Friday, June 10, 2016

Phantoms of the French Quarter—Royal Street

Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal Street) This imposing hotel is the tallest building in the French Quarter and, at 600 rooms, among the largest. This building is a physical, literary, and paranormal landmark within the Quarter. When a lowly Sicilian cobbler, Antonio Monteleone, purchased a hotel in 1886, he probably did not imagine that it would be the beginning of a classic American rags-to-riches story. His hard work paid off and he acquired neighboring buildings and expanded his hotel. Since it opened its doors the hotel has attracted celebrities including numerous well-known writers who have mentioned the hotel in their works.
 
Hotel Monteleone, 2009 by Bart Everson, courtesy
of Wikipedia.
One of the more well-known features of the Monteleone is the Carousel Bar featuring an actual carousel that was assembled in the bar in 1949 and rotates slowly as patrons enjoy craft cocktails. While patrons revolve at the bar, spirits revolve around patrons and staff throughout the hotel. Spirits here range from a trusty engineer to a little boy who supposedly died of a fever while his parents were out. Others include the spirits of a few people who committed suicide by jumping from the roof. The International Society of Paranormal Research investigated the hotel in 2003 and concluded that there are 12 individual entities patrolling the halls and corridors of this hotel.

Sources
Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of
     the French Quarter. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2013.
History.” Hotel Monteleone. Accessed 7 June 2016.
Hudson, Shaney. “The Big Easy’s his haunt.” The Age (Melbourne,
     Australia). 27 February 2012.
Mroch, Courtney. “Why Hotel Monteleone’s Haunted 14th Floor
     Isn’t What it Seems.” Haunt Jaunts. 25 March 2011.

Café Beignet (334 Royal Street) The spirit of a Native American woman is occasionally seen strolling through this restaurant that occupies an old carriage house. Most likely she remains here from the time prior to the city’s existence. She is most often seen towards closing time.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Muro, Maria. “Haunted Eats.” New Orleans Living Magazine.
     9 October 2012.

Louisiana Supreme Court Building (400 Royal Street) This monstrous white marble-clad building caused much controversy when the site was cleared starting in 1903. This block was originally a collection of 19th century buildings bisected by Exchange Alley which was lined with offices for architects, engineers, politicians and lawyers. The destruction that took place here contributed to the rise of preservation policies throughout the city. Upon completion of this building in 1910, the Louisiana Supreme Court, state Attorney General, and other courts moved in, though by 1934, the building was deemed inadequate. After years of deferred maintenance, the Supreme Court moved out in 1958. The building saw renovations starting in the 1990s and reopened in 2004 with the state Supreme Court returning to the building.

Rumors of the building being haunted began to arise during the building’s renovations. Author and researcher Victor C. Klein interviewed a construction supervisor and several workers and contractors who told similar tales of tools and equipment disappearing in the building. A number of them also encountered “a well dressed, middle age, white gentleman” whom they found looking out a window in the upper stories of the building. When confronted, the odd gentleman would disappear.
 
Louisiana Supreme Court Building, 2015 by MusikAnimal,
courtesy of Wikipedia.
Klein continues by noting that guests of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel on nearby St. Louis Street would report this man to the front desk staring intensely into their rooms. According to Klein, this was so frequent that the front desk had a scripted response to these calls, though they didn’t inform the guests that this gentleman is probably a ghost.

Jeff Dwyer remarks on several other spirits within the building including a pair of shooting victims who were supposedly gunned down in a courtroom during a Mafia trial in the 1930s and a panhandler who is sometimes seen just outside the building on Royal Street.


Sources
     Court of Louisiana Historical Society. Accessed 6 June 2016.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts III. Metarie, LA: Lycanthrope
     Press, 2004.
Louisiana Supreme Court Building.” Tulane School of Architecture.
     Accessed 6 June 2016.

Brennan’s (417 Royal Street) One of the more well-known and respected restaurants in the city, Brennan’s has made its home in this historic building since it opened in 1946. This 1795 structure once housed the Bank of Louisiana. Later on in the 19th century, Paul Morphy, one of the most famous chess players in the world lived and died here. He may be the apparition that is sometimes seen in the dining room.
 
Brennan's, 2015 by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Taylor, Troy. Haunted New Orleans. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2010.

Court of the Two Sisters (613 Royal Street) One of the more romantic of New Orleans’ great restaurants, the Court of the Two Sisters possesses a number of legends including one about the gates through which patrons pass. The wrought iron gates are supposed to have been made in Spain where they were blessed by Queen Isabella with a charm that all those who touch them as they pass will be charmed. The restaurant occupies an 1832 building that housed a shop owned by two sisters, Bertha and Emma Camours. Apparently inseparable, the sisters operated a notions shop in this building for many years and, not being able to live without the other, died in 1944 two months apart.

The courtyard of this grand restaurant has a wishing well known as the “Devil’s Wishing Well” as it may have witnessed and been charmed by rites practiced here by Marie Laveau, the city’s great 19th century Queen of Voodoo. Until it was toppled by Hurricane Betsy in 1965, a willow tree grew here where pirate Jean Lafitte may have dueled with and killed three men. Those three men may be among the specters flitting throughout this courtyard. Enjoy one of the famous Jazz Brunches served here daily and be sure to pay homage to the sisters who may still be holding court.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Our History.” Court of the Two Sisters. Accessed 8 June 2016.

LaBranche Building (700 Royal Street) The delicate lacy ironwork of this large home hides one of crueler ghost stories in this city. In the early history of the city a system of plaçage was practiced by many of the wealthy white planters. This system, found in Spanish and French colonies, allowed these wealthy men to take on mistresses, often free women of color, whom they would support. Certainly such arrangements caused conflicts within the legal marriages of these men. Such a conflict is at the heart of the story here.

Upon the death Jean Baptiste LaBranche, who owned this home at one time, his wife, Marie, was able to find out the name of his mistress. She sent an invitation to the young woman inviting her to tea. When the unsuspecting mistress arrived, instead of exchanging pleasantries over tea, Marie LaBranche had the woman bound and chained to a wall in the attic where she was left to die a slow death from starvation. While this is a marvelously gory legend, it is clouded with a good deal of doubt. Occupants of this building have reported paranormal activity, however. Cold spots and feelings of panic have overtaken some working on the third floor, where the poor mistress supposedly met her untimely death.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Taylor, Troy. Haunted New Orleans. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2010.

St. Anthony’s Garden (Behind St. Louis Cathedral across from Orleans Street) This meditative garden has existed here behind the cathedral since the establishment of the church. Located between two haunted alleys: Pere Antoine’s and Pirate’s Alleys, the garden is named in memory of Pere Antoine or Antonio de Sedella, whose spirit may haunt the alley named for him as well as St. Louis Cathedral. According to Jeff Dwyer, this garden was a popular place for duels in the mid-18th century. Some sensitives have detected wafts of smoke from those events.

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

734 Royal Street (734 Royal Street) Just like the story of the LaBranche Building, the story from this classic New Orleans town house involves a mistress, in this case she was an octoroon (she was 1/8th black) and her name was Julie. She was kept by a wealthy young man who was officially unattached in a well-furnished apartment here. Despite her pleas to her lover to marry her, he could not do so without losing his social standing and perhaps his fortune with it. Carelessly, in order to appease her frequent requests for marriage, the young man said he would marry Julie if she spent the coldest night in December nude on the roof. On the coldest night in December she undressed and crawled onto the roof. Her lover discovered her lithe corpse frozen not long after.

Since that time, Julie’s nude form has been seen on the roof of this building on the coldest night in December. During the remainder of the year Julie lingers in the warmth of the building’s interior. The Bottom of the Cup Tearoom once occupied the ground floor of this building (it moved to 327 Chartres Street) where the shop offered tea and psychic readings. Many of the psychics working here noted Julie’s shade and they believe she may have moved with the shop to Chartres.

Sources
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Smith, Katheine. Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts and Vampires of
     New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications,
     1998.

Cornstalk Hotel (915 Royal Street) This intimate boutique hotel occupies a mansion with a unique cast-iron fence featuring stalks of corn. Legend relates that the fence was commissioned to comfort the Iowa-born wife of a former resident by reminding her of the cornfields of home. Once the home of Judge François Xavier Martin, he may be one the spirits that still stalks the halls with his footsteps, rattling door knobs. The sounds of children have also been heard here.
 
Cornstalk Hotel by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Sources
Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2014.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.

Andrew Jackson Hotel (917 Royal Street) A tragedy on this site more than 200 years ago may still continue to resonate today. A boarding school or orphanage (sources differ) stood here that was destroyed by fire. Five young boys lost their lives and they still play throughout the courtyard and hallways of this hotel. Sheila Turnage notes the experience of a night manager who was diligently working at his desk when he realized he was being watched. Looking up he saw the heads of a group of children trying to peer above the top of his desk. The children vanished moments later.

Sources
Asfar, Dan. Ghost Stories of Louisiana. Auburn, WA: Lone Pine
     Publishing, 2007.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunters Guide to New Orleans.  Gretna, LA:
     Pelican Publishing, 2007.
Taylor, Troy. Haunted New Orleans. Charleston, SC: History Press,
     2010.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC:
     John F. Blair, 2001.

Starling Magikal Occult Shop (1022 Royal Street) If you care to test drive any of the ghost hunting equipment available for sale here, the Starling Magikal Occult Shop offers its own ghosts. In a 2015 article, the shop’s co-owner Claudia Williams noted that staff and patrons of the shop hear disembodied voices and feel the touch of invisible fingers. Objects occasionally move around on their own accord as well.

Sources
Lopez, Kenny. “Want to hunt ghosts? Here are the tools you’ll need…”
     WGNO. 26 October 2015.

LaLaurie Mansion (1140 Royal Street, private) Of the myriad haunted houses throughout the South, few have captured the public’s attention more than the hulking LaLaurie Mansion that looms over the intersection of Royal and Nicholls Streets. While the structure itself is significant historically and architecturally, it’s the legends of the atrocities that took place here and the ghosts from those events that draw crowds of tourists. Though the house is not open to the public, the legend still draws people here.

In 1831 this property was purchased by Delphine LaLaurie, the wife of Dr. Leonard Louis LaLaurie. Madame LaLaurie had been married and widowed twice before her marriage to the good doctor and she had five children by her previous husbands. After construction of the mansion in 1832, LaLaurie took up residence and became a central pillar to New Orleans society.
 
LaLaurie Mansion, 2011 by Reading Tom, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The legend goes back to a fateful report of a fire in the kitchen here April 10, 1834. Firefighters arrived to discover the kitchen in flames and an elderly slave cook chained to the stove. She admitted to setting the fire as a suicide attempt to prevent her being sent to attic from which she said no one ever escaped. A mob that had gathered broke their way into the slave quarters and soon discovered the mutilated remains of "seven slaves, more or less horribly mutilated ... suspended by the neck, with their limbs apparently stretched and torn from one extremity to the other" as the New Orleans Bee described the events the next day. While the mob remained to destroy the house and grounds in anger, Madame LaLaurie and her family fled the city. No one ever faced justice for the cruelties inflicted on the slaves here. While this is the most commonly related legend about the house, there is quite a bit of controversy.

As the story has captured the imagination of many, it has found its way into books dating back to the late 19th century, film, television and even video games. Most recently, the legend of Madame LaLaurie was woven into the plethora of local legends in the story arc of American Horror Story: Coven. Portrayed by Kathy Bates, Madame LaLaurie is a simpering racist weighted down with a curse of immortality placed upon her by the immortal Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. Researchers looking into the legend in recent decades have revealed that Delphine LaLaurie’s reputation may have been targeted as part of a smear campaign.

Do the spirits of slaves still stalk this lovely mansion? Legends relate that former residents here encountered some horrific spirits, though there are few recent stories. Writer and psychic Kala Ambrose tried to commune with the spirits while standing outside of the house recently. While she stood there a number of curious tourists inquired if this was the famous LaLaurie House. A short time later when she placed her hand on the wall of the house a passing ghost tour group took photographs of her. She didn’t contact anything out of the ordinary, perhaps the house is now just haunted by tourists?

Sources
Ambrose, Kala. Spirits of New Orleans.  Cincinnati, OH:
     Clerisy Press, 2012.
Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of
     the French Quarter. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2013.
Delphine LaLaurie. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     10 June 2016.

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