Some Ghosts of New Orleans

Ghost Hunting podcast - Hollow HillThis is another one of my earliest podcasts. I recorded it in October 2006, shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The following topics are part of this 20-minute recording.

NOLA - Pirates Alley, on a foggy, rainy night
Pirates Alley in New Orleans.

Hotel Monteleone appears to be a portal of some kind. (That’s true of many French Quarter locations.) This hotel is unusual because people not only encounter the hotel’s ghosts, they seem to connect with their own loved ones, as well.

Jackson Square‘s vivid military history is just one reason why it’s among New Orleans’ most haunted areas.

Pirates’ Alley is named after the ghost of pirate Jean Lafitte. He and his brothers – and perhaps other pirates – appear in that alley by the cathedral, especially on foggy nights.

Brennan’s Restaurant is a popular, internationally famous restaurant. It’s also the home of four ghosts. Two appear upstairs. Two appear downstairs.

New Orleans is still among America’s best places to encounter ghosts. Some areas of New Orleans are still in recovery, even in 2017 as I’m updating this.

But, the French Quarter was barely touched by the hurricane and the flooding that followed. So, it’s still a wonderful old city with a great, ghostly history.

Related links:
The haunted portrait of Comte LeFleur : Three photos of his changing portrait.
Hotel Monteleone – One of New Orleans’ most elegant hotels is also one of its most haunted… in a good way.
New Orleans online – Learn more about one of America’s best vacation spots.
Brennan’s Restaurant – Visit for world-class dining… and a few encounters with real ghosts.

Listen now

New Orleans book: In this podcast, I mentioned a book that, late in 2006, I’d nearly completed. However, my publisher and I weren’t able to agree on several important issues. So, I’m sorry to say that book wasn’t published and I don’t expect to resume work on it.

Glitches: The sound quality isn’t very good, but – in 2006 – after two weeks of truly weird things happening to the recording, I decided to post it anyway.

Then, in 2009, when we changed Hollow Hill’s format and had to re-import all the files, this one file kept giving us problems. I’m not sure why, but it makes me wonder just what I said in the podcast that results in these weird glitches.

If the sound isn’t red-hot now (after Nov 2017), maybe the ghosts are playing pranks? Sometimes, their humor eludes me, but I try to smile anyway.

Music by: Devin Anderson (I think he’s now Devin Anderson Wiley)

Houmas House Ghosts (and The Bachelor TV Show)

A recent episode of the American TV series, The Bachelor, was filmed at Houmas House in Louisiana.

Ghost orbs at Houmas House (Louisiana)
Orbs hover at historic (and haunted) Houmas House, LA (This is my own photo, during my stay at the site.)

Many people have written to me, asking if that house is really “one of Louisiana’s most haunted houses.”

The answer is: yes, Houmas House is very haunted. More than most Louisiana “haunted” houses, and perhaps more than most houses in America.

In fact, I once recorded a lengthy podcast about Houmas House. I may restore it in the future, once I’ve updated it.

Until I do, this article should answer most questions.

Houmas House’s ghosts don’t bear much resemblance to the way they were presented in The Bachelor.

In fact, I strongly object to how Houmas House — and its spirits — were portrayed in that show.

My husband and I had the honor of spending a night inside Houmas House, thanks to the hospitality of its owner, Kevin Kelly.

He knew that I would thoroughly investigate the house, unsupervised. He also knew that I’d write a blunt and honest review of what I did (and didn’t) find there.

He put no limits on what I could explore, day or night. He was a superb host, and — after a tour to show us what was where, and explain some of the house’s history — he let us wander around the house & its grounds.

I was impressed.

Houmas House is haunted for many reasons

I believe the house is truly haunted, and the energy comes from multiple sources.

First, there’s the history of the house. That includes its connection to the creation of what’s often called the Confederate flag, from the War between the States.

The house has also been the scene of several tragedies, including the loss of a family cemetery that was washed away in the early 20th century.

Then, there’s the energy that’s been brought to the house by the public. I believe that public perception can energize otherwise dormant spiritual energy. (It’s sort of like the Law of Attraction. If you believe a place is creepy and haunted, maybe your beliefs & energy contribute to it.)

The movie “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” left Houmas House with a lasting connection to ghosts, madness, and gruesome events.

Yes, that movie was filmed at Houmas House. If you saw The Bachelor episode, you may recognize the style of the staircase in the following movie trailer.

Next, I believe Houmas House contains a larger-than-average collection of haunted objects.

From quirky artwork to antique “vampire hunter” kits, to some of Anne Rice’s furniture, objects at Houmas House provide an energy mix you won’t find in many other haunts, anywhere in the world.

The other structures — small cabins, etc., that may (or may not) still be on the property — also provide reasons why the site is haunted. They have their own stories to tell. And, their energy lingers.

And finally, the location of Houmas House — near a large body of water, and where it’s placed on the road, in energy (or feng shui) terms — makes it a prime location for paranormal reports.

Some of the house’s eeriness can be attributed to infrasound from the nearby water. However, even if I discount the “creepy feeling” that seems to drift through Houmas House from time to time, infrasound can’t explain everything odd I experienced at the site.

During my visit to Houmas House, I saw several ghosts, mostly during the day.

The tall man at the front gate

In broad daylight on a sunny day, I saw a ghostly figure at the front gates. Another guest saw him, as well. We were up on the “widow’s walk” viewing deck at the top of the house.

The figure looked like a distinctive, slim, very tall man, pacing back and forth as if waiting for someone.

When I mentioned him to Kevin Kelly, he showed me an old photo. The dark-skinned man in the picture was an exact match for the slightly translucent person I’d seen at the front gates.

I had no doubt that it was the same person.

And, since I think I was the first person to report seeing that ghost, there’s no way Kevin was prepared to provide supporting evidence. (In fact, he had to go looking for the photo. When I confirmed what I’d seen, I think Kevin was more surprised than I was.)

The little girl on the stairs

Visitors and construction workers (making repairs and renovations) have reported a little girl on the house’s distinctive spiral staircase.

Kevin showed me one photo that I didn’t think was credible. But, I’ve heard and read other reports of the figure, and those were believable.

During my visit, I sensed something on the stairs, but I can’t claim that I saw a convincing apparition.

The ghost in the Bette Davis room

I believe that I saw a reflection of a reflection of a little girl in the room where actress Bette Davis had slept during the filming of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

The reflection appeared on the glass front of a clock in that room.

I turned to see who was behind me. That’s when I saw the reflection of a little girl across the room. She was very small, no more than about five years old… maybe slightly older, if she was particularly petite.

She was there… and then she was gone. All I can tell you is that I had the idea that one of her arms was injured or even deformed. It’s as if she was concealing it.

As I recall, I saw her in a mirror in that room. But, I’ll need to find my notes (and my old photos from that visit) to confirm that.

Kevin didn’t seem to think that Bette Davis experienced anything unusual when she slept in that room.

However, any ghost with an ounce of sense would stay far away from Ms. Davis. She was known for being strong-willed and sharp-tongued. She would not willingly share her room with a ghost.

Those are the ghosts I clearly recall from my visit to Houmas House. (My husband and I slept soundly in a guest room on the top floor of the house. If that floor was haunted, the ghosts didn’t disturb me that night.)

The Bachelor TV show… and poor production decisions

The Houmas House episode of The Bachelor was embarrassing to watch.

From the start, I was skeptical when the ghostly little girl was given a name, “May.”

Perhaps someone has successfully documented the ghost’s identity, but the Houmas House website doesn’t suggest that.

Then, the doll that they showed in the glass case did not seem to fit the correct time period. (Also, the staging with “Boo” outside, saying that someone had disturbed the doll… it seemed added as an after-thought. It didn’t make much sense.)

When Houmas House’s lights suddenly went out, and then when the chandelier seemed to crash (almost) to the floor, I was ready to stop watching the show.

Those kinds of things don’t happen in most truly haunted houses. Most of the time, they’re staged for silly movies and TV shows.

My biggest complaint was related to the Ouija board scene.

Yes, the letters had been painted white. That doesn’t make the board any less dangerous.

There is no way I’d allow anyone to use a Ouija board at a haunted site, unless everyone involved knew exactly what the risks might be.

(I’m not saying that Ouija boards are inherently evil. My personal issue with Ouija boards is that too many people use them for “fun,” not realizing that some divination tools open doors. Once a door is opened, an unprotected person can be at risk.)

Ouija board issues

In the following YouTube video (actually, an audio with video added later), John Zaffis talks about his experiences with Zozo and Ouija boards.

(I’ve known John Zaffis for about 20 years, and I respect him. He’s very different from how he was portrayed on the Haunted Collector TV show. If I’d ever considered accepting a role on a ghost-related TV show… well, after seeing how they edited John, there’s no way I’d put my reputation in the hands of TV producers.)

Also, in this video, that silliness about Aleister Crowley using the Sun symbol as something evil, and other text & images added to the video…? Ignore them. I’m including this video only for John’s description of the Zozo phenomenon.

And, since I mentioned the weird, strange, and possibly haunted objects at Houmas House, here’s a video of John Zaffis sharing his views on that topic.

I don’t agree with him on all points, but I definitely defer to his greater experience in the field of dangerous haunted objects, and demon-like entities.

Houmas House is worth visiting

Despite my skepticism and irritation with how Houmas House was portrayed on The Bachelor, the site is definitely worth visiting.

That’s not just because you might encounter a ghost in broad daylight.

It’s also because the house is magnificent, it has a fascinating history, and it represents an era (and architecture) you rarely see so well-preserved, anywhere in the South.

[When I find my old notes & photos related to Houmas House’s ghosts, I’ll add them at this website. For now, this summary should explain why I believe the house is haunted… and why you shouldn’t judge it by what was shown on The Bachelor.]

Photographing Ghost Orbs

The following is an edited excerpt from the first edition of Ghost Photography 101, by Fiona Broome.

Orbs are probably the most popular evidence of ghosts and hauntings.

Orbs are the easiest for beginners to capture in photos. They can be confused with dust, bugs, pollen, reflections and moisture… but not as often as you might think.

This photo at the lower right shows a typical orb at Pine Hill Cemetery (also called “Blood cemetery”) in Hollis, New Hampshire.  The picture was taken near some of the oldest graves in the cemetery. This orb is unusual because it was photographed without a flash.

Daytime orb - Pine Hill 'Blood' Cemetery - Hollis, NH
Arrow points at daytime orb – no flash, no reflection, no lens flare.

About 90% of orbs are photographed using the camera’s flash.  This suggests that orbs have some physical content that reflects the light of the flash.

However, if orbs have a physical form, more people should see them in real life.

In fact, most people don’t see orbs, except in their photos.

Orbs usually white or pale blue, but they can appear in a variety of colors, both pastels and vivid shades.  Some are very faint.  Others are bright and almost opaque.

Now and then, orbs seem to include faces, but most are simply translucent circular (or spherical) shapes.

Sometimes the face closely resembles the person whose ghost is supposed to haunt the site.  That’s eerily reminiscent of the fake ghost photos of the late 19th century… and baffling.

Some “face” orbs are reported in locations more associated with faeries than with ghosts.

For now, orbs are a mystery and deserve more study.  We don’t have many answers, yet.

Orbs often appear close to people. I’ve seen hundreds of orb photos in which the orb is near a baby or a bride.  It’s difficult to dismiss them as mere coincidence.  Many people are comforted by an orb that represents a loved one who’s crossed over, and is visiting our world to celebrate a happy event with his or her family.

Ghost orb over historic home in Katy, TX
Orb over historic home in Katy, Texas.

Other orbs seem to manifest near haunted objects or specific locations.

The photo on the left shows a solitary orb over a house in Katy, Texas.  It’s one of just a few homes that survived the famous Galveston Flood of 1900.  The night was cool and dry with no insects and no breezes.

Many people think that the Galveston Flood affected the island of Galveston and that’s all.

If you research that famous flood, you’ll see that the flood extended into Houston and surrounding areas.  (It was comparable to Hurricane Harvey in 2007.)

As a result, there are many rich stories and tragedies from that disaster, and some may indicate haunted locations.

In the photo at the lower right, orbs hover near haunted Houmas House in Louisiana.  It’s an extraordinary location for ghost photos.  Houmas House may look familiar because it’s been featured in movies and TV shows.  It was also the home of the man who designed the famous “Stars and Bars” flag of the Civil War.  Ghosts of Confederate soldiers have been reported near the house.

I’ve seen two full apparitions at Houmas House.  One was in the bedroom where Bette Davis slept while filming “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” at the house.

The other was at the front gate, where I saw an unusually tall black man pacing.   At first, I saw him from the “widow’s walk” on top of Houmas House.  The apparition looked only slightly translucent.  It was a sunny morning, and I saw him very clearly.

Ghost orbs at Houmas House (Louisiana)
Orbs hover at historic (and haunted) Houmas House, LA

I wanted a closer look, so I dashed downstairs and out the front door.  The figure was clearly visible until I was about 30 feet from him.  He faded quickly.  It probably took less than half a second.

After the apparition vanished from sight, I asked Kevin Kelly — the owner of Houmas House — about the ghost.  I described the figure in detail.  Mr. Kelly knew exactly which man I was describing.

Mr. Kelly showed me a photograph of the former slave, taken during the man’s lifetime.  I recognized the man in the photo right away.  His apparition looks almost exactly the same today.

I wish I’d been able to capture his ghostly image in a photo.  However, these kinds of encounters indicate locations — such as Louisiana’s Houmas House — where ghost photos are likely.

This is important: Credible ghost photos rarely occur unless other ghostly phenomena are reported, too.

[LA] – New Orleans – Brennan’s Restaurant – Ghostly Ecto?

Ecto-like image over Brennan's RestaurantWhen there’s a normal explanation for a photo, I want to find it.  Sometimes, I can’t discover a good explanation.  Not one that works for the setting and the circumstances, that is.

That’s the case with this July 2005 photo at Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

I’ve written about Brennan’s Red Room ghosts.  The photo, above, is completely unedited.  I didn’t even lighten it.  The picture was taken in July 2005, about a month before Hurricane Katrina.

It was a clear night, drier than most July nights in Louisiana.  However, because it was July, I’m discounting the orbs near the light-colored area.  I’m focusing on the light area itself. (No light-related puns intended.)

It was too hot to be using a fireplace, and Brennan’s kitchen is in another part of the building and fully enclosed.  There was no mist above Brennan’s, so that’s not a reflection of the street lights.  In fact, we didn’t see anything unusual when I took this picture.  It was one of those ‘gut feeling’ photos… that innate, perhaps intuitive feeling that something would show up if I took a few pictures.

We were across the street from Brennan’s, so my flash was too far away to highlight the air above the restaurant.  There were no skylights or spotlights that night, either.

If the light area were caused by something natural, we should have seen this ecto-looking area ourselves.

So, I’m not sure what the light area is.  It’s almost directly above the room where, years ago, workmen in Brennan’s saw a terrifying face outside the window.  (Those burly workmen were so frightened, they ran down the stairs and broke out through the locked doors.  They never returned to Brennan’s.)

Sometimes, anomalies in photos are simply odd.  There may be an explanation for this picture, but we can’t be sure.  For every ‘normal’ explanation,  at least three of us can argue convincingly that the normal explanation doesn’t fit the time, location and conditions of the photo.

I’m reluctant to label this ‘ecto’, because it could be something else.  However, it’s the subtle kind of anomaly that’s easily overlooked when you’re expecting orbs, a vortex, or something more dramatic.

For many of us, the subtle anomalies can be more interesting than the obvious ones.

[LA] Myrtles Plantation – More ‘Ghost Orb’ Photo Tips

Ghost orb pictures are among the most popular evidence of hauntings, and orbs can be the easiest subjects for beginning ghost photographers.

Some people seem to attract ghost orbs more than others. We’ve known ghost hunters who never see orbs in their photos, but they get great EVP… and vice versa.

Those of us who do capture ghost orbs in pictures, also seem to bring home higher percentages of ghost orb photos each time. We don’t know if the ghosts have become more comfortable with us, or if we’re developing an innate sense of where the orbs are.

Some ghost researchers claim that one or two orb photos per hundred (using a film camera) is very good. In profoundly haunted locations, as many as 35% of my photos will include anomalous orbs.

However, at The Myrtles Plantation, several of us — mostly researcher Margaret Byl (of G.H.O.S.T.S.) and I — were taking photos outdoors, after dark. To our amazement, we saw no orbs in pictures where humidity should have produced them.

The photo, above (dark scene with white picket fence), was taken in back of The Myrtles Plantation, near the marshy land and pond. We expected at least a half dozen false (natural) orbs in this and other photos.

(I haven’t analyzed other patterns yet, such as images in the grass that may be significant.)

I’ve included this photo to show you that, even in a very haunted location, professional ghost hunters don’t always find great orbs or other anomalies in their photos.

INDOOR ORBS

Indoors, we’re cautious when an orb might be from a reflective surface. (That’s rare,* but it can happen. So, we err on the side of skepticism.)

At the right, you can see one of my few good orb photos taken at The Myrtles Plantation. (An enhanced close-up is shown on the left, below.)

That’s a broken piano at the entry to the most haunted wing of The Myrtles Plantation. We checked the piano carefully, and some of the keys are jammed so that the piano doesn’t work. In fact, it can’t.

We also examined it closely for microphones or other evidence of a hoax. It’s a real, broken piano with nothing added.

There’s no sound equipment anywhere in that wing, that could account for what we heard later that night.

During our visit, that piano started playing all by itself, around midnight. I’d heard the stories of the piano music, of course.

However, I was expecting something classical… a piece by Debussy or something.

Not even close.  It wasn’t a melody, but the “plink, plink, plink” of a small child tapping on the keys at the far right side of the keyboard.

The experience was eerie, but one of the less startling events of a dramatic night at The Myrtles Plantation.

We weren’t at all surprised to see an orb over the piano in several of our photos — taken from different directions — including this one.

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*For years, I was among the most skeptical voices regarding “ghost orbs.” Then, after several years’ intense study of orbs — with multiple cameras (film and digital) as well as many of the “usual suspects” including dust, pollen, insects, and moisture — I discovered that it’s very difficult to create a convincing (but fake) orb in photos.

Since then, I’ve been trying to undo the damage I caused by my early (199os and early 2000s) assertions.