New Orleans is magic. And magically addictive. Anyone who has ever been to the Big Easy can attest to how confounding and bewitching this melting pot of nationalities, music, sex, religion and politics is. Strolling down the French Quarter at night you can almost hear Louis Armstrong singing “do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” So since the average tourist feels a compulsion to linger, can we really blame our ghostly brethren for wanting to continue on in this city of voodoo, madness and jazz?
LaLaurie House: There was once a beautiful, Creole society woman named Delphine LaLaurie. She hosted elegant parties in her three-story mansion on Royal Street that were a must-attend on every posh calendar. She also liked to torture her slaves, keeping seven near death in metal collars and another chained to the oven. In 1834, a fire broke out and neighbors discovered the horrors. A mob descended on the mansion, calling for LaLaurie’s head, but she successfully escaped into history. The mansion is home to numerous creepy spirits, including a violent man in chains, another with a whip, Mrs. LaLaurie herself, and until recently Mr. Nicholas Cage, who owned the property until it went into foreclosure in 2009. Not surprisingly, many ghost tours include this house.
1140 Royal Street, New Orleans
Beauregard-Keys House: Home to one of the most terrifying specters this author has ever heard of, this French Quarter landmark was once the home of Civil War General P.G.T. Beauregard. The good general commanded the Confederates at the Battle of Shiloh and the horrors of that battle apparently came home with him. Visitors have reported seeing, hearing and smelling a bloody battlefield in the main hall at night, as though ghosts are playing at some terrible historical reenactment. The house was also the site of a mafia hit, and in the garden you can hear gunshots, smell gunpowder and see shadowy hit men running away from the scene of the crime.
Beauregard-Keys House, 1113 Chartres Street, New Orleans
St Louis Cemetery Number 1: This city of the dead, with its above ground tombs and beautiful weeping trees is consistently cited as one of the most haunted places on earth. Legendary Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau’s crypt (said to be guarded by her spectral pet snake) is a shrine for believers. Those asking for her help scratch XXX’s onto the tomb. Marie is said to haunt the cemetery both as herself and as a black cat. Other ghosts include the sneaky Alphonse, who steals flowers off other graves to put on his own, dancing voodoo spirits and many cats and dogs looking for their masters. This is a place so scary and dangerous that no one but ghosts and criminals dare enter past dusk.
Open 9am-3pm, 3421 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, 504-482-5065
Manchac Swamp: In 1915 a massive hurricane wiped out three towns and swept the residents into this silent, godforsaken swamp, home to alligators and the infamous hanging tree. It is said a witch named Julie put a curse on these towns and now the inhabitants’ souls forever dwell in the haunted swamp. Other voodoo curses are said to have trapped pirates and witches. Travel by boat, lighted only by torches, on this murky water and you might just catch a glimpse of the lost town of Frenier’s now-underwater cemetery. Tell me you aren’t afraid of the dark!
For Tours: Swamp Tours or Cajun Pride
Six Flags Jazzland: A more modern fright, this theme park was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans in 2005. It is now overgrown and boarded up, with only rats and the occasional intrepid photographer there to document the squalid capitalistic remains. Who knows what ghosts are yet to be discovered, but trespass at your own risk- remember what happened to Rita Hayworth at a similar deserted amusement park at the end of The Lady From Shanghai? If you don’t, what can I say? The joke’s on you.
12301 Six Flags Pkwy, New Orleans