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A spooky tour of New Orleans: America’s most haunted city

Check out the haunts of Louisiana’s largest city with a spine-chilling guided tour of the French Quarter.

By Jeannine Williamson

Nicknamed the Big Easy for its laid back attitude, and world famous for its jazz music and February Mardi Gras celebrations, there’s also a very spooky side to New Orleans.

Shaped by a melting pot of European and Caribbean cultures, the French Quarter is the main tourist hub where wall-to-wall boutiques, antique shops, restaurants, bars and live music venues rub shoulders with quirky voodoo stores that are a legacy from the West Indies.

As you walk through the colorful streets look out for unusual for sale signs outside homes and apartments. Below the estate agent’s name you may well see the word ‘haunted’ which is clearly a selling point for some potential buyers in what is supposedly one of America’s most ghostly cities.  For those who don’t want to share their home with uninvited strangers, other signs helpfully state ‘not haunted’ although whether or not that claim is covered by trade descriptions if the new owner does end up with a spooky sitting tenant is open to debate.

Check out the haunts, in every sense, on a guided walking tour around the French Quarter to follow in the footsteps of things that go bump in the night. Some of the best are provided by Haunted History Tours, founded more than 20 years ago by Sidney Smith.

‘We’re a city filled with tragic events,’ Sidney told Sailawaze. ‘The earliest French settlers were warned not to build a city here and told that the area was cursed.’

The two-hour tours, which also include bus excursions if you prefer not to walk, cover all manner of topics including ghosts, vampires, witches, voodoo, unsolved mysteries and mysterious creatures; all laced with humor and few tall tales. Not to be confused with walks where characters jump out to scare you along the way; these tours let the facts, or fiction, speak for themselves. One such spine-chilling New Orleans’ story is about the fearsome rougarou, a type of werewolf that can take on the appearance of different animals and preys on humans who venture into its terrain.

If you need to steady your nerves, the tours are interspersed with time to enjoy a different kind of spirit, such as a stop for a tipple at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Dating back to the 1700s it is reputed to be the oldest building used as a bar in the United States.

New Orleans’ ornate cemeteries, known as the ‘cities of the dead’ are another unusual visitor attraction. Because the city is built on swampy land it makes interment impractical and the deceased are laid to rest above ground in ornate mausoleums and tombs adorned with statues and sculptures. The most famous is St Louis Cemetery No. 1 which you can visit on an organized tour. It is the resting place of infamous ‘voodoo queen’ Marie Laveau who was immortalised in the 1971 Redbone song The Witch Queen of New Orleans.

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, New Orleans’ haunted past is one of the many facets which make the city such a quirky and fun destination.

Set Sail

5-Day Western Caribbean From New Orleans with Royal Caribbean

Duration: 4 nights

Where: New Orleans | Costa Maya | Cozumel | New Orleans

Ship: Carnival Valor

Price: From $234 pp

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Published 03.03.22