New Orleans may be famous for stories about ghosts and vampires, but the surrounding swamps hold some pretty creepy legends too. Thanks to cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss, dense forests that only allow a little light in, and folktales from Cajun and Creole legends, the spooky creatures and ghosts of the bayou could frighten almost anybody. Taking up an area along the Gulf Coast that runs through the southern parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Everglades, bayou country encompasses a wide swath of America. With the notoriously spooky New Orleans almost in the epicenter, it's no wonder so many creepy Louisiana bayou legends exist.
You may be familiar with New Orleans's twisted Madame LaLaurie, but the bayou has its own share of horrifying secrets. If you know about creepy stories from the Everglades, you've probably heard of skunk apes. Louisiana bayous have those hairy beasts too, as well as several other cryptids and the spirits of unbaptized kids floating around. There are even some werewolves allegedly running amok. People from Louisiana may warn visitors about alligators or getting lost in murky, remote areas, but those dangers are relatively tame compared to the creepy stories from the state's swamps.
Less than an hour northwest of New Orleans lies the Manchac wetlands, known for eerie stories about its residents. The most legendary of these locals is the ghost of Julia Brown, sometimes called Julia Black or Julia White. Records indicate a woman named Julia Brown did live in the area after moving from New Orleans, but her legend may have been embellished by the addition of stories about her work as an alleged voodoo priestess.
Since she lived in a small, remote town, Brown most likely used her voodoo knowledge to provide medical and midwife services to the residents, and stories claim she had experience with curses and all kinds of charms. Townsfolk noted Brown often sat on her porch and sang, sometimes singing the line, "One day I'm going to die and take the whole town with me." On the day she passed in 1915, a powerful hurricane struck Louisiana that swept away around 300 people and wiped out several towns. Legends attribute this storm to a curse from Brown's song and claim she now haunts the swamp where she met her end.
Bayou Sale Road, AKA LA-57, runs from Dulac to Cocodrie and passes through a wide area of swamp. In addition to scary twists and turns in the road, stories claim many ghosts and even rougarou reveal themselves to those passing through. Wrecks on the dangerous road may account for the abundance of ghosts in the area.
One of the most famous stories to come out of Bayou Sale Road is about a hitchhiker who refuses to leave the car that gives him a ride until the owners give him treasure or their souls. Other witnesses have claimed the hitchhiker had a transparent appearance or disappeared before he got in the car. Drivers passing through have also witnessed a ghostly woman holding out her hand, seen faces of spirits, and felt an engulfing presence that made their skin crawl.
According to legends, pirates often used the dark, murky swamps of Louisiana to safely bury their treasure where no one would find it. Famed pirate Jean Lafitte used this method of saving his booty, but stories add he also slew one of his men and buried the body with the treasure. This ensured the man's soul bound itself to the area and the hole's valuable contents. Stories claim such a spirit turns into a floating light called a fifolet; certainly a spooky sight in the middle of a dark swamp. Those who claimed to have witnessed a fifolet said it emitted a blue glow, a vengeful presence, and sometimes led swamp visitors off to parts unknown so they couldn't find their way back.
One famous fifolet story involves two men who saw one and decided to follow it and dig up the treasure it guarded. One man grew greedy and knocked his companion out to take the treasure for himself. Unfortunately, he suddenly began to sink along with the treasure and woke his friend up with his screaming. The other man ran off and later returned to find the ground hardened and no trace of his friend.
The area known as Devil's Swamp near the town of Thibodaux allegedly contains some ghostly residents. Whether they were once people trying to cross the area's train tracks and a train hit them or they are the spirits of enslaved people who perished in the surrounding plantations, stories claim many paranormal happenings occur around the area. According to legends, people who park their cars on the train tracks will be targeted by ghosts that hit and rock the vehicle.
Some witnesses said handprints appeared on their windows after they mysteriously fogged. Cars don't even have to intentionally park since stories also claim vehicles stall once they reach the middle of the train tracks. However, considering the area is currently a Superfund site and deemed extremely hazardous thanks to chemicals, the toxic sludge in the ground may be scarier than the ghosts.