family at christmas, historic home tours, Louisiana, ogilvie-weiner mansion, Shreveport, The Logan Mansion, victorian christmas
As some of you know, I have a love an obsession for mansions—specifically old mansions with lots of history—and a few ghosts. With my husband’s job, we move every couple of years and one of the first things I do when we move to a new place is Google “Historic Sites” and “Haunted History.”
In May, we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. In one of my internet searches, the Logan Mansion and Ogilvie-Weiner Mansion came up on my computer. Jackpot! Two historic mansions right across the street from each other! As I read about the mansions, I got chills. A little voice in my head told me that before we moved again, these places would become very special to me. I had a premonition that I’d have a connection to these houses; I would always have distinct memories of them. Even in my limitless, wild imagination I could not have foreseen that my connection to The Logan Mansion would come about the way it did.
Back in October, when I heard there would be a Victorian Christmas Tour at the two mansions, I put the date on my calendar and told my husband that come hell or high water—we were going on those tours!
Just as I’d planned—and had looked forward to for months, I packed my husband, my two adult sons, and my mother into the car. We proceeded to the Ogilvie-Weiner Mansion and the Logan Mansion.
First, we toured the Ogilvie-Weiner Mansion. Everyone loved it. Now, I must confess that I have visited the Ogilvie-Weiner Mansion no less than four times since we moved here. And I can’t get enough of it. It’s a magical place and I consider its owner, Debbie Bryant, both a kindred spirit and a new friend. (More on the awesome Ogilvie-Weiner Mansion in a different blog.)
My family members were treated to fabulous tours of these historic homes. We heard wonderful stories about their histories, and we learned about the colorful, interesting people who had occupied the houses in the past.
By the time my family walked out of The Logan Mansion, we realized that there is a good possibility we will be mentioned on subsequent ghost tours/mansion tours that the homeowner, Vicki LeBrun, will give in the future.
Yep, we’d managed to slip into the ‘history’ of this house. But, maybe not in a good way…
The minute I stepped through the Logan Mansion’s door, that house had me in its velvet clutches. I was completely enthralled. It is like being in a Victorian dream.
Several people gathered in the foyer and waited for the tour to start. After we were entertained with a few Christmas Carols, Vicki LeBrun began the tour with a brief history of her home. After the ‘foyer talk,’ we proceeded to the gentlemen’s parlor, and then the ladies’ parlor, before continuing-on to the dining room. That is where our personal saga began…
A group of about twelve to fourteen people gathered around a gorgeous dinner table that was impeccably set for a Victorian Christmas dinner. As I stood mesmerized by the giant crystal chandelier while being enchanted by Vicki’s story, I felt a little tug on my backpack-type purse. I turned my head just a bit and noticed my eldest son was standing directly behind me. I figured he had moved forward to see better and had jostled my purse.
I turned back to take-in the rest of the stunning room, but suddenly, I could not breathe. At all. Could. Not. Take. A. Breath. It felt as though someone squeezed my nose shut and slapped a hand over my mouth. Instantaneous panic set in. What the hell was happening? I could neither inhale nor exhale. I thought I was choking—or having some sort of attack. A few seconds of terrifying bewilderment followed.
At this time, almost everyone in the room began either sniffling, coughing, or sneezing. A slow trickle of air flowed through my nose and down my throat, but it burned as though I’d swallowed lava. And then, I heard a panicked whisper come from behind me. “Oh, my God! Mom! Mom!”
I spun around. My son had something wet in the palms of his hands. His face was beet red. Something caustic immediately filled my lungs. I coughed and tried to catch my breath. Gasping, I managed to turn my son toward the entrance. He willingly followed me as I tugged him by the arm of his sweater through the front door and down the front steps.
As I coughed and gasped, my adult son stood under the full moon, eyes wide, and confusion covering his face. He held his wet hands out in front of him.
“Stephen!” *cough* “Did you just activate my pepper spray?” *choke* *cough*
“Pepper spray??” His eyes widened. “Pepper spray? I thought it was hand sanitizer! Oh, sh*t! What should I do?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know!” *sneeze, sneeze* “Get it off your hands! Quick! Don’t touch your eyes! Rub your hands in the grass!” It was the best solution I could come up with as I struggled to get oxygen to my brain.
Someone, who I believe was a friend of the homeowner, must have seen our hasty retreat to the front yard and heard the consequent coughing/sneezing fit. He asked, “Is everything okay?”
“Pepper spray!” I managed to choke out.
“Thought it was hand sanitizer!” Stephen explained.
The man snickered (probably at the absurdity of two people being sprayed with their own self-defense, disabling, aerosol-weapon). “Come back inside. I’ll show you to the bathroom where you can wash your hands.”
Stephen followed him to the restroom.
After I caught my breath, I reentered the house. A little respiratory distress was not going to stop me from being on this tour!
By now, everyone in the dining room had stopped the contagious coughing, sputtering, and sneezing. The tour had gone on uninterrupted. Apparently, my husband, mother, and other son didn’t even notice we were gone.
I slipped in and stood near the back hoping to blend-in unnoticed.
Once again, the people closest to me started coughing, someone sneezed several times. There was a lot of throat clearing. Vicki stopped in the middle of her story. She swallowed hard before trying to continue. She looked completely baffled. “Is anyone else’s throat burning?”
“Yes!” one person said. “Scratchy.”
“Yeah.” A woman chimed in. *sneeze*
*cough, cough* “Yes,” another person agreed.
Vicki shook her head. “Weird.” She tried to continue her story, but blinked a few times as though her eyes had begun to burn. The coughing and clearing of throats continued spreading throughout the room.
My other son joked, “Is this going to turn into a murder mystery?” Everyone laughed.
The coughing continued. Vicki’s brow wrinkled. “What is going on? Maybe it’s dust…?”
Well, I had tried to blend-in and pretend the whole thing never happened, but clearly that wasn’t going to work. I realized there was no point in hiding the real cause.
I held up my hand. “Um, excuse me.” *clearing throat, feeling the burn* “First off. I’d like to apologize in advance for what I’m about to say.”
All the red and watery eyes turned my way.
I coughed one more time and tried to suppress another one so I could explain. “It’s pepper spray. My son saw it attached to my purse. *sneeze* “He thought it was hand sanitizer.”
At first everyone stared at me, trying to make sense of what I’d just told them.
And then…the group burst out laughing.
Thank God everyone had a sense of humor about the situation—even the guy who had just recovered from laryngitis. He said he’d gotten his voice back that day—but he seemed to have lost it again. I didn’t get his name, but what a good sport. He could hardly speak, but he snickered every time someone else sneezed or coughed.
Vicki opened a few windows and the air began to clear. She continued with her tour, only stopping a couple of times to sneeze or clear her throat. At one point, she looked at me and my son (who had now rejoined the group.) “I’ve had some strange things happen on tours…but nothing like this.”
Someone said, “Well, I guess there’s another story for you to tell.”
Vicki answered, “Oh, I definitely will tell this one. Pepper spray!” She glanced at my son, shook her head, and smiled. “Hand sanitizer? Really?”
Throughout the rest of the tour, every time intermittent sneezing and/or coughing occurred—it was followed by giggles. The ludicrousness of the situation became an ongoing private joke between total strangers—total strangers who had shared the same experience of being pepper sprayed in a candlelit mansion surrounded by delicate Victorian Christmas decorations, English lace, and heirloom china.
Although the tour continued, everyone gave me and my son a wide berth. Judging by their involuntary, olfactory reactions, we still had some peppery-stench lingering about us despite the hollyberry scented candles and orange/honeysuckle potpourri.
At the end of the tour, my embarrassed son declared, “Mom, you always have antibacterial gel hanging from your purse!” And then he plaintively asked, “When did you switch…and why?”
This question received some hearty chuckles from the tour group as we all dispersed down the front steps.
So, just as I had planned, I toured the beautiful Logan Mansion at Christmastime. And just as I predicted, that house will always provoke a special memory for me. I think it’s safe to say we made quite an impression last night.
I’m just glad he didn’t mistake my pepper spray for Binaca breath spray!
This is Binaca Breath Spray. It might stop an attacker.