New Orleans is far more than a destination for music, food, Mardi Gras and rollicking revelry. It’s also one of the most haunted cities in America, where real estate signs are as likely to say “NOT HAUNTED” as “FOR SALE” and vampires and ghosts purportedly fill the streets.
What makes New Orleans evoke this haunted spirit? As one of the older cities in America, New Orleans has had centuries to collect it’s thousands of ghost stories. But in addition to its age, New Orleans has a habit of natural disasters and epidemics, along with a history dotted with violent episodes and a bit of a rough-and-tumble nature. On top of that, many of its residents observe a variety of long-held religious traditions that celebrate the dead. If there’s any American city where the paranormal sits just beneath the surface, it’s New Orleans.
The best way to explore into this historical and cultural aspect of New Orleans – a “freaky trail,” one might say – is to dive into exploring ghosts, vampires, voodoo and witches throughout the city. Here are some of the best paranormal experiences on the freaky trail in New Orleans.
Shop with Witches, Vampires and Voodoo Priestesses
The French Quarter is home to a number of shops specializing in voodoo, witchcraft and vampires. Here are a couple of the most well known ones:
For an introduction to Voodoo, check out Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, known as one of the best spots for tarot readings. Next up is Voodoo Authentica, a shop that feels more like a museum with a knowledgeable staff eager to share the history of voodoo with you.
If your interests lie more towards witchcraft, Esoterica Occult Goods is a must: filled to the brim with herbs and potions, it’s here where you’ll find everything you could possibly need to cast a spell. Along with some kitschy souvenirs, of course!
But if one spot should be visited above all, it’s Boutique du Vampyre, filled with gorgeous handmade vampire merchandise. Items from this store were used in the filming of Twilight films and HBO hit True Blood. Ask owner Marita about her story about a real-life vampire that will chill you to your core.
Explore the Garden District
Next stop on the freaky trail in New Orleans is the Garden District, home to the most sumptuous mansions in all of New Orleans. These beautiful estates have a much darker side than their prettier exteriors reveal! At the very pink Joseph Carroll House, you’ll see the place where Mark Twain spent many a night swigging drinks at legendary parties. Just down the street is Brevard House (or Anne Rice’s House), where the world’s most famous author of vampire fiction held residence for decades.
And because it wouldn’t be New Orleans without a touch of mortality, pay a visit to Payne-Strachan House as well, where Jefferson Davis, once president of the Confederacy, died suddenly while visiting a friend.
That leads you to Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans’s most famous cemetery, home to intricate above-ground vaults that have been featured in several movies. Lafayette Cemetery is also home to scenes in several Anne Rice books- keep an eye out for vampires whether it be real or imaginary.
Spend the Night With Ghosts
If you can’t get enough ghost stories during the day, consider staying at one of the most haunted of all hotels in New Orleans – The Hotel Monteleone. The hotel holds four generations worth of history and stories passed down from person to person– especially tales this family knows all too well; stories of ghosts wandering the Hotel Monteleone’s halls.
Over the years, Monteleone guests have reported seeing everything from the ghostly visions of former employees still tending to their duties to children playing in empty halls. Guests report the 14th floor of the Hotel offers the best chance to spot a ghost– that of the mischievous young boy, rumored to be named Maurice. His parents, Josephine and Jacques Begere, were at the famous French Opera House on Bourbon Street, when a carriage accident left the father dead. Maurice’s mother died of a broken heart shortly after. It’s said that little Maurice’s ghost still roams the halls searching for his deceased parents.
Ghost, Vampire and Voodoo Tours
In the evenings, the French Quarter is lit by flickering gas lamp flames, making it feel like shadowy figures are lurking and disappearing, on every street corner. It feels like you’re in a horror movie taking place in the 1800s – and if that’s your proverbial cup of tea, read on.
The perfect way to get into New Orleans’ freaky trail is to spend a spooky evening traipsing through the French Quarter as a guide tells you about the dark secrets of the city. Haunted History Tours offer a tour for every topic: ghost tours, voodoo tours, vampire tours, cemetery tours and even a scandal tour! In between stories of blood and murder and hauntings, guides might point out the most chilling spot of all: the childhood home of Richard Simmons.
New Orleans is primarily a destination for adults and while that usually manifests itself in a form of debauchery, take advantage if you’re visiting without kids to take a tour that definitely isn’t appropriate for children. After an hour of touring the dimly lit French Quarter streets and hearing creepy tales, you might have a paranormal experience of your very own.
What are some other freaky sites to visit in New Orleans?
Let us know in the comments section!