October is finally here!
As we enter the month of October, we over at Hal Leonard are excited for Halloween. As we count down the days until Halloween approaches, here is an excerpt of one of our spooky books, Haunted America FAQ!
From the bright lights of New Orleans, the avid fan of Louisiana cemeteries could take no more dramatic turn than toward the swamp lights of Manchac, and the mass grave that was perforcedly dug here to bury the victims of the Great West Indies Storm of September 1915.
Or, at least, the storm is what the official story blamed. Local lore, however. insists that the weather was simply the weapon that finished them off. The real killer was Aunt Julia Brown, the elderly voodoo priestess who owned almost all of the property around the town of Frenier Beach, out on Lake Pontchartrain, and who appeared to begrudge every tenant she had.
“One day I’m gonna die,” she used to sing to herself, and to anyone who might be passing by as she sat out on her porch. “One day I’m gonna die, and I’m gonna take all of you with me.” So she could not have timed her funeral more perfectly than to coincide with the landfall of a Category Three hurricane that modern equipment would tell us moved northwest from the Gulf of Mexico at around 14 mph, with sustained winds near its center of 115 mph, and which crashed into Frenier Beach like an express train.
At exactly the same time as Aunt Julia’s funeral.
The old woman had certainly unnerved her fellow townspeople. But they had admired her as well, and the whole town was out to pay its final respects. The funeral service began at four, and that was precisely when the storm hit. Gathered around Aunt Julia’s coffin, mourners were scattered as the windows of her house blew in and the walls peeled away.
Then the winds snatched up the coffin and carried it into the bayou, along with everything else it could gather—livestock and the living included. Later, once the winds had died down and the waters finally started to recede, Aunt Julia’s body was found deep within the cypress swamp.
But they only found her body. Her casket had disappeared, and so had more or less everything else she had owned. The personal possessions that she kept around her house, the house in which she lived, most of the property that she had collected around Frenier Beach, and a lot of the people who lived in it.
Speaking of earthly riches and treasures, people always say that when you go, you cannot take it with you, and maybe that’s true. But Aunt Julia certainly put it someplace.
The bodies that could be found were buried in a mass grave in Manchac Swamp, floated across the lake on makeshift driftwood rafts, and for a century since then the swamp has howled with their restless, and so wronged spirits.
In 2009, A&E’s Extreme Paranormal investigative team even visited the grave site, and although they returned with little more than a prime-time half hour of jumbled voodoo, mini-cam entombment, and the kind of outrageous exaggerations that only reality TV can supply, still it was one of the most captivating shows of its ilk ever broadcast. They found nothing, but that didn’t mean that something wasn’t there.
Besides, the cemetery is just one of Manchac’s claims to fame because there’s reasons aplenty why the locals used to call the place “the swamp of the ghosts.”
Reasons like nearby Manchac Lighthouse, automated in 1941, decommissioned in 1987; derelict and barely accessible but, says legend, occupied to this day.
Reasons like the Blood Red Hanging Tree, an old-time instrument of local justice, whose strange fruit can still be seen hanging from its branches today.
Reasons like the Cajun rougarou that has stalked the swamp for centuries, and reasons like the ghostly highway that crosses the swamp where, until its deadly collapse in 1976, a modern road bridge once stood, although woe betide anyone who attempts trust to its tarmac today.
In fact, the only thing that Manchac Swamp has more of than ghosts and supernatural horrors is probably alligators. Which is maybe why not many people go there at night.