bump in the night … there is a book

August 5, 2009 § 11 Comments

DSCN6722Irish and Laylou finish their hurricanes in to-go cups. Or, is that “to-ghost” cups?

I can laugh at campy horror stories and I can scream at suspense stories. Ghost stories are another story.
And so it was with healthy apprehension that I set off with HM and the “kids” on a ghost tour, that is, a historical haunts tour, trekking around the French Quarter for two hours.  There was far more history and ghostly accounts than there was trekking. 

The tour began in front of Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop.  Out in front. It was 6 o’clock.
Oh, ridiculous, you say. What kind of hour is that to go on a ghost tour? You can’t get scared in the daylight.
Oh yes, you can.

Our guide was a savvy fellow, very skilled in storytelling  and knew his city history well. He had enough actor in him to make it worth one’s while to pay close attention. He also made us laugh. Sometimes, this was necessary.

DSCN6704That’s our guide holding the sign. I don’t know what he does in his spare time but he has a BA in liberal arts.

I will jumble and bumble through any factual recountings he gave but can tell you that on many a well trod street in the Quarter there are dozens of ghosts.  Our first tale was on St. Louis about a fire that broke out.  New Orleans then and now does NOT  handle fire well at all but “then” it was built of wood and haystuffing as insulation. One such fire took out an entire city block. The bells of the St Louis Cathedral did not ring as they should have that first time and shops and lives were lost. When it happened a second time, the fire alert came via the church bells but again, disaster fell. It is said that on the anniversary of that night more than 100 years ago, on a certain spot between two city blocks (I’ve forgotten the streets), you can hear the church bells ringing.

OK, I know, that doesn’t sound scary.  But it’s known to be true. And there wasn’t a single time during the rest of our stay there that I didn’t pay close attention when bells were ringing, making sure they really were.

Another story rises up out of some of the barbarism between the Spanish and the French who both vied for control of the city in the 1700s.  There is  a story of six French soldiers who were executed in front of the cathedral and the Spanish general would not allow them to be buried. Finally after several days of rot and civilian shock, they were carried by their colleagues, against the Spaniards’ wishes, down the side street on the west side of the Cathedral and to a resting place. And as the rescuers marched their dead fellows along, they sang Keiri Eleison. It was a stormy hellacious night as they broke their captors law.  And it is said that if you’re caught on that street in the midst of a storm breaking and at that same time of evening, you will hear the song echoing against the backdrop of the thunder.

DSCN6742

(the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square…it was getting ready to storm…)

Of course, clouds gathered as he told the story. He used this to serious dramatic effect.
I cannot  even come close to the storytelling our guide did, of weaving actual historical events to ghostings and hauntings. 

We traveled on to hear more history with more ghostly underpinnings  clinging to the stories.  We penetrated the Quarter and came to a very residential area, all prettied with flowers. A huge grey house stood on the corner. We all stood across the street as our guide told its story.  This was about the LaLuries and how they lived and inflicted horrors, then fled the house in a fire said to be started by the slave that was kept chained to the kitchen stove.  And the firemen, gaining entrance to the house, unearthed horrors and suffering that leaves the house haunted to this day, to the point of being inhabitable.  

Our guide related that he did NOT stand next to the house when he took tours there. Oddly, there were of course “incidents” as we were there.  One girl fell ill, felt someone was pushing her and she couldn’t see or breathe. Her mother took her back to her hotel. Irish’s blackberry froze; wouldn’t work, wouldn’t resuscitate. 

No one has been able to stay here, even when the house offered free board. All historically packed up and left. The house is presently owned by Nicholas Cage. He doesn’t live there but keeps one room. Prior to arriving, he reportedly notifies the staff. They try to get the room in order. The room is always trashed by some unseen hands. Nicholas visits but does not stay overnight.  

Crazy old Nicholas.

The Andrew Jackson Hotel is haunted by the schoolchildren and staff who perished there in a fire when it was a school building. It’s open. People stay there. However, there are reportedly guests who have experienced hauntings and hear laughing. This one is to be a “lighter” story, with more hijinx than fear.  One couple who took this same tour told our guide they were indeed staying there.  Their last night there, they went to bed very very late and exhausted. They were leaving the next day. They had used up the film on their camera , they knew this for a fact. Nevertheless, when they had the film developed later, they found two extra pictures on the roll. The two pictures were of the couple, sleeping.

It was an excellent tour.  Corny? silly? ridiculous? Maybe all of those but the saving point was the historical anecdotes and the guide’s familiarity with the city and his research into the basis of a lot of the stories.

New Orleans is apparently the most haunted city in the US. They say it’s harder to find  a spot that is not haunted.I asked the guide if there was a book of his stories, or from which he took his stories. Yes, he said, titled JOURNEY INTO DARKNESS and some of the local shops might have it.
I didn’t find it, though. Never mind. It’s probably just as well.

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§ 11 Responses to bump in the night … there is a book

  • As I said in an earlier comment, I just love these tours. I’ll definitely have to try the New Orleans one when I’m next there.

    My favorite of all time was in York, England. It was one of the first of these types of walking tours and York is, indeed, a city similar to New Orleans.

    I don’t like being scared, but I do love seeing the buildings and being scared in this way (from a safe distance).

    • oh says:

      Jen, you will be surprised by the number of available tours! We chose this one because of the times available, the length (2 hrs), the walking distance (all in Fr Qtr) and the price! ($20 ea) And there are all kinds – ghost tours, cemetery tours, swamp tours, vampire tours(?) and more…

  • Nora says:

    OO… you recounted these tales so well! I will link up on my blog so people can hear about them as well. Not to mention you have some cool photos of the places that I do not have. =)

    • oh says:

      Hi, N! thanks for coming by! I forgot to mention in the blog entry that those skeleton faces you hold were really very much needed fans!!!!!
      Good times!!!!!!!!!!!

  • […] A Haunted History Tour. Terrifying. Exhilarting. Intriguing. Goosebump-causing. Check out Darling’s post she wrote about the tour, complete with pictures of yours truly hiding behind the fans they gave […]

  • jeanie says:

    Corny? So what?! I think it sounds fun, fascinating and yes, a little scary! Isn’t it amazing what a good guide can convey? If I go with Rick this December, I may have to take that one!

    • oh says:

      Jeanie, You are the ultimate city explorer, walker, hiker and picture taker. If you’re going to New Orleans with Rick, you are going to LOVE it and you will wear your camera out. Let me know if you go; I have a very cool little book you can take along – will post about it this weekend!

  • Kim L says:

    Man, sounds like you are having some FUN TIMES. I have never been there, but I love the idea of the Ghost Tour. Great history, a little bit of cheesiness, and some great stories.

    • oh says:

      Kim, I kinda snoozed through history classes but maybe I’d get a lot more out of them now, I dunno. Andyway, it seems like I can relate to it a lot better through a tour, and some excellent anecdotes (ok, and some “legends”, too!)

  • ds says:

    Love those ghostly tours. We took a much-younger CS to Williamsburg and went on the “Pirate” Lantern Tour. So creepy, such fun, and the guide even let CS hold the lantern! Sounds like this one was even more creepy and more fun–voodoo, frozen blackberries–I’d be scared. Stuff like this really makes history immediate, and isn’t that the point? THanks for sharing!

  • shoreacres says:

    Never mind the ghosts – did your guide mention Marie Leveau and her daughter, Marie II, the voudou queens of New Orleans? Marie was born in the early 1800s and established quite a rep for … weeelll… consorting with the dark side. You didn’t want to get on her dark side, that’s for sure.

    I’ve read estimates of practitioners in NOLA ranging from 15-25% of the population. I know someone who knows someone who lives out in the swamp, engaging in up-close-and-personal voudou spell casting and such. I never got nervous with the animist beliefs in Africa, but my one personal experience with voudou left me totally creeped out. I’d take the ghosts over Marie any day!

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