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Ghosts of New Orleans

Griffin House

Adam Griffin House
1852

1447-51 Constance Street

New Orleans, Louisiana

Often spoken of in very hushed tones is the haunting of Griffin House. This grand home was originally built by Adam Griffin in 1852, and as the ghost tale goes, it was abandoned by Griffin after only a few months of him living there. This was the begining of the War between the States, and Griffin was said to have fleed before the Union occupation occured.

Located at 1447 Constance Street Griffin House still stands in it's ageless beauty. Whether it is still haunted or not, remains quite another unsolved mystery, but the stories that have been told about the place over the many many years can still raise the hair on your neck.

Built as an elegant private home with high ceilings and spacious rooms that were perfect for dress balls and fancy parties, but there was little in the way of festivity going on here in 1862 when the Federal Army took over New Orleans. When General Benjamin Butler's Union troops occupied the city in the early years of the war, they began selecting large homes and buildings in which to house men and supplies. The house on Constance Street was one of the buildings selected for occupation.

During the occupation period of the Civil War, the large Mannor house was used by Union troops as a barracks and munitions storage. However, the first soldiers who entered the house heard a chilling sounds, that of rattling chains and groaning coming from upstairs. In the third floor attic, they found several slaves shackled to the wall and in a state of advanced starvation. Some of them even had untreated, maggot-infested wounds. They were removed to a field hospital where they could be better taken care of and the house was turned into a barracks for soldiers and prisoners.


While the Union troops were staying in the Griffin House, two Confederate deserters dressed in stolen Union uniforms had been caught looting homes. Since looting by either Union or Confederate soldiers was an offense punishable by death, the two were arrested by the Federal Army.

While being held for trial and feeling that they might receive mercy, the pair attempted to keep up the ruse of being Union soldiers since they also faced death from the Confederates if found to be deserters. Sympathetic Union soldiers supplied the two men with whiskey and they repeatedly sang "John Brown's Body", a popular song among Union soldiers.

This was still an attempt to convince all that they were Union soldiers. However, once the pair realized that they were not to receive leniency and would be shot, they decided to commit suicide. They bribed a soldier to smuggle them two pistols and, lying on a bed facing each other, each fired his pistol into the other's heart. It is said that the two bled so profusely that the blood was seen seeping through the floor of the room and down the walls of floor below.


Since the end of the war, the Griffin home has housed many different commercial businesses. Those employed there throughout the years have reported seeing and hearing the two soldiers standing in Civil War uniforms singing "John Brown's Body" while holding whiskey bottles in their hands. There have also been reports of hearing the sound of marching feet, always accompanied by singing voices.

 

After the war, the building was used for commercial purposes as a lamp factory, a mattress factory and a perfume bottling plant. In the 1920's, it was a union hiring hall and one previous owner of the house was an old man who rebuilt air conditioners... until he disappeared one day without a trace. The old man always claimed that he had "seen things" in the house, but when pressured to elaborate, he always refused.

Over the years, there have been many reports of a haunting in the house. All through the various owners, the ghosts remained a constant force. Occupants spoke of hearing heavy boots coming from the third floor, the rattling of chains and screams from the dark attic. Neighbors and passersby also claimed to see two white-faced soldiers in blue uniforms standing at the third-floor window. Both of them were said to be holding a bottle in their hand and singing the words to "John Brown’s Body".

Several incidents took place in 1936, during the period when the house was used a lamp factory. One night, a maintenance man was working there alone. It was just shortly before midnight and he was working on the second floor. To his surprise, a nearby door opened up on its own. As he stood there in shock, the sound of a pair of marching boots stomped into the room with him. Then, a second pair of boots joined the first and the pounding footsteps became almost deafening. Terrified, he scrambled for the staircase as the sound of the boots began to fade away. The footsteps were immediately followed by the spectral sound of drunken laughter and then the refrain of "John Brown’s Body". The maintenance worker claimed to still be able to hear the horrifying voices as he ran down the street. Nothing, including the promise of increased wages, could convince him to return to the house again.

Shortly after taking possession of the house, the owner, Isadore Seelig, arrived at the factory one morning and was nearly killed. He and his brother were standing in the front hall talking when a huge concrete block was hurled at them from the head of the stairs.

"It didn’t fall," Seelig later reported. "It was thrown. It never struck a stair as it came and it landed just where we had been standing. My brother saw it coming and pushed me out of the way. It probably would have killed us if it had hit us."

The two men charged upstairs to find out who was there and discovered the place to be empty. In one area, where the floors had been freshly painted the day before, they found not a single footprint.

"The upper windows and doors were all locked," added Seelig, "and when we went upstairs no one was there, and no one had been there. No such blocks had been used in any of the repairing around here either."

A few years later, when it seemed impossible to keep tenants in the place, the structure was turned into a boarding house for a brief time. A widow rented out one of the second floor rooms and settled in quite comfortably. Everything seemed very quiet for some time until one afternoon when she was sitting by the window with her sewing. She happened to look down and noticed that there was blood on her arm. Thinking that she must have accidentally scratched herself, she wiped the blood away but in an instant, it was back! Before she could wipe it off, another drop of blood appeared on her arm, then another, and another. She quickly looked up and saw the blood was oozing through a crack in the ceiling directly above where she was sitting. As she tried to understand what was happening, she heard an eerie sound coming from the third floor... the faint strains of "John Brown’s Body" being sung by two drunken men!

The widow began to scream and she ran shrieking from the house, never to return. Her relatives later came back and packed up her household for her. They encountered no dripping blood in the house but as they were locking the front door, they claimed to see two soldiers in blue uniforms looking down at them from the attic window.

In the late 1970's, Kathleen and Anthony Jones bought the house with the intention of restoring it. In an interview with authors Richard Winer and Nancy Osborn, they said they had experienced nothing strange at the old place.... but for some reason, they never occupied the house.

Residents of the decaying neighborhood weren't speaking much after the 1970's, but one anonymous witness told an interesting story. He said that the rundown area (near a housing project) had deteriorated to the point that any abandoned house in the neighborhood had become fair game for drug addicts.

The house at 1447 became one of these, but within a month, even the addicts had deserted it. They claimed they saw two white men there in "police uniforms" that walked through walls and sang "old timey songs"!

Residents reported seeing what appeared to be droplets of blood drip from the ceilings and two soldiers peering at them from outside the windows. He was forced to abandon the building also.


In recent years, the house has been fully renovated and has been occupied by a nice normal family who have not had any sightings of the ill-fated pair of soldiers up to this date.



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