Book tells of grave houses

By Amanda Mcelfresh
Lafayette, Louisiana (AP) April 2010

The Advertiser
The unique grave houses in the Istre Cemetery in Mermentau Cove are getting more attention than ever.

Nobody seems to know exactly why the structures were built, something that became evident last year after the release of the documentary film Little Houses by local brothers Jeremy and Zach Broussard. Now, Jeremy Broussard has joined with local photographer Gwen Aucoin to produce Grave House Legends, a companion book.

“When we were working on the film, we interviewed a lot of experts and locals, and at first we thought we would find an answer as to why grave houses were built,” Jeremy Broussard said. “But we didn’t find an answer. It appears that we’ll never know for sure, and I think that’s something that added to the film.”

But the lack of a definitive answer didn’t stop people from approaching Broussard with their own theories or stories they had heard about the creation of the houses.

“I realized that these are great legends, and a perfect way to tell the rest of the story,” Broussard said.

The 64-page book features several photos of the houses and the cemetery, as well as the stories behind some of the theories behind their creation. Some people believe they were built to keep prayer candles lit, while others are convinced it was to protect the graves from cattle and livestock.

They may have been borrowed from Indian burial customs, or perhaps as a way to copy the elaborate tombs seen in New Orleans. Still others believe the houses were designed so that the deceased could drink coffee and play cards whenever they want.

The book will be released on Wednesday with a special release party at the Acadiana Center for Film and Media. Aucoin and Broussard will be on hand to discuss the book, and the event also will feature a screening of Little Houses.

“One thing I really wanted after the film was done was for people to see the houses, in person if possible,” Broussard said. “But the next best thing seemed to be to see them in a book. I think the photos really tell the story better than anything.”