New Orleans is filled with spirits, liquid and ethereal. Besides the glorious food and music, one of my favorite things to do is take a haunted tour. Mixing history, legends and lore, they are a great way to get the feel of NOLA. (Even the producers of the award-winning “American Horror Story Coven” have felt the spirits as well.) Here is a quick overview of some of the great haunts.
LaLaurie House – Most Gruesome of All
1140 Royal St
New Orleans, LA
Best known for the oft-repeated, horrific stories spirits of tortured slaves clank their chains during the midnight hours in remembrance of awful punishment meted out to them by their mistress – a high-bred lady of old New Orleans who had been charged with dealing inhumanly with her slaves. Just how insane was Madame LaLaurie? Her mistreatment of the slaves went far beyond cruelty, despite a law that prohibited the cruel treatment of slaves was in effect in New Orleans …
Delphine LaLaurie and her third husband, Dr. Louis LaLaurie, moved into the house in the 1830’s. The pair immediately became the darlings of the New Orleans social scene. Madame LaLaurie hosted fantastic events in her beautiful home that were talked about months afterward.
At the same time, it is said, Madame’s friendship with infamous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, began to grow, when Laveau occasionally did Madame’s hair. It is said that under Laveau’s tutelage, Madame LaLaurie began to act upon her latent interest in the occult, learning the secrets of voodoo and witchcraft at the hands of a might mistress of the craft.
The neighbors on Royal Street began to suspect something was not quite right in the LaLaurie house. Whispered conversations about how their slaves seemed to come and go quite often, maids replaced with no explanation, or the stable boy was suddenly just disappear.
Once, a neighbor heard a scream and saw Madame LaLaurie chasing her personal servant with a whip, just a little girl, onto the roof of the house. The child jumped to her death. Later, the small slave girl buried in a shallow grave beneath the cypress trees in the yard. She alerted the authorities, who took the slaves away, only to have the LaLauries get them back.
One spring afternoon in 1834, a cook set fire to the house during the absence of her mistress, perhaps wanting to end the horrors in the house. When neighbors rushed into the mansion to fight the fire, slaves were found chained in their quarters, along with other unspeakable cruelties.
After the blaze was put out, the fire fighters discovered the most horrible sight behind a secret, barred door in the attic. More than a dozen slaves, both male and female, were chained to the wall. Some were strapped to makeshift operating tables, some confined in dog cages, human body parts were scattered around, and heads and human organs were in buckets. Grisly souvenirs were stacked on shelves and next to them a collection of whips and paddles. Some begged to be put out of their misery. It was more horrible than anyone could imagine.
The indignation of those who found the tortured slaves ran high and the “New Orleans Bee,” a local newspaper, published a heated account of the event.This roused the public into such a pitch that a mob charged the house and began to wreck it.
During the excitement, it was rumored that Madame LaLaurie fled the city for Paris. Following her death on December 7, 1842, her body was secretly returned to New Orleans and buried in St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, not far from Marie Laveau.
Many have reported seeing the phantom of that young slave girl fleeing across the LaLaurie roof. Agonized screams coming from the empty house were commonplace. Those who stayed there after it became occupied left after only a few days. At the turn of the century, one of the many poor immigrants who lived in the house, encountered a black man in chains. The entity attacked him on the stairwell then suddenly disappeared. The next morning, most of the other residents abandoned the building.
Others report seeing, feeling and hearing the ghosts of tormented slaves in the LaLaurie home – running and slamming doors and shouts are heard repeatedly, as are moans and weeping. There are even reports of the Madame herself being seen there. Furniture moves by itself, people feel the touch of unseen hands, and there are several who have seen the ghostly faces of the dead peering from the upper windows.
Marie Laveau House
1020 St. Ann St
New Orleans, LA
Marie Laveau was best known and most revered practitioner of voodoo in the city, and some say the “founder” of New Orleans voodoo, was Marie Laveau, a free woman of color born in 1794 in Haiti. Laveau was also a devout Catholic; it was this unique blending of Voodoo rituals and Catholicism that would differentiate New Orleans voodoo from other forms of the practice.
Some believe Laveau materializes annually to lead the faithful in worship on St. John’s Eve. The ghost is always recognizable, they say, thanks to the knotted handkerchief she wears around her neck. A man once claimed to have been slapped by her while walking past her tomb. One popular legend holds that Marie I never died, but changed herself into a huge black crow which still flies over the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
It is also said this home is also among the French Quarter’s many haunted locales. Believers claim to have seen her spirit, accompanied by those of her followers, engaged in Voodoo ceremonies there. She has also been seen walking down St. Ann Street wearing a long white dress.
In fact, the house at 1020 St. Ann Street was never even occupied by Marie Laveau; it only marks the approximate site of the home she lived in until her death (then numbered 152 Rue St. Ann, as shown by her death certificate). That cottage, which bore a red-tile roof and was flanked by banana trees and an herb garden, was demolished in 1903.
The Mad Butcher House – Muller Home
725 Ursulines St
New Orleans, LA
In the 1880’s, screaming, howling and wailing could be heard emanating from this house. Although they supposedly stopped with Hans Muller’s suicide in the late 1890’s, residents complain to this day that they are awakened from their sleep by pets growling at an unseen presence.
Hans Muller and his wife, a young German couple, opened a small sausage factory in New Orleans, featuring some of the most delicious pork sausage in the city.
Unfortunately, their love wasn’t as good as their sausage … it wasn’t long before he found a young mistress and fell in love with her. Muller could never have a life with his new lover as long as his wife was around. (You know where this is going, don’t you?)
One night after the shop closed, he strangled her to death and stuck her headfirst into the sausage grinder.
Days passed, and the longer the wife stayed missing, the more the neighbors began to whisper that something was wrong. Night after night, the butcher was haunted by images of his wife emerging from the sausage vat. The sausage maker’s appearance had become unkempt, the quality of his meats had deteriorated.
Rumors spread that the man had murdered his wife. When a customer bit into a piece of a gold wedding ring, the police raided the sausage factory to find the butcher ranting about his dead wife haunting him. The police locked him up in the nearest insane asylum. But the asylum provided no safe haven. He eventually had a complete mental breakdown, and committed suicide.
Most people agree that Mrs. Muller’s ghost stopped haunting the sausage factory after her husband’s suicide. The factory no longer exists, but some people claim that her ghost still haunts the old Muller residence.
The Sultan’s House – The Gardette-Laprete House
716 Dauphine St
New Orleans, LA
This is the location of one of New Orlean’s most famous and gruesome of ghost stories. The Sultan was from Turkey and rented the house from the owners, the La Prete family, for his large family and harem. It is said that he was a dangerous and cruel man who kidnapped women off the streets, tortured them into submission, and adding them to his harem.
One fateful night, however, goes the story, the gay laughter suddenly turned to frenzied shrieks and the merrymaking to noisy confusion, when a band of assassins, believed to have been sent by the rightful sultan to avenge the wrongs done him, burst in on the party and, with merciless swords, cut down the upstart and the harem girls he had “defiled.”
After the unfortunate victims were buried in the patio, the assassins looted the house and carried off not only the gold and jewels, but everything else of value.,leaving only the ransacked rooms and telltale bloodstains along the length of the great staircase to bear mute testimony to the violence that had transpired there.
The next morning neighbor was walking down the sidewalk by the house when she noticed blood trickling from under the door, down the step and under the iron gates. She immediately contacted the authorities who in turn broke down the door.
Upon entering they discovered a gruesome scene. At some point in the night, a massacre had taken place. Blood splattered the floors and walls, headless bodies and amputated limbs were scattered about, all of them had been butchered by sword or axe. The bodies and limbs were scattered about in such a way that no one could learn which bodies belonged to what person.
The horror didn’t stop with murder… the beautiful harem girls, the Arab boys, and even the guards, were raped and subjected to vile sexual assaults.
The Turk’s mutilated body was found in the garden, where he had been buried alive.
No one was ever charged with these murders. Several different stories circulated for months after the murders but nothing was proved. It remains one of the city’s most intriguing mysteries. To this day it has never been solved. Now ghosts roam the halls and screams can be heard.
For a long time afterward, people insisted that an occasional tinkle of Oriental music or the faint odor of heavy incense would come floating out of the house, and some declared that they heard shrill, unexplained screams coming from different parts of the huge four-story mansion. Over the years, the “Sultan” himself has been glimpse walking around the rooms, appearing and disappearing without a word, as if still bewildered by all that happened there.
1447 Constance St
New Orleans, LA
This grand home was originally built by Adam Griffin in 1852, and abandoned only a few months of him living there. This was the beginning of the War between the States, and he fled before the Union occupation occurred.
During the occupation period of the Civil War, the large Manor house was used by Union troops as a barracks and munitions storage. However, the first soldiers who entered the house heard a chilling sounds, that of rattling chains and groaning coming from upstairs. In the third floor attic, they found several slaves shackled to the wall and in a state of advanced starvation. They were removed to a field hospital where they could be better taken care of and the house was turned into a barracks for soldiers and prisoners.
While the Union troops were staying in the Griffin House, two Confederate deserters dressed in stolen Union uniforms had been caught looting homes. Since looting by either Union or Confederate soldiers was an offense punishable by death, the two were arrested by the Federal Army.
While being held for trial and feeling that they might receive mercy, the pair attempted to keep up the ruse of being Union soldiers since they also faced death from the Confederates if found to be deserters. Sympathetic Union soldiers supplied the two men with whiskey and they repeatedly sang “John Brown’s Body”, a popular song among Union soldiers.
Once the pair realized that they were not to receive leniency and would be shot, they decided to commit suicide. They bribed a soldier to smuggle them two pistols and, lying on a bed facing each other, each fired his pistol into the other’s heart. It is said that the two bled so profusely that the blood was seen seeping through the floor of the room and down the walls of floor below.
Over the years, there have been many reports of a haunting in the house. Occupants spoke of hearing heavy boots coming from the third floor, the rattling of chains and screams from the dark attic. Neighbors and passersby also claimed to see two white-faced soldiers in blue uniforms standing at the third-floor window. Both of them were said to be holding a bottle in their hand and singing the words to “John Brown’s Body”.
Residents reported seeing what appeared to be droplets of blood drip from the ceilings and two soldiers peering at them from outside the windows.