The Sultans Ghost-This
ghost is one of New Orleans most famous ghosts.
He is said to roam the halls of the four story
house located at 716 Dauphine Street. The house
is situated on the corner of Dauphine and Orleans
Avenue. The Sultan was from Turkey. He rented
the house from the owners, the La Prete family,
for his large family and harem. It is said that
he was a dangerous and cruel man who was not
above kidnapping women off the streets of New
Orleans and torturing them into submission and
then adding them to his harem. One afternoon
the Sultan met his fate in a cruel and hideous
manner and so did everyone in his household.
It has been recounted through the years what
took place that afternoon as seen by a neighbor.
The neighbor was strolling down the sidewalk
beside the house when she noticed blood draining
from the building. She immediately contacted
the authorities who in turn broke down the door.
they discovered a gruesome scene. Body parts
and blood were everywhere. Every member of the
household had been murdered but the Sultan was
no where to be found. Only later did they discover
his body in a shallow grave behind the house.
He had apparently been buried alive. No one
was ever charged with these murders. Several
different stories circulated for months after
the murders but nothing was proved. It remains
one of the city’s most intriguing mysteries.
To this day it has never been solved.
Mansion of prominent Creole Jean Baptist Le
Prete, built in 1836. Taken over by wealthy
Turkish prince in latter half of the 1800s along
with the Sultan's large harem and group of eunuch
servants. All were found slaughtered and butchered
by the police; the Sultan's body was found buried
in his garden. No arrests were made. Now ghosts
roam the halls and screams can be heard.
Life with an
By: Lorena Dureau
Feb. 11, 1979
The imposing pink building with
black iron-lace "frills" on the corner
of Orleans and Dauphine streets has dominated
the French quarter for more than 150 years not
only in height, but in legend and mystery as
well. Although a plaque by the entrance calls
it "Le Prete House," (spelled Le Pretre
by some) it is more commonly referred to as
"The Sultan's House" by native New
Orleanians in honor of the exotic ghost believed
to inhabit it.
Over the many generations the
building has stood there, it has run the full
circle from riches to rags and back again -
from a luxurious town mansion of the 1800s to
a dilapidated tenement of the mid-2oth century
and now to a proximity of its former glory,
as one of the most charming buildings in the
present Quarter. But in all those years of ups
and downs, it has never ceased to catch the
eyes of passers-by, whether it is because of
its architectural merits or its reputation for
a ghostly past.
In between the extremes of its
kaleidoscopic history, a large and varied number
of people have either inhabited or visited that
fascinating old mansion. During the period in
which Jean Baptiste Le Prete used it as his
town home, from 1839-1878, some of the most
prominent men and women of the last century
met there. The famous Citizens Bank of New Orleans,
which played an important role in the financial
development of this city, was officially organized
at a meeting held in one of its spacious parlors.
(By an ironic twist of fate, it was to this
very same bank that Le Prete later lost the
Unfortunately, once the property
passed on to new owners, it did not fare as
well as it had in its earlier days. When William
Nott chose it as the subject of his "In
La Rue Orleans" in 1922 for the May 21
Sunday edition of The Times-Picayune, he called
attention to the neglected building and lamented
its sorry state, writing "…time has
left its scars on those high flung walls and
though the interior has lost much of its plaster
and every vestige of paint, the building as
a whole is in fairly well-preserved condition
but gives only the slightest hint of its former
Despite its humbled state, however,
the aging yet still sturdy house went on to
nurture aspiring artists in the 1940s when it
became the New Orleans Academy of Art, until
the school was forced to close because so many
of it s students were being drafted into the
By the 1960s, the ancient manor,
time-weary and weather-beaten, had drawn more
and more unto itself seeming to dissolve gradually
into its own shadows. Many a vagrant, daring
enough to brave its legend in return for a comfortable
spot to loiter for a few hours, paused at that
lonely, dimly lit corner.
But of all its countless inhabitants,
the most remarkable was the strange Turk who
took up residence there while it was still in
its heyday, supposedly during the middle of
the 19th century. According to the legend, he
still resides there - that is, his ghost does.
The story that has persisted down
through the years is that a wealthy Turkish
merchant, recently arrived in New Orleans, sought
out Le Prete and asked him for the use of the
house on behalf of the brother of a sultan.
Since Le Prete spent most of his time on his
plantation in Plaquemines and only used the
French Quarter house as a place for entertaining
during the social season (usually when the French
opera was in town), he was perhaps only too
glad to lease the place for the off-season.
What no one suspected, was that the brother
had fled to America with large quantities of
gold and jewels as well as at least half a dozen
wives that he had stolen from his elder brother,
So it was that the brother, self-proclaimed
as a sultan, moved in with his fabulous treasure
and his bevy of sensuous maidens and set up
house in Oriental splendor where he was known
to entertain quite lavishly on occasions.
One fateful night, however, goes
the story, the gay laughter suddenly turned
to frenzied shrieks and the merrymaking to noisy
confusion, when a band of assassins, believed
to have been sent by the rightful sultan to
avenge the wrongs done him, burst in on the
party and, with merciless swords, cut down the
upstart and the harem girls he had "defiled."
Of course, as in the case of so
many legends, there are come conflicting details.
There are those who say all this really happened
in 792, but the place referred to as the Sultan's
House was not even built until 1836. Also, although
city maps show that there was a house on that
corner as far back as 1780 or earlier, it was
only a small dwelling of brick and wood, owned
by a free black woman, Victoire Dutillet (or
Durrilet), who sold it in 1811 to a woman by
the name of Francois Darby. The latter lived
there until her death in 1816. However, by the
time the present edifice was built in 1836,
the earlier dwelling seems to have disappeared
since the building plans make no mention of
having to tear anything down on that lot before
There is also some question as
to the whys and wherefores of that horrendous
crime. Although the majority of people accept
the version that the foul deed was done by the
sultan's hired henchmen who had tracked down
the younger brother from Turkey to New Orleans
in a sworn vendetta, others argue that the real
culprits were closer to home, mainly the very
crew of the ship which had brought the wayward
Turk and his stolen cargo to port.
Whatever the motives of the assassins,
robbery was certainly one of them. After the
unfortunate victims were buried in the patio,
the assassins looted the house and carried off
not only the gold and jewels, but everything
else of value. leaving only the ransacked rooms
and telltale bloodstains along the length of
the great staircase to bear mute testimony to
the violence that had transpired there.
For a long time afterward, people
insisted that an occasional tinkle of Oriental
music or the faint odor of heavy incense would
come floating out of the house, and some declared
that they heard shrill, unexplained screams
coming from different parts of the huge four-story
mansion. Over the years, the "sultan"
himself has been glimpse walking around the
rooms, appearing and disappearing without a
word, as if still bewildered by all that happened
Although they have never met and
their experiences while living in the so-called
Sultan's House are almost 30 years apart under
entirely different conditions, Virgie "Gypsy"
Posten, former tenant, and Jean Damico, one
of the present owners of the house, have come
to the conclusion that they have probably both
seen the same ghost.
Today, with its rosy exterior
and shiny black iron-grilled balconies spanning
the full circumference of its upper floors,
the place hardly looks "spooky," yet
when Virgie Posten rented the downstairs front
apartment back in the end of the 1950s, it was
rundown and resembled the typical haunted house.
"I didn't know about the legend, or even
that the place was supposed to be haunted, "
recalled Virgie Posten, who is now a successful
dancer, choreographer and dance therapist with
countless appearances all over the United States
and abroad to her credit. "I was just starting
out in my career and the cheap rent appealed
to me, as well as the fact that it was close
to Prima's 500 Club, where I was doing an Afro-Cuban
act at the time.
"I have never said anything
much about this before since I was afraid people
would think I was some kind of kook or just
looking for publicity," she confessed,
"yet the truth is I moved out of that place
a few months afterwards because I saw a man
in my apartment on two different occasions and
could never really explain how he could have
gotten in or out of there so quickly without
"My two-room apartment had
only one door, which opened into the main hall
only a few yards from the foot of the enormous
central staircase that wound its way up to the
floors above. I always kept it locked, and even
if whoever it was had had a key, I think I would
have at least heard it turning in the lock.
Yet there was nothing. Only silence. One minute
he was there…the next he was gone! He
didn't seem hostile. He'd just stand there and
look at me, but it was terribly eerie and nerve-wracking!
"After that second time,
when I woke up in the middle of the night and
saw him standing at the foot of the bed staring
at me, I made up my mind to get out of there,"
continued the still-attractive brunette. "There
was no sign of him when I turned on the lights
and got up to check, but I abandoned everything
there the next day and went to stay temporarily
with a girlfriend until I could find another
place to live. Of course, I still wasn't thinking
about ghosts," she added.
"It wasn't until a few days
afterward that I happened by chance to see an
article in the newspaper about the house and
its legend. Then I realized where I was living.
The description that the paper gave of the "sultan"
- how he was supposed to have been 'to the blond
side,' despite his Turkish origin - seemed to
fit the person I'd seen and set me thinking.
"My third and last experience,
however, was the most frightening of all,"
she went on. "That was the night my girlfriend
and I stopped by the house to get a few of my
things, which I'd left there until I could move
them out. We were standing in the dimly lit
hallway in the empty house, as I locked the
door, when we suddenly heard a blood-curdling
scream come out of the inky blackness somewhere
at the top of the staircase just a few feet
from us! It was petrifying - a long shrill scream
that ended in a horrible gurgle! We ran as if
the devil himself were after us to the street
door. For a moment we even got wedged in the
doorway, as both of us tried to get out at the
same time! We laugh about it today but it was
pretty frightening at that moment!
"The very next day I got
my things out of there."
The present owners of the house,
who are gradually trying to restore it to its
former glory, say that, as far as they known,
none of the tenants in their eight apartments
has ever moved out because of the ghost.
"The place really looked
like a haunted house, with dead vines running
up and down its sides and sadly in need of repairs,
when my husband Frank and his partner Anthony
Vesich Jr. bought it in 1966," pretty blond
Jean Damico recalled. "People would look
a little curiously at us whenever they knew
we were the owners. Some even told me how they
used to cross the street and pass it on the
Mrs. Damico, who lives in the
penthouse apartment of the building, went on
to confide that she, too, has had a weird experience
since she has been living there, which she has
never been able to explain. "One night
less than a year ago, I woke up with a feeling
that something was different in my room,"
she recalls. "There at the foot of my bed,
I thought I saw the figure of a man. Thinking
my eyes were playing tricks on my, I closed
them for a moment and then opened them again
to refocus, but the figure was still there.
When the form suddenly seemed to move toward
my side of the bed, I panicked and turned on
the light on my night table. Imagine my surprise
when there was no one there! My husband laughed
at me when I told him, but I know I saw somebody!
Come to think of it, I had the impression that
he was light haired. I hadn't thought of that
detail until just now, as I look back on it!"
From her lofty iron-grilled balcony,
Mrs. Damico pointed down to a strange tree growing
horizontally out of an inner wall flanking the
patio."They say the 'sultan' was buried
there, and it's possible, since the original
plans of the house show that the room you see
on that spot now was a later addition to the
house. It looks as if the tree is trying to
crawl out from under the bricks and reach the
street wall, doesn't it?"
The home was constructed in 1836
by a wealthy Creole man named Jean Baptist La
Prete and it was a luxurious mansion that was
rivaled by few other houses in the French Quarter.
It was the center of Creole culture in the French
Quarter of the middle 1800's, but unfortunately,
the wealth and power of many of these families
started to decline in the second half of the
century. La Prete was one of these who lost
much of their fortune and found that he was
forced to rent out his wonderful home.
His tenant was a mysterious Turk
who claimed to be a deposed Sultan of some distant
land. The Turk brought with him a fortune in
gold and established a line of credit at all
of the banks. He used his wealth to transform
the Creole house into an eastern pleasure palace.
The doors and windows were covered and blocked,
heavy incense filled the air and men patrolled
the grounds with curved daggers in their belts.
The iron gates around the property were chained
and locked and the house became a virtual fortress.
A harem was moved into the house, consisting
of women of all ages and sizes and even young
Arab boys were used to fulfill the Turk's less
seemly desires. But one night everything was
One morning, neighbors passing
by the house noticed that trickles of blood
were running out from under the iron gates.
The authorities were summoned but could raise
no one, so they forced open the doors and went
inside. At some point in the night, a massacre
had taken place. Blood splattered the floors
and walls... headless bodies and amputated limbs
were scattered about... and all of them had
been butchered by sword or axe. The bodies and
limbs were scattered about in such a way that
no one could learn which bodies belonged to
And the horror didn't stop with murder... the
beautiful harem girls, the Arab boys, and even
the guards, were raped and subjected to vile
sexual assaults. The scandal was so horrendous
that the details of that night have still not
been chronicled completely to this day!
The Turk's mutilated body was
found in the garden, where he had been buried
The identity of the murderers
and rapists has never been discovered. Some
say they were the members of some pirate's crew
who had business with the mysterious sultan
and some say the crimes were the work of the
Turk's own family, seeking revenge for the theft
of the family wealth.
But I don't imagine we will ever really know.....
What we do know is that the La
Prete house is a very haunted one... and remains
so until this day.
Residents of the house have seen figures wearing
strange oriental clothing and have heard the
sound of footsteps in the hallways and screams
echoing inside of the rooms.... as if the terrible
events of yesterday are still taking place there!