If you're looking for hair-raising, goosebump-inducing thrills to spice up your October, New Orleans is the place to be. Soon to celebrate its Tricentennial in 2018, the city is older than the United States itself, and has an incredibly rich history. It's no wonder then that the city is considered by many to be the most haunted city in America, where even alleyways boast spirits. So where do you go to experience the paranormal in New Orleans? You are never guaranteed to experience spirits in the city, but they may just oblige if you look in the right places.
Some of the most famous hauntings in New Orleans take place at the Lalaurie Mansion, which American Horror Story fans may be familiar with. Located on the corner of Governor Nichols and Royal Streets, the home was owned by Madame Delphine Lalaurie, a New Orleans socialite whose atrocities against her slaves had her banished from the city. The mansion is now a private residence, though there are reports of the ghost of a 12-year-old girl jumping off the balcony to escape the wrath of Madame Lalaurie. Visitors have also heard moans and weeping, felt unseen hands and witnessed the faces of the tortured in the uppermost left window of the Lalaurie mansion (though that window is now boarded out of respect for the dead).
The Bourbon Orleans Hotel is a notable haunted hotel in the French Quarter. When the building was a convent, the Orleans Ballroom was host to quadroon balls, where men would court local ladies. One ghost is reported to be weeping in the corner for her lover who had promised to marry her but never returned. A male spirit enjoys the company of female visitors, often leaving ladies feeling that the unseen is too close for comfort. The ghosts of children and nuns who perished in a yellow fever epidemic are often seen by guests, particularly the spirit of a little girl rolling her ball down the sixth floor corridor. Additionally, spirits have been known to borrow guests' belongings. One couple received a shock when they found their camera contained pictures of the pair sleeping.
Hotel Monteleone is another haunted hotel, for those who don't mind staying among the dead. While the hotel is most famous for the literary figures it has housed since its establishment in 1886, some of the guests never departed the grand hotel. In March of 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research made contact with more than a dozen spirits, including a former employee named William Wildmere who died of natural causes in the hotel. Additionally, the spirit of a boy enjoys playing hide-and-seek with another young boy on the fourteenth floor.
Looking for more intense overnight thrills? The property that is now the Hotel Provincial was once a Confederate hospital. Predating modern medicine, soldiers often died of terrible wounds and infections. Building 5 is the hotspot of the paranormal activity, and guests who have taken the elevator have reported an entire Civil War hospital scene replayed before their eyes when the elevator doors opened on the second floor. Wet blood stains often appear on carpet and bedding and then disappear just as mysteriously. There are two known soldiers who both enjoy listening to country music in their respective rooms, and they have appeared to guests and spoken to them before disappearing.
We cannot discuss hauntings in New Orleans without mentioning cemeteries. Since the city is below sea level and it doesn't take much digging to hit water, New Orleanians bury their dead above ground. These tombs are often lauded for their architecture, but bodies are not all that reside in these "Cities of the Dead." Visitors have heard screams coming from inside tombs and seen the ghosts of cats and dogs. Most famously, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is home to Marie Laveau's tomb and is considered the most haunted cemetery in the U.S. Marie Laveau herself is rumored to traipse around the graves mumbling a Santeria curse at trespassers. Voodoo legend says to knock three times on the face of Laveau's grave, mark three X's, knock three times again and make a wish to be blessed by Laveau. Don't forget to leave an offering though!
Le Petit Theatre, America's oldest community theater, is also a haven for the dead. When actors have lost something, they call out to Caroline, one of their most active resident ghosts, asking where it is. When the actors leave the room and return, the item will be sitting in the middle of the floor. An actress who fell from the catwalk onto the stage is sometimes seen up on the catwalk while the curtain billows of its own accord. With 11 confirmed spirits, including ex-managers, Union soldiers and servants, the theater is chilling when the lights dim for a show.
If you don't mind sharing a table with the dead, stop at Arnaud's, a mainstay of the fine dining scene in New Orleans. The founder of the restaurant, Arnaud Cazenave, is the most active spirit in the restaurant and regularly rearranges silverware and napkins that are not to his standards. His daughter and successor Germaine Cazenave Wells is also said to haunt the Mardi Gras Museum in the restaurant.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is the oldest building used as a bar in the United States, built between 1722 and 1732. Between 1722 and 1791, the building was used as a smuggling post by pirates Jean and Pierre Lafitte and called a "Blacksmith Shop" to avoid suspicion by authorities. With such a storied history, it's no surprise that the bar is one of the most haunted in America. Visitors often report that the fireplace has a pair of glowing red eyes in the grate, and Jean Lafitte himself is rumored to haunt the building. People have seen him sitting at a table in the back of a piano bar, drink in hand.
These spirit hotspots are just a sampling of the haunted locations in New Orleans. Ask any local, and they will have their own stories about encounters. To learn about New Orleans spirits firsthand, take a haunted tour of the city. If you're worried about bad juju from all that ghost-hunting, head over to a voodoo shop like Island of Salvation Botanica or speak to a priestess at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple. A gris-gris bag and a blessing will set you straight.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop