From the French Quarter through every corner of the city, it’s hard to deny that New Orleans is one of the most haunted destinations across the United States, if not across the globe. But a ghost tour in New Orleans brings with it as much history as it does folklore. Ghosts, witches, and even vampires haunt the city streets, bringing the past to life with each ghost tour led or scary story told.
The city of La Nouvelle-Orleans was founded in 1718, and surely no one was thinking specifically of the New Orleans ghosts that would walk this haunted city’s streets. However, the remainder of the 18th century would bring about the basis of New Orleans folklore, lasting through several lifetimes.
In 1752, for instance, the Old Ursuline Convent—the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley today—was built, replacing a previous place of worship on the same site. The building’s history is remarkable in and of itself, but it’s the story of its inhabitants that keeps haunted tourism alive. Girls were brought to NOLA to be married to colonial men and would stay at the Convent until these marriages were arranged. Carrying “casquettes,” or caskets with them to the New World, the city’s Casket Girls arrived pale from their long voyage and, in severe instances, stricken with tuberculosis, which could cause the afflicted to cough up blood. As such, it’s unsurprising that the city’s vampire stories are often linked to these women.
The 19th century brought with it some of New Orleans’ most famous ghost stories, including the infamous Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans. In 1830, Laveau became an official voodoo priestess. Popularized in modern media by the “American Horror Story” series, Marie Laveau is a subject studied by every storyteller interested in the haunted history of New Orleans. No voodoo tour would be complete without a mention of this woman, who reigned over the voodoo culture and society of 19th century NOLA. Madame Laveau’s home was torn down in the 1900s, but a new property was built on the site—and many claim to see her spirit in and around the area.
Madame Delphine LaLaurie (another real-life character brought to the small screen in “American Horror Story: Coven”) was once seen as a respected socialite and was later exposed as having sadistically tortured and killed the slaves of her household. In 1834, the LaLaurie mansion was set aflame by a cook who was found chained in the kitchen, and she and other tortured slaves were discovered, both alive and dead. Today, the slaves’ spirits are thought to remain on the property, alongside others trapped by the building’s dark energy.
In the early 20th century, a solitary woman, Madame Mineurecanal, lived with her small white dog, heartbroken from the loss of her husband and son. Still struck by grief, Madame Mineurecanal strangled her terrier before hanging herself, making the dog’s loyalty truly eternal. From as early as World War II, reports surfaced describing the pair in and around their Royal Street home.
The 1930s brought new stories of vampires in New Orleans, turning away from the 1700s Casket Girls and focusing instead on brothers John and Wayne Carter. Accompanying Louisiana stories immortalized by the likes of Anne Rice and shows such as “True Blood” and “The Originals,” the Carters would kill their victims, drain their blood, and dispose of the bodies, further staining the city’s dark history.
These are just a few of New Orleans’ most notable stories of haunted places and people—to learn about these and others, make a reservation for a New Orleans ghost tour today. From phantom pets in the Beauregard-Keyes house to Marguerite O’Donnell’s vengeful spirit, you can’t help but uncover the city’s haunted history, one ghost story at a time.