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.
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