New Orleans has been called the most haunted city in the United States. It has been said by many that the actual history of New Orleans is far stranger than anything fictional writers can create.
Legend tells us that this vast swamp, which became New Orleans, was once used by Indians as a sacred burial place. The location was appealing for its geographical position on the Mississippi River. The French believed it would be extremely profitable for trading. Therefore, in 1718, New Orleans was founded. Being a swamp, New Orleans did not appeal to the taste of wealthy Parisians. It was during this time that the prisons in Paris were extremely over populated. The King of France decided to relieve this problem by sending over laborers from the prisons to build the city.
Murderers, thieves, rapists, and common criminals were among the first to populate the area. Living conditions were deplorable. Harsh elements, quick sand, alligators, venomous snakes, mosquitoes and disease were rampant. The murder rate was high. Add a couple of major fires that devoured the city, (as well as many of its inhabitants), numerous hurricanes, wars, and yellow fever epidemics over the next hundred years created excellent conditions for ghosts and hauntings.
In 1834, a crime occurred that shocked our city beyond belief. A crime that eventually became known...as the blemish of our city. A woman by the name of Delphine LaLaurie became a common name in New Orleans’ dark history.
In the late 1800’s, another purchaser made a brief appearance, as a ghost in the property. The story has become a treasured legend among ghost tales particularly due to its location. A ghostly game of fate played itself out between the walls of the gray mansion. It is a story of love transcending death and is one of my favorites.
In the spring of 1822, in Paris, two young men sat at table drinking and discussing the woman that they both loved. Twenty-three-year old Etienne Tounoir argued with twenty-four-year old Armand Lestauche over the hand of young Leda. Both determined to marry her, Armand challenged Etienne to a card game in which the winner would court her for marriage leaving the other to walk away.
“How undignified, I would not insult her like that,” shouted Etienne.
“But I am so certain that it is I who would win,” boasted
Armand, “that I am willing to risk losing her over a game of cards.”
Etienne stood and began to leave when Armand threatened to expose his father, accused of selling government secrets. Etienne protested, “It is a lie, but I will play your card game, and you will lose.”
Armand reminded him of a game the two had made up many years before, a game called Neant. “Neant,” thought Etienne, “it means nothing.”
But in the days that they invented the game, they had nothing to lose. Now he risked his everything in a foolish dare to win the hand of Leda.
Each deal of cards caught Etienne falling further and further behind in points. Sweat poured from his brow as he lost the woman he hoped would be his bride. His hands shook as the final cards were dealt. He put his cards down in defeat. He had lost, not only a game but also his beloved Leda. He had but once chance left, being certain that Leda would not agree to marry Armand. The winner, Armand, glared at him with a smug grin on his face.
“She won’t have you,” Etienne mumbled as he left the table.
He had made a bet and lost. Honor forbade him to ever speak to Leda again. He convinced himself that Leda would never accept the proposal from Armand. Within the year, however, they were married.
Paris became hell for Etienne. He constantly found himself running into the couple, seeing the life that he believed should have been his. Unable to bear an existence without Leda, he left Paris and came to New Orleans. He had lost hope of ever being happy without her.
He later entered into a marriage of convenience with a New Orleans woman, Felicie, and in time made his fortune. He lived a quiet, uneventful life with her raising two daughters who eventually married and left the city. Felicie died in 1855.
At fifty-six years old, Etienne found himself once again alone with nothing but his memories of Leda. He would sit and
play solitaire for hours, imagining Leda standing at his side watching him. So consumed was he with his memories, he decided he could no longer stand it and arranged to return to Paris and find her. He had convinced himself that if he saw her old and withered that he could finally put his memory of her to rest and have peace in his life.
He ventured back to Paris determined to confront Leda. When he arrived in Paris, he could not find Leda or Armand. A mutual friend informed him that the couple had separated many years before and had moved frequently. Just as he had given up all hope of finding her, he recognized a woman walking into a shop. Only a bit faded from time, Leda was still as beautiful as he remembered her. He wondered if she would remember him.
Following her inside, he approached her and introduced himself. At first she said that she did not remember and then she smiled, “Yes, I do remember, at one time I did fancy…” she hesitated, “you lost your fortune, I believe, and left Paris.”
Etienne felt insulted at first but quickly decided it best that she believed him to be poor. He suddenly found himself thinking of how she’d only want him for his money. She told him of how she and Armand had no children. They had only lived together for one miserable year and had lived apart all this time. She mentioned to him that Tuesday she could be found at home and gave him her address, inviting him to lunch. With mixed feelings, he accepted her invitation. Etienne arrived at her home on Tuesday with a bouquet of roses. Accepting the roses, she then reminded him that she and
Armand had never divorced and that he must remember that Armand would always be the head of her house. She sadly explained to him that she would only be able to think of him in secret. Etienne realized that he’d never have Leda as his wife. His heart sank.
Etienne responded, “The game of love is always odd.”
She looked at him and said coyly, “There is another game, one you could teach me, it’s called Neant, a wicked game where destinies are changed.”
Unbeknownst to him, Armand had not only told Leda of the game but blamed Etienne for the foolhardy dare. Leda had spent her life in a miserable marriage to a man she did not love, believing a lie. Shocked to realize that she knew all along about the game, resentment and embarrassment brewed within him. He thought only of how she had made his life such hell. If he had only known what was in her heart, but she dared not reveal the truth. He tried to explain to her that because of honor he had to abide by the rules of the game. “If not for the sake of honor, things would have turned out very differently,” he whispered to her.
Not believing him, she looked away and mumbled, “Perhaps, but there are other lives beyond this one.”
Confused and angry, he left without saying goodbye and never returned to Leda again. She died that same year, at the age of fifty-four. Etienne’s anger turned to grief and remorse having never fulfilled his desire to reconcile with Leda. She took her secret love for Etienne with her to the grave never knowing the truth.
Etienne lived another thirty years and returned to New Orleans. He purchased the old LaLaurie mansion on Governor Nichols and Royal Streets. The house being reputed as haunted, he felt that living with ghosts suited him. Etienne felt haunted himself by the memory of Leda. Leda had spoken a world beyond this one and it intrigued him in a macabre fashion.
Etienne befriended a young man, Aubevie Brou. He enjoyed talking to him as he played his games of solitaire. He shared his story of Armand and Leda with Aubevie. One day, Etienne told Aubevie that the ghost of Armand visited him. He told him that the ghost admitted that he never wanted Leda; his desire served only to prevent Etienne from having her. He went on to say that Armand had told Leda lies about him to tarnish her memory of him. He told of a bargain that he made with Armand’s ghost. He explained to Aubevie that there would be another game of Neant, but only when he too became a ghost. He had arranged to have the house willed to Aubevie when he died, to have a living witness to the game. He and Armand would once again play the game for Leda’s hand, but in the other world. He pointed to a window and told Aubevie to keep watch after his death.
Etienne died at the age of ninety-three. Every night for a year, Aubevie watched the window. He tolerated countless nights with the other ghosts in the house as they screamed and cried throughout its dark halls. Finally one night a figure appeared, that of a young man with dark hair and eyes. He entered the room as he summoned the others. Another ghost appeared of a different young man who seated himself at a table across from the first. Finally, the spirit of a young woman appeared. The game went quickly. The first young man held up two cards. The second rose from his chair and bowed to the first then vanished. The specter of the first stood and took the hand of the ghost of the young woman. As the couple walked to the window, the man turned and looked at Aubevie. For a brief moment, he saw the face of the old man who had been his friend. As the couple faded away. Aubevie knew the prophecy had been fulfilled and at last, the old man had found peace.
On November 23, 1762, in the Treaty
of Fontainebleau, the King of France, Louis XV
No doubt France failed to alert the
settlers in New Orleans of this change in command.
Needless to say, the French
population of the city feared the worse. It would appear to
Spain was slow to respond. In 1769, another
governor, Don Alejandro O’Reilly, an Irish
The governor’s first matter of business was to
capture the six men who led the
The priest, of the church, at that time was a
beloved Capuchin Monk, named Pere
Finally, in an act of desperation to give these men
a proper Catholic funeral, Pere
Pere Antion’s alley (ironically
named for his predecessor), down Orleans Avenue to what
Pere Dagobert was eventually replaced
in the church by the first Spanish priest Father
One of the most mysterious ghosts in
the French Quarter is that of the “Sultan”. He
New Orleans was one of the first cities to be taken
over and occupied by the Union
He had bars put over the doors and
windows of the house making it look for like a
Two years after the sultan moved into the home, a
woman who lived at a neighboring
She reported the situation to police
who had to enter the property by way of a battering
Sultan’s body was the only one that had not been cut up. His body was found in
For years, the city blamed pirates for the crime.
It was assumed that possibly they
A much more sinister explanation has since been
derived. It is now suspected that
In the newspaper article of 1979,
called “Life with an Exotic Ghost,” tales of the sultan’s
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copyright 1997, Kalila Katherina Smith
excerpts from "Journey Into Darkness...Ghosts & Vampires of New Orleans."
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Copyright by Kalila Katherina Smith - All Rights Reserved, 1997-2001 E-Mail: email@example.com