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The Dark Side of New Orleans — Spooky Sites to See

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St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter - Huge white cathedral with three black pillars on the roof. A Statue of a man on a horse is on the right side of the photo. St. Louis Cathedral is known for being haunted and one of New Orleans Spooky Sites.
St. Louis Cathedral

New Orleans is a place where legends, folklore and scary stories flourish. Here the locals fully embrace the spooky scene, taking their superstitions and dark folklore seriously.

In fact, there’s so much weight given to the dark side of the city that it’s common for landlords to mark their properties available for rent as being “Haunted” or “Not Haunted”, so potential tenants know when they’re letting themselves in for.

That’s not the only evidence that superstition is strong in New Orleans. Other oddities include putting doorknobs and keyholes upside down, something which you’ll find on almost every door in the city.

The reason behind this is that many locals believe the recently buried, dead or vampires have the power to open/unlock houses and enter. And to combat this, you need to do something to confuse the spirits, such as installing a lock or keyhole upside down.

Whether you’re into graveyards, vampires, ghosts, voodoo, or just the generally frightful, New Orleans has got you covered!

Voodoo in New Orleans

Voodoo Museum in New Orleans - skulls, voodoo dolls, alligator head on the wall.

Admittedly, I knew nothing about voodoo before I went to New Orleans. Up until then, I’d only seen it on TV and in movies, where it’s always depicted in a negative light. But seeing how voodoo is practiced in New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole really opened my eyes.

Evil voodoo in the media

In the media, voodoo is largely represented by people creating evil voodoo dolls, crafting malevolent potions and sacrificing innocent animals so witch doctors can cause chaos in someone’s life.

It’s a bit of a one-sided view. One aspect that’s always stuck in my mind is the dark rituals carried out by voodoo practitioners who cast dark spells to turn people into zombies to do their evil bidding. (Apparently, there’s some truth in being able to turn people into zombies. But I don’t know enough about the topic to cover it here.)

It all sounds horrible…yet strangely exciting!

The real Louisiana Voodoo (New Orleans Voodoo)

New Orleans Voodoo is far from how it’s shown in the media. When you take a closer look and really learn about New Orleans voodoo (or Louisiana voodoo) you’ll see it’s just a normal religion which fuses voodoo from Africa and Haiti with the Catholic religion of New Orleans, thus creating the New Orleans voodoo. 

Today in New Orleans, voodoo is still often misunderstood by outsiders. It’s not until you take a closer look at what the religion really means that you can see it for what it truly is.

But even when you have an understanding of it, it’s still easy to be overwhelmed by all the seemingly strange items for sale inside voodoo museums and shops, such as chicken feet, animal bones, alligator heads, love potions, and real voodoo dolls!

Red room filled with voodoo relics, statues and dolls in the New Orleans museum of Voodoo. One of New Orleans Spooky Sites you must visit.

Inside the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

Upon visiting the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, my friend Chris and I were greeted by a warm, friendly woman who was excited to have visitors. Chris and I listened as she told us a little about the history of voodoo. After being enlightened, we stepped into the museum to admire the incredible shrines and relics which make New Orleans voodoo what it is today.

As we walked from room to room, our eyes were overwhelmed with the odd trinkets (including voodoo dolls pinned to the walls) that took up every available space.

I could understand why, if you were looking from the outside, voodoo could be seen as a scary or dark religion. But, as we walked around taking in all the history and seeing how voodoo has influenced life in New Orleans, we began to understand and respect it, like you would with any religion.

The Truth About Voodoo

If you’re in town, be sure to visit the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum so you can see the shrines dedicated to strong, important women and men in the voodoo practitioner community.

You’ll see shrines commemorating voodoo queens made up of a photo of a woman, known as a voodoo priestess, surrounded by dolls, statues, charms, hair elastics, coins and all sorts of other offerings.

Although I was disappointed it wasn’t the scary, evil craft TV had led me to believe, New Orleans voodoo is actually a really lovely religion tying nature and spirituality together, filled with great history and mythology. They do create voodoo dolls, but they’re used for good reasons, such as help with fertility, bringing good luck, promoting good health and so on.

Outside of Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo at night in New Orleans. A Black building with black shutters. The door is open leading to the spooky New Orleans site of Marie Laveau's.

Voodoo-related places to visit in New Orleans

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum — 724 Dumaine Street

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo: New Orleans Voodoo Shop — 723 St Peter Street

St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery (only accessible as part of a tour) — Basin at St. Louis Street

Related Post: Spooky City Guide – New Orleans

Vampires in New Orleans

Vampire stories (and possibly vampires!) run rampant throughout New Orleans. You’ve probably heard of Anne Rice’s book-turned-feature-film “Interview with the Vampire” and the ever-popular “True Blood”, which took place in Louisiana. There are many stories about how vampires came to New Orleans, but my personal favourite is about the Casket Girls, or casquette girls, of New Orleans.

The Casket Girls of New Orleans

During the colonization of Louisiana, France sent women overseas to marry the French colonists already living in the Deep South. These women were referred to as “casket girls“, due to their oddly-shaped luggage which was shallow and long, just like a coffin.

After a rough six-month voyage at sea, the women arrived horribly ill and their delicate, pale skin quickly burned in the hot Louisiana sun. The girls stayed with the Ursuline nuns until they were married off to local men.

In addition to rumors spreading about the girls’ sickly appearances and coffin-like luggage, the third floor of the convent where the girls lived prior to their arranged marriages had the windows barricaded with wooden boards. This led people to believe the girls were vampires.

However, the Ursuline nuns said boarding up windows was common during the 1700s when the casket girls arrived in Louisiana, to protect properties and the people within them from hurricanes since purpose-build hurricane shutters hadn’t yet been built.

As the women were married off, a lot of them were mistreated by their husbands or forced into prostitution, resulting in France demanding their immediate return.

The girls wasted no time and rushed back to their home country without even packing their things, leaving in their wake an attic full of their empty casket-shaped luggage. This sealed the deal with the people of the Louisiana colony and the stories of vampires coming to and living in New Orleans became ingrained in their spooky history.

Want to hear more about the Casket Girls? Listen to my podcast below

Vampire-related places to visit in New Orleans

Old Ursuline Convent Museum — 2505, 1100 Chartres Street

Boutique du Vampyre (the only vampire shop in the French Quarter) — 709 St. Ann Street

Ghosts and Haunted Places in New Orleans

The outside of the Andrew Jackson Hotel in New Orleans
Credit: Coastlines to Skylines

New Orleans is a haven of paranormal activity, apparition sightings and ghost stories. Here are the spooky tales which scare me the most.

Related Post: The Top Haunted Places in New Orleans You’ve Got to Visit

The Ghosts in New Orleans Hotels

Since I love ghost stories so much, Chris and I decided to take a ghost walking tour in the French Quarter. We went along the usual route, stopping by the LaLaurie Mansion. You can read my post on the macabre history of the LaLaurie Mansion here.

During the tour, we learned about the casket girls, the undead and the ghosts that haunt various locations around town. As our group walked down Royal Street, getting closer and closer to the hotel Chris and I was staying at, I started to get nervous.

We stopped at a hotel two doors down called the Andrew Jackson Hotel. It was a quaint French Colonial-style building, complete with blue shutters, and was formerly used as a boys’ boarding school. In 1794, a fire devastated most of the buildings in the city, including the boarding school, killing five boys who lived there.

Mischievous Ghost Children

Our tour guide explained how the boys now haunt the Andrew Jackson Hotel. Guests have reported hearing them playing in the courtyard and turning on the water in the bathroom to distract guests, while the other boys turn on the TV. The creepiest story of all is of guests leaving their cameras out at night and waking up to discover photos taken from above of them sleeping in their beds.

This was enough to scare me for the rest of my visit to New Orleans. I’m lucky that Chris is such a good friend and didn’t complain once when I forced him to keep the lights on at night because there was no chance I was sleeping in the dark with ghost children so close by.

I’d love to stay at the Andrew Jackson Hotel, as well as any of the other highly haunted hotels that take over the French Quarter. But I feel I’d regret it the moment I heard a noise or saw a light flicker.

Go on one of the many ghost tours in New Orleans to hear more tales about the ghosts that haunt the city.

Ghostly Places to Visit in New Orleans

The Andrew Jackson Hotel (for a visit or overnight stay) — 919 Royal Street

Graveyards in New Orleans

The tomb of Marie Laveau - The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The Dark side of New Orleans can be seen in this spooky cemetery.
Rumoured to be the tomb of Marie Laveau – The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

I only visited one graveyard while in New Orleans, the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in Treme, just on the edge of the French Quarter. This graveyard is only accessible as part of a tour group, due to past instances involving people vandalizing tombstones and desecrating the graveyard.

Ghastly Graveyard Tour

The tour I went on was horrible because I cannot handle the heat. A mix of wearing black and being Canadian meant I was in for a day of suffering. The tour was in the middle of a hot, sunny afternoon and I regretted every minute of it.

The air was thick with the heat and we were all incredibly uncomfortable walking through the graveyard, with blazing sun rays beaming down on us and the weathered, crumbling tombstones tightly packed around the grounds of the cemetery.

However, it was still a cemetery and I really revel in hearing the history and stories cemeteries and their permanent residents. The tour and the tour guide were awesome – but the insane amount of heat made it difficult to fully enjoy.

Above Ground Tombs & Oven Crypts

As we entered the cemetery, we were greeted with rows of above-ground tombs. When the settlers first came to New Orleans, they buried their deceased below ground. But as the grounds were mushy and wet, the coffins would inevitably pop up above ground.

People tried to combat this by placing rocks on the coffins and drilling holes into them, so they’d fill with water and stay below ground. But nothing worked and the coffins refused to stay buried.

As a workaround, the graves were built above ground, similar to Spanish vaults, and thus the above-ground tombs became part of New Orleans’ cemetery landscape.

Because of the intense heat in New Orleans, a body inside a tomb is entirely cremated over the course of a couple of years. This allows multiple family members to use the same tomb over generations.

Before a new body is placed within the tomb, the previous inhabitant’s cremated ashes are swept to the back and out a hole that leads to the ground, thus sending the ashes back into the earth.

Famous Gravesites in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 contains the tombstone of the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Although experts aren’t certain which tomb is hers, there are two suspected tombs that have been marked with XXX, paying respects to the queen. In addition to her grave, another famous resident’s tomb sits waiting for his owner to join it — Nicolas Cage has his strange white pyramid tomb ready and waiting for when he’s eventually laid to rest.

Related Post: Nicolas Cage and His Dark Connections With New Orleans

As New Orleans is a city-run on superstitions, we were advised to cross the threshold backwards to prevent evil spirits from following us out as we left the cemetery. We left and I bolted for a shady area where I could rest before Chris and I headed back into the French Quarter to treat ourselves to some delicious southern food and more spooky stories.

New Orleans has so much to offer in the world of the supernatural. There’s a staggering number of intriguing places to explore and investigate, as well as plenty of opportunities to learn about how the residents of New Orleans dealt with the dark stories of creatures in the night. I highly recommend checking out one of the ghost tours listed above for an even more incredible history of the city.

Dark Side of New Orleans - Spooky Sites You've Got to Visit
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Comments 22

  1. Now I know why they say that New Orleans is a city like no other!

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      I LOVE New Orleans!! Be sure to visit it some day! Even if you aren’t into the spooky side they have killer jazz. It is truly a unique place!

  2. In art class in high school we went to the cemeteries to make art rubbings of the old tombs. I think the St Louis #1is where we went! There is a small old cemetery north of New Orleans in Madisonville. I took some photos there several years ago as it was overgrown. But I have heard a group got together and cleaned it up. I’ll have to ride by and check it out. If it has not been cleaned up, I’m sure it is one you would like. I have never been on the ghost tour. Will have to go sometime!

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      Oh, that’s so cool! It’s a real shame that you can no longer access it without a tour guide. Although, if art classes still do that I am sure they are allowed in. The cemetery in Madisonville sounds lovely! I must admit I do love an overgrown sort of forgotten building or cemetery but it is good that someone has cleaned it up and shown it some love. Let me know if it’s still overgrown the next time you stop by! Definitely go on a ghost tour in the French Quarter as well! It was so much fun! You’re so lucky to live so close to New Orleans – although, I don’t know how you can handle the summer heat!

  3. I think we managed to get away with being in one of the non haunted hotels in that street (or was it…?) Also good post, I had forgotten a lot of this especially the vampire part.

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      Haha I did feel creepy in our hotel! that weird door in the upper part of the wall…. what was hiding inside!?

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  4. The graves that would keep popping up out of the ground are such a creepy way solidify the haunting history of New Orleans. I also love how everyone’s naturally cremated remains are swept away for when a new tenant arrives. This must be one of the few places that a family grave is just another hotel stay.

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      I know right! It’s insane that it’s so hot there that it’s enough to cremate a body. I mean, sure over a year or two, but still. You should have felt it! We have to go someday to New Orleans because I love it so so so much and I am sure you will, too!

      1. Hello,
        I was born in New Orleans and grew up in the Metairie area. Most of my late teens were spent taking 3 buses to get to the French Quarter. I’d spend an entire day going all over the city. According to bus times. I might bed away upon my marriage but I still refer to it as MY CITY. I highly recommend anyone who gets the chance to go to not just go through tourists tours but roam the city on your own. Lots of history and architecture is all around you. We call the cemetery
        ” Necropolis” ..cities of the dead as they are alot like cities in their own right.
        There are tons of treasures to be found in shops that are rather run down in appearance but are filled with so much. I know every one of them! My City has only one warning I would give…go there, explore everything, but…be sure you are not on the streets after sunset. She changes at night…and frequently, it’s not safe. As a native of the Veiu Carre… I know what I speak of…the City is fascinating and adventurous but…be wary at night…

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          I love your comment! I do love it when cemeteries are referred to as a Necropolis – or a “city of the dead” I hear that the French Quarter is really the only area of New Orleans that is relatively safe at night due to police protecting the area. I was a bit wary to walk from Frenchman Street back to the French Quarter at night – so only experienced it by day. I love how you recommend people spending time exploring the history, architecture and little shops around New Orleans. Those really are the best experiences! Thank you so much for your comment!

  5. So this is hands down my favourite article of yours to date! In fact, this is probably one of the best articles I’ve read in awhile. I think I was born in the wrong part of Louisiana, because all of this just fascinates me. Maybe we should move to New Orleans for a bit. Hmm… Although I think in general the American south is FULL of so much dark and captivating history. I remember being totally enamored of Charleston, South Carolina for the same reason.

    So yeah, loved this. Tons of little facts I had no idea about, like advising whether properties are haunted or not, or the upside down keyhole! Have to say, I’m also a fan of the Casket Girls origin story for vampires. I think it’s always really cool to find out where some of these myths and legends come from. Often they have rather innocent – but incredibly interesting – backstories.

    Had to laugh at the bit about the hotel. That’s fairly similar to what happened to us in London. We took a Jack the Ripper tour and discovered we were essentially right in the middle of all the murders, and almost across the street from where he’s believed to have hid out after one of them. Jeremy was not thrilled.

    Also, we both agree that if you DON’T believe in ghosts – the story about finding photos of yourself from above in the morning is equally (if not more) creepy since that means there’s someone living wandering around the hotel sneaking into rooms and taking photos of guests.

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      Thank you! I am so happy you enjoyed it so much! I really loved visiting New Orleans. It’s the one place that I thought of for months after leaving. I really need to get back there and explore more. I have also been interested in Charleston but it was more for the architecture than anything else (it reminded me of New Orleans). Now that I know there is a creepier side I need to investigate more! If you move to New Orleans I will be so jealous! I think you should do it though! I’d 100% move down there for their winters if it was easy for a Canadian to move to the US.

      One thing I didn’t mention about the Casket Girls was some men ended up breaking into the convent after the girls had all left for France and they found these empty casket like cases in the attic and it really solidified the vampire theory. I love it! I believe I just mentioned that they were just left in the attic.

      So, Jeremy was the one that was not happy with you guys staying so close to a Jack the Ripper hide out? I think that’s pretty cool! Being so close to were real history took place – even if it was rather dark!

      Yeah, my friends always said “so what if it’s just a creepy hotel employee taking pictures of people in the night?!” – I don’t know which would be scarier!

      Thanks for your comment! You made my day!

  6. The casket girls is definitely the most unique story that I have heard in a long time. It’s definitely a bummer that they were mistreated by their husbands, but I am glad that France took them back–I cannot even begin to fathom their hardship. It also just goes to show you how prejudice people are about people from other places. Let’s treat everyone like aliens with 10 eyes…regardless of the time period. Everything that the US didn’t like about them was pretty explainable and normal. Everything else sounded like just some mean girl, shallow business. Can I get one of those suitcases?

    Voodoo dolls were big in Belize when I was there, but they seemed to carry this island taboo mentality that you initially talk about too. I am intrigued by their history. P.S. I love the FB post you did on this.

    I just love this post. For me, this truly defines dark tourism with an eclectic blend of history. Thank you for teaching me so much! You and Dagney/Jeremy have me digging the dark tourism blogs.

    I’ve never been to New Orleans, and now I really want to go.

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      Yes! The thing with the casket girls is that the men were French colonists so it’s like – what the hell? I’d definitely take one of those suitcases too! Casket suitcases all around!

      I definitely need to read more about the voodoo in Belize! I had no idea but I am completely intrigued! So happy you liked my voodoo doll related FaceBook post! I completely forgot about my own voodoo doll until I had published my post.

      You should definitely head to New Orleans! I really fell in love with it! Plus, I can only assume it’s a quick flight from Florida!

      Thank you for your kind words!

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      That’s super creepy! Have you stayed at any other haunted hotels in New Orleans? I don’t think I could handle the idea of ghost kids but other ones might be okay. I am trying to convince my best friend to stay in a creepy hotel with me in New Orleans but she is too scared.

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      Same! It’s such a fantastic city! I want to go back and explore more! Thanks for your comment!

  7. My wife and I recently stayed in the Bourbon Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter (one block south of Bourbon Street). Every Thursday night they have a free haunted hotel tour. Room 644 is reportedly the most haunted room in the hotel.

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      I definitely want to stay in room 644 someday! I don’t think I would get a very good night’s sleep but it would be a lot of fun. Which room did you stay in? I love New Orleans!

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