One of my favorite things to do when I travel somewhere new is to take a haunted history tour. A city tour will no doubt cover all of its urban environs' key Final Jeopardy factoids; however, like a high school history textbook, there's sure to be some "alternative facts," as well as formative scenes, deleted from the director's cut to ensure a township is seen in its best light.
Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, haunted history tours disclose many an area's more lurid, unabridged chapters. Plus, they give those Fodor's recommendations a whole new hue when you recall that that 4-star Nueva Americana tapas bistro with the curated canned lunch meats was once a House of 1,000 Corpses.
Plenty of spirits have settled in the Crescent City over its nearly 300-year history, and not just the ones we can drink on the street. Here are a few of New Orleans's most notorious haunts (pun intended) that you can pay a visit to.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
941 Bourbon St. | LafittesBlacksmithShop.com
Named after the "Creole Robin Hood" Jean Lafitte, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Though there is no official documentation linking Jean or his brother-in-crime Pierre to the establishment, his ghost is said to appear with some regularity in the watering hole's dark corners, fading back into the shadows when noticed. The bar's website invites patrons who have experienced paranormal activity on the premises to share their stories.
May Baily's Place
415 Dauphine St. | DauphineOrleans.com/Nightlife
Affixed to the Dauphine Orleans Hotel, May Baily's was one of New Orleans's most highly regarded bordellos located just outside the Storyville Red Light District at the turn of the 20th Century. Millie Baily—the namesake madam's younger sister—has been spotted looming outside the bar in her wedding dress, still waiting for her groom—a Confederate soldier who was shot before they were to be betrothed. The feature of many ghostly explorations, the Victorian bar acknowledges its paranormal reputation with a staged skeleton sitting behind its grand piano.
Old Absinthe House
240 Bourbon St. | RueBourbon.com/Old-Absinthe-House
The Old Absinthe House is a veritable red carpet for New Orleans's supernatural A-listers, including Jean Lafitte, Andrew Jackson, and Marie Laveau. Legend has it that the aforementioned two apparitions rendezvoused here to shake on the release of Lafitte's imprisoned pirates in exchange for their support during the Battle of New Orleans. Several other spirits have been spotted here as well; however, be sure not to miss out on the ones served behind the bar—their absinthe frappé is exquisite.
Pat O' Brien's
718 St. Peter St. | patobriens.com
Pat O' Brien's, a must-visit for tourists, is best known for its lively piano bar, great food, and famous Hurricane cocktail. This French Quarter pillar is home to more than just good times—the piano has reportedly been heard playing itself, phantasmic phenomena have been witnessed in its iconic courtyard, and the upstairs ladies' room is still overseen by a ghostly attendant.
813 Bienville St. | ArnaudsRestaurant.com
A New Orleans staple for more than 100 years, the restaurant is allegedly still overseen by its founder, Count Arnaud. Not shy, the count is often seen during the restaurant's busiest hours, marveling at the guests. Considering that Arnaud's is one of the city's most renowned restaurants, who can blame him for planting roots here for eternity?
Café Du Monde
800 Decatur St. | CafeDuMonde.com
Café Du Monde is more than 150 years old and overlooks the already paranormally packed Jackson Square, so it is no wonder that the undead would eventually drift over there for their caffeine and sugar fix (hey, it's got to be tiring to endlessly float in circles). However, living guests have allegedly encountered a ghostly waiter named Blue. This visitation would be amazing if he didn't then disappear without ever bringing your order.
Court of Two Sisters
613 Royal St. | CourtOfTwoSisters.com
Home to the city's most extravagant outdoor brunch, the restaurant is named for previous property owners Bertha and Emma Camors, who once operated a women's formalwear shop called "Shop of Two Sisters." Marriage, financial woes, and widowhood could not separate the sisters—and neither could death. The two are sometimes said to be seen sharing a table while enjoying tea late at night.
Muriel's Jackson Square
801 Chartres St. | muriels.com
Offering a breathtaking second-story balcony view of Jackson Square, Muriel's is among New Orleans's finest Creole-inspired restaurants. The upstairs floor is also home to the Seance Lounge, thus named because it is believed to be inhabited by the ghost of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan. One of the residence's original owners, Jourdan committed suicide in this space after losing the building—his beloved home—in a gambling debt. Jourdan manifests as a glimmer of light, moving objects about the restaurant.
717 Orleans St. | BourbonOrleans.com
The Bourbon Orleans's poltergeists are so plentiful that its website has an entire section dedicated to them. A young girl who died of yellow fever chasing a ball down the sixth-floor hallway, a lone ballroom dancer, and a former Confederate soldier all populate this popular Bourbon Street hotel.
915 Royal St. | TheCornstalkHotel.com
Spectral stories from the Cornstalk Hotel are the kind of Hollywood horror that make your blood freeze. Sure, the footsteps and laughter of children who make an appearance there are eerie, but almost to be expected. However, like something out of Paranormal Activity (2007) or Shutter (2004), hotel guests have reported returning home to find pictures of themselves sleeping that were taken on their cameras and cell phones.
214 Royal St. | HotelMonteleone.com
The Hotel Monteleone's website states that during a 2003 visit from the International Society of Paranormal Research, investigators made contact with more than a dozen supernatural entities. Locked doors repeatedly opening, an elevator that stops on the wrong floor, and childlike apparitions running down a hall have sent chills through guests and staff alike.
621 St Louis St. | OmniHotels.com
Originally known as the City Exchange Hotel and later the St. Louis Hotel during the 19th century, the site doubled as a slave market and luxury space for visiting aristocrats. The ghost of a former maid is said to tuck in guests on the second floor while they sleep, and occasionally even run a bath for them.
4800 Canal St. | TheMortuary.net
The seasonal amusement located just three miles from the French Quarter once operated as an actual mortuary for roughly 80 years, so it's no wonder that it is now home to ghouls, real and imagined alike. The establishment has been host to a number of ghost-hunting expeditions over the past decade, featured on networks including the Discovery Channel, Syfy, and The Travel Channel.
514 Chartres St. | PharmacyMuseum.org
Home to the country's first licensed pharmacy, the site is believed to be haunted by its second owner, Dr. Joseph Dupas. Though stories differ slightly, Dr. Dupas is said to have performed experiments on slaves, and the bodies of his missing patients were reportedly found buried in the back courtyard following his death. A reprobate in death as he was in life, Dr. Dupas's spirit continues to cause a ruckus, throwing books, disturbing merchandise, and occasionally setting off the alarm after hours.
St. Louis Cathedral
615 Pere Antoine Alley | StLouisCathedral.org
Pere Dagobert was this iconic landmark's clergyman during the 18th century when France ceded ownership of the city to Spain. Following a failed local rebellion, the new leadership executed the rebellion's organizers; their bodies were not allowed to be buried and were left on the street as a warning to others. One night, Dagobert gathered the families of the deceased and orchestrated a clandestine Catholic burial. Heralded as a hero, Dagobert, a lover of music, can sometimes be heard singing choir hymns in the alleys around the church into the early morning hours.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
425 Basin St. | NolaCatholicCemeteries.org
This nearly three-century-old cemetery is home to the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Though there is some debate on whether or not this is truly her final resting place, her grave can be seen covered in gifts and remains one of the most visited in the country. As at the sites of several of her old haunts, Laveau has been seen wandering among the tombstones.
New Orleans has countless more haunted spaces, far too many for me to list here. Below are several of the resources I referenced for this article. Check these out if you are interested in learning more about our city's haunted history:
Fear Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Voodoo, Vampires, Graveyards & Ghosts of the Crescent City
By Michael Murphy
Countryman Press; October 1, 2015; 208 pages
The Haunting of Louisiana
By Barbara Sillery
Pelican Press; August 31, 2001; 224 pages