Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Haunting Experience

We decided to go on a haunted history tour of the French Quarter today. Ever since it was first established, the French Quarter has attracted extreme personalities. The numerous reports of hauntings in the area may just be an attempt to re-capture the essence of the fascinating characters who frequented the area throughout the years. But, if you ask anyone who has spent a significant amount of time there, changes are they'll say that there just might be something to those stories of spirits roaming the area.

The two hour walking tour brought us to a number of interesting places. Here are the ones I found to be the most compelling:

  • The Pharmacy Museum (514 Chartres Street): Built in 1823, this building was originally operated by Dr. Duffulo, one of the country’s first registered pharmacists. By all accounts, Duffulo was a great pharmacist and a good man. After his retirement, the pharmacy was purchased by Dr. Dupas and it is Dupas who allegedly haunts the building. Dupas was a cruel man and may not have even been a registered pharmacist. Worse, he experimented on pregnant slaves and conducted voodoo rights in the building. He may have been driven insane by syphilis, for that is what he died of in 1867. Dupas reportedly haunts the old pharmacy after closing hours and is often seen wearing a brown suit and a lab coat. He appears to be in his mid-sixties with a short and stocky build. People claim that his spirit throws books, moves items around in display cases and occasionally sets off the building's alarm system. 

  • The Supreme Court Of Louisiana (Corner of Royal and St. Louis Street): This building was originally home to the local courthouse from 1909 to 1964. In 1964 it became the headquarters of the Wildlife and Fisheries Museum. It then became home to the Supreme Court of Louisiana in 2004. The building is supposedly haunted by two entities who were witnesses in a famous area Mafia trial in the 1930s. Both were murdered inside the courthouse before they got a chance to testify. One entity is an African American man dressed in a white shirt and pants. The other is a young woman dressed in a brown suit and skirt.

  • La Petite Theatre (616 St Peter Street): According to legend, a woman named Caroline haunts the attic of this theater. She was an actress working at the theater in 1927. One account says the she hung herself after losing a coveted lead role to her director-boyfriend's new love. Another account says that she tumbled over the balcony after some affectionate trysting with that same director. Either way, some say that Caroline's spirit never left La Petite Theatre and she is often credited with moving objects around in the attic. Another entity called "The Captain" was once an avid fan of a certain actress and frequently attended plays in the same balcony seat. He is sometimes seen there by actors during rehearsals. 

  • The St. Germain House (corner of Royal and Ursulines): In 1903 a Frenchman named Jacques Saint Germain, who claimed to be a descendant of Comte d’ Saint Germain, arrived in New Orleans. Jacques took up residence in a house at the corner of Royal and Ursuline streets and was often seen with a different lady on his arm every night. One December night a woman’s piercing scream was heard coming from Jacques’ home. The woman then jumped from a second floor window onto the street below. She told the onlookers who had gathered to help her how Saint Germain attacked and bitten her, and that she jumped out of the window to escape. She died later that evening at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. By the time the New Orleans police kicked in the door of Saint Germain’s home, he had escaped. However, they did find ample evidence of his handiwork which included large bloodstains in the wooden flooring as well as several crates of wine, some of which made it to the dinner tables of various police officers. They were disgusted when they realized the wine was mixed with human blood. Saint Germain had been siphoning off blood from his female victims and had been putting it in the wine. You might say that he had a woman in every "port". Saint Germaine is reputed to be a vampire and is occasionally seen in the French Quarter wearing gothic clothing and green sunglasses. 

  • The LaLaurie Mansion (1140 Royal Street): Respected socialite Madame LaLaurie hosted many lavish parties at her beautiful mansion in the 1830's. Her lifestyle was made possible by her troupe of slaves whom she often mistreated. Mistreatment of slaves was illegal and society began to shun LaLaurie after she was witnessed chasing a young servant girl with a whip. The girl leaped to her death from the roof in her efforts to avoid LaLaurie. LaLaurie's slaves were taken away under charges of abuse and sold at auction. She convinced a cousin to buy the slaves and return them to her.

    Soon after, during yet another extravagant party hosted by LaLaurie, a fire broke out in the kitchen. Firefighters had discovered that a servant had set the fire by immolating herself. Before she died, she implored the authorities to investigate the attic. What was found was a grisly attic torture chamber. Nude slaves, most of them dead, were discovered. Some were chained to the walls, some were strapped to makeshift operating tables, and others were confined in animal cages. They had undergone various elaborate forms of torture and mutilation. When news of the discovery became public, an angry mob drove LaLaurie and her family from the city and reports that the house is haunted have been rampant ever since. Many have claimed to hear screams of agony coming from the empty house. Others have seen apparitions of slaves walking about the property.

    The house has changed hands numerous times and has served as a private home as well as a musical conservatory, a school for young women and a saloon. Actor Nicholas Cage owned the house for a while and reportedly spent only two nights in the house before selling it. Although many of the building’s owners have experienced some form of haunting in the house, I doubt that's why Nick Cage sold it. He most likely got rid of it due to his issues with the tax man. Rumor has it that Johnny Depp currently owns the house.

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