The Spooky blues streets of New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS TOP FIVE HAUNTED STREETS Many locals know the best place to experience a one-on-one encounter with some of the resident ghosts and ghouls that prowl the streets of Haunted New Orleans. Haunted New Orleans Tours has created a definitive guide to some of the city’s spookiest and most ghost-ridden thoroughfares where spectres make contact with the living on an almost daily basis. 1. Canal Street at City Park Avenue. One drive through this major city intersection and its obvious to see why the area ranks number one on our list of Haunted New Orleans Streets. This major intersection once marked the outermost limits of the old city of New Orleans and is a location where an amazing thirteen cemeteries converge. Beyond the intersection is the median (in New Orleans vernacular, the neutral ground) that once was the location of the New Basin Canal: in itself yet another graveyard for so many Irish, German and Italian immigrants died in digging it and all of them were buried where they fell. There have been a variety of reports stemming from encounters near vortex of the dead: from spirits seen walking hand in hand down the wide avenues of Greenwood Cemetery, to the plaintive, disembodied voices that call to bus riders waiting at the corner near Odd Fellows Rest, the reports are astonishing. Near this location several witnesses have spotted the ghost of a young woman dressed all in white running into the path of oncoming traffic at the corner where Canal Boulevard becomes Canal Street. Some have speculated that the figure is that of a bride and they point to the fact that one of New Orleans legendary reception and dining halls Lenfants — stood nearby for decades. Why the bride is running or what she might be searching for will forever remain a mystery. Others who have seen her have debunked the bride theory for something more sinister: they have said she has all the appearance of a pale, ghostlike creature, with a gaunt, skeletal face and long, bony hands that make a horrible clack-clacking noise on the car doors of the hapless souls who wait too long at the Canal Boulevard stop sign. There have been other reports of ghostly funerals passing through the CLOSED gates of the Masonic cemetery late in the night, and this is one of the intersections where the infamous Haunted Bus is said to stop, and barrel on into the empty night. If you happen by this particular intersection remember: here the dead truly outnumber the living, and they are not restful. #2. Esplanade Avenue at Moss Street and Bayou St. John. This intersection, where grand old Esplanade Avenue crosses over Bayou St. John at the Moss Street Bridge has long been reputedly haunted. Along the Avenue near this intersection is St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 where many of the great old New Orleans families now sleep in eternal repose. But some of the families who chose a better view of the Bayou with their earthen beds surely must have felt betrayed when their remains were exhumed and moved: Originally, St. Louis No. 3 extended nearly all the way to the shore of the Bayou. In the 1940s a part of the land was sold and houses were built where gravestones once stood; later, in the 1970s, the huge Park Place apartment building was erected where the houses once stood. Reports have come of spectral beings loitering near corner of Esplanade and Moss, as if they are lost souls looking for their resting place. Also near this intersection is the old convent of the Cabrini nuns, who still teach at Cabrini High School on nearby Moss Street. Mother Cabrini, the founder of the order, lived in the building herself and tales of her spirit still being seen kneeling and praying at the grotto are legendary. In the early 1900s Bayou St. John and the surrounding area were the domain of Jose Planas, the King of the French Market. He owned most of the land from Esplanade to the French Quarter and operated several barges and tugs that did commerce along the Bayou, once a major route to Lake Pontchartrain and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico. Residents who live in the restored cottages near this major intersection tell stories of hearing the resonant voice of Jose himself, still giving orders to his barge crews; when Jose is seen, he appears as a man dressed in a white, Havana style suit, usually near the base of the statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. #3. St. Charles Avenue. This grand promenade of old New Orleans has its share of reputed apparitions and haunting’s. Union soldiers and once even the ghost of General Benjamin The Beast Butler have been sighted on the steps of famous Gallier Hall. During the Union occupation of the city of New Orleans, Gallier Hall was used as a Federal headquarters. There is also a ghost connected to Gallier Hall that appears only during the Bacchus Mardi Gras parade: Some rattled parade-goers have run screaming to police reporting that they have just witnessed a stabbing. When police return to the scene of the alleged crime, the first block on the Lafayette St. side of Gallier Hall, there is no victim and nothing out of the ordinary is found. As it happens, in 1972, a young man was attacked and brutally stabbed between two cars on this side of Gallier Hall. He died two blocks down at the intersection of Lafayette and Baronne Streets. Perhaps what we are seeing is simply the ghostly reenactment of his tragic last minutes on earth? On the Uptown side of St. Charles Avenue, in the area that inspired the chronicles of Anne Rices Mayfair Witches, strange things are reported near the famous Bultmann Funeral Home where some have witnessed ghostly hearses idling on side streets and have heard the piercing cry of a young woman in jeopardy. Ironically, some years ago, a young woman was attacked near the funeral home entrance and was dragged to her death along a side street, all during the height of rush hour traffic. Near the intersection of St. Charles and Napoleon Avenues a ghostly couple is said to await a bus that for them never comes. They are seen dressed in Sunday best and when the bus arrives, they apparently never get on. Also near this intersection is sometimes seen the ghost of a lost little boy. He is seen crying broken-heartedly and standing in the gutter on the river side of Napoleon. When someone approaches him, it is said he turns and runs away, disappearing into thin air. Tragically, a little boy was pulled under the wheels of a Mardi Gras float at just this location many years ago when the Super Krewe’s (as they were then called) first began using the Uptown parade route. Could this spectral image be that of the lost little boy whose Mardi Gras was ruined so long ago? #4. Lakeshore Drive Like St. Charles Avenue, this long stretch of famous New Orleans roadway seems to have more than its share of haunting’s, such as: Lakeshore Drive and Kildeer where a biker and his child were killed in a hit and run trying to cross at the base of the high rise bridge here; many people have reported being startled by the ghostly figure of a man on his bike, with a child fixed in a seat behind him, who rushes out in front of vehicles and disappears into thin air. Lakeshore Drive at “TI- KI Beach, where the ghost of a college student who drowned during a fraternity initiation is seen walking up to cars that park here and looking mournfully into the windows before vaporizing into the dark. Lakeshore Drive at Mardi Gras Fountain, where the ghost of a motorcyclist who ploughed off the road here and into the fountain in the 1960s is said to come and sit beside hapless visitors to the old fountain; they report that he is still wearing the torn leather jacket and the blood stained helmet that he was found in. And somewhere along Lakeshore Drive is to be found one of the most troubling haunting’s in New Orleans, though the exact location is unknown. It is told that during the 1930s a man who was swimming in the Lake was sucked under the seawall steps and drowned because he could not escape. Friends searched for him and finally a diver located the opening under the steps and the body was discovered. Haunted New Orleans Tours has received several reports from people who have unintentionally chosen the exact spot of this tragedy to share a quiet moment, only to be startled into abject terror as the ghostly arm and shoulder of a man appear in the wash near the bottom of the steps: According to all reports, NO ONE has stayed around to see the head and face come up out of the water. (This one is hit or miss and you never know if the spot you’ve chosen is the right one, until you see that glowing hand reach up from the black waters of Lake Pontchartrain.) #5. Rampart and Basin Streets. You can’t have one without the other in this “two Rampart Street was for years uncounted the northern boundary of the French Quarter and has been the source of many reports of haunting’s and paranormal encounters. Basin Street, Ramparts raunchy sister, is a legendary cradle of brothels and the blues, and a perfect recipe for haunting’s. The Old Mortuary Chapel, or Our Lady of Guadeloupe and St. Jude Shrine as it is called today, was once the final stop before an earthen bed for victims of the yellow fever epidemics of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The dead and dying of Bronze Johns subjects were taken en masse to this chapel to receive the Last Rites from the only souls still willing to approach the victims with compassion, the priests and nuns of the Mortuary Chapel. Today there is almost continuous activity in and around the church and novenas to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes, are a constant. But in the quiet interludes, in the dark hours before dawn and at sunset after the rush hour traffic has passed, some say the sound of Latin benedictions can still be heard over the ghostly moaning of the dying in the last throes of the grip of the yellow death. One startling report comes to Haunted New Orleans Tours of a group visiting from South Carolina who decided to take an independent tour of the old chapel and somehow got a glimpse of the Other Side: while wandering the aisles of the church, amid the muffled conversation of churchgoers and other tourists, the group came face to face with a nun wearing a habit so antiquated that it immediately stood out as odd. It is said that she passed them without a look or word, and in such complete silence that it made at least one of the party give her a second, longer look. To his dismay, he realized as he watched that the nun was FLOATING almost a foot above the chapel floor. Struck speechless by the sight, all he could do was watch in shock as the nun literally floated onto the altar and through the sacristy door. Often visitors to the church smell an intense scent of lavender in the nave of the church when no one is there: lavender was used to mask the scent of illness that once so pervaded the little old chapel. Another famous and haunted Rampart Street landmark is Congo Square. Today it is adjacent to Armstrong Park near the Municipal Auditorium, but in the 18th and 19th centuries it was the beating heart of the African Americans in New Orleans. Frequented by both Free People of color and Negro servants and slaves of the gentile New Orleans families, Congo Square quickly took on a life of its own. African Americans who came together to share and celebrate their African culture in a marketplace atmosphere that in the evenings became a celebration of music and dance held great gatherings there. Many distinguished New Orleanians would join in the celebrations at Congo Square, including Marie Laveau and her followers who practised their voodoo rituals there deep into the night. The wild rhythms also attracted one of the most famous American composers of that time: young Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the composer of such famous works as A Night in the Tropics” “The Banjo, visited Congo Square as a child and into his youth and some say he still visits there in death. Reports have come to Haunted New Orleans Tours of a tall man, dressed in 19th century clothing, groomed in the style of the day with sideburns and moustache, who walks silently down Rampart Street to the gates of Armstrong Park and disappears inside. One report tells of the man being accompanied by an Octoroon woman dressed in servants clothes of the time: it is a well known fact that the servants of Gottschalks household are the ones who first exposed him to the fiery rhythms that would plant the seed of ragtime in his musicians heart. Perhaps his Octoroon is still accompanying him? Those who have researched the story of Gottschalk have recognized his tall, dark figure immediately, but he is not confined to Rampart Street and is often seen near the corner of Royal and Esplanade standing outside the cottage where he was born. The ghost of Marie Laveau has also been seen in the park itself, dancing in a ghostly dance to music only she and the spirits of the Other World now can hear. Dressed in white and looking as beautiful as when she lived, her dark eyes flash as if she knows very well she is dead and that she is scaring the life out of you! Nearby Basin Street has always had a seedy reputation and the brothels that flourished there in the late 1800s and early 20th century did nothing to change that opinion. But can it be that the ghosts of prostitutes from long ago are still working their Basin Street beat? One man claims that he was actually approached by one of these ghostly prostitutes and was led to a rendezvous in a darkened yard, only to find himself completely alone: the woman had vanished altogether. Ghostly music haunts Basin Street; remnant notes from days of yore when jazz and the blues were in their infancy. One complaint to the New Orleans Police Department about “the jazz band practising upstairs in that empty building seem to be proof enough that ghostly musicians still get together to jam: when the NOPD arrived, they found the place deserted, without even electricity or a way inside. One familiar Basin Street ghost is that of famous turn of the century craftsman and painter Alphonse Aveton, who is still seen in his turn of the century painters clothes, walking down Basin or climbing scaffolding that IS NOT THERE along the sides of buildings now decrepit and abandoned but which once bore the mark of his artistry. Family members of Aveton claim to have no idea why their relative is still plying his trade in the hereafter but wish wholeheartedly that he’d come over to their houses and do some work for them! Such is the way with most old New Orleans families: you may be gone but you are never forgotten!