Celebrating 300 Years of Haunted History
by Carolyn DePalma & Brew Bus Staff
November 1, 2018
New Orleans is a city that can be described with numerous adjectives: festive, colorful, loud, cultural, authentic, magical, gritty, spooky, eerie and even alive.
The city seems to live and breathe all on its own and for a place so full of life, we certainly invest a lot of time in our dead.
Folks from all walks of life magically find themselves attracted to a certain lifestyle New Orleans offers: a harsh climate full of sin, booze, brews & spirits.
Along with a few occasional days of rest to repent….”The Big Easy” is our nickname for a reason.
We tend to go at our own pace. Each local perspective offering a diverse story on where, when, why, and how they decided to stay in a city that will eventually be under water once Mother Earth makes her final move.
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She has survived 300 years somehow, someway though, and the city continues to shine bringing in a record 17 million tourists in 2017 despite having a population of just 400,000.
There’s a specific energy that is indescribable unless you experience it. Consider the melting pot of multiple 18th-century cultures who–quite frankly–despised each other.
New Orleans, a destination port city, served as an entry point for thousands of African slaves.
Our coastline, the third largest in America by square mileage, created a host of pirates looking to make it rich while simultaneously skirting the law.
Of course, we cannot underestimate the birth of voodoo and magick, the Queen of Voodoo herself, Marie Laveau continues to play a part in the haunted land nestled in a Mississippi River crescent.
French, Cajun French, Spanish, African-Americans, Germans, Irish, Americans, Native Americans, and of course a baby with any European & Non-European combined parents is our Creole connection.
All these cultures colliding in such short historic periods created the title of most haunted city in the United States and she’s definitely earned it over the last 300 years.
Filled with triumph and tragedy and an unbreakable spirit, the people of the Crescent City never seem to leave, both the living and the dead.
We’re going to take a walk through the seven most spooky places in New Orleans and the surrounding area.
#1 Muriel’s Jackson Square
801 Chartres St.
If you’re looking for a five star Creole dining experience look no further than Muriel’s.
Located in scenic Jackson Square right in the heart of New Orleans you can enjoy some of the best authentic food in the city.
Whether you come in for the famous Sunday Jazz Brunch or possibly to sample some of the famous gumbo or shrimp remoulade you may get an added bonus with your meal. Muriel’s has its own resident ghost, former owner of the home, Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan.
Pierre was responsible for building the now restaurant into the lavish home that he once resided in with his family during the early 1800’s.
Pierre was a gambling man and lost his beloved home in a heated game of poker. He was so overcome with grief over his loss that he committed suicide in the upstairs room (now known as Muriel’s seance lounge) before he could hand over the keys to his mansion.
Muriel’s opened its doors in March of 2001 and from the very beginning, they’ve had restless spirits.
Numerous staff and patrons have reported seeing objects move about the restaurant. While Pierre is thought to be the main spirit, in true New Orleans style there are several who have taken up residence here.
Within their courtyard bar, there is a rogue spirit who has launched a glass across the bar three times in the restaurant’s existence to have it shatter on the opposite wall. After several paranormal investigations management came up with a bit of an unusual game plan.
In order to honor Pierre and pay tribute to his lifetime loving his home, and to keep his spirit at rest—a table is set each day with fresh linens, two glasses of red wine and a fresh baked basket of bread.
Completing this task daily seems to have appeased as the spirit of Pierre, the environment is far more energetically harmonious..thank goodness.
But don’t be fooled, he definitely still lingers around. And if you are daring enough, you may choose to sit at his table (for a donation based fee) and hopefully get to enjoy your meal with more than just the spirits in your glass present.
Just be sure to thank him for allowing you to enjoy his home, he truly was a man who loved to entertain, in life as well as in death.
Pro tip: If you are feeling extra brave, go ahead and have a drink in the Seance lounge. This is the highest spot of activity in the restaurant and employees, patrons and investigators have reported hearing knocks coming from the walls and a female’s voice when no one else is present.
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#2 Jackson Square
700 Decatur St
After your meal at Muriel’s simply walk outside and you will be in another one of the spookiest areas in the city. Picturesque Jackson Square once was the heart and soul of New Orleans.
In the 18th century during the early days of New Orleans Jackson Square was known as Place D’Armes (“Weapons Square”) and served as the city’s execution grounds.
Many criminals, as well as rebellious slaves, were executed right here in the same park that hosts picnics and weddings today.
When visiting during the daytime, you will notice the entire square is alive with life spilling from all of its corners…especially on the weekends.
You will find artists selling their goods, musicians strolling the grounds performing and visitors and locals alike enjoying the scenery. It’s hard to believe that it once hosted such grim events.
At night the scene is much different, come on by right around the time the sun sets.
Experts will tell you that is the best time to contact those who have passed on as the veil between the two worlds is very thin at this time of day.
Just as the sun starts to set and the street lights begin to turn on you will notice the atmosphere changes.
All of our artists have packed up and the shops around the square have begun to close down for the night.
All the activity of the day settles down and the gates to the actual park are locked. Locals will tell you this is not only to keep all the trouble out of the park, but to keep what lurks energetically unseen to the common eye inside, safe inside the locked gates.
Go ahead and take out your cameras you may just capture a spirit on film. Make sure to keep your ears open as well, there are endless reports of disembodied voices along with tortured cries coming from the center of the square.
Pro tip: If you’re lucky and there happens to be rain in the air on the night you visit, make sure you listen for the somber singing of the 18th-century priest Father Dagobert.
He was a well-respected priest who was known for giving a proper burial to the six rebels who lost their lives trying to rebel against the Spanish when they took control of the colony in the late 1700s.
Father Dagobert performed funeral services and had the deceased entombed in St. Louis #1 during a massive rainstorm.
On rainy days it’s been said you can still hear him singing “Kyrie” as he leads the funeral procession through the alley adjacent to Jackson Square.
On whatever night you visit you are sure to encounter some spirits as this tends to be one of the strongest areas for the supernatural in the entire city.
#3 New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
514 Chartres St.
Located just downriver of Jackson Square on Chartres Street between Toulouse and St. Louis sits the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.
It boasts the title of being the very first licensed pharmacy to open in the United States. It was operated by the very first licensed pharmacist: a man named Louis J. Dufilho Jr.
Like most establishments in New Orleans, there are deeper secrets lying between the walls and more often than not sinister tales.
The pharmacy museum is no exception to this rule.
Dufilho sold his practice at a later date to a man named Joseph Dupas who was a much different pharmacist than Dufilho.
Dupas was known to have a record and a reputation and became one of the most well known serial killers of the time.
He had a penchant for experimenting on the living and he preferred pregnant women as his test subjects. Still to this day, all the tortured life lost within the building has compounded an overwhelming sense of dread entering the home and the surrounding area.
Several paranormal teams have investigated throughout the years, and it is said that Dupas is still hanging around.
He has been known to throw books, move objects from displays and even trigger the alarm system in the middle of the night. He likes to stalk the grounds and survey the area, almost as if he is looking for his next victim.
On that note, it’s been well documented over the years that pregnant women who visit the house have an almost physical empathic reaction to the entity that makes himself known around the museum. They become very protective of themselves, their children and others within the walls of this building.
As a licensed tour guide here in the city of New Orleans, we have noticed that a large number of pregnant women who have been on a tour that visits here never seem to make it through the tour after this stop.
One has to wonder if the restless spirit of Joseph Dupas is still making himself known as a threat to these women.
Today it functions as a museum showcasing some of the original early achievements and practices in the pharmacy industry.
With exhibits devoted to methods of administration, prescription, compounding, opium and even voodoo potions, there’s surely something to interest everyone.
On the second floor you can see Dufilho’s former living quarters including his study, sick room, and changing special seasonal exhibits that throughout the year.
Don’t forget there is a historic carriageway, an outdoor courtyard, and the entire building and grounds can be rented for all sorts of private parties.
Pro tip: The gates located to the left of the museum’s front entrance are where Dupas used to bring his victims upstairs.
On any given hot night if you are brave enough to put your hand through that gate, the temperature will always be several degrees cooler.
#4 The Mortuary Haunted House
4800 Canal St.
What better place to run a haunted house than an actual haunted house?
The building known simply as The Mortuary throughout Greater New Orleans is currently used as a theme park haunted house during the month of October and is known to be one of the best-haunted houses in the area.
For the rest of year, it hosts mystery escape rooms where participants race against the clock to figure out a puzzle. It also can be rented out for special events.
The house sits at Canal Street and Bernadotte right before you reach the end of the Canal Streetcar line, smack dab surrounded by multiple cemeteries.
Built in 1872 by the Slattery family it served as a residential home for many years until it was turned into an actual mortuary.
In 1928 it opened its doors as a funeral home and operated as such for over 80 years.
It grew to be the largest funeral home in the city.
Many lifelong New Orleanians speak of the Mortuary with reverence in their voice mixed with fear and trepidation, for it long has had a history of actual hauntings.
The top floor of the house has a resident female ghost who is in a constant state of grief, it is believed she is still grieving the loss of her husband.
There is a male specter who roams the cemetery outside and no one has ever concluded if this is her missing spouse or not.
The building is also host to several ghostly children who love to play pranks on unsuspecting staff and the ghost of a former mortician who is still seen on the lower level where his embalming room was.
You can visit the house during October if you are a fan of theme park haunted houses and see what you come across.
Or feel free to test your skills at one if their customized escape rooms throughout the rest of the year.
Pro tip: Your chances of encountering a spirit during a trip to the haunted house are marginally lower, when your brain is already set up to be triggered you may not notice the supernatural going on around you.
Drive by late at night and see if you catch the eerie vibe around the property or check out their mystery rooms throughout the year just to get a feel of the mansion itself.
#5 The Bourbon Orleans Hotel
717 Orleans St.
Situated on the corner of the ever famous Bourbon St. and Orleans St. sits a massive and elegant hotel.
The Bourbon Orleans is an impressive structure that has earned the title of one of the most haunted locations in the French Quarter, if not the entire city.
With a rich history dating back to the 1800’s when it served as a ballroom for the now legendary Quadroon Balls.
Throughout the years it had many incarnations as it was occupied by the Sisters of the Holy Family, the first African American order of nuns, and they operated an orphanage out of the same building.
The Orleans Theater also shared the location and it functioned as an opera house.
There were also many other balls held here as well as a meeting space for state and house legislatives. It has long been rumored that Andrew Jackson announced his intentions to run for president in this very building.
The number of spirits residing in this building could rival any location in the city.
It starts with ghosts of the long-gone days of the Quadroon Balls. Reports of seeing girls in lavish ball gowns twirling around to an unheard melody late at night in the ballroom are common.
Confederate soldiers have often been seen roaming the halls unaware that so much time has passed since their days in the Civil War.
Children who lost their lives to yellow fever while in the orphanage seem to be eternally stuck playing games or kicking a ball up and down the many halls.
The favorite resident ghost is possibly the most terrifying of them all. A nun who took her own life is rumored to awaken guests staying in room 644 by standing at the edge of their bed, praying over them as they sleep.
While she is simply carrying out what she did in life, her presence is enough of a scare to get guests to check out unexpectedly.
But GOOD LUCK trying to attempt to check into a less haunted location, all of New Orleans is haunted!
Pro tip: You can book room 644 if you are truly looking for a haunted experience. Just know the waiting list is incredibly long and you may be waiting years.
The rest of the hotel boasts just as much activity and its well worth your stay.
#6 Congo Square (Louis Armstrong Park)
701 N. Rampart St.
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All the way up at the northern boundary of the French Quarter where the neighborhood of Treme begins you can find Congo Square within Louis Armstrong Park, as it is now called in homage to the late great Satchmo.
During the times of slavery, although our slave masters were not the noblest people of their era, they did mainly adhere to the rules of the Code Noir in regards to the treatment of their slaves.
According to the rules laid out by the code, slaves were allowed to rest on Sundays after mass.
Therefore on Sundays Congo Square became the area where enslaved people and free people of color would meet and gather, dance, shop and sell their trade goods.
They would play music, enjoy their time with their friends and family and celebrate their culture.
This was the one day out of the week where they were free to be their actual selves and enjoy life.
Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans was a regular at Congo Square. She resided only a block away on St. Ann street.
Every Sunday she set up her shop to sell her charms and cures which fared well for the revelers at the square. Into the evening the rituals would begin until darkness fell and the celebration ended until the following Sunday.
To this day if you go there later in the evening it’s said you can hear the whispers of the slaves enjoying their day of rest. There also is supposedly a collective voice that reaches back from beyond chanting to their never forgotten voodoo queen.
Some people will tell you that you can still hear “Queen Marie!” being yelled out even after all these years. Definitely a place you can visit to mingle with the living and the not so living.
Pro tip: Sundays are still one of the best days to visit Armstrong Park. You will find lots of music and celebrations as we like to carry on many of our traditions long after the time has passed.
#7 St. Louis Cemetery #1
425 Basin St.
Rounding up our list is our oldest cemetery here in New Orleans.
We bury our dead above ground in elaborate, mausoleum style tombs. Our cemeteries are often referred to as “Cities of the Dead” and if you get the chance to visit you will understand why.
Many tombs all set up in neat little rows, some as elaborate as the houses the deceased occupied in their lifetimes.
Each tomb is unique with different symbols, some even boast ornate metal gates and fences.
Now, the reason we bury above ground is due to the water table being very low here and the entire city sits below sea level. Our early graves dug in the ground were known to float away after one good storm and that was not a pretty sight for anyone.
In this cemetery you will find many of the early residents of New Orleans buried here, including our queen, Marie Laveau is just one of many.
Her tomb has been frequented by a multitude of visitors over the years.
Whether it’s people looking for help, to leave an offering or to tempt fate, the reasons are as endless as the visitors. During her lifetime people would seek her aid and even after she has passed they still do the same.
Whether it’s for seeking love or seeking revenge or any of the multitudes of things in between, the experience tends to be the same.
Spin three times in a circle, leave 3 coins at her grave, mark three “x’s” in front of her grave. All of the these are summonings for help.
It’s been said that if you stand in front of her tomb and make a wish it will come true. Combine that with another three hundred years of history and you have a lot of supernatural energy in this location.
There are also two more well-known specters who appear in the cemetery.
Henry Vignes was a sailor who resided in New Orleans during the 19th century when he was in between voyages. Living the nomad life, he occupied a room at a local boarding house, but did own a family tomb in St. Louis #1.
He left his papers proving ownership of the tomb with the boarding house owner during one of his trips only to discover the owner betrayed him and sold the tomb while he was away.
Henry fell ill and passed away a short time later and was buried in an unmarked grave in the pauper’s section within the cemetery.
It has been said he roams the grounds today looking for his tomb and interacts with many visitors asking if they have seen the “Vignes” tomb.
There is also a man named Alphonse whose spirit cannot seem to rest and wanders the cemetery. He has been known to approach visitors as well and ask them to bring him home, although no one knows what home he is speaking of.
He at times has been seen taking flowers off other graves and placing them on his own. It’s a well-known belief that he may have been killed or betrayed by a member of the Pinead family as he seems to stop tourists from approaching their family tomb.
While somewhat of a mystery both of these men are very active spirits in the cemetery and it is unsure of whether they will ever be eternally at rest. But as you can see the dead are very much “alive” here in St. Louis #1.
Pro tip: Thanks to vandals you can only visit St. Louis #1 with a licensed tour guide operating with a tour company, there are plenty of tours that serve this location.
We are well known here in the Crescent City for keeping our dead side by side with our living. It is a way of life and a well-preserved way of life.
You’ve now got seven spooky places to spend your haunting season exploring our fine city. Just be careful they don’t follow you home even spirits sometimes need to shake things up.