Contrary to popular belief, the elegant row of oaks that lead visitors to the front porch of Oak Alley Plantation were not planted to grace the drive of this prestigious home. Instead, this beautiful historic house turned bed and breakfast was built where it stands specifically to take advantage of the picturesque avenue with its intertwined canopy of leafy branches that run the length of the drive almost to the banks of the Mississippi River. The vista is one of the most photographed in all of Louisiana, so the déjà vu you may experience as you walk up the path to the home is probably not other worldly. Cinematographers also enjoy the scenery as well, so you may have glimpsed Oak Alley on the small screen or silver screen. Arguably its most famous film appearance was in the movie version of Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire.
The house is open for tours, but I found it irresistible when I discovered that you could actually stay the night on the plantation. The former slave cabins have been renovated into cozy, private rentals with one or two bedrooms, a far cry from the cramped quarters that were shared by multiple generations of forced laborers prior to the Civil War.
Oddly, the most well known stories about the ghosts of Oak Alley do not concern unhappy slaves. Though I guess that is understandable. If a person was finally able to throw off the shackles of servitude, though the liberator may be death, would he or she wish to return to the scene of his or her unwilling labor? I know I wouldn’t! Hopefully, the former slaves are enjoying ethereal freedom unknown to us here on Earth.
The haunts that are associated with this grand old plantation includes a daughter of the house who, while racing to evade a drunken suitor, fell and gashed her leg, leading to amputation of the limb. The beautiful belle spent the rest of her days unwed and even eventually joined a convent. Could this be the lady in black that many have seen upon the staircase and along the wide, gracious porches? A Confederate soldier has been said to ride up to the front of the house, as if calling on some urgent matter. A candlestick has been seen to fly across the dining room, at least once in view of a full tour group. And in the gift shop, a postcard is sold of a photograph a tourist took of a dressmaker’s dummy resplendent in period dress, posed in one of the bedrooms. There is a mysterious head with long hair clearly seen on the dummy, while in the mirror, the reflection shows the dummy as it should appear…headless. The photo is many years old, by the way, before the age that Photoshop became every man’s tool!
I would highly recommend staying at Oak Alley if you have the opportunity. The cabins are elegantly furnished in a gracious Southern style. Perhaps more importantly, you can roam the grounds after hours and do what I did during my stay. My friend and I sat in the front of the house, adjacent to the lovely avenue of oaks and kept an eye out for the lady in black on the upstairs porch, or the galloping Confederate ghost coming up the drive.
If you are interested, Oak Alley is in Vacherie, Louisiana and their website is: http://www.oakalleyplantation.com/