I filled you in last week on a bit of my New Orleans trip. Those stops were all great, but I’m going to give you a peek at my favorite parts of my trip: the spooky stuff – just in time for Halloween!
I’m a sucker for ghost stories and history, so going to New Orleans was a dream. A super haunted city with a past? Sign me up! My pals and I decided day one that a ghost tour had to happen. Admittedly, we weren’t all that prepared for our trip, so we chose a tour company at random. We booked a ghost and vampire tour with French Quarter Phantoms, and I LOVED IT. Seriously could not get enough, especially of the vampire stories. I was all I’m not into vampires, thanks but then I heard all about the casquette girls and was hooked.
We heard a handful of spooky tales (some were seriously spine tingling), saw some historic sites, laughed at our guide’s jokes (Ducky knew what was what) and even got to see the LaLaurie mansion. You American Horror Story fans out there already know a little about Delphine LaLaurie, but for those of you who don’t – she was horrible and sadistic and also very charismatic and wealthy. Her former home (also formerly Nicholas Cage’s home) was a real fright fest. I had to get a snap in front of it because I’m terrible that way.
After that tour, let’s just say my interest in all things creepy NOLA was piqued. The next morning we booked a tour of New Orleans’s oldest cemetery: St. Louis No. 1. I’ll be honest, I wanted to explore this city of the dead alone, but it turns out you can’t (as of March this year). So Amanda, Irina and I stuck it out with a tour group and a very dry tour guide (totally should have booked with French Quarter Phantoms instead).
But as dense as the tour was, it was also incredibly fascinating. Despite the information being delivered a la Ben Stein in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, we learned all about the tombs. First off, I learned something very important. The graves aren’t above ground because of the water table or some such nonsense – turns out that type of burial was totally en vogue in Europe at the time these cemeteries were founded.
I’d spare you the details, but I’m into gory stuff on occasion. Turns out that once you inter a body, it takes about a year to slowly cremate in that tomb with the help of chemicals and the scorching heat. When it’s opened up again, the ashes and remains are swept in to a caveau – or a well – beneath the mausoleum. And then I learned that something like 50 or 60 people can all be entombed in one small plot. And that boggled my damn mind. And community tombs could hold over a thousand. WUT?
The main draw for St. Louis No. 1 is that it’s the oldest remaining cemetery in the city. It’s also home of the United States’ second most visited grave (right behind Elvis): Marie Laveau, the former Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. I was expecting something way different from her tomb thanks to American Horror Story: Coven, but it turns out when the characters go to her grave on the show, they’re going somewhere else (St. Louis No. 1 is off limits for Hollywood is what we were told).
What was probably more interesting than Marie Laveau’s spot itself were all the “faux Laveaus” around the cemetery. These fakes are graves that are no longer maintained by caretakers because they are considered abandoned – meaning the space is old or forgotten by family for many years. These sites are heavily vandalized. Essentially the exes are superstition: visitors come in, ask Marie Laveau for a favor, leave a gift, mark the tomb with XXX and spin around three times in hopes that their request is fulfilled. If it is, they come back and leave another gift.
I’m no authority on any of this of course – all this is second hand from very knowledgeable tour guides – but I’m intensely fascinated by this now. I need to know everything about voodoo, ghosts and vampires in this town.
Catch ya on the creepy side!