A Louisiana Ghost Story: Le Feu Follet
Deep in the bayou, late at night, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you might see a light moving just over there. Now, some folks’ll tell you that ain’t nothing but swamp gas. You can believe that if you like, but let me tell you about le feu follet ‘fore you go traipsing through the swamp in the dark. It’s not just the gators you have to watch out for.
Le feu follet…the old Cajuns say they are souls escaped from Purgatory or maybe they’re the souls of babies who were never blessed in the Church. Perhaps you believe them to be Fae or elves dancing over those marshy places set to trap unwary wanderers in the swamps and bayous. Whatever you believe them to be, le feu follet hold a grand place in Louisiana folklore.
If you wander into the bayou, down where the darkness holds sway, where the ‘gator and the water moccasins keep court, you might see those dancing lights. If you’re coming home after dark, poling your pirogue along in the black water, don’t be surprised if those lights are following you along the shore – they can’t cross the water to get you. So don’t be afraid, but do be wary when you step back on land.
The other way to stop those restless spirits from following you is cold iron – take that pocket knife and thrust it into the ground behind you – that’ll hold ‘em for a bit. An elderly Cajun woman told me she didn’t trust a knife. She preferred needles saying that the feu follet just couldn’t resist trying to fit through the eye of the slim bit of steel.
There have always been tales of mysterious lights luring travelers to their doom. The Scots have the will o’ the wisp and the Slavic people tell tales of ghost lights. The Danes and others chase those lights knowing there is a treasure buried beneath it. But in Louisiana to this day, you can buy a beer in a bar and listen to someone who escaped a feu follet just last week.
Go down to Gonzales, Louisiana just outside of Baton Rouge. Get directions for the intersection of Bayou Narcisse Rd and Cante Rd. Expect to hear dire warnings about what will happen to those foolish enough to follow the lights though. Some will tell you the Gonzales feu follet is harmless—others will tell a more compelling story of terror.
I’ve seen the feu follet dancing across the bayou late at night. Once, gazing out my bedroom window while dreaming about a boy I hoped would call me, a flicker of something caught my eye. I remember straining forward trying to make it come into focus, but it just danced at the edge of the water seeming to mock me. Some Fey part of me cried when I realized I shouldn’t follow the flickering wisp of brightness. When I went to tell my mama, she told me not to mess with the Devil and go to bed. She called me a foolish child, but I heard her stick that steak knife in the front porch.
There are no feu follets to scare you in Changing Times. Just a werepanther trying not to fall in love with a human doctor even as his enemies threaten her life. I hope you will enjoy Tony and Carly’s journey.
An Excerpt from the revised version of Changing Times will be available soon. In the meantime, have a safe and happy All Hallow’s Eve.
The writing team of Cai Smith and Stephanie Lynch