Monday, July 23, 2012

Haunted History Tours' Ghost Tour

NEW ORLEANS -- As a paranormal investigator, one of the first things I like to do when checking out the supernatural activity in any particular city is take the local ghost tour. Some are good, some are bad -- and some are the real deal. And that is most assuredly the case with Haunted History Tours, a company that takes its participants to real sites throughout New Orleans associated not just with ghosts, but also voodoo and even vampirism (no, the Big Easy's role as a reputed haunt for bloodsuckers did not start with Anne Rice).

On the day we took our ghost tour of the French Quarter, my wife Diane and I met with Haunted History Tours founder Sidney Smith outside of Rev. Zombie's Voodoo Shop (shown at left, during a daytime lull in the action), just a few blocks from the chaos of Bourbon Street. It would literally be fair to say that he helped "write the book" on paranormal activity in New Orleans, as he collaborated on author Kalila Smith's New Orleans Ghosts, Voodoo, and Vampires, a must-read primer for anyone interested in any of the title subjects. Using everything from crime reports, to historic records, to first-hand accounts, he and his staff have meticulously researched the haunted histories of the sites to which they take tour-goers.

All of Haunted History Tours' guides look pretty good but I would still say that we were lucky to get Jesse St. Croix, a native of witch-haunted Salem, Mass., who visited New Orleans in 1975 and decided he never wanted to leave. He brings a winning combination of knowledge, passion, and showmanship to the tours he leads, making them as informative as they are enjoyable. Over a two-hour period, St. Croix led us through the humid, darkened streets of the French Quarter to a number of the most significant haunted places located there.

Foremost among the places we visited was certainly the LaLaurie Mansion, a hulking edifice whose whose socialite lady had tortured to death dozens, perhaps even hundreds of slaves in the mid-19th century. It has been considered to be haunted from the day the crimes committed in it were discovered and has had such a disturbing effect on people since then that most recent owners -- including actor Nicholas Cage -- refuse to spend the night in it. (For those interested in ostensible paranormal phenomena, note the two small orbs in the right half of the picture, both of which appear to have faces on them.)

Other haunted locales we visited on the tour included Muriel's, a haunted restaurant; the home of Civil War General P.G.T. Beauregard; the Andrew Jackson Hotel (shown here); a haunted bar; and the home where a mulatto mistress froze to death on the roof while trying to entice her master to marry her. The evils of slavery, intemperance, and greed have imposed their legacy not just upon the visible history of New Orleans, but upon its haunted one as well, and the time we spent with St. Croix gave us some fascinating and disturbing insights into that.

There is more to come! Keep your eye on this space for more details about the places we visited on the French Quarter ghost tour -- and for an account of Haunted History Tours' Vampire Tour!


Michelle R. Lane said...

I've taken most of the Haunted History tours, and the vampire tour is my favorite. I took it for the third time. Back in February when I was in NOLA celebrating my birthday. The ghost tour is awesome, too. If you ever have a chance to read the novel I'm working on, you're sure to cognize some of the haunts, like the LaLaurie house.

Michelle R. Lane said...

Wow, recognize. I'm still getting used to typing on my iPad.