Phantoms of the French Quarter—Chartres Street

The Decatur Street section of this article has moved. You can find it here.

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.

Chartres Street, which is often pronounced CHAR-terz or CHAR-trez, was named for the Duc de Chartres in 1724.

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.”

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.
Le Richelieu Hotel, 2011, by Benjamin Lewis. All rights reserved.

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. (For a couple photos of the Old Ursuline Convent see my entry here.)

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 to 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. 

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2007.
  • The Presbytère. Louisiana State Museums. Accessed 2 June 2016.
The Presbytère, 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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. 

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Our History.” Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Accessed 2 June 2016.
Interior of St. Louis Cathedral by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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

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.

Sources

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

 

Gally House in the 1930s by Frances Johnston. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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.

Napolean 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

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.
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