Sunday, November 24, 2013

Haunted LeBeau Plantation Lost to Arson

The historic LeBeau plantation in Old Arabi, Louisiana has fallen victim to arson.  Headlines are claiming that the arsonist were inside the property searching for ghosts.  Further details indicate that the arson was due to a group of drunken party boys trying to be ghost hunters and not an established paranormal group.

Firefighters responded to the call outside of New Orleans just after 2 am on Friday, November 22.  On arrival, they discovered the 159 year old mansion completely engulfed by flames.

"When I received the call from fire communications, I live in Chalmette, I looked out my window and I could see the whole sky lit up." stated Thomas Stone, Fire Chief of St. Bernard Parish.

It quickly became clear to officials that arson was likely to blame for the fire.  Officers later arrested seven men between the ages of 17 and 31.  Several are from Texas and the others from Louisiana.

Col. John Doran of the Sheriff's department oversaw the arrest of the men: 

"They had been looking for ghosts, trying to summon spirits, beating on the floors."

Col. Doran said the men became frustrated when the spirits of the home failed to appear.  The suspects were drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana while in the house.  In their aggravation, the men decided to burn the house down.  The apparent ringleader of the group is Dusten Davenport, 31, of Fort Worth, TX.  Police believe it was Davenport's idea to start the fire and that he stacked pieces of wood to ignite the blaze.

Designed by Francois Barthelemy LeBeau, the home was completed in 1854.  It was once the largest plantation south of New Orleans with sixteen rooms, an attic and an octagonal cupola from which both the Mississippi river and the city of New Orleans could be viewed.
The mansion changed ownership numerous times over the years but continued to be referred to as the LeBeau home.  It served as a hotel for a time, then in the 1940s, as an illegal casino.

The plantation had a long history of ghost stories.  Reports of strange lights, apparitions and bloodcurdling screams were common over the years.  The most reported ghost associated with the mansion was the spirit of a woman in a white dress reported walking on the upstairs porch. 

There were plans in recent years to restore the home but its age and disrepair made it a huge undertaking.  Jimmy Delery of St. Bernard reflected what many Parish residents felt:

"To me it wasn't a loss of a building; it was like a family member,"

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