I imagined standing right there. In the middle of the street, frozen in disbelief, cold from the shock from hearing what had transpired in this house. The house that had long been a goal of mine to visit – to see and be seen. A house that held the most lavish parties the city of New Orleans had ever seen. Where ball gowns sweeped the floor, where the most radiant gems gaily swung back and forth to the rhythm the best musicians in town set for the hungry assembly of party goers. And now the unbelievable horror had happened.
Mrs La Julie’s mask which she so carefully selected each time for her costume parties had crashed to the floor and with it her true self bared itself to the world. Metaphorically. Of course, by the time the revelation hit, she was long gone with her rich husband in tow. Probably boarding a ship to Paris. She was never to be seen again.
My imagination is running wild and I should stop picturing the horror I just heard. I am back in the here and now but shivering ever so slightly as our tour group moves on. New Orleans is a place if the haunted and the haunting and I was utterly delighted to feed the morbid side in me and join three different ghost tours by the wildly popular Haunted History Tours. They even have a TV mini-series and book. That’s what I call dedication to the cause of the supernatural and ghostly.
Haunted in Philadelphia before Halloween
Not one of My Brightest ideas
But let’s start from the beginning. I was in New Orleans for a whole week and intended to do what I always did. Get to know a city by walking every inch of it. Good thing I didn’t because from what I was told by each and every one I asked, walking around by yourself especially straying from the main roads was bordering on the suicidal. I might be silly sometimes but stupid I am certainly not and so with a pout I boarded the old city tram.
It took me along Charles Street from the picturesque Garden District, which was my then abode and should be on absolutely every NOLA visitor’s list, and headed to the infamous French Quarter. I had already had a beignet, jambalaya and gumbo and so I headed straight to the Voodoo shop where I was supposed to meet up with my tour groups. The light was falling and streets were getting busier while neon lights flickered on and I was eagerly grabbing my skull fan. Let’s get the haunting on!
Let the Haunting Begin
My tour guide Daphne was a real entertainer and her life was irrevocably bound to New Orleans, it was a city she loved and a city she was made for. She loved the dark and deep secrets and even more so loved sharing them with passionate story telling to visitors, among whose I was now one.
Her ghost tours were not tales, however, they were real events and she unravelled them between historical background information, such as the many diseases that plagued the city and rid it of thousands unfortunate souls time and again or the fire that destroyed nearly all of New Orleans in 1788. It destroyed 856 of the 1,100 structures in the city and we saw all three original French building. Turns out, the French Quarters are actually Spanish built.
And, surprise, two of these houses are haunted with people telling their friends about a man pacing back and forth on top of a now museum verandah, sporting an old-fashioned attire. Did you know that nobody can get access after dark? Or what about the strange pale man poking between the curtains come dusk from a covent building? Make of that what you will but the stories certainly hit the core and I found myself shivering every night I came back home after the tours.
The Real Ghosts of New Orleans
What caused the goosebumps the most, however, were stories by other tour guests. They had seen pebbles move while we were focusing on the stories of murders in a dark alleyway (while standing in the exact same spots). It was wind still. One woman showed me a video of flickering lights and told me about how a séance had made the child ghost see the light and reason.
My tour guide then showed me a photo of an unlit graveyard she frequented on her ghost tours and where there was darkness, bright spots without lamps were dominating the scene, looking like the camera had been swept while taking the photo. The graves were in sharp focus.
It reminded me of the photo a man had shown the group of his visit to the tavern I visited in Philadelphia. A bride and her bridesmaids had burned down and in his photo his face was scratched out by light. There was no light source and it didn’t look like a dust corn lit up in the flash. Strange things are happening on American lands. I am seriously doubting my sarcasm.
I do not have a photo of any ectoplasma or strange apparitions during the ghost tours, so you have to make do with my pictures of New Orleans instead. But don’t you agree that its beautiful buildings are haunting in itself? And the best examples are not found in the French Quarter, if you ask me. So I headed back to the Garden District to catch the tour over there. There are two tour over there, one about the cemeteries and one about those as well as the district. I chose the latter and was very happy with the choice.
The Scenic Ghost Tours
I did a little celebrity house spotting. For instance, Sandra Bullock is frequently letting her famous friends stay when they are shooting a film in New Orleans. Another house was owned by John Goodman. I wasn’t aware just how many films are shot here. How about Benjamin Button, the Vampire Diaries or Looper. Of course, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear Interview with the Vampire was shot in Lafayette cemetery.
In fact, this cemetery is one of the few that can be accessed publicly. The others are closed off to the public due to many worrying incidences, such as robbings, grave raids or accidents (think silly dare games and such). The visiting hours are restricted and the stories you hear will not be told by the graves, so a tour is a really good option not to have to worry and to learn more about why the tombs in New Orleans are actually above ground and are a good investment (they can hold your past and future generations for ever as they are very space conscious and cleverly constructed).
Out of all the three ghost tours I attended (the 5-in-One, French Quarter and Garden District Tours), I absolutely liked the Nicholas Cage story the best. I don’t want to give too much away but he basically unknowingly moved in into a haunted house (and how he found out is the best).
Back to the Ghostly Beginning
Remember the beginning of my post, the very gruesome story of La Julie? It turned out she had created a special torture chamber for her slaves in which she systematically broke their bones, hung them from spikes or buried them live in boxes for “scientific reasons”, to name just a few of her ideas. But the worst were all the half alive victims buried underneath the boards. I can totally see why Mr Cage wasn’t too keen on living in the house after this. He apparently hasn’t had much good luck since then either.
The tours are not for the faint-hearted but as gruesome as they are real, they give a pretty insightful and intriguing picture into the dark side of New Orleans and its many religions. Voodoo and witchcraft are just as normal to find as is Christianity. If New Orleans is one thing, narrow-minded or conservative it is certainly not.
I would like to give a very big scary boo/thanks to Haunted History Tours for spooking me out and having me take a look at the shadows lurking in the street. As always, I am completely speaking for myself and was truly freaked out. In a good way. Aren’t we all a little morbid?