As I sloshed my way through the French Quarter in the torrential downpour, I wondered exactly why I signed up for a ghost tour. It isn’t that I do not believe in ghosts – I just don’t exactly believe they exist. I’d love to see one but most of me thinks that will never happen. So really, why was I wasting my time on a ghost tour?
Despite the heavy rain, there was a large crowd waiting for the Ghost and Vampire Tour to start, brightly coloured Hurricane drinks in hand. We were divided into three groups, about 15 people each. When my guide, Dartanya, cheekily claimed she was trained in sword fighting so we should do whatever she said, I realized that this may actually be fun.
New Orleans has a lot of reasons to support the idea that it is the most haunted city in America: the city is built on an ‘ancient Indian burial ground’, the city faced (and continues to face) destructive events such as hurricanes, and disease was rampant in the city’s early days. Taking all that into consideration, when Dartanya solemnly stated that there is “more dead than the living here”, I could see how it could be true. Each ghost tour is different but here are some stories you can expect.
FOURS STORIES THAT WILL ENTICE YOU TO TAKE A GHOST TOUR
At the Gardette-LePretre mansion on Dauphine Street, there once was (supposedly) a mass murder. The victims? A Turkish Sultan, harem women, and bodyguards! It turned out that the Turkish man was actually the brother of a Sultan who did not take his sibling’s treachery too kindly (he stole some of his women and wealth) and sent assassins to take care of business. The story includes parties, debauchery, carnage, and a hand poking up out of a grave. Great fun!
The Andrew Jackson Hotel
The building that was originally on this site was an all-boys boarding school, built in 1792. The current building has “only” been around since the early 1900s. So, really, it is more the site itself that ties the ghosts, not the current building. Semantics, though, since it is reported that the Andrew Jackson Hotel is haunted by little boys. Five of them. They apparently died in December 1794 during a massive fire that swept New Orleans. And being children, their style of haunting seems to be mostly prank-related. For example, there was supposedly a couple who once woke up and found to a photo on their camera of themselves sleeping. The angle of the photo was such that it had to have been taken high above their bed. That is creepy whether it was ghosts or not!
The Lalaurie Mansion
The grey Lalaurie mansion is huge; it’s 11,000 sq ft. and has 40 rooms! The building is inextricably linked to Delphine Lalaurie, a beautiful red head with a fiery temper. When she was 20 years old, she apparently married an older man, a Spanish royal officer. He died four years later in “mysterious circumstances”. Her second husband was also older and he, too, died “mysteriously” some years years later. In 1825, she married a much younger man, Dr Louis Lalaurie. It is said he was the love of her life…and so he lived.
The Lalauries were long suspected of ill-treating their slaves but no one was able to prove anything. One story was that Leah, a twelve year old girl, died falling off the roof trying to escape punishment. Her crime? Pulling on a snag while combing Delphine’s hair.
In 1834, a fire broke out at the mansion. When the fire was put out, firemen found an old woman shackled to the stove in the kitchen. She confessed to setting the fire in a suicide attempt as she did not want to be punished for a ‘misdeed’. She also directed the firemen to a particular locked room within the house. Inside that room was a veritable chamber of horrors: a woman with her mouth sewn shut with human feces inside, two men forced to stand on tiptoes by a rope around their necks, a 3x3x3 box containing a woman with bones broken to fit… Today, no one knows what is true and what is exaggeration. But ultimately, Delphine Lalaurie was highly likely a serial killer with a fetish for torture. Unfortunately, she escaped to Paris and lived the rest of her days there.
John and Wayne Carter
Did you think that NOLA only had ghosts? Silly you! Of course there were (are?) vampires! In the 1930s, the Carter brothers were executed. Their crime? Serial killing with a twist: vampirism. In the early 1930s, a young girl escaped from their French Quarter apartment spilling tales of being drained of her blood. The slashes on her wrists apparently were enough to make her story worth checking out. Upon arrival, the police found over a dozen dead bodies and four people tied to chairs – all steadily bleeding into cups: the Carter brothers’ liquid dinner. The brothers were ultimately captured and eventually executed. Not long after their burial, it was discovered that their bodies were no longer in their vault. They were gone. Dun dun duuuunnnn!
Guess what? The story does not end there. In vampire lore, if you are drained seven times, that is how you become a vampire yourself. One of the women who was rescued had been drained “about that many times” (maybe she lost count?) so she reportedly checked herself into a mental institution and refused to leave (who the hell wants to be in a mental institution in the 1930s???). One of the men who was rescued had been drained 11 times. He, apparently, went on to commit 33 murders and drank his victims’ blood. Right.
Do I recommend French Quarter Phantoms?
I definitely enjoyed my tour with this company. Dartanya kept our group entertained and her love of NOLA seeped into everything she said. The Ghost and Vampire tour is the one I recommend but French Quarter Phantoms’ has other tours as well. We stayed within the confines of the French Quarter and it was only about one mile of walking! Maybe there is some credence to the claim that New Orleans is the most haunted city in America if such a small area has enough stories to fill two hours!
The supernatural is very much a part of New Orleans so why not take a ghost tour? Even a skeptic like me had a great evening – true or not, at the very least, the stories were all gruesomely entertaining!
Please note, I did receive a discount on my tour; however, all opinions in this post are my own and are my honest feelings.