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

This article is part of my series, Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter, which looks at the haunted places of this neighborhood in a street by street basis. Please see the series main page for an introduction to the French Quarter and links to other streets.

Conti Street

Conti Street French Quarter New Orleans
Conti Street sign, 2019 by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to historian Stanley Clisby Arthur, Bourbon Street was initially called Conti Street for the Princess Conti. When Bourbon Street was renamed, this street was renamed Conti.

Sources

  • Arthur, Stanley Clisby. Walking Tours of Old New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 1990. Originally published in 1936.

700 Block Conti Street

Throughout its history, the French Quarter has been no stranger to violence. In the early morning hours of 21 March 2015, gunshots rang out in this block of Conti Street. In the aftermath, two young men in their 20s lay wounded. One of them died on the scene, while the other died at the hospital a short time later.

Conti Street, French Quarter, New Orleans
A view of the 700-block Conti Street looking towards Bourbon Street. Photo 2019, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Part of this spectacle may replay itself. Investigator and author Jeff Dwyer explains that witnesses have seen “the ghostly images of a young man who appears lifelike but quickly becomes transparent as he runs a distance of about 50 feet and then vanishes.” Others have heard “muted gunshots” as they have seen this horrible image.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans: Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2016. 

Prince Conti Hotel
830 Conti Street

The Prince Conti Hotel’s bar, The Bombay Club, is apparently haunted by the spirit of a madam who once operated on the premises before the hotel was opened. She has been dubbed Sophie by staff members who have encountered her in the kitchen, bar, and at Booth 3.

Bar Bombay Club Prince Conti Hotel, French Quarter, New Orleans
The bar of The Bombay Club in the Prince Conti Hotel, 2010. Photo by Gary J. Wood, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • Gardner, James. Professor’s Guide to Ghosts of New Orleans. CreateSpace, 2020. Kindle Edition.

917 Conti Street (formerly Musee Conti Wax Museum), private

The idea for the Musee Conti Wax Museum came to Ben Weil after a visit to London’s famous Madame Tussaud’s while on a trip to Europe. He quickly imagined a similar counterpart in New Orleans illustrating scenes from local history. The museum opened in 1964 with figures created by a Parisian mannequin maker. The figures of Napoleon, Andrew Jackson, Madame LaLaurie, Marie Laveau, and Jelly Roll Morton were shipped to the city on a Pan Am jet, where some of the figures were seated in the cabin among actual human passengers. The wax museum quickly became a major tourist attraction in the French Quarter. Legions of school children visited among the silent and still figures to learn the weird and wacky and violent history of the city.

Conti Street, French Quarter, New Orleans
917 Conti Street, the building that once held the Musee Conti Wax Museum, is the grey building on the right of this photo. Photo 2021, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Over time, stories began to spread of spirits among the wax figures. Staff and guests have heard disembodied voices within the museum and others have seen shadow figures moving about amongst the stationary figures. Others have felt the eyes of the figures follow them around the space. The museum has undergone investigations by a number of paranormal investigators who have uncovered a great deal of evidence alluding to the presence of spirits here.

Sadly, the Musee Conti Wax Museum closed in 2016 and the building was sold. Developers transformed the building into high-end private condos. Since the building’s redevelopment, it is unknown if the spirits remain here.

Sources

Wallace Parlour House
1026 Conti Street, private

In a city chock full of irascible characters, Norma Wallace is amongst the pantheon. For decades, she was one of the most well-known doyennes of the city’s pleasure palaces. She was the last, and perhaps the most upstanding and respectable, of many madams who operated throughout this city’s vice-ridden history. From this innocuous address she operated one of the city’s most famous brothels, a place where the patriarchs of prominent families brought their sons as a rite of coming of age. A place where wanted criminals might rub shoulders with the judges who might one day sentence them. Business leaders, bureaucrats, political leaders, entertainers, law enforcement, and diplomats all came to indulge in Norma Wallace’s court of young women. For a time, couples might visit to observe some of New Orleans’ first sex shows given in Norma Wallace’s parlor.

Born into a poverty-stricken family, Wallace had aunts engaged in prostitution. At a young age, she learned that she could earn a living with her womanly charms, though she quickly grew tired of actually selling herself. Within a short time, she began overseeing other ladies of the evening and quickly learned how to finesse law enforcement and the justice system to protect her business interests. With the election of increasingly conservative crime-fighting district attorneys who vowed to fight corruption, she was forced to close her house and business. In her later years, she was able to transform her infamy into fame and her name was celebrated, though she quickly grew bored. In 1974 she took her life at her home in rural Mississippi.

This infamous address fell into disrepair and decay following Wallace’s ownership. Recently, a developer purchased the home and restored it, dividing the house into condos. It is said that the odor of cigars is still smelled here accompanied by the clinking of glasses and the sound of a woman’s husky laugh. Perhaps Norma Wallace is reliving the best years of her life?

Sources

  • Gardner, James. Professor’s Guide to Ghosts of New Orleans. CreateSpace, 2020. Kindle Edition.
  • Wiltz, Christine. The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld. NYC: Open Road Integrated Media, 2000. Kindle Edition.

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

This article is part of my series, Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter, which looks at the haunted places of this neighborhood in a street by street basis. Please see the series main page for an introduction to the French Quarter and links to other streets.

Bourbon Street

Named for the House of Bourbon, the ruling family of France in the 18th century, Bourbon Street has earned a reputation as the place to party in The Big Easy. Prior to the turn of the 20th century, it was one of the premiere addresses in the city. Its fortunes declined a bit with the establishment of Storyville above the French Quarter. This notorious red-light district attracted prostitution and gambling to much of the French Quarter. This street has attracted many businesses catering to an adult audience. Even with the presence of these businesses, the street is the focus of the city’s many tourists.

Bourbon Street French Quarter New Orleans
A view of the 400 block of Bourbon Street looking towards the Central Business District, 2012. Photo by Chris Litherland, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sources

  • Bourbon Street. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 22 April 2023.

Old Absinthe House
240 Bourbon Street

Occupying a corner of Bourbon and Bienville streets, the Old Absinthe House also occupies position in both the alcoholic and paranormal history of the city. Built in 1806, this structure was originally a business and dwelling house for a pair of Spanish importers, Pedro Font and Francisco Juncadella. Eventually, noted local bartender Cayetano Ferrer took out a lease on the building and began serving absinthe, renaming it The Absinthe Room.

Old Absinthe House Bourbon Street French Quarter New Orleans
The Old Absinthe House, 1937, by Frances Johnston. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Legend holds that before the Battle of New Orleans, the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte, met with General Andrew Jackson here to arrange for his help in the defense of the city against British attack during the War of 1812. Jackson agreed to Lafitte’s services in exchange for a pardon on the charges leveled at him for his pirate and smuggling operations.

While there is little evidence that this meeting actually occurred within the walls of the Old Absinthe House, owners over the years have continued to support this legend. Indeed, they have also attributed paranormal activity here to the dashing shade of Lafitte, despite the claims of his spirit haunting many other places throughout the city and the state. Perhaps Lafitte is as busy in the afterlife as he was during his existence in this plane.

Old Absinthe House French Quarter New Orleans
Old Absinthe House in 2012. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Several sources note the presence of unexplained activity throughout the old building including doors opening and closing by themselves, and glassware and chairs moving on their own accord.

Sources

  • Duplechien, Brad. “Old Absinthe House—New Orleans, LA (The Green Fairy).” Haunted Nation Blog. 27 September 2016.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2016.
  • “Old Absinthe House: Legend says Jackson, Lafitte met here in French Quarter.” The Daily Advertiser. 4 March 1959.
  • Taylor, David. “Museum solves problem of Absinthe House secret floor.” The Daily Advertiser. 15 October 1950.
  • Taylor, Troy. Haunted New Orleans. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010.

327 Bourbon Street
(formerly Temptations Gentlemen’s Club)

The elegant townhouse at this address is still (as of March 2022) boarded up with graffiti and slowly decaying. The building has being sitting in this sad state since early 2018 when Temptations was shut down permanently after the city cited the business with numerous code violations and found evidence that prostitution was taking place on the premises.

This home was built in 1835 by Judah P. Benjamin, a brilliant young Jewish lawyer who married the young daughter of a private family. While he was successful as a lawyer and planter, his wife separated from him and moved with their young daughter to Paris. In 1852, Benjamin was elected to the US Senate and he served in that capacity until Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861. Impressed by him, Jefferson Davis appointed him as attorney general, then to Secretary of War for the Confederacy, and ultimately to Secretary of State. With the end of the war, he fled to London where he served as a barrister for the remainder of his life.

327 Broubon Street French Quarter New Orleans
327 Bourbon Street around 1937 or 1938 by Frances Benjamin Johnston.

This lovely home remained a private residence for many years following Benjamin’s ownership and may have served as a brothel at some point in more recent history. By the mid-2010s, the building had been transformed into Temptations. The owners had left much of the historic interiors intact and had also renovated the slave quarters in the back for private encounters with the club’s female employees.

Paranormal investigator Brad Duplechien toured in the building around this time and documented stories from various members of the staff. They spoke of encountering a lady in white in the main house and spoke of a certain VIP room as having an oppressive atmosphere. In the old slave quarters, they experienced doors opening, closing, and locking on their own.

Sources

  • Duplechien, Brad. “Temptations Gentlemen’s Club – New Orleans, LA (The Haunted Strip Club).” Haunted Nation. 5 October 2016.
  • Judah P. Benjamin. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 23 April 2023.
  • Litten, Kevin. “Temptations strip club owners give up on F. Q. property; club shut down permanently.” New Orleans Times-Picayune. 30 January 2018.

Bourbon Heat
711 Bourbon Street

The carriageway at the Tricou House, now Bourbon Heat nightclub. Photo by Frances Johnston, 1937, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The spirit of a young woman who died in a fall on the stairs here is supposed to remain in this nightclub. Built in 1832 by Dr. Joseph Tricou, this former private residence has been a bar for many years. The doctor’s niece Penelope supposedly lost her footing on the stairs and tumbled to her death. Staff and patrons have heard disembodied footsteps throughout the building. A statue in the club’s courtyard is also said to move on its own volition.

Sources

  • Klein, Victor C. New Orleans Ghosts. Chapel Hill, NC: Professional Press, 1993.
  • Smith, Katherine. Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans. New Orleans, LA: De Simonin Publications, 1998.

Bourbon Pub and Parade
801 Bourbon Street

Bourbon Pub Bourbon Street
The Bourbon Pub decked out in Pride regalia for one of the city’s many pride celebrations, 2016. Photo by Tony Webster, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Bourbon Pub and Parade is the largest gay bar in New Orleans and one of the premier sites for partying during the annual Southern Decadence, a six-day gay and lesbian festival held over Memorial Day weekend. Patrons here have seen, heard, and occasionally felt spirits throughout the bar area. Some patrons have been surprised by the hollow sound of a thud accompanied by the inexplicable sensation of a cane hitting the bottom of their shoe.

Sources

  • Summer, Ken. Queer Hauntings: True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts. Maple Shade, NJ: Lethe Press, 2009.

Café Lafitte in Exile
901 Bourbon Street

Cafe Lafitte in Exile New Orleans
Doorway of the Cafe Lafitte in Exile, 2016. Photo by Tony Webster, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Opened in 1933, at the end of Prohibition, the Café Lafitte in Exile is now known as the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the United States. Two of the café’s most famous patrons, writers Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, are believed to revisit this, one of their favorite haunts. While neither writer died in New Orleans, they have been seen within the walls of the café. Ken Summers notes that another, rather frisky spirit, known as Mister Bubbles, is known to pinch some patrons’ posteriors. 

Sources

  • Richardson, Joy. “New Orleans’ Café Lafitte Haunted by Two Literary Greats.” com. 12 July 2010.
  • Summer, Ken. Queer Hauntings: True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts. Maple Shade, NJ: Lethe Press, 2009.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
941 Bourbon Street

See my coverage of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop in “Encounter with a Gentleman—New Orleans.”

Lafitte Guest House
1003 Bourbon Street

Housed in an old mansion overlooking Bourbon Street and the historic and haunted Lafitte Blacksmith Shop across the street, the Lafitte Guest House is home to a handful of spirits. Some years ago, the inn’s owners were planning on going on a cruise. As they discussed the plans for the cruise, soot blew down the chimney of the room where they sat and spelled out the words “No Voyage” on the floor.

The spirit of a little girl has been seen by guests in the mirror of the second floor balcony. Guests will look at themselves in the mirror and see a little girl crying behind them. She may be the young daughter of the Gleises family who resided here in the mid-19th century. It is believed that she died during one of the many yellow fever epidemics that swept through New Orleans in the 1850s. The spirit of an anguished woman is believed to be the spirit of this little girl’s mother.

Sources

  • Kermeen, Frances. Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Inn and Hotels. NYC: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Sillery, Barbara. The Haunting of Louisiana. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2001.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

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

N.B. This article was originally published 15 June 2016 with Bourbon Street.

This article is part of my series, Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter, which looks at the haunted places of this neighborhood in a street by street basis. Please see the series main page for an introduction to the French Quarter and links to other streets.

Dauphine Street

Dauphine Street New Orleans
Tile street name set into the sidewalk. Photo by Infrogmation, 2019, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Originally the Rue de Vendome, this street was renamed Dauphine Street not long after. According to John Chase’s Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children…and other Streets of New Orleans, there is no certainty as to who this street is named for, though it was likely named for the Dauphin of France, the heir apparent to the French crown.

Sources

  • Chase, John. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children…and other Streets of New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 1949.

Dauphine Orleans Hotel
415 Dauphine Street

Like so many French Quarter hotels, the Dauphine Orleans comprises a number of buildings with varying histories and spirits. On the west side of Dauphine Street is a small group of old cottages, some dating to at least 1775. Among these buildings is the Audubon Cottage, one of several buildings where artist John James Audubon lived for a time. Another cottage was once occupied by one of the city’s infamous bordellos in the 19th century, a bawdy house under the watchful eye of May Bailey. This building is now the hotel’s bar, May Bailey’s Place.

Sanborn map 1895 of New Orleans French Quarter
The 1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of the corner of Dauphine and Conti Streets where the Dauphine Orleans Hotel is now located. Most of the cottages and buildings on this corner now comprise the hotel.

In 1834, merchant Samuel Hermann built a large home just across the street from the cottages. This building now houses the hotel’s offices. After these buildings were renovated, the Dauphine Orleans Hotel opened in 1971.

Investigations conducted in the 1990s by the International Society for Paranormal Research (ISPR) reported the presence of a number of spirits including a soldier’s spirit in the pool area, and several former ladies of the evening, possibly associated with May Bailey.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • “The Dauphine Hotel is really haunted.” WGNO. 30 October 2015.
  • Montz, Larry and Daena Smoller. ISPR Investigates The Ghosts of New Orleans. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.
  • Oswell, Paul. New Orleans Historic Hotels. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.

Gardette-LePretre House
715 Dauphine Street, private

Gardette-LePretre Mansion French Quarter New Orleans
The Gardette-LePretre House in January 1958. This photo was taken by Richard Koch for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Sometimes known as the “Sultan’s Retreat” this private residence is home to a popular legend. At some point in the early 19th century, a deposed potentate from the east took up residence here. Accompanied by scimitar-wielding guards, a harem, eunuchs and servants, the potentate rented the home and turned it into an Eastern-styled pleasure garden. One morning passersby noticed that everything had suddenly gone quiet. Ominously, and in testament to the horrors within, a small trickle of blood dripped from underneath the front door. When the police broke in to investigate they discovered all the home’s residents had been massacred in an orgy of blood and violence. Since that time, residents have supposedly dealt with odd sounds, disembodied screams, and mysterious apparitions. Sadly, there’s no evidence that these events actually occurred or that the building may be haunted.

Sources

  • Ambrose, Kala. Spirits of New Orleans. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2012.
  • Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans. Savannah, GA: Manta Ray Books, 2014.

Dauphine House Bed & Breakfast
1830 Dauphine Street

The Dauphine House is located about a block outside of the French Quarter in Faubourg Marigny, but I think it’s close enough to include in this look at French Quarter haunts.

This small inn, built in 1860 as a private residence, hosts several spirits. Not long after the owner purchased the home she encountered a spectral couple on the stairs, “they wore clothes from the end of the 1800s…they were standing there smiling.” She thanked them for their home and explained that she would take care of the house and the couple disappeared. A guest at the inn who was distraught over a breakup reportedly saw the couple a few times during her visit and felt they were attempting to comfort her.

Sources

  • “Haunts of the Dauphine House.” Ghost Eyes Blog. 15 January 2010.
  • Smith, Terry L. and Mark Jean. Haunted Inns of America. Crane Hill Publishers, 2003.
  • Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

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

This article is part of my series, Street Guide to the Phantoms of the French Quarter, which looks at the haunted places of this neighborhood in a street by street basis. Please see the series main page for an introduction to the French Quarter and links to other streets.

Wilkinson Street

Also known as Wilkinson Alley, this street runs for a block between Decatur Street and Chartres Street. It was cut through this block in 1816 and named Jefferson Street, though the name was later changed to honor General James Wilkinson (1757-1825), who was appointed by Thomas Jefferson as the first territorial governor of Louisiana.

James Wilkinson by Charles Willson Peale, 1797
James Wilkinson by Charles Willson Peale, 1797.

Wilkinson is quite a controversial figure in American history. He served the Patriot cause during the American Revolution, though he involved himself in a myriad of political intrigues and scandals throughout much of his life. Some years after his death, a scholar uncovered evidence that Wilkinson had been a spy for Spain.

Sources

  • Chase, John. Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children…and other Streets of New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 1949.
  • James Wilkinson. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 15 April 2023.

535 Wilkinson Street

About two decades ago, this address, originally constructed around 1895 as a warehouse for Jackson Brewery, was occupied by Shalimar Indian Cuisine. During that time, Ghost Expedition tours frequently took guests to the restaurant in search of a male spirit that was reported there. Described as a man in traditional Sikh clothing consisting of long robes, a turban, and wielding a scimitar, the spirit was believed to be a protective entity watching over the family who owned the establishment.

Wilkinson Street New Orleans
Shalimar Indian Cuisine once occupied the far left bay in the white warehouse building in the center of this photograph. Photo by Infrogmation, 2019, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The entity was frequently encountered on the second floor, where people felt sudden temperature changes and would hear the sound of heavy furniture being dragged across the third floor.

During one Ghost Expedition visit in 1997, the entity made its presence abundantly clear. As the guide was speaking with her guests on the restaurant’s second floor, a large shadow appeared and “superimposed” itself on the guide. Feeling threatened, she began to back up, eventually making her way to a far wall with the shadow still on her. Upset, several guests screamed and fled the building. Once the guide was able to regain her voice, she apologized to the spirit and the shadow disappeared.

It is unknown if the spirit has remained on the premises since the Indian restaurant has closed.

Sources

  • Montz, Larry and Daena Smoller. ISPR Investigates The Ghosts of New Orleans. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.

Spectral strangers in our midst—New Orleans

Café Sbisa
1011 Decatur Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

The building that is now occupied by the Café Sbisa was originally a ship’s chandlery in 1820, where crews of ships berthed at the wharves and docks along the river could purchase supplies. As was typical in this time period, the first floor was used as retail space with the upper floors serving as a residence for the store’s owner and his family. Over the time, the building continued to serve seamen as a banking operation and a saloon with a brothel on the upper floors.

In 1899, the Sbisa family purchased the building and opened a respectable café in it. Over the years, the café has garnered a reputation for its food, drinks, and conviviality, so much so that New Orleans artist George Dureau (1930-2014) captured it in a triptych painting that hangs above the bar. The work celebrates patrons, employees, and the artist himself all within a fantastical vision of the restaurant called “Strangers in our midst: Café Sbisa, New Orleans.”

Cafe Sbisa New Orleans 2008
A highly decorated art car is parked just outside Cafe Sbisa on the afternoon of 2 August 2008. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

At times, amidst the bustle of staff and patrons, spectral strangers may make their way through the restaurant. These strangers date to the building’s notorious era during the 19th century. A tale has emerged concerning a young girl sold into prostitution by her father to pay his debts. The young girl believed that she could work to repay the debt and would then be freed. Unfortunately, she became pregnant and was shocked to learn that the debt had been compounded with charges for room, board, and clothing, thus keeping her against her will for her entire life. After giving birth, the distraught girl drowned her infant in courtyard’s fountain and hanged herself. These tragic deaths have left spiritual imprints on the space.

Patrons and staff have reported feeling their clothes tugged at by unseen hands as well as gentle shoves in the second-floor dining area. Others have watched as the chandelier has begun swinging on its own. Is this activity a sign of spectral strangers in our midst?

Sources

  • Gardner, James. Professor’s Guide to Ghosts of New Orleans. Amazon, 2020.
  • A Ghost Tour of the Most Haunted City in the USA.” Uncover Travel. Accessed 9 April 2023.
  • Maitland, Brenda. “Café Sbisa.” Country Roads Magazine. 1 December 2008.
  • Quackenbush, Jannette. Ghost Stories and Tales of New Orleans. 21 Crows Dusk to Dawn Publishing, 2021.