayed as a warning to any would-be rebels.

Three trials were held, one of them being at Destrehan Plantation, overseen by Jean Noel Destrehan with Judge Pierre Bauchet St. Martin. Eighteen insurgents were executed by firing squad and their heads cut off and placed on pikes outside the plantation.

Fast forward to modern times: People working on the mansion and tourists have reported strange sounds and other phenomena emanating from various sections of the house. 

It is claimed that Jean Lafitte (a gentleman pirate of the time who was a friend of Stephen Henderson, the third owner of the plantation) haunts there, but this has never been looked into. It is said that Jean Noel Destrehan can be seen haunting the place with a cape that he wears to cover up the fact that he only had one arm.

It is also said that Stephen Henderson haunts there. Henderson, in his will, wanted to free all the slaves of the place and then establish it as a factory where they could be employed manufacturing clothes and shoes. That never happened of course. The other family members would not stand for it.

Maybe his anger and frustration over being thwarted by his greedy family keeps him there, still trying to do something good for slaves who helped keep the plantation and his family prosperous.

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