It’s late at night and as we sit on the bank of Dorcheat Bayou near the bridge on La. Hwy. 162 west of Sibley, we spy a light downstream. Is it a fisherman trying his luck or the ghost of a hobo who fell into the bayou and drowned when he tried to jump aboard a moving train in the early 1920s?
Legend says the penniless vagabond still searches for the small cloth satchel containing his meager belongings which went into the dark waters with him.
Again, the night is very dark as the car moves slowly along Bayou Avenue. Some tombstones in Minden Cemetery shine a ghostly white; others blend their granite gray with the night. Suddenly, one of those darker headstones is drenched in red.
There appears to be blood on the tombstone, and the vehicle comes to a quick stop. The red is still visible, but there’s no reason to exit the car and walk into the cemetery. A cold wind will blow, summer or winter, and the blood will disappear. Every time.
Halloween. At no other time of the year do we hear more stories of ghosts, goblins and supernatural activity.
Minden and its environs is no different, reporting its share of unexplainable incidents which, in many cases, bring a sizeable crop of goose bumps.
Most stories have at least a modicum of fact around which the incident is woven. Some, though, are figments of imagination and the stuff for scary campfires. Truth or fiction? It doesn’t seem to matter.
“I haven’t heard the story about the hobo, but it’s a good one that’s traditional,” John Agan, official historian for Webster Parish, said. “There’s something about coming back to a railroad looking for stuff that makes a good story.”
Agan does know the story surrounding the alleged bloody tombstone at Minden Cemetery. Although the tale seems to have lost much of its eerie attraction over the years, it was a very popular site for cruising couples in the 1950s and 60s, he said.
“It was very long lasting. In fact, there was a discussion about it last week on a Facebook site. It definitely took place,” Agan said.
Speculation on the phenomenon’s light source ranged from a flying red horse advertising symbol at a petroleum bulk plant located just off Shreveport Road to the sign on Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Minden and even the sign on a bowling alley located off Bayou Avenue, Agan said.
“Which light it was I’m not sure, but there was a tombstone that reflected it. Whose was it? One story was that it belonged to a girl who had committed suicide; another said the tombstone itself had a streak in it that reflected red,” Agan said.
When it comes to the paranormal, we believe what we want. Many supernatural stories are well known while others are mysteriously absent from local lore, like the stories surrounding a group of Southern soldiers buried in a common grave in the old Minden Cemetery.
A group of Confederate soldiers is there, troops who died of wounds received at the Battle of Mansfield (a.k.a., Battle of Sabine Crossroads) April 8, 1864. No markers identified their resting place until the Daughters of the Confederacy erected gravestones March 25, 2008.
On 21 of the 22 markers are the words, “Unknown Soldier, CSA, 1864.” One headstone identifies Thomas L. Anderson, Pvt. Co. I, 31 Texas Cavalry, born 1828, died 1864. But Pvt. Anderson doesn’t rest with the others in the trench grave. His body was shipped home, wherever home was.
After the soldiers were buried, legend claims on the night of every April 8, ghostly voices could be heard coming from the historic cemetery. Residents of nearby neighborhoods say what was being said wasn’t clear.
But a Civil War veteran who reportedly visited the grave just after the turn of the 20th century later swore to his relatives that late one evening he heard a voice claiming to be Pvt. Anderson calling the roll of the unknown. The visitor said Anderson’s voice was clear. The responses were not.
Since 2008, the voices have been silent. Although no names have been attached to the grave markers, some say the soldiers are satisfied just to have a tombstone even if they remain known only to their Maker.
“That’s one I’ve never heard before, but it fits in a lot of ways because of Minden’s connection with the war,” Agan said. “We know one body was identified and returned because there’s a letter on file at the library from a lady who was grateful he was sent back.”
But, he added, there’s no way of knowing if the families of any of the others received any kind of notification.
Agan said ghost stories are associated with many communities. Some, like the unexplained light at Crossett, Ark., have made the area famous, in a ghostly sense. Unfortunately, there’s no single story which has stood the test of time and made a lingering mark on this area.
“There are ghost stories from people who have seen them in their houses, but they never tell anyone,” Agan said.
“We have no long, enduring ghost story here.”