Hidden New Orleans
The French Quarter of New Orleans by daylight is nothing short of serene. Even with the numerous tourists that come through, the Quarter maintains a relaxed atmosphere. Many of the shops are privately owned, and the owners simply place a sign on the door suggesting guests come back in half an hour if they feel like taking a lunch break. Buskers sing blues songs and play guitar on the sidewalks, wishing you a blessed day if you pause to throw a dollar in their hats. Vines wind across iron-wrought balconies so perfectly that they look like they were designed for a movie set. There is nothing, by day, that suggests the true horror that lurks within the walls of many historic hotels, mansions and restaurants in the French Quarter.
The city is famous for its many haunted and supernatural sites, which are popular with ghost-hunters and regular tourists alike. It regularly makes television and internet “Most Haunted Cities” lists, and the destinations often include a page–or multiple pages–on their websites, boasting of their spooky inhabitants.
The Monteleone’s Child Spirit
Take the Monteleone, a hotel that has been a popular place to stay in New Orleans for more than a hundred years.
“A story I share at the Monteleone is the story of Maurice, who came from Paris with his parents as a young boy in the mid-to-late 1800s,” said Brian Huff, a guide on the New Orleans Insiders Tour. “They stayed at the Monteleone, room 1460. His parents were lovers of the opera, and they went to the French opera house on Bourbon Street.”
But tragedy struck for young Maurice, Huff said.
“One night while returning from the opera, his parents were killed in a carriage accident,” he said. “Maurice was orphaned and eventually taken in by family, where he grew up and lived a full life. When he died, he returned as a ghostly child to his room at the Monteleone, haunting it and looking for his parents.”
Randy Boudreaux, the concierge at the Monteleone, said that guests have seen the spirit of Maurice roaming the fourteenth floor, and have even snapped photos of the phantom.
“I have a photo taken by one of our guests almost two years ago,” he said. “It’s truly amazing to behold once you know Maurice’s tale.”
The photo shows a small, shadowy figure standing at the end of a darkened hallway, eyes aglow. It’s enough to give even the most hardened skeptic pause–an enough to be passed along as proof by the hotel staff.
Though the picture Boudreaux is referring to is striking, Huff said that the spookiness surrounding Maurice tends to be more subtle.
“We have never seen anything on a tour that was unmistakably a ghost, but I have had several ‘sensitive’ guests that had to leave ann area because they picked up on a supernatural essence that they found disturbing,” he said.
Guests have even reported the elevator stopping at the fourteenth floor–where Maurice’s family stayed–instead of their intended destination, Huff said.
The Monteleone does not hold the monopoly on haunted sites in the French Quarter. In fact, it’s just one of many hotels and restaurants rumored to have ghostly activity. New Orleans has a long, lively and often dark history of religion, witchcraft, slavery, war and entertainment. It suffered from a destructive fire in the late eighteenth century, and more recently, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Katrina’s impact was felt all over the country, and continues to fascinate and sadden visitors to New Orleans. The Travel Channel show “Ghost Adventures” premiered its new season with a New Orleans episode, some of which was focused on the thousand-plus victims of the hurricane’s destruction, and the ghostly presence they may have left behind.
“Ghost Adventures” hist Zak Bagans and the the crew members claimed the captured the plaintive voices of the deceased. Fans commented on Bagans’s Twitter account, saying how powerfully the episode affected them.
“I’m tearing up…one of the saddest episodes ever…” one follower said. The episode was even a trending topic on Twitter the evening of February 23, 2013. Whether the crew captured real paranormal activity or not, the fact remains that American is entranced by the mystique of New Orleans.
The French Quarter section of the city is said to be protected under a magic spell, taking remarkably little damage during the storm. In reality, that particular section of the city sits five feet above sea level, while most of the city is one or two feet below. But with all the magic supposedly infused into the Quarter, it would not be a leap to imagine a mystical force intervened to save the art, architecture and culture.
And in a city so old and mysterious, there’s bound to be a ghost around every corner. The “Ghost Adventures” crew wasn’t the only group to record what could possibly be evidence of ghosts.
Take, for instance, the Beauregard-Keyes house.
The historic mansion, located on Chartres Street, has a long and bloody history. It’s been the site of everything from Civil War invasions to mafia massacres. A master chess player, Paul Munni, was even said to ahem gone insane while staying in the house.
The website hauntedneworleanstours.com displays a number of photos that the guests have taken while touring the house. Unexplained orbs and swirls of light fill the photos, which many visitors claim are photographic proof of spirits.
The Haunted Mansion
The Beauregard-Keyes house is a tourist destination, not a place to stay the night. But vacationers can whet their appetite for haunted hotels at the Audubon Cottages. Named in honor of the famous naturalist John James Audubon, the cottages are over a hundred years old, and are reportedly filled with spirits.
Kimberly Majoue, a sales manager for the cottages, said that guests have reported a variety of unexplained events.
“We have received reports of a Confederate soldier in Cottage 4,” she said. “He’s often said to be playing country music on a guitar. This is our most common story.”
The Confederate soldier isn’t the only ghost in the Audubon Cottages. Staff members have heard the sounds of someone who isn’t there playing in the hallways.
“Our staff hans reported ‘children’ knocking on the office door and running away,” she said. “They can sometimes hear laughter and footsteps from above them.”
But ghosts, varied and exciting as they are, are only one element of the supernatural that can be found in the Big Easy. Tours are offered for every breed of the odd and the macabre–vampire tours and witch tours are adventures a tourist can embark on if he or she happens to be bored with the city’s ghosts.
New Orleans is famous for voodoo and the mystique surrounding it. Though the foundation of voodoo came to the United States from Africa via the slave trade, New Orleans has its own breed, and its own folklore surrounding its use. The practice emphasizes the use of herbs, charms, amulets and symbols to protect oneself from evil–or to strike down a foe.
One of the most famous figures in New Orleans voodoo culture is Marie Laveau, a voodoo queen of the nineteenth century. She supposedly conducted rituals and exorcisms from her home on Rue St. Ann, a spot easily accessible to any tourist staying in the Quarter.
Another way to get in touch with the magic of voodoo is to pay a visit to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. Though it is a different location from Laveau’s actual home, the shop will cater to your ever voodoo-related need. Candles, crosses and incense are all in stock, and worry not–plenty of voodoo dolls are for sale.
For those who would rather get the authentic Laveau experience, the voodoo queen’s tomb is located just outside the Quarter,in the Saint Louis Cemetery Number 1. Pilgrims to her grave scratch an X in the stone as a way of marking their visit.
Robert Florence of the University of Southwest Louisiana writes, “You will always find the innumerable X’s blanketing this tomb and several others. The origins of this proverbial New Orleans Voodoo practice are unclear, but contrary to popular belief, it is not rooted in an age old local ritual. Judging from the sheer amount of X’s scrawled throughout the cemetery, it would appear legions of Voodoo practitioners make their way to the City of the Dead on a regular basis.”
Voodoo practitioners or not, there’s no denying the allure of the French Quarter. Tourists come from all over the country to get a taste of authentic Creole food, see the sights, and soak in the city’s history. Sometimes that history is sunny and relaxed, without a dark cloud in sight. Sometimes, it’s a little scary, but that’s exactly what the tourists are here to see, and some won’t be satisfied until they’ve gotten scared.