HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS
Meeting Place for Vampires:
There's nothing like a ghost tour to send chills down your spine, and if there's one place where a tour like this feels believable, it's New Orleans. People have been drawn to the city for hundreds of years, and many of them have found it difficult to leave, even in the afterlife. On a warm night in April, Rebecca Sell, a guide with Haunted History Tours of New Orleans, warns us what we can expect on our Haunted New Orleans tour.
French Quarter Balcony
"Most often people see orbs of light, but sometimes they see fingers," she says candidly. "Some of the hauntings are emotional, so if you're feeling sadness in a space, or a force of negative energy, trust your instincts. Something is there."
Ghostly aura surrounds St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans
For the next two hours we shuffle around the French Quarter's quieter streets, our path dimly lit by flickering gas lamps. Historic buildings with ornate, wrought-iron balconies line both sides of the street, each one nursing its own story of days gone by. On Delphine street, Sell draws us close to relate the story behind the LaLaurie Mansion, a building constructed in the 1830s and one of the most haunted locations in the city.
"The LaLauries were a very wealthy, philanthropic couple who once lived here. He was a doctor, but there was something weird about Mrs. LaLaurie," Sell says. "Her slaves just kept disappearing." Turns out the doctor and his wife had been conducting horrific experiments on their slaves, mutilating and murdering them. The LaLauries disappeared the night of the city's fire, never to be seen again, but firemen later found the disfigured remains of 40 slaves buried on the property.
For the next 70 years, the mansion stood empty and no-one wanted to go near it. After Hurricane Katrina, actor Nicholas Cage bought the property, spending one night in it before declaring bankruptcy. Since then, no-one has managed to hold onto the house for more than a few years.
"I've had people on my tours get physically ill and feel nauseas as we approach this mansion," Sell says. "They see slaves in the windows. And when they try to take pictures, their cameras suddenly refuse to work, or the pictures come out with orbs of light that weren't visible at the time.
Guests on the New Orleans ghost tours are regaled with spooky stories from the past, but for the most part, storyteller guides keep the mood jovial and friendly as they move their groups around the French Quarter
Ever the skeptic, I urged my son to aim his camera lens at the dark windows on the third floor. The photograph we examined seconds later was very different to what we'd seen with our naked eyes. As Sell described, inexplicable streaks of light appeared on our images and those of others on the tour. We felt the hair on our arms rise and my son looked worried. "I'm feeling scared, mom," he confessed.
Tales in the realm of darkness.
Sell's tour is full of grotesque stories that frighten but somehow mesmerize us. Outside an abandoned building near the French Market, we learn about a group of kids that took their game of vampires to an extreme, drinking the blood of one of their friends and later hanging him after he lost consciousness. "This is a crazy place," Sell says nervously, gazing with hesitation at the top windows.
The ghost tours in New Orleans are a fascinating evening activity that combine history with spooky stories and entertainment.
As she speaks, the French Market lights that illuminate our gathering flicker briefly and then go off suddenly. We stand in a pool of darkness, feeling the negative, discomforting energy of the building wash over us. No-one wants to stay a minute longer, and with relief, we move in the direction of Bourbon street's throbbing music and inebriated crowds.
The next day we meet local psychic Judith Faye in a restaurant courtyard. The elegantly dressed, grey-haired woman conducts private readings using astrology, tarot and clairvoyant images, and we pepper her with questions. "It's a very old city, so of course it's haunted," she retorts. "But don't take it too seriously - it's entertainment!"
Guests listen attentively as Ghost Tour guides reveal some of the supernatural activity in New Orleans' French Quarter and the stories behind the most well-known ghosts
The ghosts and macabre stories of the previous night's haunted tour begin to dissipate and we move into the warm, sticky humidity of New Orleans' French Quarter, gratefully absorbing its colorful, vibrant, boisterous personality that bursts from every corner. Ghosts and all, there's nothing quite like New Orleans.
IF YOU GO:
For general information contact the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.neworleanscvb.com or call (800) 672-6124
For private tarot or clairvoyant readings, contact Judith Faye at www.judithfaye.com or call (504) 273-5055
Haunted tours of the French Quarter cost $25 for adults, $18 for students/seniors, $14 for kids. For information visit Haunted History Tours at www.hauntedhistorytours.com or call (888) 644-6787.
PHOTOS: by Alex Demyan & Courtesy New Orleans CVB
1. Meeting Place for Vampires: Courtesy New Orleans CVB
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