Best of NOLA: Ghost Tour New Orleans by Destination Kitchen
I have always envisioned New Orleans as a beacon of true Southern culture and hospitality. Researching online and from family and friends on things to do, awesome food and beautiful jazz music always headline the NOLA experience. But as our trip planning became deeper, we discovered something eerily interesting yet inviting. Along with the rich history and stomping jazz culture, came mysticism, folklore, and ghost stories. And yep, we’ve heard it all in our Destination Kitchen Ghost Tour New Orleans. Let’s go!
Meetup Point: French Market Area
It was 6 PM when we met our tour guide for the night, Susan. We were instructed to meet at the French Market, the same spot where we started with the New Orleans Food Tour by Destination Kitchen the day before. We then proceeded to two ‘haunted’ spots just around the block: The Old Ursuline Convent Museum and The Beauregard-Keyes House.
The Old Ursuline Convent Museum
Now, for many years, the Ursuline Convent has been shrouded in mystery. However, just as the infamous LaLaurie Mansion (more on this later), the building has never been a subject of official paranormal investigation. The most popular story being the folklore of the “The Casket Girls”. Rumor has it that in the mid-1700s when local leaders requested that young girls be sent from France, these girls arrived with small suitcases called casquettes. Which, ironically, look very much like the modern-day caskets we know of.
Deeper research online led to tell me that with the multitude of empty caskets left behind, locals felt that these young French women actually brought vampires from France. So they can unleash them into the city and prey on unsuspecting victims. What’s more intriguing is the fact that the all of convent museum’s windows are closed shut. Hmn, where they trying to keep anything out? Well, I guess no one will ever know. So take a self-guided tour if you must. The Ursuline Convent Museum is open Mondays through Fridays 10am-4pm with a small entrance fee.
The Beauregard-Keyes House
Moving on, we turn to this sprawling mansion and garden just in front of the Ursuline convent: The Beauregard-Keyes House. There’s actually a long history to the house. What was once an intended weapons arsenal for New Orleans, The Beauregard-Keyes House on 1113 Chartres Street has undergone a series of historic and ghastly residents. The house itself was named after General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and Frances Parkinson Keyes. Beauregard being a Consul-General of Sardinia in New Orleans in 1865 and Keyes being and American author.
But perhaps the most famous resident of The Beauregard-Keyes House was none other than the Giacona Family. Moving in 1904, the Giacona Family was involved in liquor business. In fact, on the first floor of the house used to sit a wine cellar of the Giaconas (who were rumored to lived lavishly). Unfortunately, it was also this lavish lifestyle that led for the Sicilian Black Hand (a mafia sect in NOLA) to think that they Giaconas were impeding on their territory and not paying the right dues.
Thus one day, the patriarch Pietro Giacona, sent an invitation to four members of the mob to discuss. All was well until Pietro alongside his son, stood up, grabbed their pistols, and opened fire. Instantly, three dropped dead to the floor while the fourth crawled on the cobblestones outside before dying. Despite the obvious guilt, murder charges were dropped in 1910. Albeit the family fleeing town and leaving behind the young ones to fend for themselves.
Today, The Beauregard-Keyes House is a museum and an excellent venue for all sorts of celebrations including weddings. Well, that’s if you don’t mind being amongst the lost souls of the Civil War Soldiers and Pierre Beauregard. Well, so do rumors say.
2nd Stop: LaLaurie Mansion
With the influx of French residents in New Orleans, came the new breed of rich called French creoles. One of which was the infamous Madame Delphine LaLaurie. Back in 1832, a certain Dr. Louis Lalaurie and his wife Delphine moved into their creole mansion in the heart of the French Quarter. The mansion located at 1140 Royal Street has since then been the witness of wealth and prominence. Every once in awhile, lavish grand events and occasions were held in the three-storey mansion. Fancy dinners illuminated by hundred of candles in gigantic chandeliers, meals served on European china, and guests pampered to their every need. But what many people didn’t know was that beneath Madame Lalaurie’s grace and refined exterior lies a very cruel and cold-blooded woman. While others only suspected, others knew as a fact. And here’s why.
Madame Lalaurie: a cruel, cold-blooded creole woman
Despite having a guidebook as to creole slaves, Madame Lalaurie proved to be an insanely sadistic master. When slaves seemed to have come and go quite often in the Lalaurie Mansion, neighbors began suspecting something’s amiss. And they couldn’t be any more right. Stories of horrid cruelty by Madame Lalaurie abound. Including the girl being chased on the roof and jumping to her death. Or Madame Lalaurie’s cook being chained to the fireplace.
Until one day, a huge fire broke out of the mansion supposedly started by the cook who could not take cruelty anymore. After the fire died down, came the most horrible sight to the fire fighters. Behind a secret door in the attic lied about a dozen of male and female slaves all tortured to their death. Each one naked, some strapped to operating tables, some chained to the walls, others shoved into tiny dog cages. Now if that’s not haunting enough, I don’t know what is! (At one point, we crossed the road to go to the side of the mansion. Lo and behold, all the hair on my nape and arms stood up in terror!)
Today, the Lalaurie Mansion is a private home owned by a guy named Michael Whalen.
Trivia: Did you know Nicolas Cage owned the Lalaurie mansion for a time? From 2006 until it was auctioned in 2009.
3rd Stop: Jackson Square, The Cabildo, and Muriel’s Restaurant
The third and final stop of the Destination Kitchen Ghost Tour New Orleans took us to the historic Jackson Square. Located in Decatur Street, the historic Jackson Square now hosts casual morning strolls, picnics, and live performances by artists and musicians. Around it however, lies a few buildings shrouded in mystic stories. Two of which are The Cabildo and Muriel’s Restaurant.
I must have had a very long day then as I could not remember much about the history behind The Cabildo. All I know is that it was built to house the legislative and administrative council which ruled Spanish Louisiana. And that it is most famous for the site of the Louisiana Purchase. At present, The Cabildo is home to the Louisiana State Museum and features war artifacts like swords and one of Napoleon’s death masks. Uhm, creepy!
Next stop of Destination Kitchen Ghost Tour New Orleans is a casual dining spot called Muriel’s Restaurant. After the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788, a certain Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan bought the corner property in Jackson Square. Which Jourdan then built his dream home restoring it to the original grandeur, for his family and himself. Sadly, not all great things come with great endings. In his hunger for more wealth, Jourdan wagered him home in a poker game in 1814. Of course, he lost. Thus prompting Jourdan’s family to vacate their beloved home. The heartache was too much for him apparently, that Jourdan tragically committed suicide on the second floor. The same area that served as the slave quarters then. And where Muriel’s Seance Lounges are situated today.
With great tragedy comes mystic, of course. Today, it’s believed that the lost spirit of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan is still attached to his beloved home. Particularly in the dining area, thus the lone two-seater dining table reserved for him in the corner. Funny enough, when we peeked at the said table, somebody was there. A brave diner who candidly waved at us as if he knew the story! A big O-M-G!
Last Stop: Tujague’s Restaurant
After all the scare we’ve been through, we just had to wind down over drinks at the Tujague’s Restaurant. Of course, no stop at the Destination Kitchen Ghost Tour New Orleans, will go without any backstory to it, right? So after being served the famous Grasshopper and Hurricane, one of the bartenders happily turned to us for some story-telling. I, on the other hand, will keep the exact details to myself. As we promised not to tell. All I can say is, most happened in the dark attic upstairs, involving New Orleans’ most famous ghost, the cross-dressing Julian Eltinge.
Oh well, that’s it for creep time folks. I guess there’s much more to New Orleans than what meets the eye. But thanks to our well-versed guide Susan and Destination Kitchen Ghost Tour New Orleans, we’ve got a glimpse of mystical NOLA. 5 stars for pace, comprehensiveness, and spook factor! See you again NOLA!
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