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Sunday, July 14, 2019

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Some legends never die

Some legends never die

It has many names, only one numerical designation and is bordered by massive, old trees. Bayous and canals traverse its entire length. It’s dark and spooky, especially at night. No one wants to be stranded on this highway’s infamous section between Klondyke and Larose. The stories people tell about that stretch of LA 24 can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

No matter if you call it the “Houma Shortcut”, “Bourg-Larose Highway” or “Grand Bois Road”, it evokes a sense of eerie mystery and folklore to almost everyone from around here. The stories began almost as soon as the road was built of shells and rocks. The asphalt came much, much later, long after the stories of supernatural happenings.

Once you leave Larose and journey west, a quick 17-mile drive brings you to Klondyke. Few people live on this short stretch of the 36-mile road that connects Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. This is the last link in the Highway 24 chain and is most commonly known as the Bourg-Larose Highway and ends where it intersects LA 1.

According to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, LA 24 begins at an interchange withLA 20inSchriever, intersects U.S. 90 in Gray and becomes the main road through Houma’s Martin Luther King Boulevard.

LA Highway 24 continues alongBayou TerrebonnetoBourgwhere it turns briefly north then east alongBayou Blue and continues to Larose.

Although the stories aren’t documented, they exist amongst the people who live up and down Bayou Lafourche.
One story tells of a young couple who travels on the shortcut late one summer night. The year is uncertain. The circumstances are unclear as to who they are or why they were making the trek. What is clear is their untimely demise at the hand of some unexplained force.

The couple experienced car problems or ran out of gas. The details escape everyone who tells the story. The young man leaves his female companion alone and locked in the car as he begins to walk the long, dark road stretched out before him to get help or gas. Hours later, the young girl is awoken as she hears tapping on the roof of the car. She’s frightened, but musters enough courage to poke her head out the window and gaze upon the source of the unnerving sound. To her fright, she sees her travel companion hanging in the tree above the car. His bare feet hitting and rubbing on the roof of the car as his lifeless, hanging corpse swings in the wind.

Another tale tells of a light that travels the road. Supposedly a man went out searching for help when his car died on a dark, moonless night. He took a lantern out of his car and began to walk. His car was found. He never was. At night, some people have claimed to see the light of the stranded motorist’s lantern moving around the trees and bushes located on the roadside on that infamous 17-mile stretch.

Some stories tell about the shape-shifting monster known as the “loup garoup” (roo-ga-roo). When one was given the curse of the loup garoup, either by a gypsy, voodoo priestess or even a vengeful God, he or she could transform into any animal form it choses, real or imagined. It’s our version of a werewolf but much, much cooler. A werewolf is nothing more than a person who could change into a wolf. It’s just a one-trick pony.

Folklore tells of this beast that roams the swamps and bayous along the Grand Bois Road. It devours cattle, pets and perhaps, even people. Could it be the loup garoup? Could it be a swamp beast? Our version of big foot? Who can say for certain?

Gerald and Rachael Ayo live in Bayou Blue on the Lafourche Parish side and use the Houma shortcut multiple times a week to visit Rachael’s mother who resides in Galliano.

“We are always using the Grand Bois Road,” she says. Husband Gerald adds, “It’s the only way we come when we go down the bayou.”

Gerald would tell stories to any child riding in his car, even his son, about swamp creatures and ghosts as they traveled the dark road day or night.

“I admit that most of the stories I told to the kids way back then in the car was just something to make them behave”, Ayo says. “I never heard any kind of spooky story about the Grand Bois Road,” he added.
Rachel never heard any scary stories about the road either, but is cautious about traveling the road sometimes alone and sometimes at night.

“Nothing ever happened. I never saw anything, but I tell you what…I don’t stop on that road for nothing,” she says emphatically! “Flat tire or not, I am not stopping…even in the daytime!”

Rachael knows that nighttime is even scarier. “There are no lights on that stretch of road, so night is really scary,” she adds while shaking her head, eyes big and wide.

Whatever is lurking on the Grand Bois Road, myth or not, may never be known. Rumor has it that film crews are out searching for the creature that has become part of our culture and folklore.

When you travel the Grand Bois Road, gaze into the trees and marshes. You may see a loup-garoup … then again, it may just be lights from a film crew.