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

N.B. This article was edited and revised 30 April 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.

Chartres Street

Chartres Street, which is often pronounced CHAR-terz or CHAR-trez, was named for the Duc de Chartres in 1724 and is among several of the earliest streets in town. Initially, Chartres only ran from Canal Street to Jackson Square. From Jackson Square to Esplanade, the street was called Condé.

Mahogany Jazz Hall Burlesque and Absinthe House
125 Chartres Street

100 block Chartres Stree French Quarter New Orleans
The building that now contains the Mahogany Jazz Hall is on the right of this photo under the sign of Don Juan’s (which formerly occupied this space). Photo 2007, Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This 19th century building served as a boarding house for many years during which two tenants committed suicide. In 1892, a laborer was shot to death in front of the building with his murderer escaping into the dark of night. These deaths may contribute to the building’s haunted reputation with patrons and staff witnessing shadowy figures, hearing disembodied whispers, and feeling the cold touch of hands from the other side.

Sources

  • “Murder in New Orleans.” The Daily Commercial Herald. 22 November 1892.
  • Pinheiro, Maria. “Four little-known paranormal hotspots in New Orleans.” Malay Mail Online. 11 October 2016.

204 Chartres Street

204 Chartres Street Crescent City Books French Quarter New Orleans
204 Chartres in 2007. The building on the left was still Crescent City Books at this time. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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. An investigation by the New Orleans based International Society for Paranormal Research (ISPR) identified a number of children’s spirits on the first and second floor as spirits that may also haunt Le Petite Theatre de Vieux Carré on St. Peter Street. Other spirits were discovered on the third floor and attic.

Sources

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

W New Orleans – French Quarter
316 Chartres Street

Formerly the Hotel de la Poste, the W Hotel is made up of a collection of old buildings many of which are occupied by their own collections of spirits. ISPR investigated the hotel in July of 1996. On the second floor of the hotel, investigators encountered the spirit of a white woman in her 30s who may be causing some activity there. In another section of the building which may have once held slave quarters, the spirits of three enslaved children were discovered. A middle-aged enslaved man, Gerald, was found by the group near the hotel’s parking garage, which may have been the site of stables were this man labored.

Sources

The Bottom of the Cup Tearoom
327 Chartres Street

Since 1929, The Bottom of the Cup Tearoom has served as one of New Orleans’ psychical landmarks. The tearoom popularly featured psychics who would read the tea leaves left at the bottoms of customers’ teacups. Over time, the shop has added other forms of divination and psychic readings including tarot cards to its menu. While the shop’s second location (open from 1972-2003) at 734 Royal Street possessed the well-known spirit of Julia, there are no documented ghost stories associated with this building, though Jeff Dwyer has noted that the spirit may have moved to the shop after the closure of the Royal Street location. A quote from the shop’s manager indicates there may be some activity there, telling Country Roads Magazine, “There’s a lot of history ground into this neighborhood. Each decade leaves its traces and emotional resin, which helps us tune into the intuitive mind.”

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • McGunnigle, Nora. “The Bottom of the Cup.” Country Roads Magazine. 21 September 2018. 

Williams Research Center
410 Chartres Street

The Williams Research Center occupies one of three campuses that houses parts of The Historic New Orleans Collection, which preserves and collects historic items and archives covering the history of the city and the region. The largest items in this collection are a number of historic properties including the building that houses the research collection. Built in 1915, this Beaux-Arts structure originally housed the Second City Criminal Court and the Third District Police Station. The Historic New Orleans Collection purchased the building in 1993 after it had been vacant for many years.

The renovation of this structure required gutting the interior at which time construction workers began to have odd experiences. These included hearing the slamming of cell doors, despite the doors having been removed, and seeing apparitions of police officers in old-fashioned uniforms.

Sources

  • Chartres Street Campus.” Historic New Orleans Collection. Accessed 14 January 2020.
  • Montz, Larry and Daena Smoller. ISPR Investigates the Ghosts of New Orleans. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.

Napoleon House
500 Chartres Street

Postcard Chartres Street Napoleon House French Quarter New Orleans
An early 20th century postcard showing the Napoleon House. Postcard published by A. Hirschwitz.

Built in 1797, this home was significantly expanded for early mayor, Nicholas Girod, who served from 1812-15. According to local lore, offered it as a refuge for Napoleon after he was exiled from France. While he died before he could travel, the house still bears his name. In 1834, some thirteen years after Napoleon’s death, his former physician, Dr. Antommarchi, opened a free clinic in the building, thus continuing its association with the deposed emperor. During the Civil War, wounded soldiers were treated in a hospital that operated on the second floor. In 1914, the Impastato family acquired the property and opened the restaurant and bar that remains in operation.

The over 200-year old history of the building has left spiritual activity. Some stories speak of a Confederate soldier who is seen to stroll the Chartres Street balcony before vanishing or hiding. Another story tells of an old lady who is spotted sweeping on the second floor. While yet others have witnessed the apparition of an enslaved woman in the courtyard.

Over the years, guests and staff have been surprised by lights turning off and on, sometimes on request. During a renovation of the building in the mid-1990’s the spirits expressed their displeasure with a heavy and oppressive feeling throughout. Bartenders also reported that bottles would occasionally fall from their perch behind the bar during this time. A paranormal group that investigated the building recently noted several entities on the property including a young lady in the courtyard who may have died in an accident and an old sailor who drinks at the bar late at night.

Sources

  • Bailey, Shan. “Strange ghosts: Drinking sailor, sweeping lady haunt the Napoleon House.” NOLA Weekend. No Date.
  • Brown, Alan. The Haunted South. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014.
  • Duplechien, Brad. “Napoleon House Bar – New Orleans, LA (A Ruler’s Hideout).” Haunted Nation Blog. 26 September 2016.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, Revised Edition. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2016.
  • Montz, Larry and Daena Smoller. ISPR Investigates the Ghosts of New Orleans. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.
  • Napoleon House Historic Past.” Napoleon House. Accessed 2 June 2016.

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 on slaves, especially pregnant slave women.

Chartres Street French Quarter Pharmacy Museum Hotel Ste. Helene Napoleon House
The view looking down Chartres Street. From the left, the buildings are the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, Hotel Ste. Helene, and the Napoleon House. Photo 2008, by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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.

Chartres House (Gally House)
540 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 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.

Gally House French Quarter New Orleans Frances Johnston
The Gally House in the 1930s as photographed by Frances Johnston for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Recently, the Chartres House restaurant, which opened originally in the former Reynes Mansion (see below) across the street, relocated into the majestic Gally House.

Sources

  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2007.
  • HistoryChartres House. Accessed 30 April 2020.

Reynes Mansion (formerly the Chartres House)
601 Chartres Street

Originally built as a residence for the Reynes family following the Great Fire of 1788, this home was eventually occupied by 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 on the second-floor 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 prospective tenants often detected bad energy and some became physically ill while touring the apartment.

Reynes Mansion French Quarter New Orleans
The Reynes Mansion in 2008, when it was still the Chartres House. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This building was occupied by the Chartres House restaurant until it relocated across the street to the Gally House (see above).

Sources

Bosque House
617 Chartres Street, private

Bosque House French Quarter New Orleans
The Bosque House in 2011. Photo by Elisa.rolle, courtesy of Wikipedia.

This classic late 18th century Creole townhouse was built to replace a home destroyed in the Great Fire of 1788. Legend holds that this fire 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.

The Cabildo
701 Chartres Street

The younger twin of The Presbytère, The Cabildo was constructed to replace the city hall 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.

Cabildo French Quarter New Orleans
The Cabildo, 1936, by Richard Koch for the Historic American
Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

While this building served as a seat of government for many years, a prison once stood behind it (see my entry on Pirate Alley for more information on this structure) which may explain the presence of a young soldier. Legend holds that the young man was imprisoned in the prison and, after a trial before a military tribunal, was summarily 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 pathetic 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.

St. Louis Cathedral
Jackson Square

interior of St. Louis Cathedral New Orleans
Interior of St. Louis Cathedral by Carol M. Highsmith.
Courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

The Grande Dame of New Orleans, St. Louis Cathedral has stood at 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.

The Presbytère
751 Chartres Street

The Presbytere New Orleans
The Presbytère, 2007, by Infrogmation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

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.

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.

Muriel's Restaurant New Orleans
Muriel’s in 2008. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

At least this is the story that is commonly told about this building. 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 encountering 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.

Hotel Provincial
1024 Chartres Street

Hotel Provincial French Quarter New Orleans
Hotel Provincial in 2019. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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