[LA] New Orleans – French Quarter ghosts after Katrina

Pat O'Brien's in January 2006
Pat O’Brien’s in January 2006 – multiple orbs

My report from the French Quarter- January 2006

Ghosts have always been at home in New Orleans’ French Quarter. However, since Hurricane Katrina in mid-2005, hauntings have increased dramatically, though the French Quarter was barely touched by Katrina.

Despite the devastation in surrounding areas, the Quarter is an oasis. There weren’t as many tourists in January 2006 — largely because hotel rooms were being used by insurance adjustors, people associated with FEMA, and so on. However, the Quarter was just as welcoming as ever, and at least 80% of businesses reopened months ago. Day or night, it’s easy to forget that Katrina ever happened… except for the renewed paranormal energy in the French Quarter.

ORBS, ORBS… EVERYWHERE

In the past, I thought it was difficult to distinguish real orbs from those caused by New Orleans’ naturally high humidity, especially in the summer. Generally, I attributed most orbs to NOLA’s climate.

As of early 2006, I’m not sure what to think about the hundreds of orbs in French Quarter photos. The weather doesn’t explain them, even to the most hardened skeptic.

Tip: It’s still vital to take two photos in a row, at each site. Try not to move at all, even to breathe. (If you’re using a traditional-style camera and it’s near your face, it’s especially important not to exhale. That releases humidity by the lens.)

  • If the orbs are from normal causes, orbs will appear in both photos, usually in the same locations, and be fairly similar in size, shape, color, and density.
  • If the orbs are paranormal, you may see orbs in one photo but not in the other one. The photos will be dramatically different.

PAT O’BRIEN’S

Above, my photo of Pat O’Brien’s shows many orbs.

Before Katrina, we routinely saw two or three orbs in a “good” photo.

  • Pat O’Brien’s is known for a haunted ladies’ room, an “eerie feeling” on the third floor, and unearthly footsteps wandering around the attic.
  • A happy, inebriated visitor–dressed in slightly old-fashioned clothing–appears and disappears just outside the front door of this popular bar. You won’t realize that it’s a ghost until it vanishes.

This is one of many haunted sites that is more wonderfully eerie now.

RELIABLE HAUNTS

Before Hurricane Katrina, the French Quarter was generally, mildly haunted. There were a few locations — such as the Hotel Monteleone and Brennan’s famous restaurant — which were more reliable “haunts” than others.

However, since Katrina, the Quarter’s ghosts have much more energy, and it’s easier to identify truly haunted locations.

For example: like many professional ghost hunters, I was skeptical about the Lalaurie Mansion. Of course, its “ghost” folklore is part of New Orleans’ rich history.

Since Katrina, the Mansion seems more clearly not haunted now. that’s especially true if you compare it with very evident ghosts at the nearby Ursulines convent, the Beauregard-Keyes House, and so on.

GHOST TOURS

0106-unk1During our January visit, we enjoyed Haunted History’s evening ghost tour. This is one tour that is so well-respected and popular, it has remained in business while many other tours folded.

Haunted History’s guides mix fun, folklore, and carefully-researched history in a two+ hour tour featuring well-known and little-known ghosts in the French Quarter. (Visit Haunted History Tours‘ website.)

The photo (above, right) is one of over a hundred orb photos that I took during one of their January 2006 ghost tours.

A MUST-VISIT FOR GHOST HUNTERS

In general, the French Quarter is more vividly haunted than I’ve ever seen it in the past. And, with fewer tourists right now, there’s less psychic “noise” to camouflage the energy from both active and residual energy hauntings.

I don’t know how long these ideal conditions will continue. If you’re a ghost hunter, I recommend visiting the French Quarter as soon as possible. It’s a remarkable opportunity to witness rich, genuine hauntings in America’s most haunted city.

[LA] New Orleans Ghosts – January 2006

My New Orleans report – January 2006

Are there more ghosts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?

I’m not sure if the ghost population has increased, but evidence of ghosts certainly has.

My trip to Louisiana in late January 2006 was different from what I’d expected.  It wasn’t my only visit to New Orleans after Katrina, but it was one of the most surprising.

I thought most of the city would be cleaned up by January. It wasn’t.

The French Quarter is a little quieter, but generally the same as always. More unexplained orbs in photos, and more psychic eeriness, but… well, it’s the French Quarter. Ghost hunters expect it to be haunted.

By contrast, the city of New Orleans was hit far harder than I’d anticipated, and the clean-up had barely begun.

METAIRIE CEMETERIES

Metairie cemetery after KatrinaDriving in to New Orleans, there is evidence of wind and water damage, but it generally looks fairly normal from I-10. Once you get off the highway at Metairie, things change in a hurry.

Greenwood Cemetery — shown at right — looks the same as always, with minimal damage.

If I didn’t know that a hurricane and flooding had occurred there, I’d say that nothing was different.

Being very familiar with Greenwood, I saw only minor signs of damage, mostly slightly displaced headstones.  The crypts were built to last, and so they did.

Cypress Grove cemetery, Metairie, after Katrina
Boarded-up crypt at Cypress Grove Cemetery

Nearby Cypress Grove Cemetery — shown at left — has always been a bit less tidy, and there’s far more evidence of flooding.

As seen in the photo, some of the brickwork on the crypts is being repaired. When I visited, three workmen were busy improving the cemetery.

Of course, I’ve always referred to Cypress Grove Cemetery in “Fall of the House of Usher” terms. It’s less tidy than Greenwood, and — in my opinion — it has a more personal character.

Generally, I like it there.

I’ve also seen odd, huge canine footprints in the mud at Cypress Grove, suggesting that something very unusual and perhaps paranormal — not a ghost — has walked there.

I’m not sure if the crypts at the Metairie cemeteries were responsible for the “floating coffins.” According to the concierge at one French Quarter hotel, tents were set up after Katrina’s waters receded. Coffins had floated loose, and were stored in tents, waiting to be identified and replaced in the cemeteries.

The tents are gone now, or at least moved away from public view. Except for the kind of obvious damage shown in my photo (above), there’s no way to guess how many graves had serious problems.

NEW ORLEANS’ NEIGHBORHOODS

devastation after KatrinaDuring late winter 2006, driving around New Orleans seemed positive apocalyptic. No electricity in many neighborhoods meant no traffic lights. Some streets were still covered with shards of glass… and whatever else was not scooped up by backhoes that cleared the rubble off the major roads.

If you want to see the massive devastation from the hurricane and its aftermath, take a tour bus from the French Quarter. (As I’m updating this article in early 2016, you can still tour areas left devastated by Katrina. Gray Lines is one of many excellent — and safe — ways to venture into those areas.)

In my photo (above, right), you can see one of the better (less damaged) homes.

Most buildings have a clear water line, inside and out. That’s not the highest level that the water reached, but where the water sat for the longest amount of time, after Hurricane Katrina.

These houses may look okay at first glance, but the wood has rotted. Many homes will have to be torn down and rebuilt. And, in other neighborhoods, all that’s left is rubble… massive piles of soggy wood, broken furniture, and mildewed belongings too black to identify. Oddly, the odor wasn’t too bad when I was there in 2006.

When I drove around in January 2006, I saw a frightening level of desperation among those left homeless. Whenever a Red Cross truck announced over a loudspeaker that they had free free meals and water, people stumbled out, as if from nowhere.

At the time, all I could think was “Night of the Living Dead.”

There will be active and residual energy hauntings throughout New Orleans for many years to come.

At this point, it’s too early to tell how severe the hauntings will be, but even during the daytime, there’s very eerie energy in these New Orleans neighborhoods.

By contrast, the French Quarter looked almost the same as it did before Katrina, with almost no damage. And, it is far more haunted than before. See my next article, French Quarter ghosts after Katrina

[LA] New Orleans – Jackson Square Ghosts

Many cities have a “power center,” where major buildings have always been built, and significant historical events took place.

New Orleans' French Quarter cathedral
New Orleans’ French Quarter cathedral

In New Orleans, that place is Jackson Square. From the haunted Cathedral and Presbytere, to Pirates Alley and the ghost of Jean Lafitte, as well as the eerie spirits at Le Petit Theatre, this two-block area has over a dozen documented hauntings.

Jackson Square was the site of an early prison, in addition to several executions.

It was also home to an early New Orleans church, destroyed by a fire.

The park’s ghosts manifest as figures, floating lights, fragrances, and even the somber chanting of the “Kyrie” by the spirit of an 18th-century priest.

When I was in New Orleans in July 2005 (shortly before Hurricane Katrina), Jackson Square was a focal point of my ghost research, with very good results.

Below, you can see one of my best digital pictures; one copy is enhanced.

nola-jackson-square-1 Jackson Square ghost orbs

The copy on the left is exactly as I took it, looking through the Jackson Square gates at Decatur Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

On the right, I’ve adjusted the contrast to suggest (faintly) the statue in the center of Jackson Square, and the haunted cathedral behind it. (That’s the same cathedral as the one in the photo near the top of this article.)

There were no colored lights to cause the red and blue orbs on the right. Do those colored shapes represent the uniforms of the soldiers who were once stationed in buildings at this spot?

These vivid spheres of color appeared in several photos that we took over about ten minutes, along with the more classic “ectoplasm” shapes.

For those who insist those orbs are from high humidity: see my photo near the top of this page. That’s a flash photo taken nearby, with the same camera, in even more humid conditions. As you can see, that photo had no orbs.

I knew that I’d get some great evidence of hauntings at this park… just not this good.

In addition to Jackson Square’s many ghost stories, there is something especially odd about the gate where we took our photos.

Even with dozens of tourists passing, you’re likely to feel surrounded by an eerie silence at Jackson Square. For all its beauty and popularity, Jackson Square seems too quiet.

If you visit New Orleans’ famous French Quarter, I highly recommend an evening visit to the Decatur Street side of Jackson Square.

If your photos are like mine and others’, you’ll be very pleased with the results.

[LA] New Orleans – Brennan’s Red Room Ghosts

Brennan's red roomBrennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter is well respected as a world-class restaurant. “Breakfast at Brennan’s” has become a Louisiana tradition for visitors as well as locals who enjoy fabulous food in a relaxed but elegant setting.

Upstairs at Brennan’s, the Red Room is famous for its ghosts.

According to a legend dating to the 18th century, Monsieur Lefleur calmly went out one morning and arranged for three funerals. Upon returning home, he killed his wife and his son before hanging himself from the sturdy chandelier in the center of the Red Room.

Portraits of the three decorate the walls of that room.

It’s unclear if M. Lefleur’s ghost is among the spirits at Brennan’s charming restaurant, or if the Red Room is haunted by the ghosts of the murder victims, Mme Lefleur and her son.

Day or night, you can feel a “cold spot” over the lovely fireplace in the Red Room, using just your hands. (Before you decide you’ve felt a “cold spot,” make sure it’s not a downdraft from the chimney. If it’s a chilly day or evening, ask if the flue is open.)

In addition to the cold spot, the portrait of M. Lefleur seems to change expression every time you glance at it. I took several photos of the portrait, but as M. Lefleur’s smile changed to a sinister grimace, my camera had problems and the pictures turned murky.

Below, you can see a series of my photos taken one evening in July 2005. I had to increase the contrast on the right two so that the face could be seen online. Other than that, I did not alter them at all. They are all the same portrait.

M. LeFleur brennans-face2brennans-face4

 

Yes, this is one of those “either you see it or you don’t” set of images. Not everyone will see the changes between the pictures. Some will blame it on the lighting. (It also helps if you’ve seen the portrait in real life, so you know have a frame of reference for these photos… no pun intended.)

As I watched, Monsieur Lefleur’s face seemed to change from posed to vulnerable (or perhaps younger), and then a troubled grimace tightened his lips. It turned slightly sneering, and slightly distasteful. Finally, he looked anguished or perhaps angry… even sinister.

If you dine at Brennan’s — which I highly recommend — and have an opportunity to visit the Red Room, keep checking the portrait of M. Lefleur and see if his expression changes.

The painting’s transformation isn’t as dramatic as the special effects at Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” attraction, but I wonder if Brennan’s painting inspired Disney’s imagineers.

(If the Red Room isn’t in use, Brennan’s staff may allow visitors upstairs to see if the Red Room is active with ghosts.  The room is usually haunted, but even ghosts take a break now & then.)

Brennan’s is among New Orleans’ most haunted sites, and M. Lefleur isn’t its only spirit. The restaurant is haunted by a dedicated former chef, as well as an old woman who paces the corridor outside the Red Room.

Brennan’s serves some of the best food in the world. If you want to splurge on one elegant meal while you’re in New Orleans, Brennan’s is the place to go.

(When you’re there, you may see movie stars a adjoining tables. Be discreet. Don’t stare or ask for autographs. Just enjoy your meal… and the restaurant’s ghosts.)

Brennan’s Restaurant, 417 Royal Street — in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana. Phone (504) 525-9711. http://www.brennansneworleans.com/

Brennan’s Red Room and exterior photos are courtesy of Brennan’s Restaurant (c)2005. The three photos of the Lefleur portrait are (c)2005 Fiona Broome.

The changing facial expressions are courtesy of Monsieur Lefleur’s ghost, New Orleans, Louisiana.

[LA] New Orleans – ‘Voodoo Queen’ Marie Laveau’s House?

These photos were taken during an April 2005 ghost tour of New Orleans’ French Quarter.  This was a time when the Quarter seemed especially spiritually active, a few months before Hurricane Katrina changed everything.

I can recall walking up to an artist just outside the cathedral, and telling her to be prepared to move on short notice.

I explained that I “saw” the image of her being in something like a washing machine, being agitated in the water, and needing to get out before the spin dry cycle.  I also told her that I felt certain she was going to be okay, but she’d have to get out.

At the time, I had no idea how prophetic that was.  Honestly…?  I thought the imagery was symbolic.

The night I took the following photos, we’d signed up for one of the many wonderful (and sometimes theatrical) ghost tours of the French Quarter.  On this residential street, the guide explained we were looking at a house that had belonged to the famous Voodoo (or Voudoun/Vodun) queen, Marie Laveau.

I took a few photos.  Arrows point to some of the orbs that seemed most credible to me, as I analyzed the pictures.

 

 

This photo was taken on a cool, dry evening in New Orleans  at about 9:30 at night.

The orbs could be humidity or a reflection, but I don’t think so.  There’s a certain feeling you get with some ghost photos… and this was one of them.

It had the look of an eerie home of a famous woman whose stories still provide New Orleans with color.  I can understand why the tour guide wanted us to believe it was Marie Laveau’s former residence.

The house may be haunted, but it’s probably not one of Marie Laveau’s homes.  I’ve researched the addresses associated with both Marie Laveau I and II, and I couldn’t find any connection to this house.

When you take any ghost tour (or vampire tour, etc.) in New Orleans, it’s important to keep your critical thinking skills engaged.  Some of the biggest legends — such as Marie Laveau and Madame Lalaurie — have become a little lost in the fictional tales built around them.

Nevertheless, this house is charming to look at, and it gave me a slight chill as if something paranormal could be associated with it.

Or, maybe the storytelling abilities of our guide were so good, I was looking for a “good scare” when what I really saw was a wonderful, historical home.