Gnarled, ancient cypress trees rise from the murky water that surrounds them. A swirling fog is slightly illuminated by the pale moonlight that casts faint shadows on the water’s surface. The twisted branches of the trees stretch over the swampy depths like hundreds of bony witches’ fingers offering up the lacy, webbed moss that clings to them. An alligator slips silently from the shoreline and disappears into the muddy depths, just as a high-pitched cry breaks the silence … is it the alligator’s prey, or could it be the howl of the Rougarou?
Happy October! The above scene was inspired by Manchac Swamp near New Orleans, Lousiana – one of the creepiest places on earth. A Rougarou – a Cajun-style werewolf — is said to roam the swamp, looking for unwitting victims. Another legend involves a woman who practiced voodoo. She would sit in a rocking chair on her front porch and sing about taking everyone with her when she died. On the very day of her funeral, a hurricane struck and whole towns were decimated. The voodoo priestess, Julie White, is said to haunt the swamp.
With stories such as these, it is no wonder that New Orleans is considered one of the country’s most haunted cities – rivaled only by Savannah, Georgia. The French Mississippi Company, led by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, founded New Orleans on May 7, 1718, making it one of the oldest cities in the nation.
The history of New Orleans is fascinating. Before the French settlers arrived, the swamp that became New Orleans was used as a sacred burial place by Indians. Speaking of the settlers, they weren’t exactly upstanding citizens. Because New Orleans was a swamp, the wealthy Parisians weren’t keen on the idea of leaving their comfortable homes to settle in such a harsh environment. The King of France handled this small problem by hauling prisoners out of confinement and shipping them over to work as laborers. The criminals were faced with horrifying living conditions in their new home, ranging from snakes and alligators to disease and natural disasters. Yellow fever epidemics, hurricanes, major fires, and war killed many of the settlers.
During the Revolutionary War, New Orleans was a vital port that smuggled aid to the rebel troops and transported equipment and supplies up the Mississippi River. The Battle of New Orleans, the final battle in the War of 1812, occurred in 1815 on the grounds of Chalmette Plantation. Today, the battlefield is a national historic monument, along with the Chalmette National Cemetery.
With such a long and tumultuous history, it’s no wonder New Orleans has its haunted reputation. One of the most famous locations is the Lalaurie House, which was built in 1831 by Dr. Louis Lalaurie and his wife Delphine. As respected members of high society, it was quite astonishing when, battling a blaze that erupted at their home, firefighters discovered slaves, beaten and malnourished, chained to the walls. The couple apparently had a “laboratory” used to mutilate many of their slaves. It is said that Delphine and several slaves haunt the house.
Marie Laveau, nicknamed the “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” supposedly haunts the oldest cemetery in the city, St. Louis No. 1, which dates to 1789. Residents and visitors alike still visit her grave and leave candles, flowers, Mardi Gras beads, and other offerings. Laveau is said to wander the cemetery mumbling a voodoo curse to trespassers – a curse loud enough to sometimes be heard by those walking by on Rampart Street.
New Orleans is rich with history, culture, music, and historic architecture. As the cool sounds of jazz waft along the sultry air and street artists capture the city’s beauty on canvas, it’s easy to see why some may choose not to leave this amazing place … ever.
If you want to live in a gorgeous city wrapped in elegance with a hint of mystery, give a New Orleans apartment a try! From amazing restaurants and shops to the dazzling spectacle of Mardi Gras to the legendary iron balconies of the French Quarter, New Orleans glitters with unrivaled flamboyance.
Just don’t wander out into the swamp alone …