Ghostly Vieux Carré Gallivants

July 30, 2019
New Orleans has over 300 years of history… and mystery. To say that the French Quarter has a deep, complex history is an understatement. It has changed hands during territorial disputes and boasts architecture from the French and Spanish.. This colored past is preserved in the buildings, alleys, courtyards, and homes and because of it, many believe past spirits are preserved there as well. In the land of voodoo, vampires, and witchcraft, it’s no wonder that America’s most haunted city is rife with tales of restless spirits. Native Americans warned French settlers not to build a city on this “cursed land.” Founded in 1718, New Orleans has three centuries of French, Spanish, African, Native American, and Acadian history filled with violent deaths. Legends of grisly murders, plundering pirates, voodoo spirits and restless wanderers run rampant across the city. Some of the original residents and visitors of historic New Orleans never left town!

For the rest of the country, things that go bump in the night move to the forefront of the imagination in October each year. But in New Orleans, often called the most-haunted city in America, every day might as well be Halloween. Stroll through New Orleans on any given night, and you’re likely to encounter an above-ground graveyard and a cobwebbed 18th-century mansion with a mysterious history. This city is a place where the dead refuse to rest; in fact, there is no solid ground to hold them.

My girlfriend, Julia, and I decided to undertake a spine-tingling adventure in the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, established in 1823 at 514 Chartres Street. We are both nurses, so we were fascinated with all sorts of medical contraptions found there and the horror and gore of nineteenth century medicine, blood-letting, and the so-called beneficial use of leeches, mercury, and absinthe. We were told about Louis Dufilho, Jr., who was born in 1788 in Mirande, France and in 1816 graduated from the College of Pharmacy in Paris, France. Upon his return, he and his younger brother, also named Louis, maintained their own pharmacy at 63 Chartres Street until the younger Louis started his own pharmacy at the present-day location in 1823. The younger Louis went on to become America's first licensed pharmacist. He married in 1819 and the couple had seven children together although only four of them lived past childhood. The Dufilho family lived in this location until 1855. At that time, they sold it for $18,000 to Dr. Dupas, who allegedly imposed shocking experiments on pregnant slaves and allegedly performed voodoo rites on the property. "Experiments" on the enslaved at this time was not unheard of; in fact, it seems that slaves being tortured or used as medical experiments is a common theme for many ghost stories. Two children, a boy and a girl, are apparitions sited in the museum. The Dufilho family lost a son and daughter while they lived there. Could these circumstances explain the ghosts which have been seen there? We were told that Dr. Dupas' ghost also haunts the Pharmacy Museum, especially after it closes. His ghost is seen wearing a brown suit and matching top hat and appears to be a short, stocky man in his mid-sixties with a mustache. His spirit is responsible for throwing books, moving items that are on display in the museum, and triggering the alarm system in the dead of night. If you walk down Chartres Street at night, look up on the second floor and see if you detect any unearthly beings.

Later that night, we were strolling down Toulouse Street when I caught a hazy glimpse of an old woman appear out of nowhere. She was dressed in black with beads in her hand as she stepped into a doorway. Curious, I went to see where she went. As we approached the doorway, we felt a coolness and noted a strange aroma. Old yellowed mail was stuck in the door, making it obvious that the door had not been opened recently. Goosebumps covered my arms, and we went back to our hotel to research the area. Nearby is The Olivier House, a charming little hotel built in 1836 by Madame Olivier, a wealthy plantation owner. It was later owned by the vicious and hateful Elizabeth Locoul, who branded her servants. She always wore black and was never seen without her rosary. She wandered around mumbling the rosary to herself and would scream and curse at anyone who interrupted her. Guests claim they see the ghost of a mysterious old woman dressed in black carrying a rosary as she roams around the property cursing at staff and visitors. Elizabeth is often seen in the first room where she died in 1884 at the age of 88. Is it possible that I saw Elizabeth?

Julia and I continued to stroll down Pirates Alley and decided to pop in to Faulkner House Books to look for a gift for our husbands. We were told that it was once home to William Faulkner in the 1920’s, and he wrote his first novel, Soldier’s Pay, while staying in this house. It is rumored that his ghost still resides in this house. There have been many reports of people seeing the ghost of Faulkner still sitting at his writing desk, which is located in the store. In addition, pipe smoke can sometimes be smelled wafting through the bookstore. It is well known that Faulkner liked to smoke a pipe while he wrote. Is this apparition that of William Faulkner, or someone else? I’ll let you be the judge.

There is also much mystery and folklore surrounding the origins and practice of voodoo in New Orleans. Many French Quarter shops are dedicated to the magic and ritual of voodoo and they will not only satisfy your curiosity, they may also put a spell on you! Every year, we go to Voodoo Authentica’s free annual VoodooFest, held every Halloween, October 31st, from 1pm to 7pm. In 2019, the festival will celebrate its 21st year of sharing voodoo’s many invaluable contributions to our city's unique historic and present culture. Through entertaining musical presentations and educational lectures by local favorites, it endeavors to shed light on this widely misunderstood religion. Bring your drum, rattle or clapping hands, and don’t miss the festival’s closing Ancestral Healing Ritual at 7pm!

For an interesting yet eerie jaunt to learn about the character and traditions of the historic French Quarter, French Quarter Phantoms strives to show visitors the city, make them laugh, and give them the heebie-jeebies. Their guides are “the strangest bunch of real historians” who are knowledgeable licensed master storytellers offering Cemetery, Treme, True Crime, Saints and Sinners, and the popular Ghost and Vampire combo tours beginning at 6pm and 8pm every day. Each tour is personally crafted based on recorded history and folklore; each tour is unique and never scripted. French Quarter Phantoms is rated with Trip Advisor as one of the top ten ghost tours in the world. Haunted by phantoms and the hovering mysteries of past tragedies, the French Quarter is a place where the spirits often find the coffin too confining. Groups are guided through dark streets for a historically accurate, fun-filled tour full of ghost and vampire stories. Book a reservation at, call 504.666.8300, or come to The Voodoo Lounge located at 718 N. Rampart Street at the corner of Orleans Street where the tours begin at 6 and 8pm.

Would you like to witness any of the ghosts that inhabit the famous Bourbon Orleans Hotel, which was formerly a theater, a Quadroon Ballroom, an orphanage, and a convent? It ranks as one of New Orleans’ top haunted hotels. Chip Coffey, internationally acclaimed psychic, performed readings there where he detected and communicated with children who experienced sudden deaths, a Confederate soldier, nuns from the Sisters of the Holy Family’s convent, and a ghost dancer, all under the ballroom chandeliers. Gray Line Ghosts and Spirits Tour will take you to the Bourbon Orleans as well as our courthouse where our Supreme Court is based, a former slave exchange. Take an exciting look at the relics of voodoo ceremonies, a vampire slaying kit, and age-old tools of the trade used by mysterious inhabitants of our city. They may tell you about The Andrew Jackson Hotel at 919 Royal Street, which was at one time the location for a boys’ boarding school. The school was destroyed in the fire of 1794 and five little boys lost their lives. For many years, this hotel with primarily adult guests received many calls to the front desk in the middle of the night to ask them to keep the children quiet. Many thought they could hear little boys playing in the courtyard at night.

We took Gray Line’s new tour to Houmas House, a plantation home on the Mississippi River. It had an extreme makeover beginning in 2003 and in the process, it appears, a spirit was awakened. Restored to its crown jewel status, Houmas House is once again filled with activity. Days are busy as visitors fill its galleries, halls, and parlors to experience the splendor of antebellum plantation life. As the tour guide told us about the history of the home, Julia gasped and pointed at the stairway. She whispered that she saw a little girl in a blue dress with dark eyes and brown hair running toward the next floor. I didn’t see anyone, but I felt the hair on my head move as if in a breeze. Later, the tour guide confirmed that a girl with the same description is often seen by guests and workers in the home.

The young daughter of Col. John Preston was the belle of Houmas House, loved by all for her joie de vivre that filled the plantation with delightful squeals of youth. In 1848, she suddenly fell gravely ill. The family left for Columbia, South Carolina, where the young girl soon died. The family never returned to Houmas House, yet those back in Louisiana who knew her and her love of the plantation mourned her loss. Around 1900, another daughter of Houmas House died on the plantation. Col. William Porcher Miles and his wife lost their daughter to illness at age seven. She was laid to rest in the family cemetery by the river. The cemetery disappeared, and several of the gravesites were disturbed when the levee was built after the 1927 flood. The graveyard would today be located under the levee. The remains of the dead are long gone, but what about the spirits?

The waterlogged, swampy soil upon which New Orleans is built makes digging more than a couple of feet impractical. This gruesome revelation was made soon after the first cemetery was established just inside the current French Quarter. Graves popped to the surface and bodies floated down the street when it flooded. The solution was to avoid burial altogether and house the dead in above ground tombs. These little “houses” led to the coining of the term “Cities of the Dead.” On the Cemetery and Voodoo Tour, you will enter the cemetery gates and see rusty, decorative ironwork and tombs with crosses and statues jutting from them. Learn about voodoo and our unique burial customs. You never know who will want to pose for a picture! Reservations recommended at the Gray Line “Lighthouse” Ticket Office at Toulouse Street and the Mississippi River. 504.569.1401.

After our tour, we decided to have a drink with the ghosts of pirates and soldiers at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop located at 941 Bourbon Street. It is the believed to be the oldest structure still used as a bar in the country and the second oldest building in New Orleans. Built in the 1720s, it is believed to have been used by Jean and Pierre Lafitte as a New Orleans base for their smuggling operation. Today, this bar is among the most haunted in New Orleans. A French-American pirate and privateer, Jean Lafitte plundered the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and some claim the buccaneer's treasure is buried within the building's bricks. The ghosts of soldiers and pirates have been seen walking around the building at night. Late at night, another familiar apparition is that of a woman with long dark hair dressed in black. We met a couple there who were staying next door in Lafitte’s Hotel and Lounge in room 21. They told us about a little girl named Marie who died in the yellow fever epidemic in 1853; yellow fever claimed the lives of 10,000 people within the Crescent City that summer. Whether Marie was one of the victims of yellow fever during that particular year we will never be quite certain, but it is known that she never left. They believe that after Marie’s death, her mother was too upset to leave the building, and that she still occupies her old bedroom. They reported hearing sounds of weeping and seeing mysterious lights appearing in unoccupied rooms and wondered if this could this be the spirit of Marie’s mother or someone else? Apparently, Marie's spirit never left either. Her apparition has appeared in the mirror found right outside of room 21; her ghostly form has reportedly manifested and talked with children who are guests of the hotel.

It is rumored that another young girl slipped and fell down the steep lobby stairwell in the nineteenth century. Her ghostly apparition has been spotted walking up the staircase, her ethereal blonde hair skimming the back of her demure white nightgown. We marveled at their stories and looked around hoping to see an otherworldly being. After a couple refreshing cocktails, we still didn’t see any phantoms, so we all decided to move along to another bar in a hotel known for hauntings.

We climbed aboard the rotating Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, known for being one of the premier haunted hotels in New Orleans. In March of 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research spent several days there and made contact with more than a dozen earthbound entities. Among them were several former employees including a man named William “Red” Wildemere, who died inside the hotel of natural causes. Another spirit is that of a friendly toddler named Maurice Begere. The boy died in the hotel, and his distraught parents returned frequently in hopes that he might visit them. Maurice eventually appeared to his mother and comforted her; guests still report seeing him near the room where he died on the thirteenth floor. Cocktail in hand, we decided to investigate. We entered the elevator and discovered that there is no thirteenth floor! The floor above the twelfth floor was the fourteenth floor, so we decided that we should go there. We walked up and down the halls eagerly looking for “Red” or Maurice, but we didn’t see anyone…that night.

See for yourself! Explore the dark side of the French Quarter…the tombs, secret passageways, courtyards, hotels, and bars. Restless spirits in America’s most haunted city are lurking around every corner…They may cast a spell on you!