New Orleans is often cited as being one of America's most haunted cities. Whether you're a believer in the spirit world or not, there's something decidedly eerie walking through one of the city's famous cemeteries, their dead interred on top of the swampy ground instead of six feet under. The city served as a historic entry point for the country's slave trade, was a major stomping ground for pirates, and was the birth place of voodoo. Add in the mix of African, French and Spanish traditions and superstitions, and the stage is set for otherworldly visitors.
The city has capitalized on its ghostly population. Realtors advertise when an historic home for sale is haunted, although there's an often told story about a certain Nicholas Cage being unable to live in his famously haunted, now ex-abode in the Quarter. There are lots of tour options to explore and exploit the city's sixth sense, some running at night, many with rambles through old tombs in the famous St. Louis Cemetery #1, the final resting place of voodoo queen Marie Laveaux – or is it? Whether you like your tours over the top and theatrical or more historic, there is a tour for you. Most cater to kids and families, but some include stops for adult beverages in haunted pubs.
Consistently making it to number one on popular tourism social media sites says something. Maybe it's because Ghost City Tours works with super guides, expert yarn spinners who stop short of melodrama. Then there's the Ghost of New Orleans tour, which is good for families with kids of all ages, another plus. Some tours are for the grown up ghostbusters only, including the Haunted Pub Crawl. Then there's the Killers and Thrillers Tour and the Dead of Night Ghost Hunt Experience, good for keeping the 16 and over crowd engaged and interested. Whether chasing down ghostly lore in cemeteries, dive bars, theaters or haunted mansions, Ghost City Tours delivers.
Spirit Tours offers a wide range of walking tours, but the Ghost Tour draws the biggest crowds. Leaving conveniently from 601 Royal Street each evening at 8:15 pm, stops include the famous St. Louis Cemetery with its voodoo queen grave and forays into the history of slavery and the city's yellow fever epidemic. The guides do a bang-up job of translating legendary stories of misfortune, disasters, and disease as the backdrop for all kinds of ghosts and spirits walking among us. Storytelling is the focus, without the use of elaborate costumes or scare tactics. The walking tour covers some ground, so best wear your comfy shoes.
Historic New Orleans Tours' Haunted French Quarter Walk makes sure to hit all of the "most haunted" city's hot spots. You will venture to the Lalaurie Mansion, here about the phantom of the Orleans Hotel, and shiver over the tale of the witch that makes her home at the French Opera - a tale of young love spurned gets even. The tour operates rain or shine, leaves from Bourbon Street and lasts around two hours. These tours don't trade in theatrics, but the guides are some of the most knowledgeable and informative on the circuit. Unlike some tours, the guides love taking questions which makes for a lively way to spend a few hours.
If you're looking for the average walking tour, then move along. But if you want to delve deeper into local culture and lore, with commentary powered by a curious mind adept at arcane facts and in-depth research, then you've come to the right place. Arthur Morgan Smith is the gentleman behind Ask Arthur Tours, a retired New York ad man and Tulane grad with a penchant for uncovering the most interesting bits about New Orleans, a place he's called home, on and off, for decades. A longtime volunteer guide for Save Our Cemeteries and Friends of the Cabildo, Smith decided to hang his own shingle out a year ago, and the results are a breath of fresh air in the sometimes overwrought guiding community. The names of his tours are the first hint: Seldom Seen Cemeteries, Bards & Barflies of Bohemia, Vieux Carr� sunrise and Marigny Happy Hour all sound tantalizing, yes? Eschewing the usual ghost tour approach, Smith dives deep into Voodoo/Afro/Catholicism on his St. Louis Cemeteries No. 1 and No. 2 tours, points out haunted sites on his French Quarter tours and adds tidbits about 19th century Afro-Creole Spiritualism in New Orleans, seances, mediums, that sort of thing. Ask him about Napoleon Bonaparte, who supposedly checked in regularly from beyond the grave. Tours are limited to 12 guests, and private tours with transportation come in all kinds of intriguing flavors.
Gray Line offers a very solid Ghost & Spirits Walking Tour that takes participants on a deep journey through the city's major haunted locales by night. You may meet the ghosts of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, and be introduced to a full cast of ghouls that reside in the Vieux Carre. The two hour tour departs nightly at 7:30 from the Gray Line Lighthouse Ticket office on the riverfront. You'll pass thorugh an old slave exchange and visit the haunted court house which is actually the home of today's state supreme court. Don't forget your camera...you just never know who might show up to pose.
Bloody Mary offers a fully comprehensive ghost tour that is pretty much unrivaled in the city. As for Bloody Mary herself, she is a New Orleans native who has traveled the globe on spiritual quests, seeking out the paranormal. She offers a three and a half hour tour aided by luxury van that takes patrons to cemeteries, mortuaries, a haunted bar and voodoo altars. A mini ghost hunt is included where you are implored to channel your inner psychic abilities. Hear the stories of murderess Mad Madame Lalaurie and the Patriot Pirates as you huddle close with your group for comfort.
The chills start as soon as you take a look around Lord Chaz's website. A self made expert on New Orleans ghost/vampire history who became so popular he started his own business, Lord Chaz and his crew bring a Goth, leather biker sensibility to the goings on around the spirit world. Lord Chaz & Co. offer a nightly walking tour from Bourbon Street's limited to 25 patrons that is thrilling, over the top and informative. The tour constantly undergoes adaptation to ensure it stays fresh and can entertain previous guests. Chaz and friends are excellent story tellers, and will never appear cheesy or over rehearsed.
The Haunted Mortuary on Canal Street is certifiably home to a cadre of spirits according to a number of paranormal experts around the country. The original goal of the current owner was to turn the building into a haunted house, but during construction, the former funeral home was found to already be haunted. During the Halloween months, the space operates as a haunted house, but for the rest of the year, it is open for ghost tours and and overnight paranormal readings. The building operated as an actual mortuary during the 20th century, and was also abandoned for a period of time during the 90s, at least by humans.
The French Quarter Phantoms Ghost & Vampire Tour is constantly battling it out with Haunted History Tours for the top ghost tour in town, and if your stay is long enough it would be worth doing both. Created after consulting with the National Paranormal Society, these tours are historically accurate, yet exciting experiences for groups of families and adults. Given rain or shine, these wanders last just under two hours, and cover about a mile walked over a leisurely pace. This isn't the tour for you if you want melodramatic hauntings, instead the fright factor comes from the dark truths shared by a corps of excellent guides.
With Haunted History Tours, you have options. Ghost tours, vampire tours, cemetery tours; pick your poison. The tour guides will laugh and haunt you through two hours of exploring the French Quarter's darker history. The highlight of the itinerary is visiting voodoo queen Marie Laveaux's tomb, located in the city's oldest burial ground, St. Louis Cemetery #1. The tour's meeting place is a voodoo shop, just to set the mood. If that doesn't do it for you, maybe the Travel Channel saying they offer the "#1 Tour in New Orleans" will. You'll have the chance to quench your thirst along the way at one of the city's haunted bars.