The LeBeau Plantation, a house built in 1861 in Arabi, Louisiana, that had been used as a hotel, illegal casino and a private residence, was in need of repair and said to be haunted.
But Friday morning around 2 a.m., the whole house went up in flames, causing a conflagration so hot the police could do nothing but put up a perimeter and wait for the fire to burn out.
“Such a devastating loss to our community,” St. Bernard Fire Chief Tomas Stone said. “It was a beautiful historical plantation. It’s a fire chief’s worst nightmare, to lose a historical structure due to fire.”
Chief Stone said the house was a total loss, leaving just the building's four chimneys, a small part of an interior brick wall and the foundation.
Seven people, who have not been identified, have been arrested for arson.
"They had been looking for ghosts, trying to summon spirits, beating on the floors," said Col. John Doran of the sheriff's office, adding they suspects had been smoking and drinking.
The house is owned by the Arelene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation.
"We had beautiful visions and dreams and plans," said Rita Gue, president of the foundation. "It is just a real unfortunate sad day for all of us."