What scrapes the edge of day just before dawn is a fang bleeding life from the night. Darkness invades many cities through corruption, through greed, through violence, and through depravity. New Orleans is lucky to encompass all of these aspects. Yet still the Big Easy shines. Like the guiding light of heaven’s portal, the blinding insight to this city’s soul is frequently examined by curiosity-seekers and inquisitive explorers.
Haunted history tours, séances, voodoo rituals, and an insurmountable collection of media outlets speculate ghosts and ghouls haunt New Orleans from tombstone to townhouse. But no mortal can pull back the curtain to reveal the truth behind the beyond. Do souls linger in the hereafter…? Do spirits wish to wander among the living…? Do buildings house the undead without charging rent for these unseen inhabitants?
The power of the imagination is just as strong as the connection between someone who has lost a person close to the heart. It is a power heavily suggestive by scents, sounds, and certain feelings that may occur long after loved ones have passed on. Yet the limited reach of human understanding is still prone to believe in the universe’s ability to envelope numerous layer of life beyond what we can see, touch, or hear definitively.
In New Orleans, there is a story behind each splinter. There is a history, a haunting, a heritage told through the eyes of each generation. After almost three hundred years, it is safe to assume angels and demons have spent several lifetimes assessing this city with pleasures and perils. It seems no good deed goes unpunished, and with that are a handful of legendary ghost tales in which heroes and villains are bound to haunt New Orleans long after their lives have perished.
Along the gothic edge of this crumbling city bears the scars of yesteryear where those before us have lived and left their legacies to linger. The Queen of Voodoo, Marie Laveau, still roams the grounds of the St. Louis Cathedral, sometimes seen praying at the high altar, clad in white, wearing the bright quadroon turban wrapped about her head before vanishing. Many people have encountered a ghostly priest reading his breviary around the Cathedral gardens and believe this to be the phantom figure of Pere Antoine, a sainted friar who was laid to rest in the old Basilica where he worshipped.
Some stories bleed horrific imagery of New Orleans’ troubled past such as the Devil Baby on Bourbon Street believed to be the godchild of Madame LaLaurie, a sadistic woman who tortured slaves in the attic of her Royal Street mansion. Such tales have been told of the haunted corner house on Orleans and Dauphine where shrieking screams and dripping blood manifest years after the mass murder of a sultan and his harem. Some say a mythical Louisiana werewolf called Loup Garou wanders the bayou in search of non-believers, and there are the always-popular myths of vampires who also satisfy their bloodlust by feasting on the flesh of mortals in the dead of night.
From the days of Storyville’s reign of a red-light district, a brothel madam once committed suicide over her lover’s betrayal. Her wronged spirit returned from the afterlife to murder her cheating lover and his mistress inside the former French Opera House. The madam’s horrid face and blood-red eyes are sometimes seen on the premises, dubbing her as the Witch of the Opera House.
When each festering spook slithers out from the shadows, we best beware! Phantom or fakir, every night in New Orleans is a chance to commune with the dead. So whether you Ouija, read tarot, or step out in celebration on All Hallows’ Eve, remember the elders of good and ill who may contact the living in this haunted and historic town.