Where will the road take YOU?

Destination Diaries

New Orleans: The Haunted Past Of The Vieux Carre

By:  Angela Ash

cat in lafayette cemetery

There is no place in the world like New Orleans. There is a special feeling in the air. The ground beneath one's feet feels "different". No matter where you are, you never feel quite alone. And chances are, you are not.

Many people visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras and, even off season, Bourbon Street is known to be a place of revel. However, the darkened alleyways leading away from the neon signs have a pull all their own. The buildings seem to be alive, and even the street signs seem to have a story to tell. For chances are, they have literally seen it all. They have seen murder and mayhem, death and disease, and spirits wailing from the cemeteries. They have seen atrocities that the everyday tourist would never dream of when visiting a beautiful plantation. They have witnessed it all, and they are literally dying to show it to you.

To better understand the Crescent City, it helps to understand her origin. New Orleans was officially founded in 1718 by the French. Much of its early population was the undesirables sent across the seas to this murky swampland. The city was filled with murderers, prostitutes, pirates, and outlaws. Just imagine the things that occurred. As time went on, the Spanish ruled, with again the same lofty criteria for their immigrants. Yes, New Orleans was off to a good start.

In 1803, Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Not even a year later, the Haitian Revolution brought in refugees by the thousands, and with them came the ancient religion of Voodoo, a terror to the "good practicing Catholics", but obviously not enough to frighten them away from seeking out potions and charms in Congo Square.

Even more death arrived in New Orleans when the Civil War came barreling through. Not far away from the city, on Great River Road, many plantations were burned to the ground, while their owners were killed. This is the same area where, in 1811, the largest slave rebellion in United States history claimed countless lives.

Are you getting the picture?

You can easily see traces of New Orleans' haunted past in the present... if you only know where to look.

Let's start in the French Quarter.

Bourbon Street and Royal Street run parallel, and many streets intersect them, wielding whispers in the darkness. At 941 Bourbon Street, at the intersection of St. Philip, is presumably the oldest. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop was built "sometime" between 1722 and 1732, and is the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. As one approaches this end of Bourbon, the music is a little quieter, and the lights are a bit dimmer. This establishment is no different. It was once owned by the pirates, Jean and Pierre Lafitte, and while it was a real blacksmith shop, many believe it was used as a base for their smuggling operation. In present day, many patrons see eyes staring back at them from the fireplace, and the piano in the corner has been known to play a key or two of its own accord. People have heard boots stamping across the floor, when no one is walking, and loud male laughter, when no sound can be accounted for. And in the tradition of the pirates, visitors have even felt an ethereal tug at a dollar bill or two, when placing it on the counter. Could this be one of the Lafitte brothers, still attempting to rob... even from the grave?

lafittes blacksmith shoppe

Not even a block away, at 1003 Bourbon Street, is Lafitte's Guest House.  This haunting does not go back to the brothers, but to room 21.  It was here that a mother and her two daughters resided.  The first daughter died tragically from yellow fever.  It was not even two years later that the second daughter hung herself from grief. The mother spent the rest of live heartbroken and died alone.  Visitors often still hear her crying out... from the grave.

Not to be missed is the LaLaurie Mansion, at 114 Royal Street, close to the corner of Governor Nicholls Street. In 1831, Marie Delphine LaLaurie and her husband, Louis, bought this immaculate property, and immediately began entertaining, as their social class demanded. However, no amount of feeding and watering the residents of the city could hide tales of the cruel acts which she bestowed upon her slaves. Rumors ran rampant, but no proof was ever offered, until a neighbor viewed a young girl fall to her death, while attempting to avoid the wicked sting of Madame LaLaurie's whip. The authorities intervened, removing nine slaves from her residence, one being the kitchen cook, whom she had chained to the stove. This did little good, however, for relatives went to the auction and bought the slaves, immediately returning them to their cruel master. Finally, in 1834, a bit of karma caught up with Madame LaLaurie, when a fire started at the mansion. Although the flames were quickly doused, people responding to the scene attempted to gain the keys to the slave quarters from Madame LaLaurie, but to no avail. After eventually breaking down the door to ensure their well being, they were met with a horror that they could not even have imagined. Seven slaves were horribly mutilated, stretched in terribly unnatural positions, some in cages, and some chained to the walls, wearing spiked collars. They had been imprisoned and tortured here for over seven months. As news spread, an angry mob soon formed outside of the mansion, screaming for justice and Madame LaLaurie's life. One step ahead as usual, she escaped from the carriage house and fled to Paris. Upon closer inspection of the mansion, human bones were found buried in several places throughout the grounds, and even in various hidden places within the house. In present day, the mansion has passed through many owners, including actor Nicholas Cage. Locals claim that screams are often heard coming from within the walls of the mansion, and many even refuse to pass by it on the same side of the road. One may ask, how is it possible that such wickedness could ever be completely eradicated from a place? That answer is simple. It can't.


Flannagan's Pub, at 625 St. Philip Street, is yet another scene of ghastly suicide.  The sister of a former owner killed herself in the women's restroom.  The circumstances are unknown, but many people have seen or felt her.

The Le Richelieu Hotel, dominating 1234 Chartres Street, saw its own share of death in 1802, when Spanish soldiers were executed on its very grounds for treason.  And of course, these soldiers are in no hurry to cross over, but have been seen by many visitors, and heard, whispering in Spanish.

Another hotel just down the street at 1024 Chartres Street also has an otherworldly connection to soldiers, for the Hotel Provincial was used temporarily as a hospital during the Civil War.  It is said that building five seems to host the most activity, as patrons often see soldiers, hear moaning, or worse.  A girl staying at the hotel stepped out of the shower, noticing that a large pile of what she thought to be towels were heaped in the middle of the floor.  Upon realizing that they were not there when she entered the bathroom, she decided to take a closer look... only to find that they were bloody bandages which, quite conveniently, turned back into towels before she could show them to her parents.

Again on Chartres Street, at 1113, sits the lovely Beauregard-Keyes House.  It seems that everyone who had lived in the house had experienced some form of misfortune, but none as sever as that of Paul Munni, a brilliant chess master.  He actually went insane for reasons unknown while living in the house, and ran down Ursuline Street, brandishing a large axe and threatening to kill everyone.  Thankfully, he was subdued by the police, and the killing never actually ensued.  However, things did not go so well when the house later became the site of a terrible mafia-related massacre.  It is said that people consistently hear shots fired in the garden.

Just a bit away is another haunted, though seemingly innocent, location. Dating back to 1752, at 11000 Chartres Street and Ursulines Avenue, is the Old Ursuline Convent. The sisters of Ursula were the first of many religious orders who arrived in New Orleans to build schools, orphanages, and to assist the poor. They also helped with the raising of French girls, who were sent over from France as potential marriage partners for the men (consisting of murderers, thieves, and pirates). These girls were known as the "casket girls", due to the strangely shaped cases which held their belongings... or something else entirely. Some says the girls were orphans, others prostitutes, but a any rate, they had arrived, and their cases were quickly loaded up to the third floor, where all of the windows were nailed completely shut.

Seems a little strange to protect shoes and undergarments in such a manner, eh? I thought so, too. Therefore, upon visiting, I attempted to query of such events, even going as far as to relay the speculation that the casket had housed the undead, and that the girls had officially smuggled over the first vampires from Paris. I, as expected, was met with horrified faces and exaggerated tales of how these girls never existed, although it is well documented that they did. And, as again expected, I was denied access to the third floor.

However, I explored a bit on my own in the "safe locations open to such visitors as myself". (Yes, that was indeed an actual quote.) I moved throughout the gardens, appreciating the well cared for plant life, as well as the beautiful statues of sisters long past. Inside, I visited the chapel and, upon exiting into a hallway, found myself drawn to a beautiful mirror. Spontaneously, I photographed it from an angle, catching the room behind me... the "safe" room... the "she won't find anything in here" room.

Oh, were they mistaken! A mist had crept into the room and, in that mist, was the perfect full apparition of a woman. Upon further inspection, which involved a quick sprint back out to the garden, I came to realize that this was not just any woman, but an exact double of one of the statues of the sisters! Now, whether vampires emerged from the third floor, or why the sisters refused to acknowledge that the casket girls existed, I may never know. But I DO know that spirits walk the halls of the convent, and quietly emerge from the looking glass.

ursuline convent ghost

Mist on stairs.

ursuline nun statue

Matching statue in garden.

Now, if you were left wanting by the mere mention of vampires at the previous locale, this should quench your lust. Just down the street is a regal townhouse at Ursulines Avenue and the corner of Royal Street. A gentleman by the name of Jacques St. Jermaine lived there. He was a well liked man, although infamous for his wine cellar, as well as for being stingy with its contents. Late one evening, an officer was on patrol and, in the flickering gaslight, he saw a woman on Mr. St. Jermaine's steps. Upon closer inspection, he found that she was quite dead and, upon even closer inspection, he found that her body was nearly completely drained of blood. She seemed to have dragged herself from the doorway, presumably from inside. As any good officer would do, he sent a passerby to notify his comrades at the station, and began to poke about inside. Seeing no trace of Mr. St. Jermaine and now joined by his fellow officers, he decided to remove the contents of his wine cellar. Later, at the station, he and his fellow officers decided to sample their bounty. They each greedily reached for a bottle, filling their mouths with the full-bodied liquid. However, they quickly spat it out. The bottles contained not wine, but human blood. And as for Jacques St. Jermaine, he was never seen again. Perhaps he had arrived back, to see his victim had escaped, police had been inside his home, and his wine cellar was empty. Perhaps he just went out for a "drink". At any rate, the townhouse is presently a private residence. I wonder if the owners like a good glass of merlot?

Now if your vampire quota has not been sated, do visit the Madame John's Legacy, at 632 Dumaine Street. This national historic landmark was seen in "Interview With The Vampire", in the scene where the caskets were rolled out of the building.

madame johns legacy

Just across the street from the house of Jermaine St. John sits the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, at 514 Chartres Street, close to the corner of Toulouse Street. In 1857, Dr. Dupas purchased the pharmacy, and immediately began carrying out terrible experiments on pregnant slaves. Mostly, these "procedures" resulted in death, and Dr. Dupas buried the bones in the walls of the pharmacy. Dr. Dupas eventually contracted syphilis and died... the horror of his killings never realized until this time. The pharmacy is now a museum and is presently open to the public, and visitors often reports hearing groans coming from the second floor, even though it is only used for storage.

At 716 Dauphine Street sits a house of most unusual history. The Gardette-Laprete House was rented by a Turkish sultan, who immediately took up settling in his harem... and adding to it.  It is said that it was not below him to kidnap women directly off the street, often torturing them before adding them to his "collection".  However, this did not go on for long, for one day a passerby noticed blood draining from the door.  Upon the police's arrival, every person inside of the house was found dead and mutilated.  At first, the Sultan could not be found, until he was eventually discovered buried in the back yard in a very shallow hole.  The murders were never solved, although many people point the finger at the Sultan's younger brother, claiming that he extracted revenge because he was, in fact, the REAl Sultan, and his brother had been impostering him. 

Hungry? Stop in at Muriel's Restaurant, at 801 Chartres Street, close to St. Ann Street. It was here that Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan built his dream home, after the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. This home was truly a masterpiece, and he had poured his heart and soul into its building. However, in 1814 he wagered his beloved home in a poker game, and he did not win. Unable to face his wife, he came home, and hung himself from the second floor. Presently, his lost home is Muriel's restaurant, and he has not left. The management at the restaurant even reserve him a small table in the alcove, complete with wine. People passing by often see, out of the corners of their eyes, legs dangling through the window... twitching... jumping... a macabre last dance.


Like some entertainment after dinner? Visit the Le Petit Theatre by St. Louis Cathedral, at 616 St. Peter Street. A beautiful actress named Catherine once graced the stage at the theatre, and was the toast of the town. However, she felt that every role must be secured, and she began to sleep with the director. Over time, she fell torridly in love. However, the feeling was not mutual, and he eventually fire Catherine, to avoid further dramatic backstage scenes. Catherine would not be deterred. She would face her audience a final time, as she returned once more, hanging herself before a packed crowd.

 Everyone loves a drink after a show. Do not leave the Big Easy without a visit to Ye Olde Original Dungeon, at the corner of Bourbon, at 738 Toulouse Street. The bar is actually inspired by a mansion at 716 Dauphine Street, which was rented to a man by the name of Suleyman. As so many did in the day, he immediately began to throw lavish parties... so much so that after a period of quiet, the police decided to investigate. They found that everyone in the home had been murdered. One hundred years later, the Dungeon opened up as a tribute of sorts to the eccentric Suleyman. A battle-ax welcomes patrons into the bar, warning them that they are “Entering the Dungeon of the Prince.". The narrow entry opens into a room with the most glorious jukebox known to mankind. Yes... there will be Type O Negative! The tables are nestled inside cages, and bones and skulls litter the walls. A library hides a secret door leading to the bathrooms. Upstairs is another bar, a dance floor, and blaring goth and metal music. It is pictured to resemble hell, but it sure feels like heaven to me!

the dungeon

 By now you must be very tired. Care to spend the night at the Andrew Jackson Hotel? Located at 919 Royal Street, the hotel was once a home for boys in 1794. Unfortunately disaster struck in the form of a fire, and five of the children were killed. Guests of the hotel often hear children laughing, or find items moved or other such mischievous things. Visitors have even seen shadows of the boys playing in the courtyard near dusk. However, these are not the strangest occurrences to haunt the Andrew Jackson Hotel. In the 1980s, a couple was spending a romantic weekend at the hotel. After a full day of sightseeing, they retired for the evening, leaving their camera on the nightstand next to the bed. After returning home, they quickly had their photographs developed, and were in complete shock of what they found. Mixed within their photos of Jackson Square and Lafayette Cemetery was a photograph of their room... of their bed... and of both of them lying asleep.

 If you'd like to experience an authentic Voodoo temple, you can! At 828 North Rampart Street, at the corner of Dumaine, you will find the Voodoo Spiritual Temple. It was founded in 1990 by Priestess Miriam, who still presides there today. Across the street is Congo Square, where Voodoo was commonly practiced, and where many went to seek the great Marie Laveau... the queen of Voodoo.

voodoo spiritual temple

 Speaking of the Voodoo Queen, you may visit her former residence at 1020 St. Ann.  Some believe that she never actually died, and can be seen transformed into a large black crow, flying from the roof of the house and away into the night.

Lastly, do not even think about leaving the French Quarter without walking across Rampart to see St. Louis Cemetery Number One. As many might know, the people of New Orleans bury their dead quite differently: above ground. Due to the swamp-like conditions and excessive moisture in the ground, the bodies just refuse to stay put. Therefore, they are housed in vaults and mausoleums... some of them great works of art in their own rights. Due to the lack of land and so many bodies to place above ground, they are placed in wooden coffins and buried within their family vault for precisely one year and one day. After that time , the coffin is removed and the bones are put in a bag. The bag is then dropped to the back of the vault, leaving room for the next body... or... bag. The cemetery is only one square block, but it holds thousands of deceased, including the above mentioned Marie Laveau. She died in 1881, but many followers still leave offerings at her tomb, and many scratch three X’s, hoping that she will grant a wish. Many say that they have seen Marie Laveau walking through the cemetery, as if headed to Congo Square once more.

marie laveaus grave

Another wonderful cemetery awaits in the Garden District, just a cable car ride away. Lafayette Cemetery is located at Prytania Street between Washington Avenue and Sixth Street. This is truly one of the country's gems! Lafayette Cemetery has been used in several movies, including Dracula 2000 and Interview With The Vampire. Anne Rice also, in fact, used this setting for many of her books. The cemetery is well known for premature burials in the 1800s. Several tombs had been opened, only to find scratches at the lid a year later. Presently, visitors often hear this scratching as they walk through the cemetery.

lafayette cemetery

Also in the Garden District, you can find the former residence of Anne Rice, at 1239 First Street. This is also the inspiration for the home of her beloved Mayfair Witches. Anne can be seen all over the Garden District, actually. At 2523 Prytania, you will find Our Mother of Perpetual Help, once an active Catholic chapel, and also previously owned by Anne Rice, and used as the setting for her novel Violin. Her childhood home is also located just down the street, at 2301 St. Charles Avenue.

anne rice house

And before leaving the Garden District and its beautiful Victorian mansions and gardens, pop by and see the former home of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, at 2425 Coliseum Street. The house now belongs to actor John Goodman.

New Orleans holds a wealth of paranormal and just plain "creepy" locations. It is impossible to even attempt to list every one. However, part of the excitement is finding them on your own. You may "bump" into something while browsing at the goth shops on Decatur, or you may awaken to find your suitcase moved at the Provincial Hotel, once an old civil war hospital. It is nothing to be strolling down the cobblestone on Royal, gazing into art gallery windows, only to find that the temperature around you has dropped a good ten degrees, and everything within you whispers... "Don't turn around". Every time I have visited, I have experienced something... somewhere... and always the unexpected. You never know what New Orleans may have in store for YOU!

st louis cemetery

To read more about upcoming Darker Destinations in other cities, or to read spine tingling short stories, poetry, and other articles of a darker persuasion, order your copy of Twisted Dreams Magazine, available in various formats.