Photo by Jason Cohen
Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery stands just outside Arnaudville on LA 31.
Arnaudville sits along the confluence of bayous Fuselier and Teche, a strategic intersection that gave the town its first name, Le Juncture. The heart of town winds through both bayous, with old-fashioned storefronts sporting businesses such as Tom’s Fiddle and Bow, a locally owned grocery store, the craft brewery Bayou Teche Brewing, and bed-and-breakfasts.
Arnaudville can also be described as a juncture of spiritual energy since it is home to haunted houses and a cemetery.
“Arnaudville pulls creative, metaphysical, and spiritual energy to this area,” said spiritual medium Allyson Glynn Schram, attributing this to the bedrock makeup or the prayers of its Catholic residents, including the neighboring Jesuit Center in Grand Coteau. “Arnaudville and this land are conducive to activity. There is a reason that this land holds the energy and the energy imprint.”
The following is an excerpt on Arnaudville from Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana, a new collection of ghost stories by the author from The History Press.
Spiritual medium Allyson Glynn Schram was heading down Highway 31 toward her home in Arnaudville when she passed the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery and “Spirit,” which she calls those in another plane communicating with her, showed her two young African American girls wearing Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and holding hands. Allyson immediately thought “sisters” and vowed to return to the cemetery because she was convinced the two girls resided in the identical tombs close to the front of the graveyard.
When she returned she discovered the tombs belonged to Beatrice Clark Taylor, 1907–1998, and Lou Ann Clark Taylor, 1913–1996.
“They came through standing here as the same age,” Schram explained.
Schram imagines they might have lived together, hence being buried right next to each other in identical graves. Even the fake flowers adorning their stark white concrete tombs matched.
The cemetery is located just outside Arnaudville on Highway 31 where it meets McVeigh Road. Vicky Cormier drives this stretch of highway on her way to work each morning, and routinely she’s greeted by an African American man standing to the right of the graves by a cluster of trees in the small cemetery. He wears thin cotton pants and a cotton shirt that’s slightly skewed, as if he’s just returned from working in the fields. Cormier is convinced he’s a farmer, but one who tilled the soil in another time.
“He’s standing there, like he’s waiting for me,” she said. “He just kind of stands there. It’s almost like he just wants to be noticed.”
Like Schram, Cormier is a sensitive, and she senses, more than actually sees, the man in the cemetery. The way she describes it, he’s visible through her peripheral vision but not if she turns her head and looks at him straight on. She’s convinced he was a slave or poor sharecropper and spoke French and perhaps a little English.
What he’s trying to impart to Cormier, she doesn’t know.
It makes perfect sense for the farmer to reach out to Cormier, however. Cormier leads classes in metaphysics in the backroom of her home in Arnaudville, everything from a weekly Intuitive Development Circle to crystal skull gatherings. At her weekly circles, she and participants accept messages from the beyond to bring healing and comfort for attendees.
It wasn’t always this way, Cormier said. Although she can’t remember in her youth having a particular gift in communicating with those who had passed on, she almost died as a child, and that experience transformed her life. At seven months old, her heart wasn’t working properly; she routinely cried without making a sound and barely ate. Her frightened parents took her to Charity Hospital in New Orleans while family and friends back in Acadiana prayed for her recovery. Dr. Michael Debakey, a renowned cardiac surgeon, happened to make a visit during the time she was there and performed the surgery that saved her life.
Growing up, Cormier didn’t find herself talking to dead people like the child in The Sixth Sense—outside of being scared at things she sensed at night. She grew up in a Catholic household and, in her thirties, was part of the Charismatic Renewal Movement. One night at a prayer circle, the priest, Father Nunez, told her she had a gift of prophecy, a comment that would remain with her for years. Later Cormier met Becca Begnaud, a South Louisiana traiteur and healer who invited her to attend intuitive classes in Baton Rouge. During this educational phase, Cormier said she struggled with trying to balance New Age thought with Catholicism. Through it all, however, she remembered the words of Father Nunez.
“What is this but the gift of prophecy?” she remarked.
Psychotherapist Carl Jung believed that humans share a collective unconscious and that no meaningful coincidences are accidental. He called it synchronicity. About the time Cormier was considering a move to Arnaudville, Schram and her husband, Charlie, were living in Lafayette. They loved their urban condo in the upscale River Ranch development, but Schram had cut out a photo of an older home and placed it in a vision book, thinking that eventually she would return to that kind of lifestyle.
Wanting to meet another medium, Schram contacted Cormier by phone.
“When I moved to Lafayette, I wanted to meet like-minded people,” Schram said. “Spirit told me to call Vicky.”
Schram and Cormier met for pizza during the time that Cormier was in the process of buying her Arnaudville home. When the purchase was complete, Schram and her husband stopped by with a house-warming gift.
“We had no idea where Arnaudville was,” she said with a laugh.
The meeting was preceded by an unusual message from Spirit.
“That morning when I got up and went to the kitchen to make coffee, Spirit said to me, ‘I am eighty-eight,’’ Schram recalled. “I asked Charlie if his parents were eighty-eight when they passed, and he said, ‘No.’”
Later, when the three were enjoying an afternoon on Cormier’s Arnaudville patio, Schram asked Cormier if eighty-eight meant anything to her and she said, “No,” as well.
As the afternoon progressed, Cormier mentioned that the house next door was up for sale; the owner had recently died. It appeared that family members were at the house at the time, so Charlie Schram went next door to investigate. The children of the former owner gave him a tour of the house, mentioning that the owner had died at age eighty-eight.
“Our eyes all popped open [when he told us],” Schram explained. “I said, ‘Maybe we need to go look at that house.’”
Still, they couldn’t believe they would actually leave Lafayette.
“We left Arnaudville and thought, ‘Dear God, it’s like driving to Baltimore, it’s so far away,’” Schram recalled with a laugh.
Then Charlie Schram was offered a job in neighboring Breaux Bridge.
“About a month or so later they bought the house and moved next door,” Cormier explained. “It really happened quickly.”
Both Cormier and Schram, now next-door neighbors, offer psychic readings to the public and both believe that communication exists between the living and the dead.
“Even those who have gone into Spirit and are now with God can stay connected to the people they love within the vibration of love,” Schram said. “That’s when a medium like I am can validate with what they’re saying, to give comfort and peace and to let you know they are still around.”
Cheré Coen, Allyson Glynn Schram, Vicky Cormier and Becca Begnaud will present a “Coffee, Tea and Spirit” discussion from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Little Big Cup in Arnaudville. They will also sign copies of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana.”