Vieux Carré Voodoo and Restless Spirits

July 27, 2017
Founded in 1718, New Orleans has almost three centuries of French, Spanish, African, Native American, and Acadian history; our very rich and dark history is filled with violent deaths, which contribute to hauntings and paranormal activity. Legends of grisly murders, plundering pirates, voodoo spirits, and restless wanderers run rampant across the city.

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.” Louisiana Voodoo originated from the traditions of the African diaspora as a cultural form of the Afro-American religions that developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American population of Louisiana. It is an African-based religion rooted in West African Vodun. As a result of the slave trade, this population became synchronized with the Catholic and Francophone culture of southern Louisiana.

There is 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; they will not only satisfy your curiosity, they may also put a spell on you!

Want to learn more about the origin of voodoo? Voodoo Authentica of New Orleans Cultural Center and Collection, located at quiet and picturesque 612 rue Dumaine, is a practitioner-owned and operated establishment that has been open to the public since 1996. The shop features the original work of Voodoo Authentica’s team of local Spiritualists and Folk Artists, including an exclusive line of locally-handmade Voodoo Dolls, Gris Gris Bags, Potion Oils, Candles, Soaps, and Ritual Kits. They carry a great selection of practitioner-written books and unique New Orleans, Haitian, and African Spiritual Arts and Crafts. Voodoo Authentica offers Rituals, Readings, Spiritual Work, and Consultations, all conducted by their friendly and experienced team of in-house Voodoo Practitioners.

Voodoo Authentica’s free annual VOODOOFEST is held every Halloween, October 31st, from 1 PM - 7 PM right outside the shop on the 600 block of rue Dumaine. In 2017, the festival will celebrate its 19th year of sharing Voodoo’s many invaluable contributions to our city's unique historic and present-day culture with festival guests. Through entertaining musical presentations and educational lectures by local favorites, including Sunpie and Luther Grey of Bamboula 2000, VOODOOFEST endeavors to shed proper 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! Full festival events schedule is available at For an interesting yet eerie jaunt to learn about the character and traditions of the historic French Quarter, walking tours are a popular and affordable way for visitors to enjoy the city. 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 and licensed master storytellers offering theme tours: Cemetery, Treme, True Crime, Saints and Sinners (for adults only), and the popular Ghost & Vampire combo tours beginning at 6pm and 8pm every day. The tours last about an hour and forty-five minutes in length with a walking distance of just under one mile. Each tour is personally crafted based on recorded history and folklore, so each guide’s 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. Also, they have been voted the #1 Haunted Tour in New Orleans and #2 in the United States by Haunted America Tours. They were featured on The Discovery Channel as “The Official Best of Louisiana 2015” and touted by A&E, The Travel Channel, Sci Fi, BBC World, The History Channel, National Geographic, and in Southern Living magazine! French Quarter Phantoms "Ghost and Vampire" combo is their signature tour. 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; mysteries and history combine to make this a very unique city. Master storytellers, some with up to ten years experience, guide groups through darkened streets for a historically accurate, fun-filled tour full of New Orleans ghost stories and tales of Vampires. French Quarter Phantoms is a good neighbor within our community, donating to the Jefferson Children’s Advocacy Group, the Magnolia House, and serving as a leading sponsor of the New Orleans Easter Seals Gala. 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; adult tour guests may enjoy their two-for-one Hurricanes in souvenir glasses on their tour.

One possible story you may hear about happened at The Olivier House at 828 Toulouse Street. It is a charming little hotel built in 1836 by Madame Olivier, a wealthy plantation owner. It was later own by Elizabeth Locoul who reputedly had a nasty disposition. It was said that she had her servants branded to prove that they were hers. Those that knew her said that she was spiteful, vicious, and hateful. A relative said that she was so mean that she would not even give her baby teeth to the tooth fairy. Indeed, after her death, her baby teeth were found among her belongings. She always dressed in black and was never seen without her rosary. It is said that she would wander throughout the house in the courtyard mumbling her rosary to herself and that she would scream and curse at anyone who interrupted her prayers. Now, countless guests say that 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 in the building where it is believed that she died in 1884 at the age of 88.

Would you like to witness any of the ghosts that inhabit the famous Bourbon Orleans Hotel, formerly a theater, a Quadroon Ballroom, an orphanage, and a convent? Take a Gray Line Ghosts and Spirits Tour to visit well-known haunted sites in “the most haunted city in America,” as well as those that are often overlooked. A perfect example would be our courthouse where our Supreme Court is based, and 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 throughout the night.

Consider Gray Line’s Cemetery and Voodoo Walking Tour to visit the “Cities of the Dead.” 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 city’s first cemetery was established on St. Peter Street just inside the current French Quarter. Graves started popping to the surface and bodies floated down the street when it often flooded. The solution was to avoid burial altogether and house the dead in above ground tombs. In the mid-1800s, the site of hundreds of little marble, granite, or stone “houses” led to the coining of the term “Cities of the Dead.” Enter the cemetery gates and you will see rusty decorative ironwork and tombs with crosses and statues jutting from them casting contrasting shadows.

Stroll through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 as your guide recounts the background of the famous and infamous people who are buried there. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is a short walk from the French Quarter at Basin Street and St. Louis; it was established by the Spanish in 1789 and is the oldest cemetery in town. Make a wish or cast a spell at the tomb of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen and one of the French Quarter’s well-known dark characters, as well as a devout Catholic! It is said that Laveau’s former home at 1020 St. Ann Street 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.

Listen to the evolution of Voodoo, which is still practiced today. Learn about our unique above-ground burial customs and the tombs of various “societies” in this historic cemetery that opened in 1789. Each guest will be given an authentic souvenir “Gris-Gris” bag. You will learn that in New Orleans, we use Gris Gris or Mojo Bags to assist us in drawing love, health, good luck, and a variety of other positive influences into our lives. All of their Gris-Gris bags are handmade and blessed by a caring and experienced Root Worker. They use only the finest roots, herbs, oils, and other magical ingredients to create this powerful, traditional New Orleans focusing tool.

In addition to Marie Laveau, many of the city’s first occupants and more notorious personalities are entombed in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, including Delphine LaLaurie; Bernard de Marigny, a French-Creole American nobleman, playboy, politician, and President of the Louisiana Senate between 1822-1823; and Homer Plessy, of the Plessy v. Ferguson 1892 Supreme Court decision establishing separate but equal Jim Crow laws for African-Americans and whites in the South. It is also the site of the classic movie, Easy Rider.

In 1820, the City Council followed the belief that yellow fever, cholera, and other diseases were spread by “miasmas” emanating from cemeteries, and thus wanted to find a new site for a cemetery at least 2400 feet from the city limits. The nearest practical site, on what is now Claiborne Avenue between Canal, St. Louis, and Robertson Streets, was only 1800 feet from Rampart Street! The church consecrated St Louis Cemetery No. 2 for burials in August, 1823.

Less visited than its counterpart, St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 offers a piece of rest and solitude for those both above and below ground. Established in 1854, each tomb recounts a chapter in New Orleans’ rich history, from immigration patterns to floods and yellow fever outbreaks. Walk the rows to see marble and stone gravesites that are themselves works of art. Each guide has researched these "other spirits" of the Vieux Carre’, so no two tours are exactly alike. Bring your camera; you never know who will want to pose for a picture! Reservations and comfortable shoes are recommended. Tours begin at the Gray Line “Lighthouse” Ticket Office at Toulouse Street and the Mississippi River, at the Steamboat Natchez dock. Details of many tours can be found at 504-569-1401.

If you dare, stay in one of our many haunted hotels or have a drink in a bar known for seeing apparitions. The Provincial Hotel at 1024 Chartres Street has a building that was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Maids report accidentally walking in on a Confederate soldier when they go to clean the rooms in this building. Some say that bloodstains appear and then disappear on the bedding in some rooms, while others report seeing ghostly surgeons making “sawing” motions as if they were amputating a limb! One employee reported that one afternoon he stepped out of the elevator to find an entire section of the floor resembled an antiquated hospital operating room.

For a sip of pleasure in a beautiful private courtyard in the heart of the French Quarter, Patrick’s Bar Vin is a Top Ten wine bar. It is always a wonderfully warm and relaxed gathering place for locals and wine enthusiasts from around the world to enjoy a glass of wine, beer, or a signature cocktail that may turn strangers into friends and friends into family. Our own bon vivant, Patrick Van Hoorebeek, the quintessential host and legendary manager, welcomes all to a Halloween Party on Friday, October 27 from 3 until 7pm. The party will feature a costume contest, DJ music, and a glass of wine for every costume contestant. 730 Bienville Street, (504) 200-3180.

Drink with the ghosts of pirates and soldiers at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, located at 941 Bourbon Street. It is the oldest working bar in the country and the second oldest building in New Orleans. It was built in the 1720s and is believed to have been used by Jean and Pierre Lafitte as a New Orleans base for their Barataria smuggling operation. Today, this bar is considered to be one of the most haunted in New Orleans. A French-American pirate and privateer, Jean Lafitte plundered the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some stories claim the buccaneer's treasure is buried within the building's bricks. A fireplace grate is rumored to be the resting place of some of the plunder. Some say a pair of ghostly red eyes can be seen staring from the grate. The ghosts of soldiers and pirates have been seen walking around the building in the middle of the night. One familiar apparition is that of a woman with long, dark hair dressed in black. She has made appearances in the bar late at night. The candle lit ambience of Lafitte's has given it a reputation for being a vampire tavern as well.

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… It may cast a spell on you!