New Orleans’ rich history, eerie landmarks and stubbornly dark streets remind us why the city is known as one of the most haunted destinations in the New World. Throughout the course of history, the city, founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company, has been the sight where many natural disasters, famines, wars, and disease outbreaks – to name a few – have taken place, leaving behind a mysterious trail shaped by chilling ghost stories, hauntings and supernatural events. Whether superstitious or not, stop by these spooky places and celebrate the ghoulish season while traveling around the Big Easy.
The LaLaurie Mansion, built in 1832 on Royal Street by Madame Delphine LaLaurie to live in with her third husband, two daughters and household slaves, is perhaps one of the most terrifying locations in New Orleans. The native socialite, born during the Spanish colonial period into a white Creole family, became infamous in April 1834 when, after responding to a fire, rescuers found seven bound slaves in the attic showing signs of severe malnourishment and mistreatment. Following her torture chamber discovery, LaLaurie escaped to France with her family and left behind a French Quarter landmark that has been kept alive for more than 150 years through the hair-raising stories of those who died inside the Royal Street home. Today, ghost tales and haunting accounts surround the renovated and restored mansion, now a private residence that can be visited by booking a haunted tour with one of the following companies: Bloody Mary’s Tours,French Quarter Phantoms, Ghost City Tours in New Orleans or Haunted History Tours.
An imposing structure at the Royal and Iberville Street intersection, Hotel Monteleone is an 1886 French Quarter landmark simultaneously famous for being one of the few family-owned hotels in the country, and a premier spot for apparitions and paranormal activity in New Orleans. Inside this 15-story, Beaux Arts-style boutique hotel, which holds four generations worth of history, guests have reported seeing everything from children roaming the halls to staff members tending to their duties. The building’s most notorious story, though, involves its 14th-floor roaming resident Maurice Begere, a mischievous young boy who lost his life to yellow fever at the hotel during the 1890s, and now desperately searches for his deceased parents, Josephine and Jacques Begere.
Founded in 1736 by a grant from French sailor and shipbuilder Jean Louis, the Charity Hospital was a medical facility where the city’s poverty-stricken community could seek healthcare. Once known as the oldest operating hospital in the U.S. and seen as a symbol of pride among New Orleans residents, the health center, located in the downtown district, is now an unrecognizable site abandoned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. Charity, which has been deserted for nearly 11 years now, reached its downfall after the levees’ failure meant floodwater reached the basement generators, leaving the hospital useless and unable to operate. Legend says the ghosts of the poor still haunt the halls of the hospital, as well as the founder Jean Louis.
Built in 1836 by Creole plantation owner Jean Baptiste LaPrete, the Gardette-LaPrete mansion is the Greek Revival site where one of the most gruesome mass slayings in New Orleans history happened. The gruesome scene inside this French Quarter residence, which was being rented by a wealthy man from Turkey who moved in with a large entourage and was known for throwing lavish parties, involved dismembered, mutilated bodies and the live burial of the renter, now known as “the Sultan.” The slaughter, discovered by a morning passerby who noticed blood escaping from under the door, was blamed on pirates, but some argue the murders had been an act ordered by the Sultan’s brother, an actual sultan, who was allegedly looking to execute his male relatives in an effort to eliminate sultanate competition. You can spot the Gardette-LePrete mansion by walking around 716 Dauphine Street, or by booking a history guided tour with Bloody Mary’s Tours,French Quarter Phantoms, Ghost City Tours in New Orleans or Haunted History Tours.
Sure to offer a few goosebumps, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest and most famous city of the dead in the Big Easy. Opened in 1789, the cemetery houses over 600 fascinating above-ground tombs and beautiful monuments throughout its crumbling, maze-like “streets” of graves. Many of the city’s notable dead are entombed in this one square block, including Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and Homer Plessy. The site is also home to the future tomb of actor Nicolas Cage, who purchased a 9-foot white pyramid tomb inscribed “Omnia Ab Uno” (all from one). And since the line between past and present feels thin while navigating the narrow walkways, vistors must be accompanied by a tour guide to make sure guests don’t slip from this life into another.
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, a must-see attraction among visiting travelers, opened on Chartres Street in 1823 under the direction of the country’s first licensed pharmacist, Louis Joseph Dufilho, Jr. Following the founder’s death, the apothecary shop, now home to an extensive collection of antique pharmacy equipment and supplies, was purchased by Dr. Dupas, who ran the once-thriving pharmacy into the ground by conducting heinous experiments in the upstairs area during a century where yellow fever, dysentery, malaria and other tropic-related epidemics reigned. Today, the museum’s staff and visitors have reported seeing Dupas’ crazed spirit haunting the place, dressed in a lab coat while he moves cabinets around, throws books and rearranges items in the cases. For only $5, you can visit the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Check the website for an updated schedule.
Located in the Saint Roch neighborhood cemetery, the small Saint Roch Chapel sits behind an eerie iron gate. Not exactly haunted, but certainly spooky – this small religious site houses a 19th-century shrine filled with various ex-votos or offerings in the form of prosthetics, false teeth, artificial eyeballs, crutches, notes and other miscellaneous objects left by those either in need of healing or those who have prayed to Saint Roch and recovered. It’s said that when a yellow fever epidemic hit New Orleans in the 19th century, Reverend Peter Thevis prayed to Saint Roch to protect his community. Over 40,000 people in the New Orleans area succumbed to the fever for over half a century, but Reverend Thevis’ community miraculously suffered no losses and the Gothic Revival chapel was erected in Saint Roch’s honor. A popular site for tourists, the chapel is a prime example of the exotic Catholicism of New Orleans.