American Hauntings Podcast

Haunted Hotels

Episode Summary

New Orleans is a city that is known for being out of the ordinary. There are dozens and dozens of old, historic hotels, inns, and mansions that have been turned into bed and breakfasts and guest houses in the French Quarter, and all of them have the kind of atmosphere that you won’t find in any other city in America.

Episode Notes

New Orleans is a city that is known for being out of the ordinary. There are dozens and dozens of old, historic hotels, inns, and mansions that have been turned into bed and breakfasts and guest houses in the French Quarter, and all of them have the kind of atmosphere that you won’t find in any other city in America.

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Want to read ahead for this season? Check out the book Haunted New Orleans by Troy Taylor.

This episode was written by Troy Taylor. Produced and edited by Cody Beck.

Intro music by Charlie Brockus

Episode Transcription

Welcome to the new episode of American Hauntings, the podcast dedicated to the history, hauntings, legends, and lore of America’s past. The show is hosted and produced by Cody Beck and written and performed by Troy Taylor – that’s me -- and we are now in our fourth season, “Haunted New Orleans.”

If you are tuning into the podcast for the first time, we suggest you start listening to the “Haunted New Orleans” season with episode 53, which is where this season begins and where we set the stage for the many dark tales ahead. In each episode of the season, we’ll be revealing the history, mystery, spirits, scandals, and sins of New Orleans – a city that we believe is the most haunted in America.

So, fluff up your pillows, turn down the bed, but don’t bother double-checking the lock on the door – the ghosts are already in the room with you. 

New Orleans is a city that is known for being out of the ordinary. People come to New Orleans in search of the unusual, which includes the unique history, often bizarre customs, local cuisine, famous drinks, and the unusual inns and hotels. Sure, you can stay in a French Quarter version of a chain hotel and feel like you’ve stopped off at an anonymous exit along the interstate in Kansas. Or you could even stay in some fancy high-rise hotel across Canal in the old American quarter – but why would you? 

There are dozens and dozens of old, historic hotels, inns, and mansions that have been turned into bed and breakfasts and guest houses in the French Quarter, and all of them have the kind of atmosphere that you won’t find in any other city in America.

And out of those dozens of hotels, you’ll find that a very high percentage of them offer something else that you won’t find in a faceless chain hotel somewhere – you have the chance to sleep alongside the non-paying guests, those who checked in an have never checked out. 

In this episode, we’re going to take a look at some of New Orleans’s most haunted hotels. There is no way to list them all – there’s simply too many – but this should give you an idea of some places to stay the next time you’re in the city and would like the chance to sleep with the dead. 

One of the most charming of the guest houses in the French Quarter, The Lafitte Guest House – named for the pirate that was the subject of one of our earlier episodes -- is located at the quiet end of Bourbon Street. And yes, such a thing does exist. 

The ambiance of the place -- which was a Creole family mansion built in 1849 and is now divided into 14 rooms – is a perfect escape from the often-maddening crowds of the French Quarter. When you step inside, it’s like going back to another time and some say that residents from these earlier times still linger behind.

There are a couple of variations to the haunting, but one story claims that the resident ghost is that of the original lady of the house, for whom the house was built more than a century and a half ago. Another tale claims that a woman who lost her two daughters here many years ago haunts a particular room. Apparently, one of the girls perished from yellow fever, and the other, unable to cope with the loss of her sister, ended her own life. Their ghostly mother is said to still cry for her children.

Over the years, many guests have encountered a presence in the house and have heard the sounds of a woman weeping, have heard footsteps in empty rooms, and have felt chilling hands touching them in the night as if searching for something – or someone – who has been lost. 

The Andrew Jackson Hotel is a small hotel located on Royal Street and built on a site that has an interesting – and haunted -- history. During the years of Spanish rule, it was used as a boarding school and orphanage for boys who had lost their parents to yellow fever. The fires that consumed much of New Orleans around this time burned down the boarding school with five young boys inside.

After the Louisiana Purchase, it served as the first U.S. District Court for the territory. In 1815, after the Battle of New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson was actually tried in this courthouse. When he arrived in New Orleans to defend it from the British, he declared martial law as a military defense. After the battle, he waited several months to lift it. When a senator expressed his unease about the order, Jackson had him arrested. A judge ruled that the senator should be released, and Jackson had the judge put in jail, too. When Jackson eventually lifted the martial law, the judge was released and charged Jackson with contempt of court to the tune of $1,000, which Jackson paid.

The courthouse was torn down, and the current building took its place in 1890. And now operates as a historic hotel – and one that is haunted. The ghosts are believed to be the boys who died in the fire many years ago. Many guests have reported hearing the sounds of boisterous children at play in the hotel and in the courtyard – even though this is mostly an adults-only hotel – as those who have complained about the noise have discovered. 

At least one of the spirits is known for sometimes pushing guests out of bed. The staff has nicknamed him “Armand.” But mostly it’s the sounds people hear – the laughter, the running footsteps, and even an occasional bloodcurdling scream.

Like most hotels in the French Quarter, the Andrew Jackson admits to being haunted and invite skeptical guests to come and check out the place for themselves. 

Next door to the Andrew Jackson Hotel on Royal Street is the house with the famous “Cornstalk Fence” – and the Cornstalk Hotel. The fence is one of those must-see spots for tourists in the French Quarter. It’s a wrought-iron fence that was made to look like a row of corn across the front of the property. 

The House behind it was built for Judge Francois Xavier-Martin, but the well-known fence is said to have come along some years later. According to legend, it was cast by a man who brought a young bride from Iowa to live in New Orleans. To lessen her loneliness for the waving fields of corn back home, he had the iron replica made so that when she looked out from the front gallery of the house, she might see something that reminded her of Iowa. 

Apparently, she thought that was a good thing.

The house does have another claim to fame. Legend has it that author Harriet Beecher Stowe once stayed at the house, and her visit to the New Orleans slave markets inspired her to write the novel that some say helped start the Civil War -- Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

From 1816 to 1826, Judge Martin lived in the mansion with only a servant for company. The eccentric and reclusive judge eventually went blind, even though he was still known to wander the streets of the French Quarter, frequently getting lost. 

Some believe that it may be the judge’s ghost who haunts this house, blundering into guest rooms, unsure of where he may be. Guests who have stayed at this mansion-turned-inn say they have often heard footsteps in empty hallways and unoccupied rooms. They have also been awakened in the middle of the night by water faucets turning on, doors opening and closing, and the feeling of someone stumbling into bed with them. 

In every case – Luckily, because a ghost would be preferable to a stranger --  they find there is no one visible in the room.

The Olivier House, which used to be a private mansion on Toulouse Street, was built in 1838 by Marie Anne Olivier, the widow of the distinguished planter Nicholas Godfrey Olivier. Marie had married her husband, who was twice her age when she was only 16, and they had nine children together before he died. She never remarried and devoted her life to managing their plantation and raising 12 children, including three from her husband’s earlier marriage. By 1836, she had 50 grandchildren and was the matriarch of one of the most influential families in the city. Her oldest son, Jean Baptiste Olivier, built her the magnificent house in New Orleans.

Marie died in 1843 and two years later, the house was sold to Felix Labatut (LAB-A-TOE). In 1859, the French Opera House was built next door, making the Olivier mansion one of the most prestigious addresses in town, until the opera house was eventually destroyed by fire. The mansion, though, was saved. 

By the late 1850s, the house was owned by Elizabeth Locoul (LA-COE), who also owned a plantation near the city. She kept the house as her New Orleans address during the social season. Eventually, she retired to the city and left the management of the plantation to her children. During the Civil War, the house was occupied by Union soldiers and it was badly damaged during their occupancy. However, Elizabeth regained the house at the end of the war, renovated it and remained there until her death in 1895 – although some say she has never left at all.

In 1965, the house was turned into a hotel and guests who have stayed at the Olivier House have often been startled to encounter lingering spirits of the past. According to accounts, they have seen not only a woman in antebellum era clothing, but a man in a Federal military uniform. He is, most believe, a specter from the days of Union occupation of the house.

The most famous resident ghost, though, is the spectral woman in black who wanders about the house and endlessly repeats the rosary. Many witnesses believe that she is simply another, although pretty strange, guest until she vanishes before their eyes. 

The woman in black is believed that this ghost Elizabeth Locoul (LA-COE), who spent the longest time in the house. She was known for being a devout Catholic, which explains the rosary, and her attachment to the house was well-known in the city, which perhaps explains why she has refused to leave the place, even after death. 

The Fleur De Lis Mansion is a Greek Revival style house that dates back to the 1820s, when the Saulets (SAW-LAYS) – one of New Orleans’ founding families, bought the property. Legends say that the house was used as a brothel in the early 1900s, although no evidence of this has been found. 

It may be just another story in a city where once being a brothel is a claim to fame. 

Despite its history, the mansion had fallen into disrepair by the 1990s and was often used by homeless people as a place to get out of the weather. Camping in what is now called the Red Room, they survived the winter months by building fires inside. In 2008, one of the fires got out of hand and gutted a large part of the house. As luck would have it, though, most of the structure survived and when new owners bought the property a few years later, the began restoring the mansion to its former glory. 

Today, the Fleur de Lis is a bed and breakfast. Yet the ghosts of the past remain.

In the River Suites, guests have seen doors open and close on their own. In the Red Room, guests have reported awakening in the middle of the night to see a man standing at the foot of the bed, watching them sleep. The apparition always vanishes as soon as the guest wakes up and acknowledges it. In the Fleur de Lis Suite, voices have often been heard, although no one can make out the words they are speaking. 

The Hotel Provincial, located on Chartres Street, attracts guests from all over the country. One of them wrote: “This is a great place, a perfect location, and beautiful. It is haunted, believe me, I saw the ghost of a Confederate soldier but if that doesn’t bother you, this is the only place I would ever stay in New Orleans”. But the haunting here is easily understood when one realizes that the Royal Military Hospital once occupied the hotel grounds.

During the Civil War, it was used as a hospital for soldiers. The part of the present-day hotel that is referred to as “Building 5” was a ward for critically ill and maimed men. The trauma endured by these men has apparently left a lasting impression behind. Staff members and guests have told of encounters with ghostly men on crutches, spectral doctors and surgeons, and even bloodstains that mysteriously appear and then vanish. It is not uncommon for the housekeeping staff to enter a room and see blood-stained sheets on the bed – only to look again a few moments later and see there is nothing out of the ordinary about the room at all.

In addition, disembodied voices and inexplicable groans have been heard in empty hallways and seemingly from the walls. Doors open and shut on their own and mysterious cold spots move about. 

If you are looking for a very haunted New Orleans destination, this hotel might be just the place to test your nerve.

A former brothel, the Dauphine Orleans boasts more than its share of paranormal activity. A number of the original buildings here date back to 1775, including what is called the “Audubon Cottage,” where artist John James Audubon painted his “Birds of America” in 1821. That structure is now used as the main meeting room for the hotel. While Audubon is not rumored to be lingering at the place, a number of other early residents are said to still be residing in various parts of the hotel.

One such location is May Bailey’s, the hotel bar, where the apparition of a man in a white suit and hat has been reported on many occasions. The ghost is said to be responsible for knocking books off shelves in the lounge library, along with a number of other pranks. 

Another haunted spot is Suite 111, located above the bar. In this room, objects are known for moving about on their own and guests have reported the spirit of a black man who has been nicknamed “George.” It is said that when guests forget to lock their room, the ghost takes care of it for them, making sure that everything is secure.

Suite 110 is home to a ghost that doesn’t seem to like guests. Occasionally, the door refuses to open, even though it’s unlocked. The window curtains are often violently pulled aside, and the covers are yanked from the bed. The housekeeping staff seems to bear the brunt of the eerie pranks – the most common being tunring off all the lights in the room while they are trying to clean. 

The building that now holds the Columns Hotel was built in 1883 by wealthy tobacco merchant Simon Hernsheim. (HERN_SHIME) Over the years, it has served as a private residence, upscale boarding house, and one of the finest small hotels in New Orleans. In the middle 1970s, it was used for the filming of the movie Pretty Baby  with and has gained a reputation as one of the most haunted hotels in the city.

The ghost that lingers here is believed to be Simon Hernsheim, the original owner. Distraught over the premature death of his beloved wife, he simply fell apart, rarely leaving his home. Eventually, he also died but his spirit is said to haunt his former mansion, still mourning his lost love. He has been encountered hundreds of times over the years and the description of the ghost given by guests perfectly matches the former owner. 

There have also been reports of voices in the building, inexplicable crashing sounds, and even an apparition of a mournful woman in white has been seen – but only outside. 

She has been reported staring sadly at the hotel before fading away. Some believe this is perhaps the spirit of Mrs. Hernsheim, who may have returned to look for her husband’s ghost, but for some reason is unable to go inside the building that used to be her home.

The Hotel Monteleone is located on Royal Street, very close to my favorite breakfast place in the French Quarter – Café Beignet. The hotel is one of the last great family-owned hotels in America. It has been operated by four generations of the Monteleone family since 1886. Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and William Faulkner – all of whom popped up, sometimes as ghosts in our last episode – all lived at the hotel. Capote even told people that he was born there – but he probably wasn’t. But these residents did convince the Friends of Libraries organization to name the Monteleone a literary landmark. On the rooftop is the hotel’s famous Carousel Bar, which slowly revolves above the city.

But the hotel also has another designation – it’s home to at least a dozen ghosts.

For years, staff members and guests have reported apparitions in the hallways, ghosts opening and closing doors, hiding the soap, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

Among the personalities believed to linger here are a man named William Windmere, who died in the hotel, the ghost of a jazz singer, a naked man in a Mardi Gras mask, and a many who died and allegedly returned to the hotel as the spirit of 10-year=old boy who plays hide and seek with another ghostly child. 

Yes, it’s a pretty wide assortment of haunts but a hotel like this one – with thousands of guests it’s seen over the years – is bound to have a pretty colorful group of ghosts who want to still call it home. 

The Hotel Villa Convento – near the Ursuline Convent – was built as a Creole townhouse but was later used as a bordello, which, legend claims is the “House of the Rising Sun” from the famous song. That’s probably not true, but I do know that it was an apartment building for awhile and that Jimmy Buffett lived there during his time playing music in the Bourbon Street clubs. 

The house was built around 1833 on land that was purchased from the Ursuline nuns and the first owner was Jean Baptiste Poeyfarre (POE-FAIR), who commissioned the actual construction. His widow sold the place 10 years later to Octave Voorheis (VOR-HEES), who lost the property during the economic depression that followed the Civil War. In 1902, it was sold again to Pasquale Taromina (TARE-O-MINA), who owned it until his death in 1946. After that, it was converted into a rooming house with a succession of different owners until 1981, when the Campo family bought it and turned it into a bed and breakfast. 

Since that time, scores of guests have encountered the resident spirit of the building -- a former brothel madam who makes it a point to knock on guest room doors every twenty minutes, as she often did in life, letting her girls know that their time was up with the visiting client. She has often been seen by guests and staff members, who describe her late nineteenth century clothing.

And there is the ghost music. Many report that late at night, if you listen closely, you can hear the unearthly notes of “Margaritaville” in the courtyard.

Okay, I made that last part up.

For our last story, I’m going to break my rules and take you across Canal Street to the Le Pavilion Hotel – mostly because I just like the story so much. 

The site of the current hotel has seen many different things, including a railroad station and a performance hall for circuses, before becoming a luxury hotel in 1907. The hotel has many old-world charms, from French marble floors to railings imported from the Parisian Grand Hotel, but it’s definitely a place for those with a fat wallet. 

For instance, if you want to spend the money, you can stay in Place Suite 730, which is home to a marble bathtub that was once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte. It’s one of only three in the world – the others are in a private collection and in the Louvre.

The ghosts at this hotel didn’t have to imported.

The most regularly spotted spirit is a woman named Adda. (AY-DA) The teenage girl was reportedly set to board a ship with her family when she was killed by a runaway carriage. The hotel staff often sees her wandering in the lobby, often crying, wearing a black dress, long black shawl, and wearing a black hat. More than once, she has literally bumped into guests, saying to them “Pardon me, I’m very lost.” Before they can offer to help, she vanishes.

Other guests have reported a wealthy-looking couple who usually appears on the second, third, or fourth floors, dressed in clothing from the 1920s. They are always holding hands and walking toward the elevators. The man smokes a cigar, and many have reported the pungent smoke lingering in the air. 

Throughout the hotel, guests have heard strange noises, have seen their bed press down as if someone invisible was sitting on it, or have had ghosts speak to them and touch them.  

And there is one other story linked to the Le Pavilion Hotel.

According to a cab driver, he picked up a young woman from the hotel on a cold and rainy night and she asked to be taken to a passenger ship terminal. After he had only driven a few blocks from the hotel, she disappeared from the backseat into thin air. He couldn’t explain it. He had been sure she was a real person. He’d looked at her in the rearview mirror and he’d seen the doorman open a door for her as she left the hotel. 

The cab driver went straight back to the hotel and told the doorman what had happened. He thought he’d be surprised by the doorman just shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he said, “that happens to a lot of cab drivers here.”

I couldn’t let that place go -- I’m always a sucker for a vanishing hitchhiker story.