Friday, March 30, 2018

A Tour Of St. Louis Cemetery #1

New Orleans is famous for its cemeteries with above-ground burial plots. Having plot after plot of stone crypts and mausoleums have an effect of creating cities of the dead, and, as such, make for unique tourist attractions. New Orleans was built on swamp land, and much of it is below sea level, which meant that if you dig just a few feet down, you'll end up striking water. And nobody wants a to be buried in a watery grave. So, the only solution was to build up.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 is located just outside of the French Quarter on Basin Street between St. Louis and Treme Streets. It's the final resting place of many famous New Orleans citizens like Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen. History records that the Laveau was buried somewhere in St. Louis Cemetery #1, but the exact location is disputed. Most sources say that she was buried in the Glapion family crypt, plot 347. Visitors to her tomb who seek her favor from beyond the grave draw an "X" on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back and circle their "X," and then leave Laveau an offering.

Other famous New Orleans citizens who are buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1 include chess champion Paul Morphy, Homer Plessy of the landmark Supreme Court segregation decision Plessy vs. Ferguson and Ernest "Dutch" Morial, the first African American mayor of New Orleans (although he was moved to a family plot in St. Louis Cemetery #3 in 2014). It is also the future resting place of actor Nicholas Cage.

These days, due primarily to the desecration of the alleged Marie Laveau tomb, the cemetery has been closed to the public. The only way in is to pay for a tour, which usually costs around $20. However, if you are a genealogist or have family buried in St. Louis Cemetery #1, you can get a pass from the New Orleans Archdiocese and get in for free. Since I've written a fair amount of genealogy articles for various publications, I qualified.

I decided to do a video tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1, so, with my daughter in tow and with two passes in our hands, we trekked out to the cemetery. Immediately, I was struck with the large number of tour groups. I would also discover soon that those tour guides don't like it when someone gets in for free. Can't have someone horning in on their meal ticket. At about 9:32 into the video, I bump into a tour guide who asks me if I had lost my group. "I am the group", I replied. She then asks if I am taking video, and, of course, I lied and said that I wasn't. She then threatens to call someone and actually gets on her cell phone in the middle of her tour to try and get me busted. From that point on, I start trying to avoid the tour groups in the cemetery, which was not an easy feat, given that there were so many of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment