New Orleans has a quite a fascinating history. There has been a lot of intrigue, mystery and murder throughout its 300 year existence giving the dead good reason to remain behind and haunt the city. New Orleans is widely considered one of the most haunted cities in America.
When you visit you must make sure to check out some haunted New Orleans tours, visit its many graveyards, and explore the city after dark.
Haunted New Orleans
We had done a couple of haunted New Orleans tours on prior visits to the city, but it was with Historic New Orleans Tours that we had the best explanation as to why this city is considered so haunted.
Each tour guide has their own version of New Orleans hauntings and you'll have a blast if go into your tour with an open mind. It's more fun if you let yourself believe the stories and envision ghosts and spirits all around the city. Naturally none of these stories can be proven fact, you either believe in ghosts or not. But if there is one place in the US where you just might be converted to believing, it is here. Read on to find out why.
New Orleans Haunted Tours – All Questions Answered
Sure it could be because of its voodoo past or years of debauchery.
With murders, revolts, and as legend has it, people buried under homes and within their walls, there are a lot of reasons for tortured souls to be restless.
But there is a bit more to it than that. Our guide Brittany explained that the elements play a part too.
Plan your own New Orleans haunted tour with this haunted itinerary
Water, Weather and Wind
Haunted places usually have a lot of water around them. New Orleans is surrounded by a lot of water. It's not just a coastal city, it is engulfed in water from Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River.
With canals and tributaries leading out to Lake Borgne that eventually connects to the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is the perfect fluid place for the undead to move freely.
Wind also travels freely through New Orleans.
The city design was made to mimic the effects of the cooling breeze from shady trees.
Through wind corridors, spirits can easily hitch a ride on the currents of air pounding through the city.
I tend to believe in the elements playing a part in the supernatural. And since New Orleans is a virtual supernatural conductor of the afterlife, you have many chances to come in contact with the spirits of the city.
History Plays a Huge Part in Hauntings
Brittany told us of a dark history of New Orleans dating back to 1718. But before that, the Indigenous People of the area lived here for 1500 years using this as a main trading route.
When a land has been around this long, there are sure to be spirits lingering behind. But it really is the recent history that has the blood and violence that leads to hauntings.
Founded by French Canadian Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville who claimed the delta for France, New Orleans traded hands many times over the centuries.
Nobody from France really wanted to settle in New Orleans since it was considered a swamp and it was ripe with disease.
So to start things off, France basically rounded up all their criminals and sent them to the new land to establish a settlement.
The city was originally fortified by swamps, disease and bad weather making it a good place for the settlers and criminals to flourish if they could survive the elements.
The early arrivals had their ways of combatting malaria and yellow fever by following the African traditions of burning incense.
They thought they were appeasing the Gods, but little did they know it was the incense keeping the mosquitoes away.
It was the Europeans that contributed to the deadly Yellow Fever outbreak of 1853 when they put an end to the African practices of burning incense and instead relied on their faith.
#1 Fort St. Charles Haunting
Criminals managed to easily escape after their arrival, but they were eventually rounded up and put into the Fort St. Charles where they were kept in horrid conditions where many went insane.
Fort St. Charles was one of the first stops on our tour where we could only imagine what torture the prisoners went through.
Later in history, the fort was captured by the Spanish and anyone who insulted the nation of Spain was hanged. It was within the walls of this fort that several young men were rounded up and publicly executed.
The prisoners and the boys are said to still be haunting the fort to this day.
#2 Murder and Intrigue – Lalaurie Manstion Calle de Hospital
One of the more unsettling places we visited in New Orleans was the LaLaurie Mansion from American Horror Story: Covenon Calle de Hospital.
A beautiful woman named Madame LaLaurie was New Orleans’ answer to Lizzy Borden. Lizzy Borden was part of a famous case where she was accused for killing her father and stepfather with an axe.
Believe it or not, Madame LaLaurie's story is even more gruesome. She was married three times (twice widowed).
Marrying her first husband in a scandalous affair, they were sent to France for their honeymoon until the scandal died down.
While in France, her husband died of mysterious circumstances so she returned to NOLA where she remarried.
Strange enough, her second husband was hanged for treason and she finally settled with her final husband, a doctor.
The Gruesome Details
It was during a fire that broke out at one of her many parties that a slave woman accused Madame Laurie of hideous acts.
She was terrified and told authorities she would rather die or be arrested than step foot in the horror house of Hospital Street.
When police investigated, they found slaves in cages, disembowelled, chained to the walls, and missing limbs sewn to other parts of their bodies.
It turns out this psycho woman not only concocted experiments on her slaves, she invited the help of her party goers to join in. It is as dark and frightening of a story we've ever heard and we wonder how anyone could live today in this house.
Brittany told us, that it is bad luck to live in a evil home and if Nicolas Cage is any sign I tend to believe it.
He owned this house briefly and only stayed one night in it before calling his assistant for help. After his stint in New Orleans, he eventually went broke and lost all his money to his accountant who stole from him.
#3 Saint Louis Cemetery Number One
Speaking of Nicolas Cage, he has another connection to haunted places. He bought a large pyramid in Saint Louis Cemetery Number One which is the city's most famous resting place.
A visit to New Orleans would not be complete without a visit here. Because of the low water table in New Orleans, many people are buried above ground in tombs and grand monuments creating a beautiful setting.
St. Louis Cemetery Number One is filled with famous residents the most famous being Marie Laveau. She was a renowned voodoo priestess. Marie Laveau was born a free woman of colour and practiced many forms of religion.
People revered her (while being afraid of her at the same time) and held public events drawing huge crowds. One of our guides told us she was basically a business woman and free thinker.
Between all that voodoo, she was a hairdresser as well. The rich and elite regularly visited her parlour where she gained valuable knowledge of the business and gossip of the city.
Her grave had so much vandalism where people covered her stone with black crosses and graffiti that eventually they had to close the cemetery to the public. Today you must visit St. Louis Cemetery Number One with a tour guide.
It is said that if you stand at her tomb and make a wish, it will come true.
#4 Voodoo Museum
To understand New Orleans history further, a visit to the Voodoo Museum is a must.
Voodoo plays a huge role in New Orleans dating back to the slave history. New Orleans was one of the biggest and most brutal slave markets in the country. New Orleans was surrounded by plantations and many slaves were sold and separated here.
Africans held on to their culture and practiced their spirituality taken from West Africa. They had extensive knowledge of herbs, plants and poisons and practiced freely in New Orleans.
Because of the massive slave market here, African slaves were constantly being offloaded in New Orleans.
At that time, they outnumbered the white man two to one. Needless to stay their traditions survived and their culture had a great influence on the formation of the city.
After the Louisiana Purchase, slaves and free blacks moved to New Orleans. New Orleans was a very strange settlement with a mix of slavery and free blacks. Some of whom owned their own slaves. With all of this chaos, I can only imagine the tortured souls that went to their graves at this time.
The Voodoo Museums is only $5 to enter and it is filled with artifacts and photos portraying Voodoo practitioners and Marie Laveau herself.
The supernatural is still a large part of New Orleans' culture and people leave offerings at alters that contain voodoo dolls, voodoo masks and ancient relics.
Visit the Voodoo Museum for hours of operation and details
#5 Vampires and New Orleans
I had never heard this story before, but the legend of Vampires in New Orleans may have come from a time when young women from affluent families were sent to be married from France.
These young girls were the third and fourth child of a family that would in other circumstances would have little chance to marry wealth.
But because they were from families of influence, they were sent to New Orleans to marry a rich older man.
To keep their chastity pure on the crossing, they were held in the cargo of ships never seeing the light of day until they arrived.
Vampire Hotel of New Orleans
The women came out looking pale and like death, hence became known as casket girls.
We knew the lore of vampires had been around since the days of Vlad the Impaler, but this could be the reason New Orleans is so synonymous with vampires because of its own unpleasant time in history.
The young ladies were kept in Bourbon Orleans Hotel (formerly known as the Orleans Ballroom and Theatre) where gentlemen callers came to find a bride. Hence it became know as the Vampire Hotel in New Orleans.
But there are more than Vampires in this hotel, the Bourbon Orleans Hotel is one of the most haunted buildings in NOLA with a confederate soldier walking the halls and mischievous children pulling pranks on unsuspecting visitors.
During the Yellow Fever epidemic, this hotel was used as a convent and medical ward. It was also an orphanage where many young souls lived out their last days.
See this complete list of haunted hotels in New Orleans
Anne Rice and Vampires of New Orleans
Anne Rice continued the vampire tradition with her Interview with the Vampire novels and we passed many a building that she chose for the Vampires Lestat and Louis to frequent.
During our walking tour of the Garden District, we saw Ann Rice's house and I have to admit, I fan girl'd out just a bit. I've read all her books and in the 1990s I always wanted to visit New Orleans just to see where she wrote her books.
#6 Lafayette Cemetery
While in the Garden District, it is wonderful to tour the mansions with Welcome New Orleans Tours but it is even more fascinating in the cemetery.
Lafayette Cemetery is another cemetery similar to Saint Louis Cemetery Number One with large above ground tombs and crypts looking as if they house the undead.
This cemetery houses many of the 8000 some souls that died during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1833. When walking through here, you'll see entire families of children and names from orphanages.
All of whom died the same year. It is tragic and prime for hauntings.
#7 Dining with a Ghost
There are many stories in New Orleans where residents placate the ghosts of an era gone by. There have been too many proven stories where people didn't respect the dead and bad things happened.
One of the stories that still goes on is at Muriel's in Jackson Square. The story goes as this.
In 1814 a compulsive gambler and man named Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan wagered his dream home in a poker game.
He refused to leave his home and hand over the keys to the new owner.
It took a year for him to finally pass on the keys to the winner, but when they came to claim their plot of land, nobody answered the door.
It turns out Lepardi Jourdan hung himself in the slave quarters which in turn left his fortune to his son instead of having to give it to the winner.
He loved his home so much that it is believed that he still haunts the house to this day. Our guide told us that before Muriel's opened, many a business tried and failed on this property.
Perhaps they didn't respect the dead.
The owners of Muriel's learned from their mistakes and pay respects to Pierre Antoine nightly.
They set a table for him and we are told that they even go over the books with him. There are still stories of hauntings, but people say it is harmless.
Whether there are hauntings or not, having a table set for a ghost certainly does draw a crowd and Muriel's has done something right by telling this tale to patrons.
Not everyone believes in ghosts and many of these stories have been challenged, but if you visit New Orleans, it is fun to keep an open mind and enjoy the spooky tales from the past.
I do believe in spirits and while Dave and I didn't see anything while there, we did get a sense that there is an underlying energy in the city.
You often feel as if you are not alone and that something is waiting right around the corner.
More often than not, it's a reveller enjoying the nightlife and jazz, but it's fun to imagine that something not quite seen to the naked eye is walking among them.
Our trip to New Orleans was in partnership with The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau visit their website to learn more and plan a trip to New Orleans.
For a list of haunted tours companies and itineraries check out these ideas
As usual all opinions and recommendations are our own.