Haunted History Tours has been entertaining tourists and locals alike for a very long time, but they know how to keep things fresh and freaky. I hopped on the bus to take the Dead of Night Ghost and Graveyard tour one hot, steamy evening. Getting bussed around the city in an air-conditioned van is a fantastic option when the heat is on or if you or someone in your party has issues walking long distances. It also gives those unfamiliar with the city an opportunity to see neighborhoods that they may not otherwise venture into.
Our tour was headed up by a host named Toast. He stood at the top of the bus telling stories, giving historical context to each and every one which so many people forget to do. His first tale was that of Zack and Addie, the ill-fated couple who met during Hurricane Katrina, then succumbed to a gruesome murder/suicide. This story hits very close to home for many locals, but Toast regaled the audience with the story to explain how a mix of PTSD, drugs, and alcohol lead to two devastating deaths.
Our first stop was at St. Louis No. 3 cemetery in the Bayou St. John neighborhood. Toast explained how our bodies are buried and the rules that caretakers must follow according to the Catholic Church like that mausoleums can only be opened for a new body after one year and a day. Toast used this stop to also touch on Storyville since Mr. E.J. Bellocq is buried right here. While we didn’t visit St. Louis No. 1, he did take a minute to discuss Marie Laveau’s and Nicholas Cage’s tombs.
We hopped back on the bus to take a beautiful drive through City Park, and Toast talked about the entire history of the city from colonization to the Yellow Fever epidemics.
We stopped and lingered under Lisa’s Oak where we learned about the storied history of City Park, John McDonough, dueling, what is the difference between Creole and Cajun, and how to summon the Rougaroux. He also talked about some instances of kidnappings from Storyland in the earlier part of the 20th Century.
Back on the bus, Toast explained how those who don’t have the means to own an opulent family grave are obliged to bury their loved ones in Holt Cemetery, often fashioning their own crosses and headstones. We stopped at the Katrina Memorial at the top of Canal Street, a place that far too few locals even know exists. The large, nameless crypts contain pieces of unidentified bodies and other objects that were collected in the weeks after the storm. Toast claimed that there’s a friendly ghost named Mr. Sims who lurks around the memorial who helps people find their lost loved ones.
We walked to the nearby cemetery for Jewish people located next to The Mortuary Haunted House, and Toast explained the burial traditions of Judaism. He himself painstakingly reconfigured a broken marble headstone near the entrance of the cemetery. As a bonus, we stopped and marveled at the still shuttered Charity Hospital. He wanted all of these visitors to know and understand the travesty that has become the doomed building.
As our tour ended back in the French Quarter, Toast explained that everyone of drinking age could get 2-for-1 Hurricane’s at Finnegan’s just by showing their tour sticker.
Although I know that each host tells a different tale, I was highly impressed with Toast’s wide-range of topics, and I feel that the people who take his tours will leave far more knowledgeable about the city and will hopefully be more appreciative.