by Nancy Bestor
I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve never heard one, seen one, or been startled by one. As a kid, I always loved the Nancy Drew and Scooby Doo stories where the “ghost” was proved to actually be someone trying to scare away the amateur detectives. On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion ride is one of my favorites in Disneyland, because a good scary ghost story is always entertaining. So when Bob suggested we sign up for a Haunted History Walking Tour of New Orleans when we visited the city last fall, I was happy to oblige.
Tour guide Denise met our group at dusk to lead us on a two-hour walk around the French Quarter. She did a great job of pointing out interesting buildings and recounting historical facts – and of course, she titillated us with the ghost tales of the Quarter. We learned about a haunted floor of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, where the ghosts of children roam the halls, giggling and stomping their feet. Then we heard about the LaLaurie House, a home where the owners allegedly abused their slaves. We were told that spirits now haunt the house, due to its violent history. And there’s the beautiful Hotel Provincial on Chartres Street, which was once a military hospital. Apparently, the ghosts of soldiers still roam the building. Guests have reported seeing wounded soldiers crying out in pain, and bloodstains on bedcovers that mysteriously appear and disappear at will. There is even a restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter, Muriel’s Jackson Square, that offers a table nightly for the ghost of Pierre Jourdan. The former owner of the historic building, Jourdan is said to still “reside” in Muriel’s, so each evening they set a dinner table with candles, wine, and bread, welcoming Jourdan’s spirit to dine.
Bob, like myself, is a ghost skeptic (I’m glad we found each other), so it was an amusing tour for both of us. Denise, on the other hand, is a believer, as apparently were many of the people on the tour. They too told stories of unexplainable things they’d heard while staying in French Quarter hotels, and times where the goosebumps on their arms confirmed their suspicions about ghosts. Our tour guide was a great storyteller, and whether the stories were true or not really didn’t matter to me. The Haunted History Walking Tour of the French Quarter was an enjoyable way to spend the evening, and well worth the $20, even if I didn’t get chills from ghosts passing by my side.