The Big Easy. The Crescent City. The Birthplace of Jazz. No matter what you call it, New Orleans is a city of mystery, magic, and spirits of every shape, size, and demeanor.
As cities go, New Orleans is considered one of the most haunted in the United States, and while many have attempted to explain why, no single theory seems to pin the source. Whatever the reason, New Orleans seems to collect ghosts and as such, has become a haven for paranormal researchers and investigators.
Here are five of these fantastically haunted locations and their stories.
#1 The LaLaurie Mansion
Why not begin with one of the most gruesome and terrifying stops on our journey? The historic mansion in the French Quarter today known as the LaLaurie Mansion was once home to the wickedly sadistic Delphine LaLaurie.
Born Delphine Macarty in a wealthy white Creole family, the woman would marry three times in her lifetime, but it wasn’t her romantic trysts that gave rise to LaLaurie’s infamy.
In 1831, breaking a host of societal norms, Delphine purchased house at 1140 Rue Royale in her own name, and while it might have seemed plain from the outside, she quickly created a palace of its interiors and the home soon became a focal point for New Orleans society.
Lavish parties and salons with every comfort made LaLaurie the talk of the town. Little did her guests know, though, what she Mistress of the manor got up to when no one else was around.
It was only when a small fire started in the kitchens of the home during a party that the hideous truth was finally revealed. Inside the kitchen, they found a slave who, according to legend, was chained to a wall with just enough chain to allow her to move about the kitchen and prepare meals. Finding this, authorities were shocked and under the guise of looking for burning embers that might be lurking after the small blaze began to search the rest of the home.
It was on the top floor, the slaves quarters, where the most hellish discoveries were made. Here they found men and women chained to walls. Most showed signs of malnutrition; some were stuffed into cages too small for their bodies, and still others, according to legend, may have been the subject of ruthless experiments by the crazed Madame.
LaLaurie fled the city to avoid punishment for violation of the Code Noir, a set of statutes enacted in Louisiana for the “proper treatment of slaves”. While the very idea may turn our contemporary stomachs and rightfully so, the Code Noir was actually quite liberal for its time, requiring slave owners to provide clothing, religious education, and care for their slaves. It even required slave owners to provide and care for any slave who became unable to work due to old age or illness. Violation of the Code Noir was a serious criminal offense and could result in the loss of property, fines, and other restrictions.
The LaLaurie mansions stands, to this day, in the heart of the city. Visitors and passersby have reported hearing moans of the spirits of anguished former slaves, screams of terror, and even an angry female voice screaming at unseen servants in French…some say that even though Delphine is believed to have lived her life out in Paris, upon death she returned to the house she once made into a palace and has been in residence ever since.
#2 St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
It would be difficult to examine the haunted locations of New Orleans without a stop in one of its many beautiful cemeteries and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest in the city, is a prime example of the Big Easy’s monuments to the dead.
A winding maze of above ground crypts and mausoleums, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is a veritable city of the dead. The energy inside its gates is palpable and one can feel a chill in the air as the spirits brush by you. It is the final resting place of many notable personalities from New Orleans’ colorful past. Perhaps none is so famous, however, as the famed Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau.
Historians have argued whether Marie actually practiced voodoo or not. Laveau was a member of the Gens de Couleur Libres, a social class that carried some distinction in Louisiana in the time of slavery. They were the “free people of color” and they had their own societies and guilds. Some say, as a hairdresser to the wealthy elite white women of the city, Laveau was privy to a host of information she could put to use in convincing her clientele that she was indeed a powerful voodoo priestess. Others argue that both her mother and grandmother were indeed voodoo practitioners, and that Marie inherited her skill and powerful from their teachings.
Regardless of the truth, and I lean more to latter theory myself, Laveau quickly rose to fame as a powerful woman who could bring down the mighty with a flick of her wrist. Today her grave in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is a regular temple for pilgrimage for believers and the curious alike. Many seek out Marie’s grave making their requests for healing, prosperity, and other favors from the voodoo queen, and leaving small gifts behind as payment. Faith in Marie’s power is as strong as ever in New Orleans and those who pay homage will often tell stories of the miraculous ways that Marie Laveau has answered their prayers.
Today the cemetery is open only to guided tours and to those who have family laid to rest inside, but there is never a shortage of tours and one can still make their requests and pay their respects to the great Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.
#3 St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica
Located directly across from historic Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica is a glorious city landmark! It is the fourth church to stand on the same plot of land and most people will tell you that spirits from every time period in its history still roams its beautiful halls.
In 1764, the King of France gave the city of New Orleans and his Louisiana property to the King of Spain as part of a treaty. Unfortunately, the French king forgot to tell his subjects of the change of command. So, when Spanish soldiers appeared in the city, some of the Creole residents believed they were under attack. After several skirmishes, the King of Spain decided to make a lesson of the six men who led the ill fated Creole rebellion. They were tracked down and killed and left on the steps of the church to rot in the sun.
A local priest, Pere Dagobert, petitioned the King to allow him to give the bodies proper burial and was denied on more than one occasion. Dagobert patiently and set a plan in motion. When a huge storm blew in to the city, he led the families of the fallen men to the steps of the church and placed the bodies in pine boxes. He performed the funeral rites and led the procession to a cemetery where the bodies were interred in unmarked graves to prevent them being exhumed.
To this day, witnesses have reported hearing Pere Dagobert sing the funeral mass as a light moves from the alter to the doorway of the great cathedral. It is also said that the six men often appear at his side, eternally devoted to the man who gave their bodies the funeral rites.
And then there’s Pere Antoine, a Spanish monk who came to New Orleans determined to bring his harsh version of Catholicism to the masses. It was rumored that he even suggested started an Inquisition Court to enforce his views. No one is sure why, but Antoine eventually went through a conversion of sorts and devoted himself to service to the people he had once thought to “save” via fear and punishment. He became the spiritual leader the city needed and he was laid to rest in the cathedral he loved when died at the age of 81.
Today, it is not unheard of to spy Antoine’s spirit roaming the church, reading from his prayer book and ministering to those who might need him.
Over the course of time, St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica ministered to a variety of parishioners both famous and infamous, and some of them still appear in the structure.
The spirit of Madame Delphine LaLaurie is said to appear in a third row pew begging for forgiveness for vile deeds in life. Marie Laveau is also said to appear in the church in the early morning and late evening hours making her daily prayers. Aimee Brusle, a sad woman whose only joy in life seemed to come from the great organ in the church, has been spotted on numerous occasions in the organ loft.
The list literally goes on and on for the location. It seems St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica is a haven in life and in death for those in need.
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