With over 300 years of history, New Orleans has seen more than its fair share of tragedy. Military battles, slavery, outbreaks of disease, rampant fires and Mother Nature’s storms that have destroyed entire neighborhoods - all have helped New Orleans gain a reputation as America’s most haunted city. Ghost tales are woven into the fabric of our buildings and streets. The French Quarter, in particular, is known as a gathering place for lost souls, and nearly every building has its own tale of terror. M.S. Rau is located in the heart of this haunted neighborhood, and we love to hear the horrific histories and chilling whispers about our centuries-old neighbors. Here are a few of our favorite stories of things that go bump in the French Quarter.
The Horrors of The Pharmacy Museum
Sacred is the doctor’s oath to do no harm, so when that oath is broken, spirits are bound to become restless. The Pharmacy Museum is housed in what was once the apothecary of the very first licensed pharmacist in America, Louis J. Dulilho, Jr. In 1855, Dulilho sold this property to Dr. Joseph Dupas, a cruel man and unfit physician who had a history of health code violations and nearly killed patients with his dubious practices. Worst of all, he performed experimental surgeries on pregnant slaves in the name of science. He lived there until his death of syphilis in 1867. Today, the museum hosts exhibitions on medical history, often touching on the more macabre aspects of 19th-century medicine, which included bloodletting, Voodoo potions and other questionable medical practices that were an overall grisly affair. It is rumored that after closing time, the doctor’s ghost still roams the museum, moving items around and setting off the alarm system.
The Empty Table at Muriel’s
If you dine at Muriel’s, a New Orleans mainstay right off of Jackson Square, you will see a reserved table set with bread and wine. The restaurant sets this table every day for an important guest - the spirit of the building’s former owner, Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan. The site has a grim history. It began as a cottage that held slaves awaiting auction before the wealthy Jean Baptiste Destrehan acquired the land in the mid-18th century and built a beautiful 5-bedroom home. But on Good Friday, the French Quarter burned in the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 and destroyed the estate. Later, Jourdan bought the land and painstakingly restored what was left of the home. Jourdan adored his home, but he was a gambler and foolishly wagered it in a game of poker. When he lost, he was so devastated that he committed suicide on the second floor of the house rather than vacate. Employees and patrons alike have reported hearing voices, seeing a shimmering light float around and even glasses being flung across the room with no explanation. Despite this, Muriel’s is convinced that their ghost means no harm and invites him to dine at the reserved table each night.
St. Louis Cemetery’s Voodoo Queen
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 sits on the outskirts of the French Quarter and is one of the most notorious cemeteries in the world. As New Orleans oldest existing burial ground with over 700 tombs and 100,000 souls buried, it is naturally believed by many to be haunted. The most famous of the deceased is the great Voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau, who was both revered and feared during her lifetime. Visitors to the cemetery have witnessed her appear in her unmistakable brightly colored clothing and turban, only to vanish just as suddenly. It is said that if you mark three x’s on her gravestone she will grant you a wish, but remember to be careful what you wish for!
The Curious Case of Count Saint Germain and Jacques Saint Germain
Many of New Orleans’ eeriest tales involve something more inhuman. Vampire lore weaves its way through the streets of the French Quarter, and one of the most baffling tales begins in 18th-century France. There, a wealthy and enigmatic man by the name of Count Saint Germain charmed all the courts of Europe with his worldly attitude and skill as a conversationalist. No one knew where he came from, who his family was or the source of his immense wealth. He practiced alchemy and claimed to have found the secret to eternal youth. The philosopher Voltaire even called him, "The man who knows everything and who never dies." Skip ahead to New Orleans in 1904, when a charming and attractive man named Jacques Saint Germain appears on the scene. He matched the description of the Count in every way - appearance, wealth, knowledge and mystery. Even his eating habits were the same. No one had ever seen either of the men eat; only sit at dinners sipping a glass of wine. Jacques lived on the corner of Royal and Ursuline Streets and one late evening, a lady flung herself out the second story window. Police arrived, and she told them that Jacques had attacked her and tried to bite her neck. When they went in to investigate, he had vanished, but they found blood stains on the floors and linens. They also found no food or utensils and came to learn that all of his wine was mixed with human blood. Today, the window the woman jumped from is bricked up, and people claim to see Jacques Saint Germain still wandering the French Quarter at night.
Laissez le Bon Temps (et les Fantômes) Rouler
Every day is a celebration in the Big Easy, and even the ghosts like to imbibe. Practically every bar in the French Quarter boasts its very own ghost, from the apparition in a Mardi Gras gown at Arnaud’s, to the widowed spirit who steals the wedding rings of patrons at MRB, to the madame of the former brothel in what is now the Bombay Club. However, the most haunted haunt is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar on Bourbon Street. Lafitte’s is the oldest bar in America and gets its name from the infamous pirate, Jean Lafitte, and his blacksmith brother, Pierre, who once owned the building. Some speculate that the Lafittes used the shop as a front to sell contraband, and legend has it that Lafitte hid some of his treasure there and guards it to this day. Guests report paranormal activity in the back part of the bar, perhaps where the treasure is buried...
M.S. Rau celebrates the unusual. Browse our collection of items with their own stories to tell. Sources: