Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Hauntings of Oakland Plantation

Oakland Plantation; Emma Pattillo Collection: 0000.011.018
Before the invention and everyday use of the television, people would gather around the radio for news and entertainment. Well, in 1938, KTBS-AM aired a series called “Can They Return?” every Tuesday at 8 pm. On March 1, 1938, the hauntings of the antebellum house of Oakland Plantation on Sligo Road was the subject of the show.

At the time of the broadcast, Grace Pettet; her mother, Mrs. H.B. Harris; her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hughes, and their two children were the occupants of the home. Two days after the broadcast, an article written by Freddie Kolstad ran in The Times, providing a written account of the transmission from Oakland Plantation. The following are excerpts from the article:

“Attempting to answer the oft-pondered question, “Can they return?” several members of the KTBS staff visited the 100-year-old house Tuesday night and used it as the scene of their broadcast. The short wave transmitter set was installed in the wide hall of Oakland, and members of the station’s staff, accompanied by the occupants at the house, made a thorough tour of the structure, from front porch to cellar.

"Their trip up and down the narrow flights of stairs and through each room was broadcast over the transmitter and was tied in with a station broadcast from the studio in Shreveport. At the studio the story of old Colonel Sutton, who had built his own coffin at Oakland and had slept in it nightly for years before he died, was told. Emphasis was placed on the eerie footsteps heard at night that many believe to be the colonel’s tread as he haunts his former home trying to find some one to whom he may reveal the spot where he buried gold which he hid from the Yankees shortly before the Civil war.”

Legends of supernatural activity at the more than 180-year-old antebellum home have been spread over the past century. As legends go, the details are subject to change over the years, but for the most part, they share the same general points. The story told the night of the broadcast is perhaps, the most common legend told; however, this is the first version of the story I have heard that identifies the ghost as being Colonel Sutton.

Many believe that the hauntings of Oakland Plantation are the ghost of Dr. Skannal, who called Oakland Plantation home from 1844 until his death in 1876. It has been told that Dr. Skannal purchased his coffin years before his death and placed it in the attic, where he reportedly took naps in it. Dr. Skannal, many believed, was a fun-loving jokester when alive, and after his death, he continued playing practical jokes by haunting his old home.

Other stories are that Dr. Skannal murdered his wife and kept her body in the coffin, and the body was discovered only after his death. And some think that these hauntings are the specters of the young Skannal children that died at Oakland. Phenomena reported over the years include people waking up to find their covers stripped off the bed and in the corner of the room. The thermostat is adjusted to freezing temperatures. And of glass milk jugs falling over, and the rocking chair rocking with no explanation.

There are tales of headless horsemen and horses trotting through the vast hallway. There are sounds of footsteps in the attic, and chains scraping the floor. The radio knobs have been seen moving on their own, and items have been seen falling off flat surfaces. Objects will vanish moments after setting it down only to reappear later.

Other eerie happenings reported over the years are sightings of a woman in white. One account tells of a cold draft of air that moved through the library and resulted in the fireplace
lighting by itself. And the sensation that someone or something is breathing on your neck. While
more recent accounts involve finding all the kitchen cabinet doors opened, and a photograph was
taken, which captured the image of a ghost baby.

To see a model of Oakland Plantation and learn more about its history, including oral
histories that share personal accounts of some of these hauntings, visit the Bossier Parish
Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

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