[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

Noises That Are Not Ghosts

As I write this, it is December (2005), a time of year when many people start hearing “ghostly noises” in their homes.

In many cases, these will be ghosts.

However, there may be logical explanations, and those should be considered, first:

Temperature changes cause houses to moan, shift, and creak. Desert climates have the widest temperature swings between day and night, but even temperate climates have seasonal changes that can cause your house to shift slightly. And when a couple of floorboards rub against each other and echo in an attic, the noise can sound like someone in agony.

  • Settling houses make snaps, thuds, creaks, and groans. If your house is new, it may be settling. A hastily-poured foundation, or one poured at the wrong time of year, can produce outrageous noises for years after the house has been built.There are other reasons why a house can “settle.” If you’ve had an earthquake in your region, your house may now be settling back into place. If you’ve had unusually high rainfall, or a drought, the ground around your house will shift. A piano or waterbed moved in or out of a room can cause the whole house to readjust itself.
  • Critters in the walls or attic can sound bizarre. The scurrying noises alone can sound like little ghostly footsteps. A bushy tail of a squirrel or raccoon, rubbing on all sides of a narrow passageway inside a wall or alongside a chimney… Well, you’ll be convinced that a ghostly woman in a full Victorian skirt just passed you.If two animals decide to argue or chat within your walls, in your basement, or overhead in your attic, sometimes they sound like ghostly whispers, or a full-fledged argument in a strange dialect!
  • Check for even smaller critters, such as wood ants or termites. If they’re weakening the house’s structure, the house will moan and groan as it shifts its weight.
  • Is there construction going on near you? Perhaps rocks tumble from their recently-blasted niches, at a certain hour of the night when the temperature dips low enough to cause contractions and shifts. The roof of a new house can make astonishing noises, especially at night. Ask anyone who’s put a roof on a house, or repaired one, about the nails that pop out overnight.
  • If it happens at the same time every night, it’s not necessarily a ghostly hour. Temperatures and humidity change at night. When these natural effects reach a “critical mass” level, the house may shift. A loose shingle may pop up again. The mortar in your chimney may contract just enough to cause dust to echo as it tumbles to the ground or hearth. These kinds of things happen night after night. It’s part of the natural cycle of a house.This “critical mass” effect is usually at approximately the same time, each night. Seasonal changes and unseasonable variations can shift the hour back or forward, but it’s still within the same approximate time period.
  • Do you live near a commercial area? You may live far enough from a shopping center that you don’t hear the garbage collectors’ trucks. However, when they lift one of those huge containers of trash and empty it into the truck… wow! If that noise echoes off a neighbor’s siding or cement wall, it can seem as if something is crashing on your patio, or in an another room, particularly if the windows are open.

Not all ghostly noises are this easily explained. However, consider the logical answers first. Perhaps your noise is a ghost, but you won’t know unless you use your critical thinking skills to explore the alternatives.

And, just because the noise could be faked, or caused by something logical… well, that doesn’t mean that it is.

Webmaster’s note: When I was a kid, I used to hear noises in the attic overhead, many nights. My parents dismissed my insistence that it was a ghost. “Squirrels in the attic,” they replied, and nodded sagely.

Well, we did have a lot of very friendly squirrels in our neighborhood, and a nest in our backyard. I tried to accept my parents’ logical explanation of the noises.

However, when we were selling our house and had it inspected, I mentioned the squirrels in the attic.

“No evidence of that,” the house inspector replied. “I’ll check again.”

And so he did. And he found no place where a squirrel could get into the attic, and no evidence that animals of any kind had been up there.

So, even when the answer seems logical, it might still be ghosts. I may never know if our house’s nightly noises had been a ghost, or something else.

If a Ghost Hunt Frightens You

Young woman, alone.After a particularly vivid ghost hunt, people sometimes get nervous about what they’ve just experienced.

A few people may become genuinely frightened.

Generally, there is nothing to be afraid of. Not from the dead, anyway. Here are a few facts to remember, from an article I wrote in 2005.  My opinions haven’t changed much since I wrote this.

  • Ghosts aren’t likely to follow you home. Ghosts haunt a location, particularly cemeteries, for a reason. If they felt like they could leave, they wouldn’t be at the cemetery (or house, or battlefield) in the first place.  Except for legends like The Flying Dutchman (a ghost ship) and the John Alford Tyng hauntings, few stories describe a ghost that moves from one location to another.
  • Ghosts cannot make you do things you don’t want to do. Ghosts are not hypnotists and they do not have powers beyond those that they had in life. Frankly, any spirit of the dead that’s tied to the earthly plane, has a specific reason for being here. Usually, their powers are significantly less than an average living person’s. If you’re having “unwanted thoughts” after encountering a ghost, get professional help. Ghosts are not the problem. Hollywood imagery can be fun, but it’s not real. Steering wheels don’t jerk out of your hand. Bed canopies don’t sprout spikes and fall on people. People are not “taken over” by ghosts unless they agree to accept the trance state, or unwittingly give permission for something to use their bodies. Usually, if someone is “possessed,” something else is going on. It’s not a ghost.  Get help right away.
  • Ghosts do not “curse” you. Ghosts are just people living in another dimension, or perhaps on another plane. They have no superhuman powers other than — perhaps — enhanced telepathy. They cannot curse you. They do not turn into “witches” when they die.
  • Ghosts cannot hurt you. Poltergeists are the only “ghosts” that ever harm people, and even then it’s usually nothing worse than bruising. People often ask why I  warn against ghost hunting alone. It’s not because of ghosts, it’s because you might turn an ankle in a neglected yard or cemetery, and need help. Or you might encounter a bunch of drunk teens or (animal) hunters who don’t want you around. I’m not afraid of ghosts, but I’m very wary of isolated sites.
  • Ghosts will not haunt your dreams, keep you awake at night, etc. Unless you’re deliberately sleeping in a haunted house or camping at a haunted battleground, ghosts do not usually travel from their earthly locations to bother you.
  • Most ghosts “move on,” eventually. Spirits of the dead remain on earth for a specific reason. Usually, they’re fighting reality and want to turn back the clock. They want to change an event from the past. In rare cases, they simply have a message to pass on, or a minor task to accomplish. We’ve only encountered this once in hundreds of hauntings . One notable exception is when a spirit returns to help a friend or family member, or just check to be sure you’re okay. Spirit guides, angels, and totems, are a different topic. They are not malicious, ever. Don’t worry about them. You never have to worry about a ghost following you forever. It simply doesn’t happen.
  • Spiritual energy is pretty much all the same to a casual observer. If you’re in a setting where there is poltergeist phenomena, you probably won’t be able to guess whether it’s from a spirit of the dead, or someone nearby with RSPK. (RSPK is Remote Spontaneous PsychoKinesis, or the ability to move things using your thoughts, consciously or not). Don’t assume that the dish that flew across the room was propelled by a spirit of the dead. It could be a prank by an ESP-gifted person who is very much alive, and near you.

I hope this puts your mind at rest. 

Young woman, anxious.Ghost hunting is fun. For people like me, it’s fascinating to encounter ghostly manifestations.  Haunted sites can have risks, but they’re usually physical (like frail floorboards in the attic, or uneven stairs). It’s nothing directly related to ghosts.

Ghost hunting itself is not hazardous, and ghosts are not maliciously wandering the earth as portrayed in movies and novels.

Nothing bad is likely to happen to you if you go on a ghost tour or public ghost investigation and take proper precautions. (For example, always take a friend with you to an event or tour.  If you’re on your own, watch your back and never treat the evening like speed dating.)

Frankly, most of your concerns should be about the living, not the spirits of the dead.

Consider another hobby if spirits and hauntings really frighten you.

It’s worth repeating:  If ghost hunting isn’t fun, find something else for your spare time.

The more you go ghost hunting, the more spirits and manifestations you’re likely to encounter. If you’re nervous now, things will only get more intense if you continue.

[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.