A heavy cloud of myth and legend shrouds New Orleans, and the city that’s famous for jazz music and beignets is also synonymous with pirates and poltergeists, voodoo and vampires (even the Brad Pitt variety). With its one-of-a-kind European and Caribbean heritage, New Orleans is the origin of countless folk tales.
Claims by the living of seeing apparitions or hearing otherworldly voices have plagued the city since its founding in the 18th century, but have since become a celebrated part of New Orleans culture and tourism. Condé Nast Traveler named New Orleans one of the most haunted cities in America. New Orleans is host to a never-ending party, one whose guests are members of both the living and the dead.
10 St. Louis Cemetery Number One
Whether or not you’re on a haunted tour of NOLA, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is not to be missed. One of the most famous burial grounds in the U.S., you might notice that the tombs here (and in other New Orleans cemeteries) are above ground. They look like little houses, decorated with gates and urns.
Be on the lookout for Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb, where people often leave offerings in hopes of receiving her blessing. The cemetery has suffered damage at the hands of vandals and during Hurricane Katrina, so it is only accessible if you book a tour.
9 Bourbon Orleans Hotel
Visitors to New Orleans often like to stay in the heart of the city—the French Quarter. Here is where you’ll hear full brass bands performing swinging jazz all along the colorful colonial buildings. And centrally located just off Bourbon Street is the Bourbon Orleans Hotel.
It’s one of the best-known hotels in the city, and it also might just have the most legends of all NOLA’s hotels. Originally a theatre, the property’s ballroom is one of the oldest rooms in the hotel, and while it is now used as a function room, you might just see women in 19th-century clothing dancing across the floor.
8 Voodoo Museum
While there haven’t been any ethereal beings spotted in the Voodoo Museum, you can bet the building is being protected by Marie Laveau. The museum hosts a number of Voodoo and Hoodoo artifacts in order to preserve New Orleans’ fascinating local traditions.
Voodoo is a West African folk religion brought to the Americas with enslaved peoples, where it blended with Roman Catholic traditions. The traditions that are practiced in New Orleans are unique to the region, having African, European, and Haitian influences.
7 Muriel's Restaurant
Dining at Muriel’s restaurant in Jackson Square brings a new meaning to the phrase “dinner and a show.” While the authentic Creole cuisine at Muriel’s deserves an entire article of its own, so does the building’s history.
The original building was constructed in the early 1700s, and after several ownership changes and enduring the Great New Orleans Fire, became the house of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, whose eventual death in the house became local legend. Today, the Séance Room on the second floor of Muriel’s is dedicated to Jourdan, and you are invited to book a table in the room to dine with him.
6 St. Roch's Chapel
In its 300-year history, New Orleans has endured fires, hurricanes, raiding pirates—you name it. In the 19th century, an outbreak of yellow fever struck the city, devastating its population, and in an attempt to save the parish, Reverend Peter Thevis prayed to St. Roch, a patron saint of healing, especially against plagues. The parish had no fatalities, and the current chapel was dedicated to him.
The inside of the chapel is decorated with offerings from visitors suffering from various illnesses, who leave anything from medical equipment to coins. It’s come to be one of the most eclectic shrines in the country.
5 Pharmacy Museum
The Pharmacy Museum may not be as unusual as the Voodoo Museum, but some of the ancient medical equipment and medicine bottles are. There are instruments that were in use hundreds of years ago, some that are unrecognizable to those who haven’t studied medical history.
The location of the museum was once an operating pharmacy owned by America’s first licensed pharmacist, Louis Dufilho, Jr. It was later sold to Dr. Joseph Dupas, who is said to have never vacated the premises. He had an affinity for voodoo rituals and medical experiments, and might still be upstairs at work.
4 Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
Don't mistake this historic little cottage for an actual smithing business—it’s actually a bar. The misnomer may be linked to a blacksmith’s shop in the area in the 19th century, but Lafitte’s is one of New Orleans’ oldest surviving buildings (and one of America’s longest operating bars).
The building, probably once a house, has been standing since the late 18th century, and might be the location of a business owned by privateer Jean Lafitte in the 1800s. Like all of New Orleans’ historic architecture, it’s reported to be haunted, but there haven’t been any reports of swashbuckling Lafitte himself.
3 St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral looks more like a Disneyland castle than a Roman Catholic church. Get up close to this fairytale palace, though, and you’ll see it for the imposing Spanish Colonial structure it is. But the cathedral you see now was not always here.
This is the fourth building to have stood for the parish. The first church was built in 1718, the same year New Orleans was founded, but its architects placed it directly on New Orleans’ oldest burial site. Throughout the years, as the cathedral grew, the spirits of those buried at this spot have been said to wander the pews.
2 LaLaurie Mansion
Fans of American Horror Story might know the name LaLaurie from the series Coven, in which Kathy Bates portrayed Delphine LaLaurie, murderess of New Orleans. The fictional witch of Coven was based on a real-life New Orleans socialite.
Madame LaLaurie was married three times, two of her husbands dying under mysterious circumstances, and became known for her parties she threw at her 1140 Royal Street mansion. A fire in 1834 revealed to the shocked community that LaLaurie was keeping slaves in her basement in grim conditions. The house, still standing, is said to be the eternal home of those who died there.
1 Le Petit Théâtre Du Vieux Carré
Le Petit Théâtre Du Vieux Carré, or The Little Theatre of the Old Square, is a small stage theatre in the French Quarter. It is one of America’s longest operating theaters and is still running out of its original location.
Sometimes, accidents happen at the theatre, and Le Petit has an unusually high number of reported incidents, some of which are simply rumors. However, there has been a consensus among actors, staff, and theatre-goers that there are the shadows and reflections of actors and actresses roaming about the playhouse.