Idiots, Arsonists, and a Sad Heritage:
Last Friday, arsonists set fire to the abandoned LeBeau Plantation in Arabi, Louisiana. The building has a storied past complete with tales of ghosts and a sad heritage. Originally built by Francois Barthelemy LeBeau as a weekend getaway, the plantation was completed the same year the wealthy aristocrat died. The building remained in his family as a hotel and then casino until 1905. Joseph Mereaux purchased the property in the 1960s; however, the once ornate structure soon fell into disrepair.
Like many plantations of long ago, the old building boasts a troubled past. The LeBeau family was rumored to be extraordinarily cruel to the slaves. Rumors abound that some of the family members murdered slaves and then forced the other slaves to bury their comrades. Still other tales of suicide (apparently some LeBeau members wound up hanging from the rafters by their own hands) and mayhem persist. Even in the 1970s, the then-rented house was the scene of tragedy when a little girl seemingly was thrown from a window, and rumor circulated that a flesh and blood person was not her murderer. Lore has it that the ghosts of former slaves haunt the premises. Lights supposedly switch on and off—even though the electricity has long been non-existent on the property. Still others have told of a lady in a white dress who passes by the windows. Is she one of the mourning LeBeau ladies?
The men charged with arson allegedly were smoking weed and ghost-hunting when they set a T-shirt on fire and threw it into a stack of combustibles. Frankly, I think they were on stuff stronger than weed. Meth, anyone? Maybe their defense could be that a ghost told them to do it. Actually, I don’t mean to belittle anyone. Some may argue that the old building came to a just end. It was the scene of suffering and torture—a monument to the injustice once visited upon a group of people in this country. Still, I only can hope that some remnant of that property can rise from the ashes and become a monument—not to injustice but survival. Wouldn’t it be just if some church or charitable organization could purchase the property and make it a home for troubled youth? Then, the scene of so much misery would become a place of hope like the old Milne Boys Home in New Orleans or like the one-time Penny Lane in Liverpool, England; LeBeau Plantation would rise Phoenix-like from the ashes to save disturbed young people and at least begin to heal past wounds. While I know nothing can make amends for the horrors slaves faced, maybe their ghosts can rest knowing that the place of their misery is now a place where people try to save young people like those who torch buildings.