Friday, June 3, 2016

Phantoms of the French Quarter—Decatur and Chartres Streets

Considered one of the most paranormally active cities in the country, some have remarked that it’s harder to find a place in New Orleans that’s not a little active. Documented haunted locations cover the city, though the vast majority of them are concentrated in the French Quarter, the oldest portion of the city. For ease of writing, I’m exploring the French Quarter street by street.

Originally called Levee Street or Rue de la Levee, Decatur Street was later named for early American naval hero Stephen Decatur. In the 18th and 19th centuries this street was more of a working class area with “Upper Decatur Street” (the portion of the street near to Canal Street) serving sailors during their stopovers in port. Chartres Street, which is often pronounced CHAR-terz or CHAR-trez, was named for the Duc de Chartres in 1724.

Decatur Street

Ryan’s Irish Pub (241 Decatur Street) Patrons sitting near the back wall of this popular Irish pub have seen the apparition of an African-American workman. Jeff Dwyer posits that he may have been the victim of a warehouse fire in the area.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.

Bienville House (320 Decatur Street) This elegant boutique hotel began life in the early 19th century as a rice mill and warehouse. The property was transformed in 1835 into the North American Hotel and has served as a hotel for much of its existence. According to psychic and paranormal investigator Cari Roy, the Bienville is home to several spirits. Apparently one spirit roams the corridors while another enjoys watching guests as they sleep.

Sources
About Us.” Bienville House. Accessed 16 May 2016.
Roy, Cari. “Haunted Hotels.” Paranormal New Orleans. Accessed
     16 May 2016.

Kerry Irish Pub (331 Decatur Street) Within the warm interior of this pub cold spots of paranormal origin have been encountered.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.

French Market Inn (509 Decatur Street) Reports of hauntings within this 18th century structure date back to the 1830s, just after it was converted into an inn. Guests have reported misty figures and metallic clanging, possibly coming from the pulley system used by the bakery that originally operated in this building. A paranormal investigator staying in room 218 was kept awake throughout the night by the feeling of unseen presences, an alarm clock that went off periodically, her shower turning off and on on its own accord, and bangs and thuds of unknown origin.

Sources
Home.” French Market Inn. Accessed 16 May 2016.
Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts III. Metarie, LA: Lycanthrope
     Press, 2004.

Tujague’s (823 Decatur Street, pronounced TOO-zhagz) The second oldest restaurant in the city, this restaurant has a fascinating assortment of spirits throughout its dining rooms. One of the more interesting spirits here is believed to be that of Julian Eltinge, the famous vaudevillian female impersonator. Eltinge always made a point to stop here when he was in town and a photograph of him once graced the dining room. After this photograph was moved to the attic, his image appeared in a selfie taken by some patrons in 2013. On the second floor, which once housed the original kitchen, the sounds of breaking glass and china is sometimes heard. This is thought to be related to a love triangle that existed between Madame Beague, who owned the restaurant, her second husband Hypolite, and a young lady who worked in the kitchen.
 
Tujague's 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of
Wikipedia.
Sources
     New Orleans Eater. 28 October 2015.
Walker, Judy. “Poppy Tooker communes with Tujague’s ghosts
     in new cookbook.” Times-Picayune. 27 October 2015.

Chartres Street

Le Richelieu Hotel (1234 Chartres Street) Housed in two buildings, one dating from 1845, the other from 1902, the Le Richelieu Hotel occupies the site where five French patriots were executed in the late 18th century. The spirits of these five men may still reside here. For further pictures see, “A Handful of Haunts—Photos from New Orleans.”
 
Le Richelieu Hotel, 2011, by Benjamin Lewis. All rights reserved.
Sources
A Brief History.” Le Richelieu. Accessed 3 June 2016.
Smith, Katherine. Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts & Vampires of New
     Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications, 1998.

Beauregard-Keyes House (1113 Chartres Street) See my entry, “Creepiness on Chartres Street,” for an in depth look at the history and hauntings of this famous home.

Old Ursuline Convent (1100 Chartres Street) One of the oldest buildings in New Orleans, the old Ursuline Convent has survived hurricanes, fires, and the nuns have provided aid during plagues and epidemics. It’s no surprise that their old convent would house spirits. According to Jeff Dwyer, the spirits of Ursuline sisters have been seen gliding throughout the building while the spirit of a Civil War era soldier has been seen in the garden.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.

Hotel Provincial (1024 Chartres Street) Like many hotels throughout the quarter, this hotel consists of an amalgam of different buildings, each with different histories. The 500 building seems to be the one with activity. The building was constructed on a site that was originally occupied by an Ursuline Hospital. It was here that the wounded from the 1814 Battle of New Orleans were treated. During the Civil War the buildings on the site were commandeered for use as a military hospital. That building burned and was replaced by the current structure. Guests and staff have, according to tradition, encountered bloodstains that disappear before their eyes, wounded soldiers in the rooms and corridors, doctors and nurses in bloodstained clothing, and one unlucky security guard using an elevator had the doors open to reveal the scene of a Civil War era surgery.

Sources
Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2014.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
The Hauntings of the Provincial Hotel.” Ghost Eyes Blog.
     20 August 2009.

Muriel’s Jackson Square (801 Chartres Street) Originally built as a grand residence for the noted Destrehan family (who also owned haunted Destrehan Plantation found along the famed River Road), the building that now houses Muriel’s partially burned in the Great Fire of 1788 that ravaged the city. Supposedly, the burned house was purchased by Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan who restored the home but sadly lost it in a card game. Not willing to simply leave the home, he quietly resigned to the second floor where he committed suicide in what is now known as the Séance Lounge.

At least this is the story that is commonly told about this building and it is even included on the restaurant’s website. According a 2013 blog post entitled, “The ‘Ghost’ of Muriel’s Restaurant,” this story is partially bunk. The blog notes that the current building was constructed sometime around the turn of the 20th century after the house on that site was torn down. While the history may not match up to the legend, there still may be paranormal activity with staff and visitors hearing knocking from inside the brick walls of the Séance Lounge and disembodied voices while they have encountered shadowy figures throughout the building. In order to keep some of the activity at bay, the restaurant maintains a special table for the ghost of Monsieur Jourdan.

Sources
Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2014.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
The ‘Ghost’ of Muriel’s Restaurant.” Myth Busters! 4 July 2013.
Our Ghost.” Muriel’s Jackson Square. Accessed 2 June 2016.
Tipping, Joy. “Ghost trails and Halloween haunts in New Orleans.”
     Dallas Morning News.  23 October 2008.

The Presbytère (751 Chartres Street) The Presbytère is one of the pair of buildings flanking St. Louis Cathedral. Originally constructed in 1791 to match The Cabildo, this structure was known as “Casa Curial” or “Ecclesiastical House” and provided housing for the Capuchin monks who ran the cathedral. In 1911, the building was taken over to house the Louisiana State Museum. The museum houses two permanent exhibits: one commemorating Hurricane Katrina and the other celebrating the city’s Mardi Gras traditions. While visiting the museum should you see a tall and slim maintenance man in a dark uniform with curly brown hair, be assured that you have just seen a ghost.
 
The Presbytère, 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
The Presbytère. Louisiana State Museums. Accessed 2 June 2016.

St. Louis Cathedral (Jackson Square) The Grande Dame of New Orleans, St. Louis Cathedral has marked the sacred heart of this city since the construction of the first church on this site in 1718. The current building was originally constructed between 1789 and 1794 and heavily reconstructed in the mid-19th century. Legend holds that the black-robed form of Father Antonio de Sedella, often known by his French moniker, Père Antoine, appears during the Christmas Midnight Mass. The specter of this most beloved of curates appears to the left of the altar holding a candle.
 
Interior of St. Louis Cathedral by Carol M. Highsmith.
Courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Sources
Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2014.
Our History.” Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Accessed 2 June
     2016.

The Cabildo (701 Chartres Street) The younger twin of The Presbytère, The Cabildo was constructed to replace the city hall here that was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1788. Of all the buildings in this city, this building has witnessed more important historic events than any other. Within the walls of the Cabildo the Louisiana Purchase was finalized in 1803. During the building’s time housing the Louisiana Supreme Court, the case of Plessy v. Ferguson was heard before it headed to the U.S. Supreme Court where it enshrined the concept of “separate but equal” into American racial law. The building became a part of the Louisiana State Museum in 1908.
 
The Cabildo, 1936, by Richard Koch for the Historic American
Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.
During the War of 1812, this building served briefly as a prison, which may explain the presence of a young soldier. Legend holds that the young man was imprisoned here and, after a trial before a military tribunal, was executed in the courtyard. Some of the museum’s staff and visitors have felt the sensation of someone rushing past them. Others have seen the form of a soldier in a ragged uniform.

Sources
The Cabildo. Louisiana State Museums. Accessed 2 June 2016.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.

Bosque House (617 Chartres Street, private) This classic late 18th century Creole townhouse was built to replace the home destroyed here in the Great Fire of 1788 which started on this site. Don Vicente Jose Nuñez, the army treasurer, owned the house at this site where curtains caught fire from a candle on the family’s personal altar on Good Friday. Tradition prohibited the ringing of bells on this most holy day and the priests of St. Louis Church would not allow the church’s bells to be rung to alarm the citizens. The fire eventually destroyed the church and nearly 900 other buildings in the city. Residents of this private home have heard the sounds of muffled bells. Perhaps better late than never?

Sources
Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts III. Metarie, LA: Lycanthrope
     Press, 2004.
Smith, Katherine. Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts & Vampires of New
     Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications, 1998.

Chartres House (601 Chartres Street) Opening in 2004, the Chartres House Restaurant is located in a building originally built as a residence for the Reynes family following the Great Fire of 1788. The house eventually became the popular Victor’s Café in the late 19th century. Known as a hangout for artists and bohemians, Victor’s was a favorite of the writer William Faulkner. An apartment located where the second floor dining room is now located was the scene of a shooting death in the 1970s. The young man who lived there is supposed to have been involved in drugs. Following his death, the building’s owners had trouble renting the apartment as perspective tenants often detected bad energy and some became physically ill while touring the apartment.

Sources
Chartres House’s French Quarter History.” Chartres House. Accessed
     2 June 2016.
Muro, Maria. “Haunted Eats.” New Orleans Living. 9 October 2012.

Gally House (536 Chartres Street) The large building occupying this corner of Chartres and Toulouse Streets is sometimes known as Keuffers Building. Built sometime after 1830, the building was intended to house businesses on the first floor (now occupied by the Camellia Grill) with apartments on the second and third floors. If you walk alongside the building on Toulouse Street you can see the separate slave quarters at the back of the building. Some passersby have noticed a young lady peering from the upper windows on this side of the building, despite the fact that these rooms were vacant at the time. Venture into the parking lot off Toulouse Street and look at the first small window. Tour guides will point out this window and encourage visitors to plunge their hand in. Some visitors have felt the feeling of their hands being grasped by small hands. Jeff Dwyer notes that these hands may belong to slave children who were housed in this room.
 
Gally House in the 1930s by Frances Johnston.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division.
Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (La Pharmacie Francais) (514 Chartres Street) When Louis Dufilho opened his pharmacy here in 1823, this was the first licensed pharmacy established in the country. Dr. Dufilho operated his business here for some 35 years before retiring and selling his business to Dr. Joseph Dupas. Many sources suggest that Dupas performed medical experiments here on slaves, especially pregnant slave women. Tour guide Katherine Smith suggested in her book, Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans, that Dupas also treated wounded soldiers here during the Civil War. Perhaps the pain and death from the medical experiments and the soldiers being treated have left a mark on the energy of this building. Some visitors have reported being suddenly overcome with nausea while others have encountered a figure in a brown suit and white lab coat that may be the spirit of Dr. Dupas.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Oldfield, Eileen. “Things that go bump in the haunted pharmacy.”
     Pharmacy Times. 30 October 2014.
Smith, Katherine. Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts & Vampires of New
     Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications, 1998.

Napoleon House (500 Chartres Street) Once owned by early 19th century mayor Nicholas Girod, this house was offered to Napoleon as a place of refuge. While he never traveled to this continent to take up Girod’s generous offer, the house still bears his name. The building’s use as a hospital during the Civil War has left a a few grey clad spirits one of which is sometimes seen strolling the Chartres Street balcony before he vanishes. In the courtyard the spirit of an African-American woman has been reported.

Sources
Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2014.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Napoleon House Historic Past.” Napoleon House. Accessed 2
     June 2016.

204 Chartres Street (204 Chartres Street) Formerly the home to Crescent City Books, one of the more prominent second hand bookstores in the city, this late 19th century commercial building is apparently haunted by ghosts on every floor including the specter of a young boy on the first floor.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.

The Jimani (141 Chartres Street) This unassuming building is probably one of the saddest landmarks in the city. Walk down the Iberville Street side of this building to the plain metal door, this was the entrance to a bar that occupied the two upstairs floors of this building. It had been a dive bar mostly serving gay clientele in the 1960s and it became the UpStairs Lounge in the 1970. This was a fairly popular bar with locals from the gay community as well as travelers in town looking for some same sex companionship. The bar was also home to the burgeoning Metropolitan Community Church, a gay Christian denomination founded in California in 1968. On June 24th, 1973, a Sunday, the church had just wrapped up services and the bar was somewhat crowded with some 60 patrons and staff.

A few minutes before 8 PM someone, possibly a disgruntled bar patron, though no one was apprehended, doused the stairs behind this door with an accelerant and set it on fire. The door at the top of the stairs leading into the bar was closed and the fire built up possibly triggering the buzzer system. The bartender asked a regular patron to open the door which immediately filled the bar with superheated air and flames. Within minutes the second and third floors was engulfed in flames which took the lives of 29 men and women with 3 dying from their injuries later. Return to the Chartres Street façade of the building and look up at the large second floor windows. At the time of the fire, these windows had bars over them. The pastor of the MCC unfortunately found himself at the middle window and tragically died on the bars there. Shamefully, fire investigators let his charred body remain here for nearly a day as they investigated.

The fire exposed the terrible vein of homophobia that existed even here, especially when most of the major churches refused to hold a memorial service for the victims. A brass plaque near the entrance to the UpStairs Lounge has been recently installed to commemorate the victims.

The rooms that once housed the UpStairs Lounge now serve as a kitchen and offices for The Jimani (which was open when the fire broke out). Staff and visitors have reported cold spots and occasional disembodied screams and moans. Passersby have seen figures peering from the windows at night.

Sources
Summers, Ken. Queer Hauntings: True Tales of Gay and
     Lesbian Ghosts. Maple Shade, NJ: Lethe Press, 2009.
Townsend, Johnny. Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs
     Lounge Fire. BookLocker.com, 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment