The Dower House
Cookie Rogan


 It was 1898 in Thibodeaux, LA. My great grandfather, Francois Le Blanc, owned a tobacco and cotton plantation on Bayou Black with his wife, Azima, and their three children. The Le Blanc family had owned the plantation for several generations. My grandmother, Cyntae, and grandfather, Edward, were just married and had moved into the Dower house on my great grandfather's plantation. 
   My grandmother was eighteen at the time. She was a little thing at only five feet tall but she was very pretty with waist length black hair and a fair complexion. My grandmother, Cyntae LeBlanc Robichaux, and her sister, Amanda LeBlanc, who both said it was true, told me this story many times as I was growing up.
   The Dower house was about three miles from the family plantation. It was a lovely two-story house built along the same lines as the plantation, only smaller. The front of the house faced Bayou Black. There were mostly moss covered oak trees around the house and along the bayou. The house had a front porch with rocking chairs on it to sit in the lazy afternoons to crochet, shell peas, or just visit with friends. There was a big brass bell at the bottom of the stairs that led to the porch for visitors to announce their arrival. The front door was solid, but there were two sets of floor to ceiling French doors on each side of the house that were mostly glass and could be opened on hot afternoons to let in a cooling breeze. One side of the front of the house was the living room and the other was the dining room.
   Edward was a butcher and also raised cotton behind the Dower house at this time, although later he became a carpenter and started his own construction company. He would get up every morning and leave for work at four am. He worked on the other side of Bayou Black and he would have to cross the bayou in his pirogue, then ride his horse, that he had stabled on the other side, to work every day.  Living in the bayou country everything was very muddy when it rained, so he built a wooden walkway from the house to the pier where he had his pirogue tied up. There was a small gate at the beginning of the pier that he had built to keep animals off the pier. It was never kept locked and you could hear the gate creak when it opened and closed from the house. Edward had used old hinges off an old stall door in the stable.
   Cyntae was deathly afraid of the bayou and was worried every time Edward went to work as it was so dark and there was always a light fog at this time of the morning. He brought a lantern with him so she could stand on the porch and watch the light as he went through the gate, hearing it close behind him and watch the lantern as he crossed the bayou. She could then see his light swing from side to side, which was Edward's way of letting her know that he was across and safe.      Cyntae would then go in and start her morning chores. Edward would return home at ten in the morning and then work in his cotton fields behind the house for the rest of the day.
   There were two maids, Tuffy and Jane, that were the wives of a couple of the field hands that worked on the plantation and in Edward's cotton fields. There was also an old field hand named Luke. He was too old to work the fields anymore, but did light jobs around the house and grounds. They didn't live at the Dower house, but had their own homes about a quarter of a mile away. They came every morning at 6 am and left after supper.
   Edward and Cyntae lived there for 3 months, blissfully happy and peacefully. Every morning Cyntae would go out to the kitchen and prepare Edward's breakfast before he left for work. She used a wood burning stove that required kindling to get the fire started before she could cook. Kindling was hard to come by, as most of the wood in the bayou was fresh and damp. There was an old piece of wood that was partially sticking out from under the house. One end of it was buried in the ground. Houses in bayou country are always raised because of the rains and flooding. Cyntae asked Luke if he would chop up some of that wood for kindling for the fire. He chopped a nice box full and brought it into the kitchen where Tuffy and Jane were working to prepare lunch.
   The next morning, Cyntae watched Edward cross the bayou and signal as usual. As she turned and started to walk back toward the front door across the porch, she heard the pier gate open, but the sound wasn’t the same as when Edward went through it. It was very slow and ran chills up her arms. The fog wasn’t as heavy as it usually was but she still couldn't see quite as far as the gate. She waited a few minutes to see if maybe Edward had come back for some reason, but she knew it couldn't be him as there was no light and besides, he wouldn't have had time to row back across the bayou that fast. She waited a few minutes more just to be sure, all the time keeping her eyes glued in the direction of the pier. She had just decided that it was her imagination and had turned to go back in the house when she heard the gate slam with a loud BAM!
   It scared her so bad that she ran into the house, locked the front door and then went to look out one of the French doors, which luckily were all closed and locked from the night before. It was two hours later that the servants came to work and Tuffy found Cyntae seated on a dining room chair staring out at the Bayou.
   When Edward came home from work, Cyntae was waiting for him on the porch. She told him what had happened that morning. He tried to be reassuring, telling her that he must not have closed the gate tightly enough and it must have been an animal that somehow got through the gate. He promised that the next morning he would make sure that the gate was closed tight. As with most frightening things, in the light of day, with plenty of people around, your fears leave and you just look on it as a strange occurrence. So it was with Cyntae… until the next morning.
   Cyntae was dreading the time when Edward would leave for work. All her fears of yesterday morning came back. Edward told her to stay in the house and not watch him cross the bayou if  she was that frightened, but Cyntae would not hear of it. She was more afraid for Edward than she was of her own fears. She watched Edward's light as he went through the pier gate and heard it close soundly. Then, a little while later, she saw his light waving from across the Bayou. She stayed on the porch for a few more minutes, but nothing happened. With a big sigh of relief  she went back in the house to start her day’s chores. Luke came in the kitchen at his usual time and Cyntae told him that they needed more kindling. It was really nice wood and she asked him to chop up some more. He went out and came back a while later with another box full.
   By the next morning Cyntae was completely over her fear, thinking that she must have just imagined the sounds a couple of days ago. She watched until Edward waved his light and as soon as he did, she turned to go back in the house. She had no more taken two steps when she heard the gate open again. It made the same horrible, very slow, creaking noise as before.
   Startled, she turned back toward the pier. As usual, she couldn't see anything with the dark and the fog. She was frozen, but realized she had to move. She forced her limbs to take one step at a time, slowly, backward toward the door. Just as she reached the door, the gate slammed shut, again with a loud BAM!
   She fearfully felt behind her trying to find the handle on the door, all the time praying and never taking her eyes off the source of the sound. Just when she thought she would faint from fear, she found the handle and swiftly entered the house. She started running straight through the house, out the back door, through the cotton fields and didn't stop running until she got to Tuffy's house.
   She started beating on the door until Tuffy, in her robe, opened the door and let her in. She threw herself into her arms and cried like a baby. Tuffy was Cyntae's mother's age and had 6 children of her own and knew how to comfort the hysterical Cyntae. She had also known Cyntae since she was a baby as she had worked in the plantation house until Cyntae got married and thought of her as one of her own children. She put on a pot of coffee and when Cyntae had calmed down, found out what had occurred.
   At six o'clock, when it was time to go to work, Cyntae and Tuffy met with Jane and Luke and walked back to the Dower House. When they arrived, they all walked down to the pier to inspect the gate. It was closed and everything looked normal, except for some wet moss that was lying on top of the gate. That was a little strange as there weren't any trees over the gate, but they just figured the wind blew it there from some nearby trees.
   Edward came home at his usual time and was told what had happened that morning. He thought that there had to be a reasonable explanation for what happened. He went and inspected the gate again and found that it was sturdy, he knew it was as he had built it, and someone would have had to turn the handle to open it. It wouldn't have just opened on it's own. After inspecting the gate, he looked all around the pier and all around the house looking for something else that would sound like the gate opening and closing. He found nothing that even remotely would make that same sound or even come close. He was worried, though, in case it was a prowler and didn't want Cyntae left alone in the house. He arranged for Luke to spend the night and to get up when he left and stay with Cyntae. He also had a gun that he put on a table near the front door in case Luke needed it.
   The next morning, Edward left for work as usual with Cyntae and Luke on the front porch. They watched until he swung his lantern and then they stayed a while and waited to see if the gate would open again.  After about five minutes, Luke decided that nothing was going to happen and they went inside. They went back to the kitchen, as Cyntae had to clean it up from breakfast. She told Luke that she needed more kindling and asked if he would fill the box again that day. He took the box and went out.  At six o'clock, Tuffy and Jane arrived and wanted to know if anything had happened. When they found out that nothing had, Tuffy was relieved, but Jane, being more Cyntae's age and looking for excitement, was disappointed.
   When Edward came home that day, he was also relieved to hear that nothing had happened. By this time, Cyntae was beginning to doubt her sanity. She told Edward that there may not be anything there, but there was no way she was staying in the house alone after he went to work. She made him drive to her parent's house and collect her sister, Amanda, to stay with her.  After all, they had 4 bedrooms and she was beginning to miss the sisterly chats she had with Amanda while they were growing up.
   Amanda was a pretty girl and just a bit taller than Cyntae. She had a fair complexion like Cyntae, but her hair was an ash blonde color and her eyes were hazel with a gray ring around them. Edward was either at work or in the fields most of the day and knew how lonely his wife 
was becoming. He thought bringing Amanda to stay with them for a while would help Cyntae and make her less afraid of his leaving in the morning. He couldn't get Luke to stay all the time because he had his own wife and family to take care of.
   The two sisters were deliriously excited to be reunited again for a nice long visit. They got together with Tuffy and Jane and prepared a lovely celebration dinner. Luke had also chopped up some more kindling for the stove. Edward hadn't seen his wife this animated since the episode with the gate started and was glad Amanda was there to bring the sparkle back into his wife's eyes. The LeBlanc's were having a large party on Saturday night and the two girls stayed up late trying to decide what to wear. Cyntae had a lovely trousseau when she got married and she told Amanda that she could take her pick of the dresses she had.
    The next morning, as Edward was getting ready to leave for work, he asked Cyntae if she wanted to wake up Amanda to be with her. Cyntae said that no, she wasn't afraid just knowing that Amanda was in the house and she would let her sleep in. As usual, Cyntae stayed on the porch until Edward waved his lantern and then turned to go in the house. Just as she turned, she heard the gate open again. That awful, slow, creaking noise sent chills up her spine. Not even turning around, she ran into the house, straight up to her sister's bedroom and jumped in the bed with her.
   Amanda woke up with her sister on top of her shaking like a leaf. She asked Cyntae what was the matter and she told her that the gate opened again. Amanda's bedroom was at the front of the house so she flew over to the window to look out as Cyntae crept up behind her. Even though Cyntae was the elder by one year, Amanda was always the brave one in the family. From this view, they could just see the outline of the gate because it had a soft glow to it … and it was open. As they stared at it, the gate suddenly slammed shut with a loud BAM!
   Amanda flew out of the bedroom, raced down the stairs and opened the front door. Cyntae was behind her screaming all the time not to go outside. Amanda didn't listen and walked out on the front porch with Cyntae hanging on to her in the rear. She only went a few steps when she heard a sound on the wooden walkway. It sounded like a footstep and then something being dragged behind it. Very slowly it went stomp … slide, stomp … slide, stomp … slide. Amanda was brave, but even this was too much for her. She turned around, grabbed Cyntae and both girls went flying, through the house, out the back door, through the cotton fields to Tuffy's house.
   When Edward came home later, both girls were on the porch waiting for him. Cyntae was extremely glad to tell him that it wasn't her imagination, that Amanda also heard it and together they related the new sounds. Since Amanda heard it also, this really worried Edward. He decided that he wouldn't go to work the next morning, but would stay home and see what this was. The next morning they all three gathered on the front porch and waited. After about fifteen min, Edward took his lantern and walked down to the pier. Everything was as it should be, except for a hunk of wet moss on the gate. He didn’t say any thing about it when he returned to the house.
   Today was Saturday and tonight was the party at Azima and Francois's plantation. The girls dressed in their finery, Edward got out the carriage and they drove to the plantation. The party was a gala affair with all the ladies dressed beautifully in their ball gowns. The candles were lit all over the house and in the garden were small candles lighting up the garden paths. During the party Edward told Francois that he needed to talk to him privately and they headed for Francois'  study. Edward told him of the new developments at the Dower house. He had told him some of it when they went to pick up Amanda. Francois was now getting really concerned as it wasn't just Cyntae, but Amanda also that was hearing these strange sounds. He decided that they should all stay there for the night and that he would go back with Edward to the Dower house early the next morning and see if anything occurred.
   Azima was worried and made Francois bring his gun with him. The two men rode back to the Dower house in silence, neither knowing what to expect. Edward picked up his gun from the table in the hall and they went out on the front porch to wait. It was, as usual, dark and foggy. As they waited, they noticed that it was very silent. Usually you could hear a rustle in the trees, the bayou lapping against the pier or small animals such as squirrels or beavers going about their business. But not this morning, it was deathly quiet. After about a half-hour they decided that nothing was going to happen so they rode back to the plantation.
   When the women woke up they were told that nothing happened, but on the way back they decided that Cyntae and Amanda would stay with Azima and the next morning Francois and Edward would ride back to the house and Edward would cross the bayou like he did every day. Instead of going to work after he swung his lantern though, he would extinguish the light and row quietly back to the pier.  Francois would stay on the porch until he saw the lantern swing and then he would slowly walk toward the pier. This way, if there were someone there, they wouldn't be expecting that the two men were coming at them from both directions. Francois thought it might be someone waiting for Edward to leave.
   Azima and Francois also had a son named Jules who was 15. When he heard they were going back again the next day, he begged to go with them. He was a large boy for his age and after all, he had his own gun and was considered a very good shot. Cyntae also wanted someone to go with Edward so it was decided that Jules would go with him. Azima realizing that Francois wouldn't have anyone with him decided that he should take Ben, who was the son of the cook at the plantation. He was young, strong and was friends with Jules since they were the same age and hunted together.
   The boys thought it was a great adventure when they rode out the next morning with Francois and Edward. They laughed and joked until Francois reminded them that this was serious business and they had better keep their mind on what they were doing. They arrived at the Dower House at three - thirty am. They put their horses in the stables in the back and went in the house through the kitchen door. At four am, Edward and Jules walked down to the pier keeping their eyes pealed for anything that looked suspicious. They got in the pirogue and rowed to the other side of the bayou. When they got there they swung the light, extinguished it, and then started their trip back.
   Meanwhile, Francois and Ben were standing on the porch watching for the signal from Edward to start their journey down to the pier. They had arranged to wait a few minutes to give Edward and Jules time to get half way back across the Bayou before they started out. As soon as they came down the porch steps, they saw a small pinpoint of light right in the area of the gate. It seemed to be floating just about where a man's head would be. Slowly and cautiously they made their way toward the gate. They knew it wasn't Edward's light as his had been much larger and brighter going down to the bayou. Edward and Jules, rowing toward the pier, also saw the light. Just as the men were approaching the gate, the light flew off into the trees and disappeared. When they got to the gate, they were suddenly freezing cold. It was like the cold was inside them. This was the middle of summer and there was no way they should be this cold. As Edward went to go through the gate, there was a large hunk of moss on the top of it just like before and he knew it wasn't there when he and Jules went through the gate just a short while ago.
   As they rode back to the plantation, each man was lost in their own thoughts. When they got back, they told everyone what had happened. Azima, being a good catholic, decided that it was time to call their local priest to come and bless the house. It was decided that Edward and Cyntae would stay at the plantation until Father Sanchez would come the next Sunday after mass. Azima was sure that this would take care of the problem.
   Sunday came and they all rode out to the house. Father Sanchez went in each room and blessed it. Then he went down to the gate and pier and blessed them too. They had a large meal prepared and then afterward, the men went out on the porch for some male companionship and a smoke while the women cleaned up the dishes. While they were on the porch, they heard the click of the gate lock and saw it slowly swing open. Edward figured that it hadn't been closed properly after Father Sanchez went out on the pier to bless it. He went to close the gate and found more moss on it. He didn't want to frighten the women again so he didn't say anything about it.
   It was decided that the house and gate were now blessed so there was no reason for Edward and Cyntae not to stay there. Amanda would stay also to have her visit with her sister. Edward, still feeling a little uncomfortable, asked his father in law for one of his field hands to stay at the house for a while. He told him that Cyntae was having that old log chopped up for kindling and Luke couldn't do much at one time, because of his age, and he wanted someone stronger to finish the job. Unknown to Edward, Francois was still uncomfortable also, so he readily agreed. He told Edward that he would send one of the men over when he got home so they would be there to start work on the log first thing in the morning.
   When Francois got back to the plantation he called in Thomas, who was one of his best workers. He took him into his study and shut the door so no one could hear his conversation. He didn't have to tell him what was going on, as everyone on the plantation knew by now. Francois told Thomas that he would like him to be close to the girls in the mornings in case something did happen and to chop up that log that Luke was working on for kindling. Thomas agreed and left for the Dower House.
   The next morning Cyntae and Amanda watched Edward until he waved his light with Thomas watching from the side of the house. He was not to let the girls see him, as that would make them more afraid. After the girls went back in the house, Thomas stayed watching for a while and then quietly went back to his bed until it was time to get up. Nothing unusual happened that morning. When Thomas got up, he started working on the log under the house. It seemed to be a short log 
until he started digging to get it out of the mud. He did as much as he could for one day and thought he would dig more tomorrow and see if he could find the end of the log. Then he would know how much he had to chop up.
   Cyntae watched Edward leave the next morning. She felt very secure with Father Sanchez's blessing of the house. She woke Amanda yesterday, but felt she didn't need to today. She would let her sister sleep for a while longer. She saw Edward's light signal and was heading for the house when she heard the gate slowly swing open again with that awful, slow Creak. She stopped and turned around. She then saw a glow that was moving through the fog. She also heard the stomp … slide, stomp … slide, stomp … slide. The sound was coming toward her along with the glow. She screamed and ran for her sister's room. Amanda was awakened by her  scream and was heading toward the stairs when she felt a cold wave pass through her body. When Cyntae got to her, it was like she was in a trance. Cyntae threw her arms around her and was engulfed by the cold also.
   This is how Thomas found them. He had heard and seen everything and was shaking uncontrollably. He knew his responsibility was the two girls that were in the house, alone, and knew he had to get them out. He gathered up his courage and ran around the back of the house and entered through the kitchen. No way was he going in through the front with that ‘thing’ coming toward him. When he got to the top of the stairs he saw them just standing there with their arms around each other. Amanda was still in a trance and Cyntae was hugging her and sobbing. He could still hear that ‘thing’ outside. Stomp … slide, stomp … slide, stomp … slide.
   It was coming nearer and nearer. He tried to call to them, but his voice wouldn't work. It came out like a hoarse croak. He didn't want to shout fearing that ‘thing’ would hear him, although he felt like screaming. He tried two more times to get their attention. They didn’t seem to know he was there. Finally he realized he had to do something or that ‘thing’ would be coming in the house. He walked over, grabbed them and led them down the stairs. He noticed how cold they were but didn't stop. They were going through the parlor, heading for the back door, when he heard a sound that left him even more weak and scared than he already was. It was the bell. 
   The bell at the foot of the stairs was one of those large, old, brass bells that left an echo when someone rang it.  It rang once … Clang. When the echo was almost gone, it rang again … Clang. Again, when the echo was almost gone, it rang a third time ... Clang.
   Whatever this ‘thing’ was, it was now at the bottom of the porch steps. Thomas' hair was standing up on the back of his neck but he knew he had to get the girls out of there, and fast!  As he reached for the girls to lead them toward the back of the house, he heard the ‘thing’ coming up the porch steps, one step at a time. All of a sudden all the windows across the front of the house started shattering, one by one. The girls started screaming and he was shaking so bad, he could hardly move, but he knew there was no more time to loose. They had to get out of there. Quickly, leading the girls, he got them out of the house and headed toward the cotton fields. He turned to see if they were being followed and the sight that met his eyes was the eeriest sight he had ever seen. The whole house had a glow to it, but the brightest part was where that old log was that Luke and he had been chopping on. The whole log was lit up like daylight even though it was still dark. He saw the girls safely to Tuffy's house and then went to the plantation to tell Francois what had happened.
   When Francois heard, he sent a carriage to Tuffy's to pick up the girls and bring them back to the plantation. He then waited until it was time for Edward to come home and rode over to the Dower house with six of his best men and Thomas. When he got there, he sent for Luke. While he was waiting for Luke to arrive, Edward came home and Francois told him what Thomas had gone through that morning. He also assured him that the girls were ok and at the plantation where Azima was attending to them. When Luke got there, Francois questioned him about the log and found out he had started chopping on it at the same time the strange noises were first heard. From Luke's account they figured out that when Luke and Thomas chopped up the wood, the very next morning was when strange things happened. Francois then ordered his men to dig the whole log out from under the house.
   While they were waiting for the men to dig up the log, they went in the house to see if everything was ok. There was glass everywhere in the living and dining rooms, but nothing else seemed to be disturbed. When they got to the hall upstairs, where Thomas said the girls were standing, they could still feel the cold in this area. About two hours later they heard one of the men screaming. They ran to where they were digging the wood out and found that the men had unearthed a skeleton hand. It was sticking up out of the ground. Francois ordered the men to keep digging until the whole skeleton was revealed. He then sent one of the men to get Father Sanchez. He still wanted that log out so they kept digging.
   What they finally uncovered under the log, beside the skeleton body, was Spanish gold, more than a thousand dollars worth. The skeleton they dug up was dressed like a Spaniard of the eighteenth century. Who he was or how he came to be buried under the Dower house with all this gold, no one will ever know. Maybe Francois knew, but he never told my grandmother or her sister. What was strange was that the Spaniard had a broken leg. The stomp… slide would have been the same sound as a man dragging a broken leg behind him on the wooden walkway.
   The body was taken to the church graveyard and given a Christian burial. The gold, Francois gave to the church. He believed it to be evil and wouldn't touch it. My grandparents never returned to the Dower house. It was cleaned out, boarded up and as far as I know lies rotting in the bayou. My grandmother did tell me that sometimes travelers, passing down the bayou at night, would see a strange glow coming from just beyond the pier.
   The End

Copy write © 2002
The moral rights of the author have been asserted.
The rights of Cookie Rogan to be identified as the author have been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and patents act 1988

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