Right before dark settles over the neighborhood where I live—and when those last spokes of light jutting out over the rooftops and through the trees just can’t possibly linger—I walk through my own personal movie set. The streets are free of cars, bikes, and other pedestrians; shadows split out from the corrugated gates and iron fences. It is undoubtedly beautiful, but there’s an otherworldly atmosphere that sharpens the senses.
Gas lamps burn outside empty and elegant living rooms, the flame’s glow licking at the door frame. A cat dashes across the street, catching the corner of your eye as you pass under the impossibly crooked, thick limbs of some very old tree.
With the horizon turning from dark blue to black, those lines between houses, trees, and the sky become more distinct and then, suddenly, less so. The dappled light is gone, and dusk’s short run is now temporarily over. This darkness tempts: as far as I can tell, no vampires, nor any other intoxicating spectral beings, wander these streets, but there’s a big part of me that wishes they would.
Gas lamps burn outside empty and elegant living rooms, the flame’s glow licking at the door frame. A cat dashes across the street, catching the corner of your eye as you pass under the impossibly crooked, thick limbs of some very old tree. Distant music ebbs out from across a perfectly manicured lawn, but it’s impossible to tell from where it really comes.
You can stop for a moment and wallow in the eeriness of it all, but in terms of New Orleans you’re only beginning to scratch the surface. This is a city that leans towards the unusual and uncanny. Here are 13 things that you can do to capture the spirit of spooky New Orleans.
1. Go on a Ghost City Tours tour
Ghost City Tours is so confident that you’ll get goosebumps from their tour that they offer a money-back guarantee. It’s the best ghost tour in this city, so you’re not going to be asking for a refund.
2. Visit the secret room at M.S. Rau Antiques
On the surface, this may not seem particularly creepy, but once you’ve checked out the dazzling array of antique items at this Royal Street antique shop, ask to go on a tour. After you do that, ask to see the “secret room” at M.S. Rau, which you access through a hidden door and where there’s a whole other set of historic artifacts from creepy to downright macabre.
3. Spend a night at the Hotel Monteleone
According to reports, there is no shortage of ghostly activity at this stunning Beaux Arts-style hotel in the French Quarter. Of course, there is the rotating carousel piano bar, which adds a layer of surrealism to the environment, but it’s the haunting of this place by former guests, staff, and owners that’s more likely to send a shiver up your spine. (For example, the ghostly appearance of toddler Maurice Begere, who died of yellow fever while at the hotel.)
4. But also stay at Le Pavillon Hotel
It’s a close competition between Hotel Monteleone and her fellow downtown resident, Le Pavillon Hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Keeping in step with the city’s robust paranormal culture, Le Pavillion has her own: the ghost of a girl named Ada, a teenager who was hit and killed by a carriage before she could join her family on a ship journey. Ada is regularly seen in the hotel’s lobby, stating the words, “Pardon me — I am very lost.”
5. Try to ‘Escape My Room.”
A session at “Escape My Room” entails you and up to six guests being locked in a room (no leaving!) to try and solve the mystery of an infamous New Orleans family, the DeLaportes. You will be provided with clues to help figure out the location of a missing family treasure; only once you figure out this mental puzzle will you be let out. Part team-building, part trust-building, it’s a whole new way to bond with friends, family, or colleagues.
A trip to NOLA is not complete without a pilgrimage to one of the great ‘Cities of the Dead.’
6. Swing by the Museum of Death.
This is a personal favorite on the list. If you want to know more about this new addition to the city, check out another GoNOLA piece on the museum.
7. Make a pilgrimage to Marie Laveau’s tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Marie Laveau is remembered as the most powerful (and famous) of the city’s voodoo practitioners. Positioned in New Orleans’ oldest cemetery, her tomb attracts a great deal of attention from locals and tourists alike. A trip to NOLA is not complete without a pilgrimage to one of the great “Cities of the Dead.”
8. Test your nerve at The House of Shock
For 22 seasons, The House of Shock has been an essential part of the New Orleans Halloween experience. Located just outside the city in Jefferson, LA, The House of Shock is open from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. every Friday and Saturday of October. Two new additions mark the latest incarnation of The House of Shock: The Bordello of Freaks (an old-school freak exhibition) and Laff in the Dark (featuring the true stuff of nightmares: clowns).
9. Peruse the collection at The Hermann-Grima House
Throughout the month of October, this historic house re-enacts the funeral of the family Grima’s matriarch. The Hermann-Grima house is a true example of New Orleans splendor, offering a glimpse into this city’s complicated (and at times tragic) past.
10. Catch the sunset over the Lafayette Cemetery
If there’s a place to be reminded of one’s own mortality in a stunning way, it’s taking a walk around the perimeter of Lafayette Cemetery, one of the city’s iconic above-ground cemeteries, at the end of the day. And you can always reflect on life with a martini in hand at that other New Orleans icon, Commander’s Palace (it’s right across the street).
11. Hang with the Ghosts of Military Past at the Beauregard-Keyes House and Garden Museum
It’s said to be haunted by its former owner, the Confederate Army General P.G.T. Beauregard. But that’s not all. Apparently General Beauregard still commands his troops from the “Great Beyond,” so don’t be afraid if you hear boots on the ground at the Beauregard-Keyes House. It’s just the General and his men.
12. Sip a cocktail at the Old Absinthe House
For more than 200 years this bar has been a true staple of the Vieux Carré. Deceased patrons have been spotted at the Old Absinthe House, fulfilling the house’s motto: “Everyone you have known or ever will know, eventually ends up at the old absinthe house.”
13. Don’t forget the Columns Hotel
The word is that there are a few ghosts that you might bump into at The Columns Hotel, but the disembodied Southern gentleman who stops by to see guests might be the most dread-inducing. Order a second Pimm’s Cup to take the edge off.