The Spooky Seven: NOLA Edition
New Orleans is a town known for its fantastic food, but it also claims to be the most haunted place in The States, so if you’re hungry for a little scare this is the list for you.
1. Jackson Square
Located along the riverbank within central placement in the city - Jackson Square has long been one of the most popular tourist attractions in town. With Cafe Du Monde’s delicious beignets across the way, horse drawn carriages waiting to take you on a tour of the French Quarter, and a handful of souvenir shops down the road, it might be hard to believe that Jackson Square was once a place ripe of truly heinous activity: slave trade, bloody lynchings, criminal punishment. This was the site of many violent and public displays of physical harm - shown for all to see as a warning to the city’s residents. Nowadays this part of the city’s history is hush-hush.
2. St. Louis Cathedral
In the distance from Jackson Square you’ll see St. Louis Cathedral, which many don’t list as their most haunted places in New Orleans, but quite haunted it is! This, the oldest church in Louisiana (and among the oldest in the US), has been rebuilt twice and no doubt repaired countless times. On its grounds lives (?) a small cemetery and the church’s website even lists those who are laid to rest here. This was news to me, but famed Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, was known to be a devout Catholic who frequented this church. However it is the lesser known ghost of Pere Antonio who has been known to slink around the church grounds. A devout friar, he even supposedly baptized Marie Laveau and her children. You may see his ghost - a black-robed man with long white beard - walking beside the church grounds. Just about everything is haunted at this place of worship - the bell tower is haunted; the organ has a weeping ghost; Madame LaLaurie stops by to try to confess her sins; and even another Catholic - a monk named Pere Dagobert - is said to appear at various times during the day or night!
It’s safe to say that all of New Orleans’ cemeteries are quite a popular attraction. Since the city is built on a swamp, it has too soft of ground so you cannot bury the dead underground. The solution of course was to entomb their dead above ground in mausoleums and crypts, making each cemetery look like beautiful little cities themselves. (Little cities with lots and lots of dead bodies in them, just read about unlimited internment.) St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the city’s most famous graveyard, is so well-visited that you cannot enter without a tour guide because of all the erosion visitors have caused over the years. It is said that Marie Laveau is buried here and you’ll know her tomb by the markings of “xxx” all over it. They say if you would like her to grant a wish, you should visit and write three x’s on her tomb. Anne Rice also has her character from Interview with the Vampire, Louis, “buried” here. However, there are two other cemeteries worth visiting in the Garden District, Lafayette 1 and 2 that you can enter on your own (if you dare) without a tour guide. You’ll find crypts just as intricate, but be warned - these above ground graves stand tall and you can get lost fairly easily. Almost too easily.
4. The LaLaurie Mansion
You can’t explore New Orleans’ haunted history without finding out about how haunted the French Quarter is, and you’ll surely discover Madame Delphine LaLaurie. She was a rich divorcee who brutally and gruesomely tortured dozens of people whom she owned as slaves. When she was finally caught and chased out of town, it was (still is) largely agreed upon that she and her children (except one) went to live out the rest of their days in France. The mansion has been converted to apartments and then was a girls’ school. It was also owned by Anne Rice (famous for The Vampire Chronicle books), but of late the most scary thing to happen here was that Nicholas Cage owned it until recently. Still, I would not put myself through the mental anguish of staying there even one night.
5. New Orleans Streetcars
No, that’s not a banshee you hear - it’s the streetcars of New Orleans. The St. Charles Line is the oldest operating streetcar in the world, and much like nearly everything the locals tell you about - it’s secretly haunted. Many people are interested in the evil and menacing ghosts when they go on many (many!) of NOLA’s ghost tours - but this spirit-heavy town attracts specters both good and evil. One friendly local unsolicitedly told me as we were waiting for a streetcar, that sometimes ghosts like to ride the trolley just like us, “You’ll know it’s them when on a hot day you feel a sudden cool breeze as someone walks by… Us humans are warm! If you feel cold, it’s a spirit.” Her words still haunt me today.
6. Oak Alley Plantation
This antebellum site built in 1837 (restored in 1925) is not without its apparitions, much like many plantations in the area. Understandably, they keep the haunted information pretty light on their website, but it seems that only friendly ghosts frolic around these grounds. For you vamp tramps and fang bangers, you might recognize it because its 25 acres were featured in many films including spooky ones like Interview with the Vampire and 1964’s Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte starring Bette Davis, but unlike many movie locations, you can visit this historic, beautiful and sprawling mansion! Tickets are available on-site, not in advance, and it’s about an hour away by car from New Orleans’ city center. If you consider that drive too far for just a day trip - you’re in luck since you can spend the night!
7. The Brucker Mansion
The great thing about taking the St. Charles streetcar line is that it takes you from downtown to the Garden District (which will help you knock out #s 3, 5, and 7 on our list). Known on American Horror Story: Coven as “Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies,” this location is actually haunted and not just counting the lookie-loos and AHS fans popping by on their visit to New Orleans (myself included). The building was built in 1856 by cotton entrepreneur Henry Sullivan Buckner, it also housed the most prestigious and best business school in the south, Soule Business School, from 1923 until it closed in 1983. A ghost known only as Miss Josephine, a loyal slave who stayed on even post-Civil War, has been said to float around the house doing housework. Not a bad ghost to have, if you ask me. A couple sources also state that the chandelier has moved on its own for an hour, doors will creak and close, and lights will flicker on and off on their own! You can witness all this grandeur (spooky and non) first-hand because you can rent this home!
Shout out to Ace Hotel New Orleans where we had a really comfortable room and Stumptown Coffee brewing in the lobby, plus a couple great common rooms for working and witnessing live music, and a really great rooftop pool and bar.