When Halloween rolls around in most cities, you think of taking the kids out, decked out in a box store-bought costume featuring the most popular cartoon characters of the day, trick-or-treating from house to house, in your neighborhood. Or, if you go out to an adult Halloween "ball," it's probably held at a local venue like a motel ball room or a Knights of Columbus Hall. You can expect boring, off-the-rack costumes from Party City and decorations resembling a sophomoric high school production of Carrie.
However, Halloween in New Orleans is a totally different horror story. During the holiday, it's sometimes been described as "Hell on Earth" (and in this case, that's a good thing). There are countless Halloween balls held all over the city, with many of them located in ancient venues that are reportedly haunted themselves. From a decadent ballroom in a once-glamorous but now-decaying Uptown mansion to a century old French Quarter hotel ballroom that was built on unhallowed ground to a Victorian vampire riverboat cruise down the Mississippi-your choices are only limited by your imagination.
In New Orleans, celebrating Halloween has always seemed to be, well, in our blood. In the early days of the city, it was actually All Souls Day, on November 2, that was celebrated. Families would make an annual pilgrimage to the above-ground tombs in the St. Louis or St. Patrick cemeteries to scrub and clean the family plots. Today, these ancient cemeteries have become a decaying destination just steps from where many of the Halloween balls are held in the French Quarter, casting a spell on revelers.
One of the most truly extravagant and elaborate balls is the annual New Orleans Vampiric Masquerade-Court of the Dark Fae held in the spectacular Audubon Tea Room in the Garden District-the likes of which you have never seen. This is not amateur night for costuming because you gotta come "dressed to excess," with an emphasis on appearing as vampires in decadent ball gowns, tuxedos, and tailcoats or as fairies, satyrs, and mermaids, replete with scales, horns, and masks. It's not for the faint of heart. Even if you have tickets, you will not be allowed into the Masquerade in casual attire.
And what would Halloween in New Orleans be without an over-the-top gay Halloween ball? Leave it to the LGBTQ community to throw a party that is one of the most dazzling, colorful, wildly-wicked, and simply-stunning shows in town. This year, the annual Halloween New Orleans Costume Ball is themed "Hallowdays," where the costume required is to dress for any holiday occasion-only with a decidedly decadent or deadly undertone. You could go as a sexy Santa Claus, a killer Easter Bunny, or a murderous Pilgrim drag queen. According to Neil Savoy, chairman of the Hallowdays ball, "For locals, it's a great way to recycle your most fabulous Mardi Gras costume from days gone by, that you thought you'd never be able to wear again, to a fresh, new crowd. Pull it out of the attic and give the purple, green, and gold costume a glorious makeover and a second debut." This year, the ball will be held in the spectacular new Fillmore concert venue in Harrah's Casino in downtown New Orleans on Saturday, October 26, from 10:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Costumes are mandatory, and everyone is welcome, whether straight or gay, with the only people being excluded being those not in costume. Keep in mind that, oftentimes, when it comes to a gay ball, "less is more," so it's an opportunity to dress sparingly and daringly, flashy or splashy, and show the whole world why you're the Buffest Boy or the Belle of the Ball!
On Saturday, October 19, starting at 6:30 p.m., the Krewe of Boo Official New Orleans Halloween Parade rolls through the French Quarter. This spooktacular Halloween event is unlike any other parade in the world and rolls through the "Boo Carré." For visitors from out of the New Orleans area, it's your opportunity to catch a Mardi Gras-style parade with a Halloween spirit. You'll see rougarous throwing beads, Marie Laveau the Voodoo Queen casting spells, and local bands marching to "The Monster Mash." Following the Krewe of Boo parade, you may want to go to the Krewe of Boo Official After-Party ball, sometimes described as "the Costume Party of the Year," starting at 8 p.m. at Generations Hall in downtown New Orleans. Come dressed in your most wildly wicked costume for the chance to win great prizes.
Want another venerable vampire venue to consider for the evening? Anyone who is a fan of vampires in New Orleans is familiar with Anne Rice's most famous one, Lestat. What would Halloween in New Orleans be without "The 31st Anne Rice Vampire Ball." This year's theme is "Blood Communion Ball." It will be held in the dark-paneled, richly appointed Uptown Elms Mansion on St. Charles Avenue on Saturday, October 26, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., so dress up in your most devilishly decked-out tuxedo or splendidly sexy ball gown, fangs and all, and, for a memory you'll never forget, catch the St. Charles streetcar in your costume from the French Quarter. Once again, costumes are mandatory, or you'll be asked to disappear like a vampire at dawn.
Whether you're a local or a visitor, these opulent, Halloween balls are just a tiny handful of the dozens that are thrown all over the city, each with a unique theme, style, and location. And if spending a bundle on a lavish ball with an open bar and catered food in not in your budget right now, just put on your most wicked-or winsome-costume and head to original "scene of the crime," the French Quarter, to prowl the darkened streets and brightly-lit bars with hordes of other batty revelers. More than any other city in America, whomever or whatever you are, you're gonna fit right in during Halloween in New Orleans!