By: A. Cordeiro
“Grand”, “festive” and “haunted” are three of the most commonly used adjectives to describe the city of New Orleans. The American city is known throughout the globe for its supposed “supernaturality”, for its grand celebrations on the holiday of Mardi Gras, and, most importantly, for being the origin of the great genre of music known as Jazz. On a creepier note, New Orleans is recognized as the city of vampires, ghosts, witches, and, most importantly, the ancient art of voodoo. But what are these supernatural theories and why are they so believable?
Let us begin our supernatural tour of this city at St Louis’s cemetery, the place where witches are said to perform their spells and where spirits communicate with the living on specific nights of the year. All of the graves in the cemetery are located above ground, and it is in this cemetery where many of the city’s icons are buried. The most visited grave in the cemetery is that of Marie Laveau, who is also known as the queen of Voodoo. Many people who have visited the cemetery have claimed to have seen her spirit roaming around the many rows of graves and some have even ventured to the cemetery at night to communicate with spirits who call it their home. Many tourists, when visiting the cemetery draw three Xs on Marie Laveau’s grave as it is said that if one draws this symbol on her grave, she will grant all of your most grandiose wishes. However, only after returning to the grave with a present. Those who have claimed to see Laveau and were brave enough to question her beliefs appeared with scratches, bruises, or were even pinched or shoved onto the ground mysteriously. Many people have also claimed to see Laveau walking through the French Quarter, and even in front of her own house, however they say that when they went up to her, she would simply disappear. Yet another ghost said to roam the cemetery is that of Henry Vignes, a man who lived in New Orleans and wanted to be buried in St Louis’s when his time came. However, after he died at sea, the woman who was supposedly caring for his family’s grave sold it, meaning that Henry was put to rest in an unmarked area. Those who have seen him tend to not realize he is a ghost, as most typically he walks up to them and asks if they have seen his family’s grave. It is also said that he attends funerals and asks those grieving if there is any space for him in their family’s grave. There have even been records of Henry wandering through the graveyard and pleading for someone to give him a resting place.
Now, let us visit the haunted LaLaurie mansion, home to the once acclaimed serial killer Delphine Lalaurie. Madame Lalaurie allegedly kept, tortured, and murdered the slaves she kept, hence her being named a serial killer. There have been countless reports of paranormal activity happening in the house or even to near proximity of it. There have been claims of moaning and screaming coming from the main room Lalaurie kept the slaves in, the sound of footsteps and creaking planks of wood, and some people have even said that when standing near the house, they were overtaken by a dragging, negative energy. However, the death of these slaves was not the only tragedy this house has faced. In the 1890s, a tenant who lived on the property was murdered mercilessly in his room. Whilst being interviewed, a friend of the tenant, said that his friend regularly told him about the ‘demon’ who was living with him, and that this demon said that he would not rest until the tenant met his end. The worst part is that when the police were investigating the murder, they could not find any evidence of a forced entry or of any stolen goods. During the mid-nineties, the mansion was turned into a boarding school for young African-American girls, who, after a while, began telling the teachers that a ‘woman’, presumably the spirit of Delphine Lalaurie, was scratching and beating them.
Carrying on, we make our way to the heart of New Orleans, the French Quarter, and the place acclaimed to being infected with blood-sucking monsters, or more commonly known as vampires. In the 1930s, two brothers, John and Wayne Carter, were believed to be vampires. They lived in the French Quarter, which is why it is known as the area of the vampires in New Orleans. There are reports of a girl having escaped the brother’s house crying with cut all over her body. When the police went to investigate the manor, they found four dead bodies tied to chairs with cuts all over their bodies, and two other people completely drained of blood. The two brothers were executed for their crimes and were buried in their family’s tomb. A few years later, two workers opened the tomb to place another family member inside, when they noticed there was no trace the brothers had ever been buried there. This is one of the city’s most famous vampire legends.
The last stop of our tour is at a voodoo store. New Orleans is greatly known for its witch community, which focuses mostly on the magic of voodoo. Voodoo arrived at New Orleans with enslaved West Africans, who refused to give up their beliefs and customs. The West Africans merged their beliefs with those of the Catholic population in the area, which is why the religion was given the name of voodoo-Catholicism. After all the slaves in New Orleans were freed in 1791, kings and queens of the religion became highly important in society. The religion consists on the belief that there is not one God but that there are many spirits who affect our daily lives. Consequently, the religion revolves around connecting with these spirits, which is done by dance, chanting, or snake rituals. Today, voodoo can still be seen throughout the city as many shops still sell talismans, potions and gris-gris dolls. Gris-gris dolls are believed to protect the owner from evil or even bring them luck or happiness. Many voodoo practices continue to take place in the city as well, such as reading, prayers, and spiritual baths, and are used to cure anything negative that might be happening to someone. As said before, New Orleans’s most famous voodoo queen was Marie Laveau, who greatly influenced the religion and created many important celebrations, such as that of St. John’s Eve.
In conclusion, it can be said that New Orleans is one of the world’s hotspots for the supernatural and that its culture revolves around many of these supernatural aspects. New Orleans, due to all these supernatural occurrences, has been the setting of many famous television shows, such as American Horror Story and The Originals and is marked by these characteristics throughout the world for the light that has been brought upon the city through these mediums.