|No building or office for Haunted History Tours - just this |
sign and a card table set up on the sidewalk.
|Our tour guide and his dog.|
We walked a couple of blocks down the road to the back of the St. Louis Cathedral. We stopped and he began telling a story, but first, he informed us that he was "the real deal," born and raised in the swamps around New Orleans and a full-blooded Indian. He lives in the French Quarter and knows all the stories and all the people and there are stories told about him. He has plenty of women friends because they find him "interesting, a bit scary, a bit dangerous...and they like my dog." I didn't find him to be any of those things, but his dog was kinda cute.
|St. Louis Cathedral|
In 1764, the King of France gave Louisiana to the Spanish in the Treaty of Fountainbleu. The people of New Orleans though, were not informed of this before a group of Spanish soldiers showed up, took down the French flag and replaced it with a Spanish flag. Thinking they were being invaded, the Creole people banded together with six men serving as their leaders and drove out the Spanish soldiers. Of course, the Spanish didn't appreciate this so in 1769, 24 war ships carrying hundreds of fully armed soldiers arrived to assert Spanish ownership. A new merciless governor arrived with the troops and ordered the 6 leaders of the Creole brought to him. They tried to tell him they didn't know about the treaty when they drove out the earlier Spanish, but he paid no heed to their pleas and order them to be hanged in the courtyard of the St. Louis Cathedral. He also issued a decree that nobody was allowed to touch the hanged men; they were to be left hanging until their bodies rotted as a warning to anyone else who dared question his authority. Anyone caught trying to remove the bodies would join them.
The priest of the cathedral, Pere Dagobert, pleaded with the governor, but was told to stop asking or the next time he would suffer the same fate. Soon, the bodies began to stink and birds began to eat the decaying flesh. Even the Spanish soldiers were repulsed and thought the governor had gone too far. Finally, during one stormy night, Father Dagobert gathered the families of the six men, cut down the bodies and placed them in pine boxes. He then loudly sang mass in his clear, distinctive voice and led a funeral procession to St. Peter's Cemetery where the men's remains were buried in unmarked graves. The sympathetic Spanish soldiers conveniently had to go inside for a bathroom break or for protection from the storm and were all temporarily away from their posts so nobody stopped the priest's activities. Word soon got to the governor, but even he figured out that if he hung the beloved priest, there would be such a backlash that he would not be able to trust his own soldiers with his safety. Father Dagobert was replaced by a Spanish monk as leader of the church, but he continued to oversee his flock until he died of natural causes and was honored by being buried under the altar.
For many years, personal sightings and experiences have been reported of Father Pere Dagobert and the 6 unfortunate executed men. Nothing strange seems to happen during the day, but once the cathedral is closed to the general public in the afternoon, witnesses tell of faintly hearing mass sang in a clear, beautiful voice at the altar. The singing then travels down the aisle toward the doors and a bright light moves from window to window until the voice fades as it seems to head out the doors and on toward where St. Peter's Cemetery was located. During stormy evenings, the ghostly image of Father Dagobert often materializes and can be seen by the living, kneeling in prayer. Perhaps he still prays for peace for the 6 executed men, or maybe he simply continues to pray for the safety and well being of the city and church he loved. And whenever he can be seen, visages of the 6 men can also be seen in the shadowy doorways and corners of the church, standing ready to assist him, forever grateful for giving them a proper funeral.
|The Andrew Jackson Hotel|
|Chief Dunderhead in front of Madame John's Legacy|
On Dumaine Street is a house called Madame John's Legacy. It was built for Jean ("John") Paschal, a sailor who was killed in the Natchez Massacre of 1729. His widow remained in the home until 1777. The house served as a set in the movie "Interview With The Vampire" in 1994. The scene is of caskets being carried out of the house and placed in horse-drawn hearses and Lewis (Brad Pitt) reveals Lestat's (Tom Cruise) "mischievous" practice of feasting on French Quarter families. However, the spirits reported in the area are most probably due to the yellow fever epidemic which struck in 1853. In this city of 154,000 people, almost 8,000 died in a few short months. In the month of August that year, 1,186 died the first week, 1,526 died the second week, 1,534 the third week, and 1,628 the fourth week. The streets were deserted from fear as the cause of the disease was unknown at that time. So many people died that bodies in the French Quarter were simply piled up outside on the sidewalks of Dumaine Street to wait for the hospital's death carriages to come by and pick them up. It was not uncommon for there to be several dozen anonymous bodies piled up each day in front of the house now known as Madame John's Legacy. Carriages used as hearses would haul 8 - 10 coffins each to the cemeteries. Confusion and delays at the cemeteries were unavoidable so lines of hearses 2 to 3 miles long were often waiting at the gates. The hot August sun, high humidity, lack of time to embalm any of the bodies and the hastily built simple knot-holed pine coffins containing the quickly decaying bodies rendered the air putrid. It's no wonder the spirits of these poor departed are restless.
|The elementary school Mr. Simmons attended.|
About 45 minutes of our 2-hour tour had expired with 10 minutes of that spent waiting on the tour to start. We now followed our intrepid guide to a spot which is supposed to be very haunted. Nothing happened while we were there so I can't say anything about the haunting, but the building certainly had some interesting history - Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street. The structure was built in 1772 and remained untouched by the great fires of 1788 and 1794. Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre ran a most profitable business from this building by outfitting and financing pirates who plundered goods from ships at sea and then brought the ill gotten booty back to the Lafitte's business to be sold. Since they avoided government fees and taxes, the goods could be sold far cheaper than the honest businessmen could sell their legal wares and soon, almost everyone else was out of business. Eventually, to speed up the process and to ensure all of the captured goods were brought back to their store, they purchased their own ships and became pirates themselves.
|Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop|
The Lafittes moved their operations to the gulf coast of Texas and went back to being pirates after their pardon. After moving several more times when the heat from authorities became too great, the Lafitte brothers faded from the scene with Pierre dying from an illness in 1821 and Jean supposedly being killed in battle as a pirate while trying to capture several Spanish vessels. Some historians however, claim he survived the battle and returned to New Orleans where he changed his name and retired on his pirate riches.
Jean was known to hide a large stash of gold within the brick walls of the structure's fireplace. For many years now the building has been a neighborhood bar and patrons claim to have seen a pair of red eyes watching them from within the fireplace. There have also been reports of inexplicable cold spots near the fireplace even when there is a roaring fire. Several paranormal investigators have said they feel an aura of "unwholesomeness" near the fireplace. Bar patrons sitting near the fireplace have also reported being touched by a cold hand, but when they turn, nobody is there. Jean is known to have smoked cigars and there is often the distinct aroma of cigar smoke in the area. There have been a number of reports of Jean's ghost materializing in the women's restroom. Evidently, his penchant for women remains even in death. Most disturbing, however, are the reports of people seeing a ghostly Jean appearing in corners looking annoyed at the living and twirling his mustache in his fingers. When seen, the figure quickly disappears. There is a mirror upstairs where Jean lived which is reputed to often have the visage of a woman reflected in it. Perhaps it is Jean's true love, the wife of the Louisiana governor who no doubt enjoyed numerous afternoon trysts in the room. Perhaps it is simply some poor forgotten girl who fell hard for Jean, but was rejected by him after he was finished with her.
Chief Dunderhead then told us he needed a break to wet his whistle and we probably did too and since he is good friends with the owner of Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, we should all try one of the establishment's famous drinks and then take advantage of the bar's bathrooms. And with that, he walked off and left us for the next 30 minutes. We waited for our guide to return and we waited for dusk to become full night. We still had sites to see and Chief Dunderhead told us ghosts come out after dark. Perhaps the best is yet to come.