(New Orleans) New Orleans is said to be one of the most haunted cities in America. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in ghosts and other poltergeists or not, the Louisiana metropolis happily rides on its sinister reputation. Ghost hunting, cemetery visits, voodoo, there are certainly ways to scare yourself in “Nawlins”!
With his slim figure and pale complexion, our guide Soren Presley looks the part. With disturbing detachment, he tells us, among other things, the story of Zack Bowen, a man who haunts the Omni Hotel. He cooked his girlfriend’s head and limbs in the days following her murder in 2006. He then threw himself from a balcony before landing on the sidewalk of rue Chartres. Exactly where we are standing, our guide informs us with disarming calm. It was too much for a Dutch colleague who had to move a good distance from the infamous stretch of sidewalk.
Without expressing the slightest emotion, Soren continues by turning across the street to show us the Pharmacological Museum of New Orleans, a magnificent historic building in the Vieux Carré that housed the first certified apothecary in the United States. After 30 years of loyal service, Dr. Louis Dufilho Jr. sold his business to James Dupas, and this is where things get complicated, our guide tells us. The sinister apothecary is said to have carried out experiments on pregnant slaves or using poisons, drugs and other voodoo concoctions on patients. Several died from it. Their remains were found buried in the backyard. So much so that the building is today haunted by the specter of the evil Dr. Dupas, but also by a woman who wanders in the courtyard and two children who have been seen on the upper floors. Coincidence or not, a light came on for a few moments in a second story window just as Soren was telling his story. The room is now used for storage. It’s unclear if anyone was working there that evening, but the museum had been closed for a long time late Tuesday evening…
You can also go see Ms. Laveau’s grave during a guided tour of Saint-Louis Cemetery No. 1, a place generally inaccessible to the public. The Voodoo Queen is indeed buried in the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, which hosted her first burials in 1789. When she died in 1881, Marie Laveau was a real star – our guide Rahsaan Parker even tells us that her death was was reported in the pages of the New York Times. Indeed, the free woman of Creole origin made her fortune thanks to her talents as a herbalist, but also by making and selling gris-gris of all kinds. Legend has it that she lived more than 200 years. “In fact, her eldest daughter, also named Marie, was just like her mother and was also a high voodoo priestess,” Parker says. In all, nine descendants of Marie Laveau practiced voodoo. »
The religion introduced to Louisiana by Haitian Creoles in the 19th century is still very much present in New Orleans. It is also possible to attend ceremonies which help to demystify the (false) beliefs surrounding the practice. This is how we were taken to the Bywater district, to the bottom of the very cheerful and colorful Rosalie Aly, where the temple of Sallie Ann Glassman, mambo asogwe (high priestess) of the house is located. Ancient.
During the short ceremony, she explains to us, among other things, the role of the lwa, spiritual intermediaries who represent the different aspects of God’s vital force, whether they are natural manifestations or altars erected in honor of ancestors.
Although these altars are lined with hundreds of gris-gris of different shapes, no trace of frightening dolls riddled with needles or the remains of sacrificed animals has been found. “These beliefs were instilled in people’s minds because voodoo was practiced by black immigrants from the West Indies and Africa,” says Sallie Ann Glassman. Then we put the final nail in the coffin by exploiting the sensationalism associated with voodoo. »
“Yet everything was taken from the slaves,” the high priestess continued in her soft, haunting voice. They were torn from their homes, from their families. When we look at these altars, we see that these people found a way to keep the spirit of their gods alive by giving birth to this religion. And that is incredibly beautiful. »
Urban legend has it that American actor Nicolas Cage has been hit by a curse since he purchased two haunted mansions in the French Quarter with impunity in 2007. It was to ward off the bad luck that he had built an imposing mausoleum in the shape of a pyramid in the Saint-Louis cemetery no. 1. “A clairvoyant revealed to the actor that he had to reserve a space in the oldest cemetery in the city, ideally near the tomb of Marie Laveau, in the hope that the voodoo queen can grant him some form of clemency, guide Rashaan Parker tells us. To do this, he will have to contact practitioners living on both banks of the Mississippi and bring them here to carry out the exorcism. After which, he will be able to resell the houses. » The problem is that the residences purchased by Nicolas Cage were seized by the tax authorities in 2009. One of them was resold to a rich Texan family, which has no intention of getting rid of it, having not never been bothered by the ghost of Madame Delphine Lalaurie, known for having tortured and murdered dozens of slaves there…