Ghosts of Evangeline’s past
Pictured here is the old brick house that was the home of Dr. Josiah E. Hawkins in Bayou Chicot. He is pictured on the left with his wife Charity (right) and her niece (center). The house was built in 1840 for the use of a courthouse and was used by Dr. Hawkins as an asylum for his mentally ill patients. (Photo courtesy of Mabel Alice Thompson’s book “Looking Back”)
By: TONY MARKS
From The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville to Loyd’s Hall just across Bayou Cocordrie in Meeker, South Louisiana is cluttered with homes that are considered to be haunted.
While many of these hauntings are considered legends, some facts have been confirmed through oral history. Case in point is the old Hawkins House that sat in the woods of Bayou Chicot. The house is not there anymore, but it sat next to the school and off behind the gymnasium. According to a story titled “Dr. Hawkins’ Haunted Hospital” by Ben Earl Looney, the property was “bought by Dr. J. E. Hawkins in 1872 for use as a hospital and medical college.”
The story goes on as follows: “Deserted and decaying in the gloomy center of several hundred great cedar trees, the old structure has acquired the name haunted as have so many similar old houses throughout the country. After the doctor was gone, some of the people of nearby Bayou Chicot told of hearing eerie midnight cries from the doctor’s daughter, Belle, who was killed in a fall from a buggy, and others say they have glimpsed the ghosts of patients who died there long ago.”
Margie Martin, who has close ties to the Bayou Chicot area, said the house “was called a sanitarium.” She added, “Dr. Hawkins performed experiments on the mentally insane. His subjects came from all over, not just local people. It is said that there were many who died there and were buried there. My brother (John) and I remember people calling it the ‘Haunted House.’ It was really a scary building.”
Martin’s brother, John Forman, shed some more light on the haunted Hawkins House. “We were kin to the Hawkins,” he said. “My old aunt was married to the old Willie Hawkins that lived in that old Hawkins House in front of the Masonic Lodge. As kids we would go over there to the other old house that is called the haunted house, but by that time it was ransacked. There wasn’t anything in there at all.”
While growing up, Forman would ask his grandmother Mittie Virginia Self about what she knew of the house. “She didn’t like to talk about it most of the time, but she talked to me about it,” he said. “She was telling me one time that it was more of an asylum than it was a hospital. She said that there were some people from all over that were kept there.”
According to Forman, Dr. J. E. Hawkins used the house “for the mentally ill, the afflicted, and the deformed people that their parents didn’t want to have anything to do with them or they didn’t have anyone or anywhere else to go.”
“From what I understand from my grandma,” Forman added, “(Dr. Hawkins) was kind of a scientist, and he would experiment with these people. There were some people that were pathological. They were dangerous, and there was an old cell or like a room with bars that they were kept in.”
He continued, “By experiment, I don’t know how bad the experiments were, but I always thought there could be people buried where that old house was that nobody knows about because people would come drop their family members off there and leave and never come back again.”
Forman’s grandmother also told him that Dr. Hawkins was not “afraid to have an experiment go the wrong way causing people to die.” Forman, according to his grandmother, went on to say that Dr. Hawkins, “finally got too old to do all that. When it closed, he closed everything and locked the doors and everything else.”
“It was there empty for years and years,” Forman continued. “My grandmother said it was kind of a place that people stayed away from and didn’t ask any questions about what was going on. It was kind of a weird place. I guess that’s why it was given the name of the old Haunted House, and people have claimed to see ghosts over there.”
While the Hawkins House is considered probably more of a lore or a legend, there is a newer house in Point Blue that the owner’s claims of it being haunted were confirmed by a self-proclaimed medicine man.
“With this particular situation where the house is only 16-years-old and was built from the ground up, it proves that it’s more than just a structure that’s haunted,” said owner of the home Chasity Vizinat Guillory. “It can be the grounds that are haunted.”
She explained some of the history that surrounds the Point Blue area around her house. “At the turn of the century, there was a railroad track that ran along the side of the property, and then there was a train depot here in Point Blue right across the street,” Guillory said.
“They had a bunch of old saloons around here,” she continued. “Pawpaw (‘Taxi’ Vizinat) said like around the time of the depression that vagabonds from all over the country were getting off of trains here at the depot, and he said that crime was really bad with the saloons. Because of this, we don’t know what haunts my house.”
Guillory went on to describe some of the happenings that her son Spencer Vizinat began to experience from the time that the family moved into the home in 2001. “My child was two-years-old, and from the minute we moved in, he saw a man and would call him ‘AC,’” she said. “Weird things would happen, and Spencer would always see this man. One day I asked him to describe the man so that I would know if it was beyond an imaginary friend. He described the man as being dirty and full of blood and mud. Nothing was confirmed until after Hurricane Katrina.”
At the time, Guillory was working in the Evangeline Parish Clerk of Court Office, where she still works today. She stated, “A displaced man showed up at the courthouse and asked if he could speak to me. He said that he didn’t know who I was but that he was just drawn to me. He asked if there was anything that he could help me with because he was a medicine man. He said to me that it was a religious aspect of being a medicine man and asked if I had any problems with spirits.”
“I told him that my child would see a man,” she continued. “When I told him that my child called him ‘AC,’ he took two steps back and without hesitation said ‘Abete Couteau’ which means killer with knife. When he said that of course I was horrified, but he explained that to be an Indian tribal leader an Indian would paint his face with red clay and go out and hunt and gather for the whole tribe. When they would kill a hog or a deer, they would take the blood of the fresh kill and paint their face with it as a celebration.”
Guillory went on to say that the medicine man told her that there was no question who was there at her house. “He said that if I have AC in my house, then he is the only protection I have from the rest,” she stated. “He was implying that the tribal leader was glorified because he was the provider and that, as long he was there showing his presence, he was keeping back anything else. That was all of the reassurance I needed.”
She went on to describe some of the hauntings that continue to take place. “The strangest thing is in our master bedroom,” Guillory said. “It tends to walk up and down the side of my bed at night. It’s shaken the bed and has tried to get in the bed. Only twice have I been afraid. Other times, I’m aware but not afraid.”
“The two times that I was afraid felt like a cat-and-mouse game,” she continued. “One time something was trying to get in the bed, and it almost felt like something else was pulling it off. Then the other time it would like go all along the walls in circles and out the window and back through the door to the extreme where the dogs outside were barking. It felt like something was chasing the other.”
According to Guillory, random hauntings are still happening. She said, “nothing makes us feel threatened, but we definitely can feel something is there. I’ve had electricians come because my electrical has always done funny. In my master bathroom where Spencer told us the man with the mud and the blood would wash himself, that bathtub has never really drained properly. I’ve had a plumber come look at it because I blamed everything on it being a new house.”
What logic cannot explain, Guillory relies on assumptions for what is happening at her home. “This was a wooded area, and I still have 14 oak trees,” she said. “My dad (Craig) and his friends as kids have found arrow heads and very old relics. I don’t know whether or not I can book wise prove that Indians inhabited the land. It’s more of an assumption based on findings and on the stranger who approached me for no apparent reason and reiterated what my two-year old told me until he was five-years-old.”
With Halloween around the corner, such tales of hauntings in Evangeline Parish make for good conversations around the camp fire. Whether or not you believe in ghostly spirits or not, it is without a doubt that we in Evangeline Parish have had our fair share of spirit activity.