Saturday, February 11, 2012

Samedi: Ghost Stories

I realized the other day that it has been some time since we’ve spun a good ghostly yarn here at HQ.  With St. Valentine’s Day in the offing, I thought I’d pull one from that wonderful source of old time Louisiana folklore, Gumbo Ya~Ya, edited by storyteller extraordinaire Lyle Saxon. 

As before, I’ve got my own spin on the story from friends and family down NOLA way.  In Gumbo Ya~Ya the young husband died in the first World War.  The way a similar story was told to me by Cordelia la Tour, may the angels rest her soul, the story is about an ancestor of hers who died shortly after the War of 1812.  Either way, it is both chilling and sentimental.  Here then is the story of a young widow and her search for answers at the grave of her lost husband one night in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

The young and beautiful Madame Sidonie de la Tour was despondent after the death of her beloved husband Jerome.  They had shared only a scant few years together before his untimely death in the yellow fever epidemic of 1818.  Sidonie was inconsolable and would often visit her love’s grave in the evening to place fresh flowers, light the lantern and commune with his soul.

This ritual did not change when a new love came into Sidonie’s life.  The dashing stranger from the East Coast courted the lovely – and wealthy – widow in a whirlwind romance.  In the spring of 1819 he proposed, promising her the world.  Despite her joy, Sidonie had not forgotten her first love and so, flowers in hand, she went to his grave not only to remember him but to ask for his advice.

When she was done straightening up, placing the flowers just so and lighting the lantern, Sidonie began to talk to Jerome.  Nearby sat her chaperone, a burly slave named Aries who went with her everywhere, dozing with his hat over his face.  As the sun went down Sidonie spoke of her new beau and asked Jerome point blank: “Should I marry him?”

Silence filled the sunset air.  Aries began to snore, insects buzzed, the leaves of nearby trees rustled in the breeze, but no answer was for coming.  Sidonie ran her long, elegant fingers over the raised lettering on her husband’s tomb and began to think that maybe no answer meant she was free to marry again.

“Oya, Madame!” 

Aries’ booming voice made Sidonie jump nearly out of her skin.  She looked over and saw him pointing up to the velvet blue sky, his eyes wide.

“Do you see, Madame?  It is certainly a great owl,” Aries continued.

Sidonie looked up and sure enough, an unusually large owl was circling just overhead.  “Don’t worry, Aries,” she said.  “He is only hunting.  The mice are as numerous as – ”  She could not finish her thought as a beautiful long-stemmed rose, the very color of blood, dropped into her taffeta skirt.

While she and Aries watched, completely speechless, the owl dropped ten more red roses into Sidonie’s lap. 

“What ever does it mean, Madame?”

“I’m sure I couldn’t say,” she replied.  “How very queer.”  Sidonie was gathering up the fresh blossoms – quite out of season and full of perfume – when another rose fell onto her skirts.  This one was pristinely white, so pale in fact that it appeared luminous.  It was followed by a rain of eight more, their perfection and scent as lovely as the eleven red roses before.

“Madame,” Aries’ voice was shaking now.  “That there is powerful strange.  I tell you, it must be a sign.”

Sidonie, who hadn’t had time to think of what the roses might mean, looked to her husband’s tomb.  Again her hands went to the lettering and she began to read aloud: “Here lies Monsieur Jerome David de la Tour…”  At that moment a veil seemed lifted, and she read the meaning as clearly as looking through glass.  “Oh Aries, you are right.  The eleventh letter is N while the next ninth letter is O.  N. O.  No.”

“Madame,” Aries stood and brushed himself off before looking back to the sky.  “The owl is gone.  We should be too.”

Sidonie did not argue but gathered her roses, kissed Jerome’s name and allowed Aries to help her to her feet. 

Upon further investigation, it was revealed that Sidonie’s fiancé was a con man with a long trail of now poor and previously widowed wives behind him.  To her dying day she credited her Jerome, in the shape of an unnatural owl, for warning her against a horrible mistake.  Amour toujour ~

Header: St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 via


Timmy! said...

That's a good story, Pauline...

Pauline said...

I hope it is true...