While every city of a certain size has its share of spooky legends, New Orleans seems
almost to have an overabundance.
These messed up things may have happened in New Orleans' history.
We may never know.
One of the most famous landmarks in New Orleans' French Quarter is the St. Louis Cathedral,
the oldest cathedral in the United States, which faces Jackson Square and features a
strikingly Dracula-esque statue of Jesus.
The alley that runs next to it, known as Pirates Alley, is also home to one of the most famous
ghostly phenomena in all of New Orleans.
First a little history: Louisiana was a French colony from 1718 until 1763 when the French
ceded the territory to Spain as part of the Treaty of Paris following the Seven Years'
A rebellion led by French colonists was put down by an Irish expatriate loyal to Spain
known as Bloody O'Reilly, who had the rebel leaders publicly executed on a street still
known today as Frenchmen Street, now a popular spot for music.
That's all very true history.
Where legend picks up is in the story that says that the bodies of these Frenchmen were
hung out to rot by the cathedral, and the priest was forbidden to bury them until the
Spanish guards took shelter during a hurricane, and the priest was able to transport the bodies
of the dead to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
Legend says that even today when it rains, you can hear the priest singing down Pirates
One of the most famous haunted houses in New Orleans, so famous that many just call it
"the Haunted House," is the LaLaurie Mansion at 1140 Royal Street in the French Quarter.
It might be famous because it featured heavily in Season 3 of American Horror Story, or maybe
because Nicolas Cage owned it for a little while for some reason.
"I love it.
I just love it."
But really, it's famous because, as Ghost City Tours points out, legend says some really
messed up stuff happened in there.
Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine, moved into the mansion in 1832, and Delphine,
a proud socialite, soon gained a reputation for being cruel to her slaves, especially
after she was seen chasing a young girl off a balcony to her death with a bullwhip.
But it was an 1834 fire that revealed the true horror of the LaLaurie Mansion.
A girl chained to the stove had set the fire because she would rather die than be taken
to the room upstairs.
Firefighters who entered this room discovered it was basically a torture chamber.
Delphine LaLaurie, now uncovered, fled to France, and little is known about what happened
to her afterward.
Anyway, the house is haunted now, obviously.
Thanks to her prominent appearances in pop culture such as a 1974 hit song, Marvel Comics,
and American Horror Story, there is probably no name more associated with voodoo than Marie
Laveau was a real person, who, together with her daughter, amassed thousands of followers
to their uniquely New Orleans brand of spiritualism in the 19th century.
In life, according to Ghost City Tours, Laveau became the Voodoo Queen of Congo Square, leading
people in chants and selling charms with a boa constrictor named Zombi draped over her
It's only natural, then, that people would continue to seek her aid more than a century
after her death.
While of course her house is haunted, the most famous haunted location associated with
Laveau is her tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
Many people will leave offerings and seek her blessing by drawing an X on the tomb,
or some other series of rituals, which will lead her to grant your wish.
Don't actually write on the tomb, though, because that is actually super-illegal.
The reason most of the buildings in New Orleans' French Quarter are actually Spanish and not
French is that the city was destroyed by fire in 1788 and again in 1794.
One building that burned down was the site that now houses the Andrew Jackson Hotel.
According to the hotel's website, the hotel was originally built as a home for boys who
lost their parents to a yellow fever epidemic in the late 18th century.
If it weren't bad enough that these boys were orphaned, they also died in a fire.
Now the hotel that was built in that location is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the
five boys who died in the fire.
The boys' giggling can be heard in the courtyard, and they're known to push people out of bed
or snatch their pillows out from under them.
Other stories report that they like to change the channel on the TVs or pour cereal on the
Boys will be boys.
If you look closely at the architecture when you wander around the French Quarter, you
might notice an interesting detail: Most of the columns feature spikes sticking out from
the poles most of the way up.
These pointy bits are called Romeo spikes, or Romeo catchers, and they're meant to keep
you from climbing up the column and getting frisky with the homeowner's daughter.
Or wife, or son, or whoever.
One famous New Orleans ghost story relates the tale of a young man who ended up on the
wrong end of a Romeo catcher after sneaking into his girlfriend's room.
The father fired a gun into the air to scare the boy, which caused him to let go, and the
Romeo catcher ripped him from stem to stern.
This gutsy ghost can still be found hanging around the French Quarter, so to speak.
The Crescent City isn't just famous for ghosts, even though it's got them by the swamp-boat-load.
It's also got a whole lot of vampires, and not just Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.
Perhaps the most famous New Orleans vampire is Jacques St. Germain, who may or may not
have also been an immortal alchemist and philosopher.
Okay, so according to legend, in the early 1900s a guy named Jacques St. Germain shows
up in the French Quarter and starts throwing money around in lavish dinner parties, though
he is never seen eating at them.
He regales his guests with incredibly detailed stories from all over the world that had taken
place hundreds of years before as if he had witnessed them firsthand.
People soon noticed his resemblance to the Count de St. Germain, a European adventurer
and philosopher of the 1700s.
It must be stressed that the Count de St. Germain was a 100 percent real person who
knew King Louis XV, Voltaire, and other famous historical people.
His life was also so mysterious that even in his lifetime people thought he was an immortal
"I don't know, you know, maybe…"
"Is Peter coming?
Should we wait?"
"Peter is eight thousand years old, we're not going to have Peter at the meeting."
So what makes Jacques St. Germain a vampire and not just an immortal?
His more sanguine proclivities were revealed when one day a sex worker leaped from his
balcony to escape him after he began biting her neck.
When police went to question St. Germain, he had disappeared, but they say Vampire Jack
still lurks the French Quarter to this day.
You might know that the cemeteries in New Orleans use above-ground vaults rather than
burying their dead.
This is partly because of the fact that the low altitude of the city means its water tables
are high and flooding could cause bodies to float up out of the ground, and partly because
the French and Spanish also used above-ground vaults.
What you may not know is that in order to fit entire families into these tombs, old
coffins are removed after a year or two to make room for new ones, with the remains placed
back into the tomb sans box.
Hold on to that fact; you'll need it in a minute.
According to legend, John and Wayne Carter were brothers who popped up in New Orleans
during the Great Depression and worked at the docks.
In 1932, an 11-year-old girl escaped their apartment in the French Quarter and fled to
She said the brothers had been feeding on her.
When the police entered the apartment, they found 4 other people bound up and bleeding,
and many others already dead.
It took eight men to restrain the Carter brothers when they returned home.
They were put to death, and when their tomb was opened to retrieve their coffins a year
later, their bodies were gone.
First the truth: The so-called "Casket Girls" were young women sent from France to the French
colony of Louisiana in 1728 to provide wives for the disproportionately male colony.
The "caskets" they carried were just luggage trunks that had their clothes in them.
The legend starts the same: Pale young girls arrived in New Orleans by boat, shyly clutching
the caskets they carried with them.
Their skin was so pale that they instantly blistered in the hot Louisiana sun.
They carried their caskets to the Ursuline convent that was to be their home until they
However, things did not turn out well for the Casket Girls.
The men of New Orleans rejected the pale girls, and many of them were forced to turn to working.
The French king, enraged by the failure of his policy, demanded the return of the girls.
The nuns went up to the third floor only to find that the caskets that allegedly held
all the girls' belongings were actually completely empty.
The implication, you see, is that the girls were sleeping in the coffins instead of keeping
their clothes in there.
The girls were vampires.
That's the punchline.
The third floor of the convent was then sealed up and nailed shut with nails blessed by the
This has not, however, completely kept the girls from feasting on blood from time to
Pirates have been so romanticized by movies and books that it's almost hard to remember
that they were real people who committed real crimes, often under the auspices of real governments.
One of the most famous pirates in U.S. history, and certainly the most famous in New Orleans,
is Jean Lafitte, who traded in infamy for legitimate fame when he helped Andrew Jackson
fight the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
Lafitte owned a business in the French Quarter in the early 19th century that is one of the
oldest surviving structures in New Orleans, and, at least according to its website, the
oldest continuously operating bar in the United States.
It probably wasn't a bar when Lafitte owned it, though.
It was, uh, maybe a blacksmith shop, so it's known today as Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop.
They serve a grape-flavored voodoo daiquiri that tastes like purple cold medicine.
Also it's haunted.
According to legend, a full-body apparition of Lafitte is a common guest at the bar which
bears his name.
"Zoinks, it's him!"
On the second floor there's alleged to be the ghost of a woman who will whisper your
name into your ear, and piercing red demonic eyes appear regularly in the bar that fade
into darkness after you make eye contact with them.
It might be worth risking a demon for those daiquiris, though.
Someone's left out a blender, fresh fruits, and rum?
I guess we gotta like, make daiquiris now."