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Haunted New Orleans Tours Presents

G H O S T T O W N

THE TOP TEN HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS
NEIGHBORHOODS 2006

WWW.HAUNTEDNEWORLEANSTOURS.COM

TOP TEN MOST HAUNTED NEIGHBORHOODS IN NEW ORLEANS

 

New Orleans has always been a haunted town, with ghosts and phantoms literally overflowing the historic areas of town. But post-Hurricane Katrina, some might say ALL of New Orleans is a haunted town; it is certainly a ghost town in most areas.

Entire neighborhoods were literally churned to bits and washed away by the fury of Hurricane Katrina’s winds and waves. As has been reported, not everyone was fortunate enough to escape the wrath of this terrible storm, and deep in the most devastated areas bodies are still being found amid the rubble.

New Orleans Police Department officers who patrol the desolate streets, where electricity has still not been restored and residents are few and far between, report the daily quota of minor crime – mostly looters and leftover drug dealers, nothing like the pre-K days. But they are reporting other strange occurrences, things that just can’t be explained: hearing cries for help from empty rooftops, ghostly faces peering from out of the shattered windows of abandoned homes, and, most strange of all, calls to the restored 911 system made from houses that are empty and destroyed and, in one case, not even there!

From this post-Katrina landscape, where all is otherworldly, Haunted New Orleans Tours has compiled a list of the most ghostly and haunted areas and neighborhoods in this haunted town.

 

TOP TEN MOST GHOST HAUNTED NEW ORLEANS NEIGHBORHOODS POST HURRICANE KATRINA

 

1. The Lower 9th Ward (also called The Lower Nine or just The Nine).

This area of New Orleans was once a burgeoning old-line neighborhood. It was home to generations of New Orleanians and included among its evacuees Fats Domino, members of the Neville musical family, and several leaders of the Mardi Gras Indian Tribes. This was one of the touchstone areas of the City where architecture and atmosphere combined perfectly to attract many Hollywood scouts looking for “authentic” New Orleans neighborhood locations. A vibrant, urban, sometimes dangerous neighborhood, the Lower Nine was devastated by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina and further mutilated by the floods of Hurricane Rita. Homes, businesses, schools, churches, the entire heart of this area was literally torn out and washed away. Today the neighborhoods look like war zones and visitors have to stop and remind themselves that this is New Orleans in America and not Fallujah or Baghdad. Residents of the Lower Nine were the last to be allowed back into New Orleans to view what remained of the neighborhood most had known all their lives; later, some residents returned to gather what they could before leaving again for good; and still others are determined to stay and rebuild. The Lower Nine suffered a high death toll in the aftermath of the hurricane where many who could not make it to higher ground drowned inside attics or homes as the floodwaters rose. Now, in the empty, shattered shells of derelict houses and once-thriving buildings there have been reports of looters where none have been found; voices ring through the neighborhood, even the laughter of children in streets caked with layers of river mud and dust: there are no children left in the Lower Nine. There have been reports of cries for help in the darkness and NOPD officers on the graveyard shift patrol have heard the desperate sounds of drowning people. Most disturbing are the 911 dispatches that come in the dead of night: when officers arrive at the location they are greeted with a devastated home or an empty lot where homes used to be. Even if the Lower Nine is rebuilt, it will never be the same and the ghosts of its Katrina dead will not let it forget the torment it has suffered at the hands of Nature. The voices will call out into the night for years to come.

#2. Convention Center Boulevard / Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

In the now-infamous bungled response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this area has to rank among the most horrific. Thousands of people jammed into the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center seeking shelter from the rising floodwaters that were consuming neighborhoods all around the Central Business District. What these evacuees found when they arrived at the Center was, quite literally, a corner of hell. For an entire week following the hurricane the poor, the elderly, the displaced, both black and white, were congregated in this shop of horrors and left to fend for themselves while Federal agencies bungled the emergency response to the storm and police and National Guard were occupied with stopping looters and thieves. Several of the elderly and infirm died at the Convention Center, in wheelchairs or on bare floors or abandoned, alone, in rickety lawn chairs out in the noonday sun. Deep inside the Center, the criminal element continued intimidating and violating citizens just as it had before the storm, only now there was no law enforcement authority to stop the violence: many were beaten and robbed or raped, many died. Citizens banded in groups to protect themselves and to hold onto a shred of humanity in the devolution taking place around them. These were probably the people who placed the dead in the Convention Center freezer, but with no electricity or generator by week’s end even this seemed an act of cruelty. The National Guard finally arrived for these forgotten ones on the Saturday following the hurricane’s strike. Distributing MRE’s (Meals, Ready to Eat) and water to the suffering crowds and finally loading them onto buses for evacuation to safe haven was the easy part. Patrolling the empty, trashed halls of the darkened Convention Center was not a welcome assignment, according to several who were there. One man stated, “That place is full of the dead,” and this is absolutely true. If torment and suffering, hopelessness and fear contribute anything to a haunting, then the Convention Center and the areas outside it will certainly be haunted for years to come.

#3. Chalmette and St. Bernard Parish.

Though technically not part of New Orleans, and located, in fact, in an entirely different parish, the entire area is so closely connected to New Orleans that it can almost be described as a suburb of the City. Most “Chalmatians” would probably bristle at the comparison, but it is a fact that generations of families have married and mingled across city limits and parish lines. St. Bernard parish is a low-lying area that flooded horribly during Betsy, the infamous storm of 1965 and the one against which, until Katrina, all others were reckoned. It is a good thing to say that most people in St. Bernard evacuated when they were told to; some, however, refused to listen. Having survived Betsy, these old-timers and hardheaded residents chose to hunker down and ride out Katrina. This was a devastatingly bad idea. When Katrina roared into Louisiana all the power of her wrath was concentrated over the swampy low-lying St. Bernard; ahead of her, and behind, the Gulf waters stormed over the parish, breaching low levee walls, funneling into the parish, washing away fishing hamlets, small towns and the entire city of Chalmette. Today, nothing is left of Chalmette. Entire neighborhoods are gone – literally no trace is left to show that people ever lived there. Some areas, less devastated because the homes may have been better constructed, are still nonetheless set for demolition because the muck and mire washed in with the storm has done its work far too well. St. Bernard had a reasonably high death toll, as well, losing more than 200 residents to the storm, among them 32 residents of a nursing home who were abandoned in their beds by the nursing home owners. Search and rescue teams found bodies tied together where homes used to be: entire families trying to ride out the fury that was Katrina. These days, as residents are slowing returning to face the destruction and decide their future, there are more than a few who are reporting strange, ghostly encounters amid the devastation. One family, sifting through the tattered remains of their dead mother’s home, claim to have heard her voice amid the ruins, as if talking to herself; others have heard the desperate last gasps of someone drowning in homes where they had found dead relatives. And, perhaps most strange, the sight of ramshackle boats, cast up on highways and in driveways, manned by a ghostly crew.

#4. Gentilly

In the 1930’s and 40’s Gentilly was what suburban life in New Orleans was all about. Beautiful, cottage style homes dotted the streets and stood alongside monoliths of the era’s nouveau riche that generations later seemed to blend right in. Gentilly was home to generations of New Orleanians, a place for family, where schools and churches thrived and streets were lined with huge oak trees, fragrant camellias and azaleas. Even today, in pre-K New Orleans, Gentilly was still a nice neighborhood, though it had its share of crime and problems. Nevertheless, it was home to a large portion of elderly homeowners, most of whom had spent their entire lives in their Gentilly homes. Gentilly suffered a large death toll in the fury of Hurricane Katrina. Bodies are still being pulled from the rubble, even at this late date. As in other gutted neighborhoods reports of ghostly voices and cries for help abound and patrolmen are chilled by the sight of ghostly faces peering from shattered windows, frozen in fear. On investigation, however, the officers never seem to locate the elderly folk staring out at them. It is as if they just were never there.

#5. The Louisiana Superdome and surroundings.

Like its smaller sister, the Convention Center, the Louisiana Superdome took the brunt of a lot of tragic psychic energy in its role as the “shelter of last resort.” Put to use in Hurricane Georges two years ago, the interior was trashed by idle evacuees who were more than a little annoyed at having been hustled out of homes and into the meager comfort of the Dome: Georges, as everyone knows, turned away from New Orleans at the last minute becoming in the end a major inconvenience. Memories of that debacle were probably overwhelming to Mayor C. Ray Nagin when he pondered calling for a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Katrina. But as the weekend of Katrina’s approach wore away, the reality was driving home fast: Mayor Nagin had no choice but to call for that evacuation, and many residents had no choice at all, and nowhere to go except the hulking monolith that is home to the New Orleans Saints. By Monday morning, August 29, 2005, with Katrina barreling over Lower Plaquemines Parish, thousands were huddled together inside the cavernous Superdome. As the ferocious storm approached the City, it was clear that this was like nothing ever experienced before. Katrina’s vicious winds and slicing sheets of rain wreaked havoc with the roof of the Dome, a building designed to withstand 200+ mph winds. Still, Katrina had the right combination of malice and mischief and spent the day battering the building, finally tearing away sections of the roof. Crowds lurched to avoid the rain that came pouring in, huddled together, praying and hoping that the storm’s fury would spend itself quickly. But as Tuesday morning, August 30, dawned, a new threat was revealed: Katrina had torn down levees surrounding the City and the famous “soup bowl” that is New Orleans was filling quickly with a mucky stew of storm water. Thousands more would fill the Superdome to overflowing in an effort to escape Death in the roil of Katrina’s aftermath. Jammed inside, with food and water nearly non-existent and relief agencies nowhere in sight, the thousands fell prey to desperation, fear and the same kind of human devolution that was plaguing others at the Convention Center. Criminals, always lurking, now had free rein; New Orleans Police officers on the scene were forced to hunt down rogue gangs deep inside the Dome. Female security officers on duty at the Dome had to be locked in a secure area, under guard, because of the threat of rape and other crimes. In the meantime, evacuees were being starved and dehydrated, were being robbed of the few belongings they could salvage, and were dying. By the end of the week, six deaths had been confirmed in the Dome. With the arrival of the National Guard a new fear arose in the shape of camouflage-clad men with guns that they were not afraid to use. As the evacuation of the Superdome commenced, the tale of the tragedy and human suffering could be measured in the refuse and trash generated by their passing. Now the Superdome stands empty as politicians and pundits debate its fate, but is it really empty? Will it ever have anything but a sold out crowd as long as it stands?

#6. City Park

For generations New Orleans City Park has been an oasis in the heart of the urban city sprawl. Since the earliest days of the Louisiana settlement the commitment to preserve the space as a pristine “verdant acre” has ensured that this area of New Orleans, at least, would be untouched by development and rabid change. Splendid old oaks like the infamous haunted Dueling Oaks grew to ancient age in the fathomless green that was City Park. Locals and visitors alike enjoyed the Museum, the Peristyle, the Casino with its paddleboat rentals nearby, and the touring train that has chugged generations of New Orleanians under the spreading oaks. The Beatles performed in City Park’s Tad Gormley Stadium in their only visit to New Orleans back in the 60’s; famous golfers have played the professional courses that frame the park; and new generations have found a place in their heart for the park, coming back year after year for the Celebration in the Oaks holiday light show. There isn’t a kid from New Orleans who doesn’t have memories of playing in Storyland and riding the beautiful carousel that is the centerpiece of the children’s area. The Botanical Gardens had rare and otherwise extinct flowers for all to enjoy. When Hurricane Katrina roared into New Orleans and broke the levees surrounding the city, City Park was engulfed in a deluge of polluted and murky floodwaters that covered it for weeks. From the air it had all the appearance of a lake or perhaps looked more like the City Park swamp than a “verdant acre.” As the floodwaters receded the damage became evident: ancient oaks suffered irreversible damage from salt water; the Botanical Gardens was destroyed, its rare plants and flowers washed away; lagoons overflowed; ducks and swans were dying, desperately trying to find something to sustain them in the rusty brown war zone that had once been the greenest space in New Orleans. Just as generations of New Orleanians have visited and loved City Park, and just as many of those same people are dead or missing in the aftermath, it is not beyond the scope of imagination to believe that they might be found under the spreading oaks in the City Park of their memories, ghosts to those of us who dwell here now, newcomers among the old spirits that have haunted the Park for years.

#7. Mid-City, the Faubourg St. John and Carrollton

The thriving heart of New Orleans is really not the French Quarter. Though some might argue it, most locals know that Mid-City is the jugular of this town. Bayou St. John, Holy Rosary, St. Louis No. 3 cemetery, Esplanade Avenue and Grand Route St. John, the New Orleans Fair Grounds, the Criminal Court Building and Police Headquarters at Broad and Tulane, Tulane Avenue where you still can’t make a left turn, the old Dixie Brewery, the American Can Company, Mandina’s, Liuzza’s, Brocato’s Ice Cream, Venezia’s, Manuel’s Hot Tamales and the Flying Burrito, the Mid-City Parade Den, Mid-City Bowl, College Inn, Genghis Khan and the Union City Market, the schools that used to be Sacred Heart Academy and Warren Easton, Crescent City Steak House, and the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club Headquarters, the Banks Street Bar and Grill and Bud’s Broiler. The list is practically endless and there isn’t a single true child of this City who does not know what you’re talking about when you mention any of these, in any combination: No matter how you say it, that’s Mid-City and that is, as others have coined the phrase, “Naturally N’Awlins.” Most of the great old families, the ones who worked and slaved to build the City, came from this area, raised families here and are rooted here. Forget about urban sprawl, when you’re in Mid-City, you’re home and that’s what tourists ought to be experiencing instead of spending all their time in the Quarter. Most of Mid-City took on 10 to 12 feet of raging floodwaters from the break in the 17th Street and London Avenue Canals. Adjacent to City Park and Carrollton, the area remained under water for days following Katrina and was again inundated by waters from Hurricane Rita. Though in the past several weeks some residents have returned to clean and to try to rebuild, the area, many parts still without electricity, is essentially a ghost town within a Ghost Town. Now the ghosts of Jose Planas, the King of the French Market, and Marie Laveau, who performed her rituals along Bayou St. John, and Eddie “Blackie” Pustanio, who rests uneasily in St. Louis No. 3, can mingle with the ghosts of many who have died, many who have left and cannot return except in memory. They walk Mid-City, but they are not alone.

#8. The Cemeteries at Canal Boulevard

The intersection of Canal Street where it turns into Canal Boulevard at City Park Avenue is a mecca for tachophiles: there are thirteen cemeteries within walking distance of this one intersection. For years there have been the legends of ghosts and hauntings, even a haunted city bus regularly visits this area. Ghosts have caught transit buses to other parts of town, have hitched rides here, even jumped onto car hoods and scared the bejeezus out of many a New Orleans teen. But as the floodwaters rose in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a silent kind of second death came over these Cities of the Dead, and as the waters receded there was evidence that many New Orleanians just wouldn’t be kept down: tombs buckled, old and new in ground graves surrendered their water-logged contents to the open air. It wasn’t until All Saint’s Day, November 1st, that some locals were finally able to check on what remained of their family remains. Some were not surprised to find waterlines as high was 6 feet along the sides of some of the biggest tombs; others were forced to rebuild entirely their ground-level tombs; still others were having unpleasant “reunions” with some of the dearly departed who had washed up, seeing to it that they were put in place once again. In a situation like this, in a place that is already the focus of numerous hauntings and paranormal activities, there is no doubt that the activity in this area will increase as the already-uneasy dead are made even more restless by the affront of a storm that had no respect for anyone, living or long dead.

#9. Lakeview

A little more upper crust than Gentilly, but with the same cottage style homes, some of them on the National Historic Register, Lakeview was a quintessential New Orleans neighborhood. Home to an eclectic mix of elderly couples and young families, of musicians and artists, local yokels and local bigwigs, this area – bordered directly by the 17th Street Canal and adjacent to the London Avenue Canal levees – was overwhelmed by the murky floodwaters the day Katrina roared through New Orleans. Homes that had weathered Betsy and Camille in a neighborhood that had retained its character and quality through generations, all were washed away in what seemed like the wink of an eye. Manicured lawns and gardens, schools and churches, all fell in the face of the natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. No more tears were shed in Lakeview than in the Lower Nine or Gentilly, but it seemed that, just as Mid-City bore the indelible stamp that said “This is New Orleans,” so for most of us Lakeview felt a keen loss as well. As residents slowly come back home, sifting through belongings and securing what is left from looters and criminals, police officers continue to patrol the empty, Martian landscape that once was one of the “Gardens of New Orleans.” They hear, in the cacophony of silence, the lost voices of children playing, of mothers calling and school bells ringing; and though the sun still sets in drama over nearby Lake Pontchartrain, its light is fractured now through dead trees and the shattered windows of empty, truly haunted houses.

#10. The French Quarter

Though the French Quarter fared well compared to many other areas of New Orleans and whether by fate or the wise choice of its 17th century founders, it stayed mostly dry. It was the first area to bound back after the storm – lights on Bourbon were back on almost immediately with the clubs catering to the weary contract workers and off-duty guardsmen looking for a little amnesia in the midst of Chaos. Its “old” ghosts, the well-known specters that people the stories of New Orleans ghost tours who have haunted the old buildings for over two hundred years, have not been daunted by the fury of Katrina. They are still there to be encountered and experienced. But Katrina has made a ghost town of the French Quarter, its once vibrant fabric now tattered by the storm’s unforgiving winds. In a City that never closes it is clear that there is no reason these days to stay open. So the French Quarter is dealing with a new kind of ghost, it fills the empty barstools and chairs in restaurants, it fills the empty jails in a City that is now the safest urban area in America: it is the ghost of tourism, a zombie that must be revived and only a few know the magic spell. In the meantime, like moss overtakes a grave and time overtakes a haunted house, the ghosts of the French Quarter are free to roam again, unhindered and unimpeded by the intrusions of curiosity seekers.

Officials indicate that it will take years to rebuild the hardest hit areas of New Orleans, and some areas may face wholesale demolition because the damage is just too extensive. Visitors to the City in the near future will be able to see these areas for themselves, places where fear and death are palpable and real. This is the Ghost Town created by Hurricane Katrina.



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