Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter— Pirate Alley

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Pirate Alley

Running from Chartres Street and Royal Street between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, Pirate Alley was originally called Orleans Alley South, as it is an extension of Orleans Street. Despite the official 1964 name change, there has always been contention on whether the name is singular (“Pirate”), plural (“Pirates”), or possessive (“Pirate’s” or “Pirates’”). A 2017 article in the Times-Picayune examines this issue and weighs in on the side of the paper’s own style-guide, which deems the name as the singular and non-possessive “Pirate Alley.”

Pirate Alley New Orleans
A view down Pirate Alley towards Chartres Street. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Of course, this also begs the question as to the identity of the pirate for whom this alley is named. Most sources point to the infamous Jean Lafitte, the privateer and pirate whose legend is inextricably linked to New Orleans’ history. In his classic history of New Orleans street names, John Chase notes:

The other passage—Pirates’ Alley—is named in fanciful recollection of the legendary Jean Lafitte and his motley bank of pirogue-mounted cutthroats, the Baratarians. Lafitte’s outfit had no more connection with Pirates’ Alley than with the teachings of the church, which the passage flanks on the uptown side. But the name fascinates all visitors.

While tour guides continue to promulgate legends that Lafitte and his men met and did business along this passage, there is no evidence that it actually happened. In Lafitte’s time, this alley was the seat of power for both the church, in the form of the cathedral, and the law, which was issued and enforced from the Cabildo (see my entry on this building and its ghosts at 701 Chartres Street) and the prison behind it. While the romantic notion of a pirate rebelliously conducting his business in the shadow of the church and the law is a fascinating image, it is unlikely to have actually happened as such.

Jean Lafitte

In examining the ghostly tales of New Orleans, there are two names that are frequently encountered: Jean Lafitte and Marie Laveau. If even half the stories of their hauntings are true, these two must be the busiest spirits in New Orleans, making appearances and causing paranormal shenanigans throughout the city and the Gulf Coast Region.

Jean Lafitte
An anonymous, early 19th century portrait purported to be Jean Lafitte. From the Rosenberg Gallery.

About thirty years after Lafitte’s death, one researcher remarked, “I found in my researches, twenty years ago, romantic legends so interwoven with facts that it was extremely difficult to the historical truth from the traditional.” So couched in legend is the life of Jean Lafitte that scholars have argued about so much of his life, and writing a biography is a difficult exercise in speculation and conjecture. Even contemporary sources disagree and contradict one another.

Lafitte’s place of birth is argued to have been southwest France, though others have posited that he may have been born in the colony of Saint Domingue in what is now Haiti. Biographer William C. Davis argues that both Jean and his older brother, Pierre (who worked alongside his brother in New Orleans) were born in the town of Pauillac in the Gironde region of France, and that Pierre ventured to Saint Domingue around the turn of the 19th century where he eventually fled the turmoil for the prosperity of La Louisiane.

Jean Lafitte possibly appears on the scene around the time of the sale of the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803. Around this time, Pierre, possibly with the help of his brother, began to deal in slaves and also evade the newly established American trade laws. This piracy, which was all too common along the Gulf coast, created a reputation for the brothers. Their knowledge of the intricacies of the bayous and waterways of the area led them to providing aid—in terms of knowledge, material goods, and fighting men—to American forces during the War of 1812. This aid was provided on the condition that the brothers would be granted pardons for their crimes.

The notorious brothers were forced out of business by the government which forced them to close their business matters in New Orleans. They continued their pirating, though in different places: Pierre establishing a base off the coast of Mexico before being killed in 1821 and Jean dealing in Colombia before his death in 1823. William Davis notes that the legacy of the brothers was more as folk heroes.

Sources

  • Chase, John. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children…And Other Streets of New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2007.
  • Davis, William C. “Jean and Pierre Lafitte.” 64 Parishes. Accessed 9 January 2020.
  • Davis, William C. The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf. NYC: Harcourt, 2005.
  • Scott, Mike. “Pirate Alley: A history of the New Orleans street and its name(s).” Times-Picayune. 5 April 2017.

Pirate’s Alley Café
622 Pirate Alley

Since the mid-18th century, this space behind the Cabildo, the seat of Spanish rule in the city, was occupied by the Spanish Calabozo or Calaboose, a royal prison. This building remained until it was demolished in the late 1830s. It was here that both Lafitte brothers and some of their men were imprisoned. Some of the structures that now stand here were constructed thereafter, though may still be the residence of the spirits of some of those incarcerated here.

Pirate's Alley Cafe New Orleans
A bartender at the Pirate’s Alley Cafe prepares an absinthe drink in this 2008 photo by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In an interview with the café’s owner, author James Caskey was told that one of the spirits in Pirate’s Alley Café tends towards “naughty” antics. While some bars and restaurants in the city regularly leave out an offering to appease the spirits, the spirit here was not impressed by the bread and water. The bar experienced doors slamming and light bulbs shattering until someone had the idea of leaving out a glass of rum. The antics quieted down after that. The spirit was also blamed for harassing a female bartender as it undid her bra and her top, exposing the poor employee.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of the French Quarter. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2013.
Pirate Alley New Orleans
The three haunted buildings on Pirate Alley. Faulkner House Books is the yellow building. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Faulkner House Books
624 Pirate Alley

William Faulkner arrived in New Orleans as a poet and left as a novelist. During his stay here in 1925, he rented the street-level floor of this home and wrote his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, with influence and support from his friend, writer Sherwood Anderson. This building now appropriately houses a bookstore named for him where some have encountered the odor of pipe smoke, attributed to Faulkner.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2017.
Pirate Allet New Orleans
A view of the haunted buildings of Pirate Alley from Pere Antoine Alley across St. Anthony’s Garden. The yellow building is Faulkner House Books, while the red building next door is the house at 626 Pirate Alley. Photo 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

626 Pirate Alley (private)

During one of the many epidemics that swept through New Orleans during the 1850s, a little girl contracted one of these illnesses. To aid in her recuperation, the child lay on a chaise lounge in front of one of the large third floor windows of this home. Jeff Dwyer was granted a tour of the home and sensed a great deal of sadness near one of the windows. Others have reported seeing the face of the child pressed up against the windows overlooking St. Anthony’s Garden across the street (for information on the haunting of this garden, see my entry on Royal Street).

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2017.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter— Bienville Street

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Bienville Street

This street is named for Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans and Louisiana.

Arnaud’s
813 Bienville Street

In a city famed for its landmark restaurants, Arnaud’s is one of the “Grande Dames.” This distinguished handful includes many of the city’s oldest and most famous eateries including Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, Broussard’s, Brennan’s, and Tujague’s, a few of which are known to be haunted. Opened in 1918 by “colorful” French wine dealer Arnaud Cazenave, Arnaud’s has specialized in and refined the art of classic Creole cuisine in its more than hundred years of existence.

Arnaud's Restaurant Bienville Street French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Arnaud’s in 2007, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Cazenave’s ebullient personality—he encouraged everyone to address him with the title “Count”—manifested itself in the restaurant’s atmosphere as well as the food. The haughty strictures of French etiquette were applied to the restaurants numerous dining rooms, the service of the wait staff, and every single place setting. Though he passed in 1948, Count Arnuad is known to continue to adjust place settings if they don’t conform to his standards. Additionally, his dapper spirit, resplendent in an old-fashioned tuxedo, has been spotted by guests and staff alike.

Arnaud's restaurant Bienville Street French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Arnaud’s as seen from Bourbon Street’s Old Absinthe House. The restaurant extands from the middle of the block all the way to the salmon colored building on the corner. Photo 2012, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Upon the Count’s death, operations of the restaurant passed to his daughter Germaine Cazenave Wells, a personality in her own right. In 1978, the restaurant passed out of the Cazenave family to the Casbarian family, who continue to run it to the Count’s specifications. In 1983, the Casbarians opened a Mardi Gras Museum on the restaurant’s second floor in memory of Mrs. Wells. It is said that her spirit continues to be seen in that area, sometimes wearing the outsized hats she was known for.

The restaurant’s bar, Le Richelieu, occupies the oldest building on the restaurant’s premises which is said to date to the 19th century. Here patrons and staff have sometimes experienced cold spots and apparitions which may include the inimitable Count Arnaud.

Sources

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—Burgundy Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with Basin and North Rampart Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Burgundy Street

This street takes its name from Louis, Duke of Burgundy (1682-1712), who was the son of Louis, the Grand Dauphine, and father to King Louis XV of France.

Hotel St. Pierre
911 Burgundy Street

The Hotel St. Pierre, a motley assemblage of buildings, occupies the corner of Burgundy and Dumaine Streets and contains some of the oldest structures in the city. Standing in the carriageway of large building next to the hotel’s lobby, a liveried enslaved man has been spotted. He is believed to be the carriage master who worked here in the mid-19th century. He is seen throughout the day still waiting for a carriage to arrive. During an investigation in 1996, investigators saw this man standing in the carriageway. He was described as a black man “between forty-five and fifty years of age, medium build, wearing a royal-blue colored shirt and pants.”

Hotel St Pierre Burgundy and Dumaine Streets French Quarter New Orleans
The Hotel St. Pierre as seen from across Dumaine Street. The spirit of the carriage master is seen in the large brick building with the red facade on the far right. Photo by Rafal Konieczny, 2004, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Guests staying in one of the hotel buildings just across the street from the lobby have reported encounters with a gray-clad figure, believed to be a Confederate soldier. One guest had an encounter with a spirit that changed channels on the room’s television and later sat on the edge of the bed, chilling the guest’s feet under the covers.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • Montz, Larry and Daena Smoller. ISPR Investigates the Ghosts of New Orleans. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.

Cosimo’s
1201 Burgundy Street

Several spirits are believed to occupy this cozy neighborhood bar at the corner of Burgundy and Governor Nicholls Streets. Established in 1934, this bar is supposed to be haunted by two entities: a woman who has been seen in the bar wearing a robe and slippers, and a man who is known as “Uncle Joe.” The apparition of the woman may be the spirit of a former resident of the building. Uncle Joe is believed to be the spirit of a former patron who continues to imbibe in the afterlife.

cosimo's bar french quarter new orleans louisiana ghosts haunted
Cosimo’s 2009, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • Smith, Katherine. Haunted History Tours Presents: Journey Into Darkness…Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications, 1998.

Morro Castle
1303 Burgundy Street

For decades, this structure on the corner of Burgundy and Barracks Streets has been the focus of legend and mystery. Even the 1938 WPA guide to the city describes it as a “so-called rendezvous of ghosts.” Jeanne DeLavigne’s monumental 1946 book, Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans, further cultivated the building’s legends. Those legends speak of this building as having been built during the Spanish occupation of the city between 1763 and 1801 and it being used as a garrison for troops. Some stories claim that the building was also used as a prison where many were tortured and kept in abominable conditions.

The truth, however, is far more interesting. Historian Stanley Arthur proved that the structure dates to the 1830s and was used during the city’s occupation by Union forces.

When once again, war arrived at the city’s doorstep in 1862, it came in the form of a blue-clad former resident, Admiral David Farragut, with a fleet of Yankee ships and troops. The city’s defenses were easily overcome, and the Confederate forces fled leaving the humiliated city to the mercy of the Union. General Benjamin Butler took charge of the city imposing martial law with an iron fist.

Morro Castle Old Spanish Garrison french quarter new orleans louisiana ghosts haunted
The Morro Castle, 2011, by Reading Tom. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The city’s military government took over this building for use as a prison and the city’s ardent Confederates found themselves confined here along with local citizens who rebelliously heaped indignations on their Union occupiers. Conditions were notorious and likely led to many of the tales that have circulated regarding this building.

The Morro Castle was divided into apartments many decades ago and has been off-limits to the prying eyes of the public, providing even more fodder for the fanciful fables of ghastly spirits roaming the corridors. Victor C. Klein includes the tale of the Old Spanish Garrison in his 1993 New Orleans Ghosts, basing it on DeLavigne’s version of the story. Six years later, he corrected his original story after talking with a resident of the building. That resident noted that the activity did not live up to the horrifying tales, and only had “the earmarks of a classical ghost story. He [the resident] alleged that cold spots, noises and ghastly odors occurred without all of which were without rational explanation.”

Sources

  • DeLavigne, Jeanne. Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2013. Reprint of original 1946 edition.
  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts. Metairie, LA: Lycanthropy Press, 1993.
  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts II. Metairie, LA: Lycanthropy Press, 1999.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—North Rampart Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with Basin and Burgundy Streets. 

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.

North Rampart Street

Tile North Rampart Street marker New Orleans
Tile North Rampart Street marker, by Infrogmation, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Rampart Street is named for the old city wall, or ramparts, that once stretched along this street from Fort St. Jean at the intersection of North Rampart and Barracks Streets to Fort Bourgogne at the intersection of North Rampart and Iberville Streets. Throughout the early and mid-20th century, Rampart Street was the center of an important African-American commercial and entertainment district. Notably, many of the clubs along this street were influential in the evolution of jazz music.

Sources

  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Rampart Street. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 July 2019.

Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop
826 North Rampart Street

In 2006, tragedy was visited on this typical Creole-style cottage. Death visited the young couple living in the upstairs apartment with the young man strangling his girlfriend and eventually dismembering her body. After he committed suicide some days later by jumping off the top of the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel on St. Louis Street, the mutilated remains were found by police in the kitchen of the apartment, some of them cooking on the stove while other parts were stored in the refrigerator. Locals began to refer to the cottage as the “Rampart Street Murder House.”

North Rampart Street Murder House New Orleans
The infamous Rampart Street Murder House (on the right), 2015. Photo by Roman Eugeniusz, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Recently, Bloody Mary; a local Voodoo priestess, psychic, and tour guide; has opened a haunted museum with patrons touring the upstairs apartment. However, this museum has been the focus of criticism from friends and associates of the young couple who accuse Bloody Mary of exploiting the heinous events.

Through the aftermath of the murder-suicide, some have been left wondering if the young man’s actions may have been influenced by supernatural elements around him. Apparently, the building was known to be haunted prior to the tragedy, and part of the downstairs storefront housed, and continues to house, a Voodoo temple. Dana Matthews writes in a Week in Weird article detailing the building that the priestess who operates the temple is well-respected and blameless in what unfolded in the upstairs apartment.

According to Matthews, a “dark, oppressive force…seems to emanate from the very building itself.” In addition, locals have had a sense of being watched and heard disembodied voices both within and without the home. The house was featured on a 2017 episode of Paranormal Lockdown, where investigators Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman experienced uneasy feelings and strange noises while locked into the apartment over the course of 72 hours.

Sources

Olde Victorian Inn
914 North Rampart Street

According to Terry Smith and Mark Jean’s detailed history of this property, this house was constructed in 1852 for wealthy sugarcane plantation owner Lucien Mansion. In 1883, the property was deeded to a woman who was reportedly his mistress. After that time, it may have been operated as a brothel.

The home was purchased in 1940 by Leo Marchand and his wife who occupied the house for many years. Mr. Marchand, or “Uncle Leo” as he was affectionately known, passed away in the dining room in 1977, and Smith and Jean attribute the hauntings to his spirit. Several guests have reported encounters with the spirit of an elderly man. One guest awoke to find a man sitting motionless in his room. When he alerted the innkeeper of the mysterious man’s presence, he pointed to a picture of Uncle Leo saying, “that’s him.”

Rampart Street protest 2017 New Orleans
A protest on North Rampart Street, 2017. The Olde Victorian Inn can be seen on the far left with the rust red wall behind the palm tree. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A maid cleaning another room was startled when the door slammed shut. After the door refused to open, the innkeeper had to summon a contractor to remove the door from its hinges to release the frightened maid. No explanation was ever discovered.

According to Yelp, the inn has since closed.

Sources

  • Smith, Terry L. and Mark Jean. Haunted Inns of America. Crane Hill Publishers, 2003.

1870 Banana Courtyard Bed & Breakfast
1422 North Rampart Street

A video on YouTube produced by Haunted History Tours covers their investigation of this bed & breakfast. The video includes interviews with the owners, Mary and Hugh Ramsey, recounting that they have had “numerous comments from guests about ghosts.” Mary continued, “We’ve had too many responsible people who have visited us numerous times say that they felt a presence, so I’ve got to believe now that there’s something going on.”

One of the more interesting reports came from a male guest who was napping in his room while his wife was out. He was awakened by the feeling of a warm breath on the back of his neck and a woman whispering in his ear. When he realized it was not his wife, he jolted awake to find himself alone in his room.

The home was built in the 1870s and during its history reportedly served as an upscale brothel and a funeral home. Perhaps lingering spirits from these uses remain.

Sources

Haunted History Tours. “Haunted News Orleans! Haunted B&B – Banana Courtyard.” YouTube. 8 March 2010.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—Basin Street

N.B. This article was originally published 16 June 2016 with North Rampart and Burgundy Streets. This article was edited for clarity 7 November 2020.

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition

Basin Street

Basin Street, or Rue Bassin, was named for the canal turning basin that was once located nearby. This portion of the Carondelet Canal provided a large area for ships to turn around and was filled in in the 1920s when its use declined.

Basin Street New Orleans Storyville
Looking “down the line” of bordellos along Basin Street, probably around the turn of the century. This view is from Iberville Street looking towards St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the mid-19th century, Basin Street was a noted residential street though it was overtaken in the 1870s when the fine homes were converted to use as bordellos, saloons, and music halls. The street formed the edge of the famous Storyville, the city’s most prominent red-light district. Basin Street was immortalized by Spencer Williams in his jazz standard, “Basin Street Blues.” Dr. John’s 1992 cover of the song includes a particularly interesting lyric, “I’m tellin’ ya, Basin Street, that’s the street/Where all the ghouls from Storyville and the St. Louis cemetery meet.”

After Storyville’s demise, the fine homes were demolished and replaced by the Iberville Projects.

Sources

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
425 Basin Street

Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, the first of three such named cemeteries in New Orleans, is the oldest extant cemetery in the city. It opened in 1789 after the St. Peter Street cemetery was closed due to overcrowding and a year after a disastrous fire swept the city. Initially, the dead were buried underground, though this was found impractical after those graves were swamped because of the high water table. Above-ground vaults were found to be the most practical, and the cemetery grew from the ground up.

Basin Street New Orleans entrance gate to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 ghosts haunted
Basin Street entrance gate to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Photo by Infrogmation, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

These vaults proved especially useful for holding generations of family members. After a loved one was interred within a vault, it would be opened after a period of time and the human remains cast into a crypt at the bottom while the coffin was usually burned. With this method, many thousands have been buried in this one block cemetery.

Since its opening, the cemetery has come to house a parade of both illustrious and ignoble New Orleanians. Among some of the best names are the great chess player, Paul Morphy, who is associated with the haunted Beauregard-Keyes House; Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the U. S. Capitol Building among many other famous structures; and possibly, Madame Delphine LaLaurie, the infamous mistress of the famous haunted residence on Royal Street.

Perhaps the “Voodoo Queen,” Marie Laveau, is this burial ground’s most famous resident. Believed to have been buried in the tomb of the Glapion family, her grave remains a focal point for paranormal activity, rituals, vandalism, and curious tourists. Tradition holds that Laveau may grant the wish of someone completing a ritual at the tomb. After drawing an X on the tomb, the person is supposed to turn three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and return if the wish is granted. The X is supposed to be circled and the recipient expected to leave an offering. Thanks to this, the tomb is covered with many X’s and has received other vandalism.

tomb of Marie Laveau Basin Street New Orleans St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 ghosts haunted
Tomb of Marie Laveau, 2007, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing a woman wearing a “tignon,” or a seven-knotted handkerchief, near this tomb, who has been identified as Madame Laveau. Tour guide Katherine Smith reports that a guest on one of her tours placed her hand on Laveau’s grave to pray. As she did, she heard a woman’s voice speaking to her. Believing it to be the voice of Laveau, she left an offering and took some photographs. The photographs taken at the tomb were blacked out, despite all the other photographs on that roll of film being fine.

Legends dating to the 1930s speak of cab-drivers avoiding the cemetery for fear of picking up a disappearing hitchhiker who appeared outside the cemetery. It seems that St. Louis No. 1 is home to many restless spirits who are seen walking through the labyrinth of above-ground crypts. One spirit of a man is even said to stop visitors and inquire as to the location of his grave.

Unfortunately, the vandalism of graves and crime in the area has led the Catholic Diocese of New Orleans to make the decision to close the cemetery to individual tourists. Only licensed tour groups can now enter the cemetery.

Sources

  • Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of the French Quarter. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2013.
  • Christovich, Mary Louise. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. April 1975.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration. New Orleans City Guide, 1938. Reprint by Garrett County Press, 2009.
  • Ghosts of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.” Ghost Eyes Blog. Accessed 11 January 2011.
  • Marie Laveau. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 July 2019.
  • Saint Louis Cemetery. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 29 July 2019.
  • Smith, Katherine. Haunted History Tours Presents Journey Into Darkness…Ghosts & Vampires of New Orleans. De Simonin Publishing, 1998.
  • Taylor, Troy. Beyond the Grave: The History of America’s Most Haunted Graveyards. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Publishing, 2001.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter—Decatur Street

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Arcadia Publishing. Kindle Edition. 2013.

Decatur Street

Decatur Street originally ran alongside the levee that protected the city from flooding and was called Rue de la Quai, Rue de la Levee, or Levee Street until 1870 when it was renamed for early American naval hero Stephen Decatur. Until the early 20th century, much of Decatur Street was a working-class and immigrant area with “Upper Decatur Street” (the portion of the street near to Canal Street) serving sailors during their stopovers in port.

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 be a victim of the fire that swept through this section of the city in December of 1794.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2017.

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. When Decatur Street began to see revitalization efforts in the mid-20th century, the building was renovated as a private apartment building. In 1972 the Monteleone family, owners of the famed and haunted Hotel Monteleone, purchased the building for use as a hotel again.

According to psychic and paranormal investigator Cari Roy, the Bienville is home to several spirits. One is the wraith of a young woman whom guests have awakened to find standing at their bedside. Often, the guests are unable to move for a moment, though the apparition vanishes after they are released from their momentary paralysis.

Sources

Kerry Irish Pub
331 Decatur Street

Ad Southern Mattress Company haunted Kerry Irish Pub French Quarter ghosts New Orleans Louisiana
Ad from The Town Talk of Alexandria, LA, 10 August 1914. This business once occupied the building that now houses the Kerry Irish Pub.

This three-story commercial building was probably constructed in the 19th century. Ads in early 20th century papers show this building was utilized by the Southern Mattress Company, though that does little to explain the cold spots, disembodied footsteps and voices that staff and patrons have encountered within the warm interior of this pub.

Sources

French Market Inn
509 Decatur Street

Originally a bakery for the Dreux family, this 18th century structure has hosted an inn since the Baroness de Pontalba purchased the property in the 1830s. Reports of ghosts began to surface shortly after the building opened to guests. Shadowy figures slipping in and out of rooms and the sounds of metallic clanging, possibly the same sounds produced by a pulley system that operated in the original bakery, have haunted the inn for its almost 200 years of history.

French Market Inn haunted French Quarter ghosts New Orleans Louisiana
The 500 Block of Decatur Street, 2007. The gold colored building is the French Market Inn. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Stories of guests waking to find a bloody handprint on their sheets have also surfaced. A paranormal investigator staying in room 218 was kept awake throughout the night by the feeling of unseen presences, an alarm clock going off periodically, her shower turning off and on on its own accord, and bangs and thuds of unknown origin.

Sources

Tujague’s
823 Decatur Street
 

The second oldest restaurant in the city after Antoine’s, Tujague’s (pronounced TOO-zhagz) has operated since 1856. Opened by Guillaume Tujague and his wife, Marie Abadie, the restaurant initially served the dock workers and laborers who crowded this neighborhood. For years, the restaurant’s biggest competitor was Beague’s which operated at the corner of Decatur and Madison, on Jackson Square. The owners of both restaurants teamed up and opened the Begue’s space as Tujague’s in 1914.

Tujague's haunted French Quarter ghosts New Orleans Louisiana
Tujague’s 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of
Wikipedia.

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 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. 

Sources

  • Knapp, Gwendolyn. “A cross dressing ghost haunts Tujague’s.” New Orleans Eater. 28 October 2015.
  • Walker, Judy. “Poppy Tooker communes with Tujague’s ghosts in new cookbook.” Times-Picayune. 27 October 2015.

Turtle Bay
1119 Decatur Street

Writer Alison Fensterstock notes that the 1100 block of Decatur Street “is a particularly fertile area for haunting,” in her 2009 article, “When Ghosts Attack.” In fact, when she visited Turtle Bay while researching the article, her presence may have riled the restaurant’s resident spirit, “Boudreaux.” When she returned to the restaurant the following day, she discovered that the spirit had thrown a tantrum, throwing a couple knives and a pan in the kitchen. This activity, however, is not limited to visits by writers, the cook explained to Fensterstock that the business’ owner was not liked by the spirit and had once pushed a table into him.

Sources

Santos Bar
1135 Decatur Street 

Santos, a Rock n’ Roll bar, is the latest of many bars and clubs that have occupied this 19th century building. Spirits here include former patrons and staff members. For further information, see my writeup, “Sipping with Spirits—New Orleans.”

Phantoms of the French Quarter–New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Quarter has been lived in and died in; human energy has been manifested continuously and freely for 250 years. Where we find presently a sedate restaurant, we would have found—20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more—a dry goods store, a grocery, a saloon, a coffeehouse, a patisserie, an apothecary, a gambling joint, a silversmith, a printer, a jeweler, a letter-writer, a whorehouse, a bank. They may have disappeared along with their proprietors, but they’ve left behind an aura that infuses the atmosphere.

–Andy Peter Antippas, A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). 2013.

New Orleans’ French Quarter—the Vieux Carré to locals—is among a handful of locales in the South that possesses a high concentration of haunted places. Encompassing nearly two-thirds of a square mile (.66 to be exact), the French Quarter has been said to have spirits in nearly every building and site. Even looking at the documented hauntings here, the number is quite impressive.

The French Quarter is generally defined as the section stretching from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River northwest to North Rampart Street. This section of the city is where the city was originally founded by the French in 1718. With buildings and sites spanning three centuries, the French Quarter is easily the most paranormally active neighborhood in the entire city.

This series of articles is meant to act as a street by street guide to those hauntings. While some of these stories have gained quite a bit of notoriety in the literature, like Royal Street’s LaLaurie Mansion, and Bourbon Street’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, some stories have only been explored in the literature once or twice. This is an attempt to synthesize information from the many sources that exist on the French Quarter into a succinct guide.

For more haunted places in the French Quarter visit the main page for my series, “Phantoms of the French Quarter.”

Sources

  • Antippas, Andy Peter. A Guide to the Historic French Quarter (History & Guide). Charleston SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Kindle Edition.
Jackson Square French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted street by street guide
Jackson Square, bounded by Decatur, Chartres, St. Peter, and St. Ann Streets. Behind the statue is St. Louis Cathedral with The Cabildo on the left and the Presbytere on the right. All three buildings are haunted. See the entry for Chartres Street for further information. Photo by Sammi99tr, 2009, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter

N.B. The streets that are not linked do not yet have guides. Check back here soon for those guides to be created.

Basin Street

Bienville Street

Bourbon Street

Burgundy Street

Chartres Street

Conti Street

Dauphine Street

Decatur Street

Dumaine Street

Esplanade Avenue

Iberville Avenue

North Rampart Street

Orleans Street

Pere Antoine’s Alley

Pirate Alley

Royal Street

St. Ann Street

St. Louis Street

St. Peter Street

St. Philip Street

Toulouse Street

Ursulines Avenue

Wilkinson Street

 

The Battlefield on Chartres Street

Beauregard-Keyes House
1113 Chartres Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

N.B. This article was edited and updated 8 August 2019.

For information on neighboring spirits see my Chartres Street guide and the main page for my Phantoms of the French Quarter series.

The sunny, yellow façade of the Beauregard-Keyes House on a relatively quiet section of Chartres Street does not belie the sometimes tragic history that has taken place within its walls. That quiet demeanor is shattered frequently by tour guides, with gawking tourists in tow,  intoning one of the many “legends” about this house as they pass. According to their spiels, the house is inhabited by a pantheon of shades, some quite famous.

 

Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
The sunny facade of the Beauregard-Keyes House on a bleak day in 2011. Photo by Ben Lewis, all rights reserved.

General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard, who occupied the house for about three years following the Civil War, was supposedly haunted by his defeat at the Battle of Shiloh. “…it’s General Beauregard whose presence at 1113 Chartres Street, and whose ghost seems obsessed with returning to the bloody scene of battle that traumatized him for the rest of his life—and beyond.”

Mary Beth Crain in her 2008 book, Haunted U.S. Battlefields continues, “In 1893, the year of the general’s death, people walking by the house late at night reported hearing ‘the voice.’ Someone seemed to be gasping ‘Shiloh…Shiloh’ over and over in a raspy chant that sounded as if it were coming from a great distance…Who else could ‘the voice’ belong to but General P.G.T. Beauregard, the man who throughout his life was haunted by the demons of the battle he needlessly lost? …There was terror in that one word, a sense of horror that was so convincing, those who heard it bolted as fast as they could.”

PGT Beauregard Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
P. G. T. Beauregard during his time as a Confederate general by photographer Matthew Brady.

A Haunting Battle

For a name that is Hebrew for “place of peace,” Shiloh, Tennessee is associated with the stench of death and quite possibly haunted Beauregard after his defeat there. The battle, fought in early April, 1862, is often described as the first of the many bloody battles that would be fought during the Civil War.

Union troops under General Ulysses S. Grant were encamped on the banks of the Tennessee River near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, while some twenty-odd miles away Confederate troops under General Albert Sidney Johnston and Beauregard, his second in command, were camped at Corinth, Mississippi. Union reinforcements under General Don Carlos Buell were expected to arrive from Columbia, Tennessee after which Grant would sweep down into Mississippi to begin slow disemboweling the Confederacy. Johnston, over Beauregard’s objections, aimed at attacking Grant’s forces before Buell’s arrival. Beauregard bowed to Johnston’s commands and prepared a battle plan along the lines of Napoleon’s advance at the Battle of Waterloo. Coincidently, Beauregard, due to his short stature and French heritage was known as “The Little Napoleon.”

The first assault hit the Union camps around 9:30 on the morning of April 6. Union troops were taken by surprise in the middle of breakfast as Confederate troops charged into their camps bearing the red battle flag emblazoned with the blue, starred St. Andrews Cross that had been designed by Beauregard. Many troops on both sides along the three-mile battle line were still green, and scared by the ferocity of battle, fled, with many of the Union troops fleeing towards the safety of the Tennessee River where they cowered under the bluffs. But one Union line held: composed mainly of Illinois and Iowa farmers. This line, along a sunken road through thick woods and a peach orchard under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss, kept the Confederates at bay for some six hours. They endured charge after charge and almost point blank artillery fire. General Johnston led the final Confederate charge when a bullet severed his femoral artery from which he died a short time later. Command then passed to Beauregard.

battle of Shiloh Tennessee Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
The Hornet’s Nest during the Battle of Shiloh in a chromolithograph by Thure de Thulstrup, 1888.

Prentiss’ division maintained their position along the sunken road where the ferocity of fighting was dubbed “The Hornet’s Nest.” Confederates surrounded the area on three-sides and they massed artillery onto the position, pouring volley upon volley of cannon-fire onto the Union troops. At 5:30 in the afternoon, Prentiss and his remaining 2,200 troops surrendered. The remaining Yankees had been pushed back to the Tennessee. Surveying the situation, Beauregard surmised that he could easily wipe out the remaining troops the following morning.

The sun rose the next day on a Federal force of nearly 50,000 as Buell’s reinforcements had arrived during the night. This huge force now faced Beauregard’s 30,000 troops. Slowly but surely, Union forces sliced into the Confederates with the troops falling back all the way to Corinth, Mississippi. The battlefield was thoroughly littered with the dead and dying, more than had ever been killed in any war previously fought by the United States: some 3,477 dead with some 23,000 wounded.

Historian Shelby Foote described the battle as “a disorganized, murderous fistfight of one hundred thousand men slamming away at each other.” It was this murderous and costly battle that sickened Beauregard so that he took immediately sick leave without permission of Jefferson Davis, who demoted him. Grant’s responsibility in the blood bath led to his being replaced by General Henry Wager Halleck.

Beauregard’s Haunting Legacy

After losing his military rank, Beauregard’s rank was restored and he went on to serve admirably through the end of the war. He retired to the house in New Orleans that now bears his name where his lived quietly for three years. Over time, legend has risen speaking of a more sinister legacy left by Beauregard in the house. Some tenants of the house have spoken of hearing the sounds of battle, perhaps from Shiloh, within and without the house. Even more interesting is the story that tenants being awakened by the sound of battle have stepped into the ballroom only to walk into the midst of the battlefield of Shiloh. While perhaps the story of the battlefield appearing in the ballroom may be only the product of the story passing through a “multi-generational telephone game.”

Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Sign at the front of the Beauregard-Keyes
House, 2011. Photo by Benjamin Lewis,
all rights reserved,

Of course the lone, contemplative shade of Beauregard has also been reported throughout the house. Jeff Dwyer in his Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans reports that the General’s spirit has been seen peering out the home’s windows, even seen waltzing with a female, most likely his second wife (his first wife, Marie, died in 1850), Caroline. Interestingly, Beauregard and his wife, Caroline, never lived in the house together. The dashing military man and his bride married in 1860 on the eve of the war. The young couple spent much of the war apart and Caroline died in New Orleans in March of 1864 while it was under Union occupation. After receiving news of his wife’s passing, the stunned Beauregard continued to carry out his duties.

Following the war, without a job, money, or a wife, a chastened Beauregard refused to take the loyalty oath until after he was counseled to do so by his former Confederate peers, Generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston. He took the oath before the mayor of New Orleans around the time he took up residence in the elegant house on Chartres Street. He was offered positions in the militaries of Brazil, Romania and Egypt but refused the offers saying, “I prefer to live here poor and forgotten, than be endowed with honor and riches in a foreign country.” Perhaps he spent his time in the house in Chartres pining for his darling Caroline and regretting his military blunders, but that is only speculation. Novelist Frances Parkinson Keyes, who lived in the house in the mid-20th century promulgated this mythos in her 1962 novel, Madame Castel’s Lodger. The novel portrays a defeated Beauregard looking back over the remains of his life.

History of 1113 Chartres

Besides it’s three-year occupation by Beauregard, the home possesses quite an illustrious history. Built by Joseph Le Carpentier, an auctioneer, the house was designed by Francois Correjolles incorporated elements of Roman and Greek architecture. Le Carpentier is said to have started his business selling goods for the pirate, Jean Lafitte (who, incidentally, figures into many local ghost stories and legends), and was also grandfather to the master chess player Paul Morphy, who was born in the house.

Paul Morphy chess player Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
An undated image of Paul Morphy. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A few writers mention Morphy among the pantheon of spirits in the house, though much of their information appears to be incorrect. Mary Beth Crain refers to Morphy as “Paul Munni,” though I can’t discern why. It states that he went insane while living in the house. While I have been able to determine that Morphy was in fact born in the house, his mother was Le Carpentier’s daughter, I can find nothing about his residency in the house as an adult. He returned to New Orleans towards the latter part of his life and “retired” from chess, having been victorious over all the world’s chess masters. While I’ve yet to find anything that specifically states that Morphy lost his sanity, he did live his life in seclusion. Morphy died at his home, which is now Brennan’s Restaurant at 417 Royal Street (which has a number of spirits, possibly even Morphy’s), after taking his usual afternoon constitutional and then taking a cold bath.

After leaving the hands of the Le Carpentier family, the house passed through a number of hands including those of Swiss Consul, John A Merle, whose wife created the garden surrounding the house. As the owners changed, the neighborhood changed; filling with Italian immigrants towards the end of the nineteenth century. The house was bought by Sicilian wine merchant, Pietro Giacona in 1904.

Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
The house around the time the Giacona family owned it. Image by the Detroit Publishing Company, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
A bright spot of sunshine on a dreary day, the Beauregard-
Keyes House, 2011. Photo by Benjamin Lewis, all rights reserved.

The Battle of Chartres Street

The Black Hand or La Mano Nero was an extortion racket commonly used among Italians and Italian Americans throughout the nineteenth and into the early part of the twentieth century, when the Mafia took on subtler methods of crime. New Orleans had already seen the tragic effects of such crime in 1890 with the assassination of police chief David Hennessy. The most common modus operandi for The Black Hand was to send the victims a letter, signed with a black handprint, threatening harm unless a specific amount of money was paid.

The Giacona family while living here found themselves victims of The Black Hand, in 1908, after receiving a letter demanding payment of $3000 or certain death. Events reached a zenith in the early morning hours of June 17. When Commander Thomas Capo of the Third Precinct Station arrived at the house around 2:45 AM, he witnessed everything in confusion:

I saw the old man standing on the gallery with the shotgun in his hand, while his son stood almost in the doorway with a rifle in his hands. On the gallery, two of the men were stretched out in death. Their shirts were covered with blood. In the yard, at the foot of the stairs, another man was lying. From its position in the yard, I judged that he was shot while running down the stairs, and had rolled to the ground. The table around which the men were seated before the shooting commenced was littered with watermelon rind and egg shells. Some half-filled wine goblets were also on the table.

A trail of blood led from the yard, over a wall and up and down a number of streets in the area. The trail led to Francisco Vitale who was found wounded at Bourbon and Ursulines Streets.

Pietro Giacona, his son Corrado, and a nephew, Pietro Bellonde, were all arrested for the murders of the Barraca brothers, Giovanni and Nuncy, and Cero Cusimano. Eventually, the Giaconas and the nephew were released. Upon their return, it is said that the house was turned into a fortress. The events of that early June morning were not easily forgotten and may continue to be re-enacted. Reports from people passing the house late at night have included the sounds of gunfire and shouting, the acrid smell of gunpowder and shadowy figures flitting around the fountain in the garden. 

Frances Keyes Beauregard-Keyes House French Quarter New Orleans ghosts haunted
Frances Keyes, 1921., by the National Photo Company. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

When the house was sold in 1925, Antonio Mannino, the new owner considered demolishing the house for either a warehouse or a macaroni factory. This possibility riled local preservationists who were disturbed by the loss of such a landmark. Beauregard House Inc. took over the house and in 1944, the group rented the house to novelist Frances Parkinson Keyes who occupied the house for some 25 years. During this time, she spearheaded a major renovation of the house while writing novels that included the house and former residents. She also created the Keyes Foundation which bought and now operates the house as a museum.

Spiritual remnants from this era may include Mrs. Keyes’ beloved cocker spaniel, Lucky. The dog died only a few days after his mistress’ death. Stories also tell of a large cat that is seen darting through and around the house but then disappearing. The cat is likely the shade of Caroline, a cat that took up in the house museum’s garden. Guests and guides in the house have felt a feline rubbing against their legs.

Though the current directors of the Beauregard-Keyes House deny the existence of spiritual activity in the house, it apparently hosts a legion of spirits. These denials keep investigators at bay, though the city’s many tour operators still walk and drive tourists past the house spinning creepy, and somewhat fictional tales battles on Chartres Street.

Sources

  • Battle of Shiloh. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 December 2010.
  • Bruno, Stephanie. “A House Where the Tall-Tales Are True.” The Times-Picayune. 5 March 2005.
  • Crain, Mary Beth. Haunted U. S. Battlefields. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2008.
  • “Death of Paul Morphy.” The Daily Picayune. 11 July 1884.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Press, 2007.
  • Frances Parkinson Keyes. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 May 2016.
  • “Giacona hearing fixed for Thursday.” The Daily Picayune. 7 July 1908.
  • “Giaconas held, but allowed bail.” The Daily Picayune. 10 July 1908.
  • “Giaconas held without bond.” The Daily Picayune. 19 June 1908.
  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts. Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press, 1993.
  • Paul Morphy. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 December 2010.
  • G. T. Beauregard. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 2 December 2010.
  • Sillery, Barbara. The Haunting of Louisiana. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2001.
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Ric Burns and Ken Burns. “A Bloody Affair (1862). The Civil War. American Documentaries, Inc. 1990.
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Ric Burns and Ken Burns. The Civil War: An Illustrated History. NYC: Knopf, 1990.