New Orleans is often referred to as the most haunted city in America. Whether or not this is true, or whether ghosts actually exist and manifest themselves in the physical world, is open for debate. There are arguments to be had on either side, but, in New Orleans, the ghosts and the places in which they dwell are more affixed, and less open to debate, than those often attributed to having incorporeal form. In fact, there is a local industry that was built around this debate and phenomena-haunted tours.
Not any random individual can become a tour guide in New Orleans-there is a process to becoming one. The city issues permits to individuals that can pass the test and the background check, so, as long as you are being led by an official tour guide as deemed by the city, you are probably in relatively good hands. This is important, as you don't want to be led astray by someone wholly unqualified, especially when trying to learn about the historical aspects of the hauntings in New Orleans.
Perhaps the most well-known name in haunted tours is Haunted History Tours, which was established by Sidney Smith in 1995. Because Smith has been a tour guide for nearly a quarter of a century, he has a wide array of experiences, but he especially enjoys hearing other people's personal ghost stories from all over the world. Smith could easily be seen as an expert in the haunted areas of New Orleans, and rightfully so.
While Jonathan Jamison does not have quite the history as Smith does, he has been a tour guide in New Orleans for five years and currently works for Flambeaux Tours. Jamison garners the most pleasure from showing people how much depth there is to the city outside of the typical Bourbon Street tourist traps and "teaching aspects about our city that are not in the guide books … and the hidden gems" therein.
Perhaps the most famous haunted location in New Orleans is the LaLaurie mansion, which was once owned by Nicholas Cage. In fact, Sidney gets asked about this location the most, "hands down." The fame of the house, which is located on the corner of Royal and Gov. Nicholls Streets, has been heightened by the inclusion of the house and a fictionalized story of Delphine LaLaurie in the third season of American Horror Story. According to Smith, the LaLaurie Mansion "is considered to be the most haunted site in New Orleans, and for good reason." He elaborated by stating that "[Haunted History Tours] have had over 1,000 people literally faint at that spot, in addition to several unexplained happenings." While the details are sketchy, the rumors are that Delphine LaLaurie and her husband, physician Leonard Louis Nicolas LaLaurie, mistreated, tortured, and even performed grotesque experiments on their slaves. This is why the house at 1140 Royal Street is purported to be haunted.
Jamison, on the other hand, mentioned the famous ghost that always has a table at Muriel's by Jackson Square: Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, a notorious gambler who used to own the property. Also mentioned by Jamison as popular paranormal points were the upstairs part of Muriel's, "where the upstairs lounge fire occurred," and, "Pirate's Alley." The thing that he gets asked about the most during his tours are the ghosts
in the cemeteries.
As for his top spot for ghostly activities in the city, Smith mentions, "The LaLaurie mansion, for sure." He specified that "certain people are sensitive to paranormal activity and some are not. Our tour guests have
had different experiences at different sites on the tour."
With a number of famous fictional stories based in New Orleans that feature vampires, ghosts, and the like, it's no wonder why the City that Care Forgot is at the forefront of thought when it comes to the paranormal. Books such as Interview with a Vampire by New Orleanian Anne Rice and Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame, have fed this feature of the city. As Smith mentioned, "New Orleans is considered to be the most haunted city in the country." Whether it is or not is still
up for debate.