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New Orleans

One of the world’s most special places is New Orleans. It is steeped in history, culture, art and . . . ghost stories. An early slave trading port, New Orleans’ past lends itself to tales of grandeur, decadence and sinister events, including being touted as one of the most haunted places in the world. And why not? It was founded in 1718, at one time was the wealthiest city in America, has been burned to the ground, was at center stage for the Civil War, has experienced plague and pestilence, has been devastated by floods and has been rebuilt several times.

Its culture and people are broadly varied as, being a major American port, it is where many immigrants stepped foot on American soil for the first time. Which means this city has played a significant role in the vast diversity of America itself and it means a lot of souls have passed through the area. However the diversity of souls hasn’t always meshed harmoniously, as evidenced by racial and ethnic violence that has occurred there over time. In addition, its notorious corruption and oppression has led to appalling instances of injustice, disaster and loss of life.

All of these grim facts may overshadow the city, but they don’t make New Orleans any less beautiful or special, although it could very well explain its reputation for extreme hauntedness. If hauntings occur because of psychic or emotional disturbance, then the history of this city is prime fodder for paranormal activity because it has seen more than its share of loss, turmoil and pain.

Hot and humid – no – downright steamy, New Orleans’ backdrop is of green, lush grass, delicious plump blooms of flowers and massive, sprawling live oaks dripping eerily with Spanish moss. Like apparitions, these magnificent trees rise up around you as you travel the countryside, shielding your view of the breathtaking mansions and homes that lie in expansive rows along the boulevards, fragrance of Magnolia blossoms in the air. It is very easy to picture the past here as much of it has not left.

The French Quarter is exceedingly old in American terms and in some places the landscape threatens to swallow its structures with vegetation that grows relentlessly on the rooftops and defiantly out of the cracks and crevices of the oldest buildings. Most of the fronts of the French Quarter buildings are adorned with wrought iron in a style that marks the age and cultural origins of the city. The architecture alone will conjure images of spirits and of 300 year-old+ history. Some of the most haunted places are right in the center of the French Quarter and in the Garden District, so it’s possible to stay and walk or ride the streetcar to most of them. When we go to New Orleans, we stay in the French Quarter because . . . we like ghosts. And some of the best hotels in New Orleans can be found there.

Cities of the dead are what New Orleanians call their cemeteries. Because the city is below sea level - and if you watched/read any of the Hurricane Katrina coverage, you know that all too well – they could not bury their dead underground. One good rain or flood and the corpses come floating to the top. Not a very appetizing sight as you’re sitting down to the dinner table – and we all thought mowing our yards was the biggest chore! Try grappling the dead and dragging them back where they belong. That’s not good.

So the graves are above ground in these Cities of the Dead. In fact, some of them are actually temporary graves in which a corpse is interred for a certain period of time. The heat and humidity decomposes the body, and the ashes/remains fall to the bottom of the tomb, making way for the next person. Heck, we say, why waste a good tomb? After, all it’s “dead space” anyway. (Ooops. Did I say that?)

If you go to New Orleans, you must visit at least one City of the Dead. We recommend St. Louis Cemetery, which is where Marie Laveau is buried. Marie Laveau was a feared and celebrated Voodoo Queen and at any given time you will find offerings around her grave. You might even see her ghost.

There are copious ghost stories surrounding the city of New Orleans and its residents.

We’ll add more as we can, but one of the most famous is the ghost story starring Madame Delphine Macarty LaLaurie. Madame LaLaurie was a fine, upstanding New Orleans’ citizen, wealthy and well-known. That was her outward appearance. She was also an owner and abuser of slaves.

One impression I got while visiting is that New Orleans is a very spiritual place, and not just from a religious aspect, either. Of course, it is Voodoo country, so you can get anything from gris gris to spells at many of the shops that line the ancient streets. There are cathedrals and ancient churches as well. But what impacted me the most when I was there is the artistic aspect of New Orleans. Artists are everywhere in that town. Musicians flock there and we saw some of the best unknown talent we’ve ever seen, especially in the Storyville District. Even the street performers will take your breath away and it is the well-known birthplace of Jazz. In addition, there are fine artists in abundance. Take a walk and browse the myriad art galleries, packed with amazing soulful interpretations from the sublime, to the unusual, to the humorous. To further prove the point, it is the home of author, Anne Rice as well as some of the most amazing culinary artists on the planet. Because art is a spiritual activity, i.e., self-expression, New Orleans is an inherently spiritual place.

Maybe that’s why I think it’s so special.

If you’re scared of ghosts, don’t let the dark side deter you from visiting New Orleans. You’re more likely to experience the joy of merry-making, the awesome beauty of centuries-old architecture, incredible world-class cuisine, the friendly hospitality of the people, not to mention the exquisite sounds of jazz and other music that wafts through open doors, setting the mood for party-going as you amble the streets of the French Quarter, sipping a signature frozen daiquiri. In fact, you would have to go out of your way not to enjoy this place, since the staffs of the different establishments go out of their way to see that you have a good time. Literally. I’ll spare you the details, but I was pulled up on stage by a couple of staff and given a washboard to help out a Zydeco band when I was there. Like I said, they don’t let you be bored or have a depressing stay. By the way, I didn’t do so bad. I complimented the concertina guy pretty well.

Yeah, sure. New Orleans has crime, although it has been decreasing. When we visited a few years ago, we expected pick pockets to be lurking the streets and seedy-types trying to run a scam on us at every turn, but that’s not what it was like at all. But take reasonable precautions, just in case.

Enough of my jibber-jabbering about why I love this place so much and onto the “meat and potatoes.” Below are some of the haunted hotel New Orleans.

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