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.”

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