Haunting of Manchac Swamp in Louisiana

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Swamps are a favorite setting for many horror stories, mainly in the vein of backwoods inbred cannibal families. Inbred cannibal trope aside, though, swamps do conjure eerie feelings. Eerie feelings and probably mental images of Spanish moss hanging from cypress trees, dangling over dark, muddy waters.

In the swamps of the United States, you'll also find alligators and venomous pit vipers lurking and submerged ghost towns long ago lost by rising waters.

Right outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, in St. John the Baptist Parish, there used to be a town called Frenier. It disappeared over a hundred years ago, but some say that Manchac swamp where Frenier used to be is now haunted.

Where Is Manchac Swamp?

Let's first orient ourselves via Louisiana.

Map of the United States showing the location of Louisiana.

Louisiana is the only state in the United States with "parishes" instead of "counties."

Totally not confusing.

Google map showing New Orleans at the southeast corner of Louisiana.
At the bottom of the boot-shaped state of Louisiana, you'll find New Orleans.

New Orleans is quite famous for a lot of things, like Mardis Gras celebrations, Anne Rice, and the French Quarter. It also happens to be responsible for the creation of jazz music, Bourbon whiskey, dental floss, and a whole lot more.

As it turns out, Manchac Swamp is pretty easy to find in the Greater New Orleans area today because Louisiana built a bridge over it called the Manchac Swamp Bridge.

Google map showing the location of The Manchac Swamp Bridge on the western shore of Lake Pontchartrain.
And now you know where Manchac Swamp is located.

Manchac Swamp Bridge isn't just any old bridge, by the way. It's one of the longest bridges in the world that runs over water. With a length of 22.80 miles (36.69 km), it is the longest bridge on the United States Interstate Highway System.

Old cypress trees covered in Spanish moss in the middle of a swamp.
Manchac Swamp, Louisiana.

Just imagine driving over Manchac Swamp during the night. Your car breaks down somewhere in the middle, and you pull off to the shoulder of the bridge. No other vehicles are in sight, and if you take a walk, you're in for one hell of a hike to get back to civilization. As you're smacking your old flashlight, trying to get it to come on, cursing under your breath about never getting around to changing those batteries, you remember something about Manchac Swamp...

It's haunted.

Better call Ghostbusters.

And maybe AAA.

The Legend of Julia Brown

On the shores of Lake Pontchartrain (pronunciation), north of Laplace, in the Manchac Swamp, was a small town called Frenier. Around the mid-1800s, a few dozen families lived in the community. Most of their income for Frenier was from farming cabbage, turning it into sauerkraut, and selling it to the French Market in New Orleans and Chicago via the railroad.

A woman named Julia Brown lived in Frenier. Julia was a traiteuse, a type of faith healer. She combined Catholic prayer and herbal remedies from plants she gathered around the swamp. The locals knew Julia for her healing abilities, as well as her skill in singing and playing guitar. She was loved for her healing but also feared because of her power. The townsfolk said she was a Voodoo Priestess.

Eventually, Julia grew old, and locals often saw her sitting on her porch, rocking and singing, guitar in hand. She began to sing a new song, one the town hadn't heard before. It was a simple tune.

"When I die,
I take the whole town with me.
When I die,
I take the whole town."

— Julia Brown

On September 29th, 1915, Julia Brown died. Nearly the entire town gathered to bury her. Some came to pay their respects, while others came to gather favor from her spirit.

Around four o'clock in the afternoon, as they laid Julia to rest, a storm landed ashore.

Not just any storm.

A Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching 145 mph (233 km/h).

By the time the hurricane subsided, several towns were gone, 275 people were dead, and the entire community of Frenier had disappeared.

Many of the dead were never found.

A mass grave was made for the few dead that were found.

Julia Brown is supposedly buried in the same area, but her grave is isolated, away from the rest.

A mass grave marked by fencing and crosses.
The mass grave of Frenier can still be found today in the Manchac Swamp.

Some say that Julia Brown cursed the town of Frenier with her song for taking her for granted; some say it was a prediction, while others argue it was just a fluke.

Visitors to Manchac Swamp claim that you can hear the cries of the townsfolk who died in the hurricane and that Julia Brown still sings, her words echoing across the cypress trees and dark waters.

If you ever find yourself around New Orleans, be sure to pay a visit to Manchac Swamp, even if the only thing you do is drive over the Manchac Swamp Bridge. You never know; you may find yourself as the star in your very own swamp horror film set in the remnants of a drowned ghost town.

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