Playful Spirits Make Mischief at Elizabeth Town Hall

Playful Spirits Make Mischief at Elizabeth Town Hall

Vickie Hooper and Ray Brown know something is going on, they just don’t know exactly what it is.


The two grew up in the 1960s in the village of Elizabeth, an isolated sawmill community once owned by the Industrial Lumber Company, or just “The Industrial” as it was called.


They describe pleasant, tranquil childhoods in what Brown characterizes as a “front porch” town where there was no internet and no video games and people would spend the afternoons sitting on their stoops and chatting with the neighbors.

Time moved slowly back then when adults and kids alike looked forward to passing by the Finke Store where you could get everything from “chicken feed to caskets.” There was hardware, clothing, groceries, a pharmacy, a soda fountain, a barber shop, a toy department, a post office and more.

Hooper recalls fond memories of her and her brother walking with their grandmother down to the Finke Store where each child would receive 12 cents to spend on whatever they wanted. She usually chose candy and Cokes while her brother opted for the “funny books.” As youngsters rambling around town, Hooper and Brown had always heard the bone-chilling stories of mysterious spirits haunting the old two-story hospital building where many of the locals were born and drew their first breaths – and where scores had departed to the Great Beyond.


They knew the tales of visitors hearing footsteps, knocks on the walls, picture frames crashing on the hardwood floors and the sounds of children playing.

The stories sometimes seemed a bit sensational, but once the two began working inside the building that today houses the Town Hall and Elizabeth Museum, those yarns that once seemed too outlandish to believe are now entirely plausible.

“There’s got to be something to it,” Hooper said. “There are just too many instances of people seeing and hearing things in this building through the years.”


The original hospital was built in 1913 but burned down seven years later. The new building was completed in 1923 and operated as a hospital until the 1970s.
The hospital was equipped with an x-ray machine, a staff with three doctors and two nurses, and had four separate wards for white men and women and “colored” men and women. There was also a breezeway in the back connected to a clinic, kitchen and laundry, and a nearby “pest house” where some patients with highly contagious diseases were quarantined.


Hooper spent 21 years as the accounts receivable clerk for the village and now serves as secretary for the mayor’s office and the Town Council.


She has a slew of stories that usually end with the same remark: “It makes the hair stand up on your arm.” She recounted one particular story that has endured through the decades.


“Years ago there was a man who had his leg amputated in the hospital,” she said. “Sometimes you can hear a sound like that man’s coming down the stairs and his wooden leg is hitting the floor on the way down. It makes the hair stand up on your arm.”


Housed on the second floor of the old hospital building is the Elizabeth Museum with an intriguing collection of artifacts from the hospital in addition to several rooms full of relics depicting details of the town’s history.

Brown has served as curator for five years and occasionally spends late nights tending to the displays. It’s during those late nights when the restless spirits often begin to stir.

“We had a man here who was painting. He was working on one side of the building and the next morning he noticed paint chips on the floor at the opposite end of the room. He asked us if we had brought someone in to help him because he hadn’t been working on that side of the room. It looked like someone had been scraping that wall all night long.”

But it’s not always bumps during the wee hours. Hooper recounted: “One morning the mayor was making coffee. He told me he heard footsteps upstairs
and ran up there to see what it was. He didn’t see anything. When he got back downstairs the coffee pot was overflowing and there was coffee all over the floor.” Brown recalls another daytime incident: “I was here at noon and the ladies in the office sometimes lock me in when they go out to lunch so nobody can get into the building. I was on the top floor and heard someone opening the door and walking across the floor. I thought maybe one of the ladies had forgotten something and was coming back. But I searched every room and there wasn’t anybody there.”

 

Many years ago a group of seniors used the building to hold a community lunch each week. Brown says he has heard what sounds like the laughter of the ladies coming from the former dining area.

BECi Communications Specialist Danielle Tilley has her own stories. She remembers her high school days when she dated a boy who lived within eye-shot of the old hospital.

“We would sit on the porch at night and look to see if anything would happen. One night we both swore we saw a lantern light floating past a window on the top floor.” She also recalls driving with her mother at night to slip the phone bill into the after-hours collection slot and being terrified that “someone was going to get me.”

While some may be skeptical about suspicious tales of ghosts and goblins, one group is giving the Elizabeth Town Hall the benefit of the doubt.

On the wall by the stairway leading to the Elizabeth Museum hangs an official “Certificate of Haunting” presented by the DeRidder Ghost Hunting Club, dated Oct.13, 2007. 

According to Hooper, several ghost hunting groups have visited and gathered up what they claim is evidence that spirits are present. She said many years ago audio cassette recorders captured some mysterious sounds. Hooper said the mayor once attempted to play the
cassette and the recorder started smoking. He found another recorder and again attempted to play the cassette. Before long, that recorder began smoking as well. As for the cassettes, no one seems to be able to locate them. To Hooper and Brown, the message is clear: the spirits just want to be left alone.

Besides, irrefutable proof that there are actually spirits hanging around - or irrefutable proof to the contrary- would just take all the fun out of it.

 

To read the rest of this issue of Louisiana Country, click here. 

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