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How True are New Orleans Haunted Houses Stories?
A little research goes a long way...
I've written thousands of pages about the history of New Orleans, from fiction based on fact to straight reporting, so I know the temptation...
You start out with an actual, really interesting event...
Then you think, but what if I tweak it just a little? Wouldn't the story be even better, and it wouldn't be really changing the facts...not really...well, not much anyway.
It made me wonder: what if you were performing for an audience of 30 people, watching you intently, looking for that POW moment of the story, night after night?
You'd want to deliver, right? You'd want to give them a good time, maybe get some tips in the bargain?
Maybe you'd add in a little here, a little there, and if it worked, you'd do it again tomorrow, refining your patter, embellishing a bit more. Perhaps you'd get so good that other tour guides were secretly taking your tour to get tips, and then they just might add on a bit to make it their own...
The temptation must be awfully strong.
Nighttime from our French Quarter Balcony
Living in the Ghostly Crossroads...
Our condo in the French Quarter is near the corner or Ursulines & Chartres- a very popular corner for alllllll of the tour guides.
The intersection is a ghostly trifecta- The Ursulines Convent (where the 'casket girls' lived), the Beauregard- Keyes House (scenes of the General's war horrors) and the Hotel Provincial (site of a Civil War hospital).
The guides tell the stories with differing levels of drama, and sometimes conflicting facts. It made me wonder about the actual history and want to go digging into the archives.
Not to be a spoilsport...
On the other hand, I'd hate to ruin a good spooky tale, so I've broken each story into two pages- one has the ghost story, and this page has what I've been able to dig up about the actual history of the sites.
I'll be adding to this page as I post more stories, and will link back to the stories themselves so you can make up your own mind.
In the spirit (ha!) of full disclosure, I'd describe myself as 'ghost-curious.' While not a believer, I'd like to think there's something else out there...and so I'm open to being convinced. In that spirit, I don't have an axe to grind, other than to find as much of history's truth as possible.
What do you think?
So...are the tales true or false?
LaBranche Building, 700 Royal Street
Unfortunately, I can find no record of any of the events that led to the hauntings. Jean Baptiste LaBranche did begin construction of the house in 1835, but died before its completion in 1838.
The obit, in the French language New Orleans Bee, lists him as dying from a long and painful illness at the age of 60 on his plantation in St. Charles Parish. There's some information stating that he died from wounds inflicted during a duel, though given his age that seems dubious.
There's nothing in any of the newspapers about any scandal after his widow's death, although given their wealth and influence, it's possible there was a coverup when the skeleton of a woman was found chained to a wall...
In other colorful history, the commercial areas of the building were officially a bakery during prohibition and there are many ads looking for reliable bakers, but also several arrests. Bakery by day, speakeasy by night!
There's nothing very specific to research here, sadly. The house has an amazing history, but as it relates to the spirits here, there's not much to go on.
It wouldn't be surprising if Mayor Girod decided to hang around in his showplace where he had so many triumphs.
I'd be a bit surprised if Napoleon, who mostly saw the colony as a bargaining chip, would come to the New World. But who's to say?
The other two spirits are more generic, nameless and timeless. I could find no specific horrors that would lead to either ghost being left behind, but since it was an apartment house for years, it wouldn't be shocking if some tenants fell in love with it along the way.