Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Orleans Spooks Margaret (Part 2)

"Visitors staying in this hotel would go home, have their film developed, and find pictures of themselves sleeping in their beds...taken from the ceiling!"

I heard this ghost story and many other convincing tales on the New Orleans Spirit Tours Ghost and Vampire Tour. The visitors mentioned above were staying in the Andrew Jackson Inn which at one time was a boarding school for boys. There was a fire in which some of the students perished, and these became the mischievous photographers who also noisily haunt the halls.

Like me, our tour guide, George, is skeptical about the existence of vampires. Thanks to recent movies and television shows, vampires are a big, big topic in New Orleans. Believer or not, George had some interesting stories about them. One tale describes a mysterious and dashing man-about-town from last century who suddenly disappeared. When his New Orleans social set researched his name, they found that it matched another character from generations before in Europe. The two men even matched the same description down to the "diamonds in his clothes" part. Was he a vampire? A ghost?

Whether or not vampires really exist (I hope not), there does exist a community of wanna-bees who hang out in clubs like the Dungeon, just off Bourbon Street. Walking past this establishment, even in the daytime when it was closed, gave me the willies. (It was also uncomfortably close to my own hotel.)

Ghosts and vampires may or may not exist, but one piece of New Orleans culture might be the most chilling of all. In the cemeteries, bodies are buried above ground because of the high water table. These family tombs are like real estate, and as with any property, there is a limited supply. (Do you know where I'm going with this?) After at least a year and a day (an old rule that allows for the quick decomposition that occurs in the NOLA climate), when there is a new body to be interred, the coffins of previous residents are removed and destroyed. The contents/remains/bones are pushed back into the crypts underneath (called caveaux) to make room for the incoming deceased. (Creeped-out yet?) As I mentioned, these tombs are property, and as such can be sold. New owners can agree to let the remains of the previous stay, or, they can insist that the tomb be cleaned out and the bones deposited elsewhere. (Shiver.)

In case you're wondering, no pictures of me sleeping in my comfy white Hotel Monteleone bed taken from the ceiling materialized on my memory card. (Phew!) How would I have reacted to that?! The Monteleone is supposed to be haunted, too, but I haven't heard any tales, or looked for any, either.

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