American Hauntings Podcast

Spirits of the Creoles & The Bourbon Orleans Hotel

Episode Summary

Today we discuss Creole society, The Bourbon Orleans Hotel, The Theatre d’Orleans, and more.

Episode Notes

Today we discuss Creole society, The Bourbon Orleans Hotel, The Theatre d’Orleans, and more.

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In the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter – just beyond Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral – is the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. It is a place where the past truly collides with the present in both colorful and eccentric ways. The building, and the ground that it stands upon, has seen a wide variety of uses during its history, and it seems that every one of those moments in time has left behind an impression in the shape of ghosts and spirits.

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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.

Theme music by Charlie Brockus and Alan T Fagan.

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 by Cody Beck and Troy Taylor and we want to welcome you to 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, check all the doors and windows, put some more wood on the fire, and get ready for the next episode of Haunted New Orleans.

In the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter – just beyond Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral – is the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. It is a place where the past truly collides with the present in both colorful and eccentric ways. The building, and the ground that it stands upon, has seen a wide variety of uses during its history, and it seems that every one of those moments in time has left behind an impression in the shape of ghosts and spirits.

There are many haunted hotels in New Orleans but for sheer variety, nothing rivals the many hauntings of the Bourbon Orleans.

The street on which this graceful hotel now stands was there when New Orleans was in its infancy. The avenue bore the name “Orleans” and it became the center of a growing settlement, the original city that we now know as the French Quarter. Populated first by the French, it became a mixing pot of cultures, attracting both the rich and the poor. The blend of French, African, and Spanish became known as Creole, a term used in many culinary, cultural, linguistic, and architectural variations, that sets the city apart from anywhere else in America. It was the Creole society that built the city and made it something that can never be imitated or replaced.

Entertainment was desperately sought in the hostile early days of the settlement. As the citizens struggled against floods, diseases, and early deaths, they looked for ways to distract from their hardships. Most of them, so far from home, craved music, opera, and dance from home. This led to the first small theater being built on St. Peter Street in 1792. The first performance, a comedic aria, introduced New Orleans to French opera.

When the poorly-constructed theater closed down 12 years later, theater manager Louis Tabary built a new theater, Theatre d’Orleans, one block away, just off Bourbon Street. It took years to complete, finally opening its doors to Creole society in 1815. The French-provincial building rivaled other small theaters that had opened before it, offering luxury that could only previously have been found in France.

But an arson fire reduced the theater to ash just one year after its debut.

The lot where the theater once stood was snapped up by New Orleans entrepreneur John Davis and he rebuilt the Theatre d’Orleans and added a grand ballroom, Salle d’Orleans, on the site that is now the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. Davis hired British-born American architect Henry Latrobe, who designed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to build the new theater and ballroom with hopes of outshining the other theaters and concert halls that had opened in the city.

And it worked. Multiple dramatic corps traveled from France to New Orleans to perform at the new theater. It was a masterpiece of classic architecture that held breathtaking scenic arrangements, elevated and spacious seating, gallery boxes, and perfect acoustics. The theater offered a wide variety of entertainment, too. There were operas, plays, and musical exhibitions, making the Theatre d’Orleans the most important music venue in the city before the Civil War.

The circles of Creole society flocked to the theater. It seated 1,300 people and was almost always sold out for every performance. From music stands to orchestral chairs, from wardrobe to ticket windows, Davis spared nothing, often making personal sacrifices to ensure that the theater succeeded. New Orleans became known as the “Opera Capital of North America.”

But Davis was not without competition. Many other theaters came and went during the decades of the Theatre d’Orleans’ dominance in the city. Davis always tried to find an edge and wanted to offer something that other venues didn’t. As a lover of gambling, he set up an elegant gaming parlor in the building. Up until that point, cards and gambling had been viewed as a socially unacceptable pleasure that was only found in riverfront dives and sporting houses. Davis gave it an air of sophistication, though, introducing faro and blackjack to the Creole men of society. He served fine wine and delicacies, and, soon, the wealthy were flocking to his gambling parlor to indulge in games of chance.

The Theatre d’Orleans enjoyed its golden era during the 1840s. The gaming parlor and ballroom were frequented by the city’s finest residents and by worldly patrons who loved drama, dancing, and dice.

But all good things must come to an end. By the end of the 1850s, the theater was already deteriorating when John Davis passed away. His death dealt a blow to the entire city. He was one of New Orleans’ leading citizens and his funeral was the largest the city had ever experienced.

Then, in 1866, the Theatre d’Orleans burned to the ground – but thankfully, the ballroom was untouched by the fire. This created another chapter in the history of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel.

The Salle d’Orleans, Davis’s ballroom, had been the scene of music and dancing in the city since 1819. Within the walls, theater-goers gathered after the show next door to marvel at the ballroom’s brilliant lighting, elaborate mirrors, and its imported carpets, chairs, and chandeliers. This gilded entertainment palace became an icon, known not only for hosting the city’s most glamourous social events, but for its perfect location in the center of the French Quarter.

During the era of its construction, Creole society held balls at the high social season of autumn and winter. They celebrated special events such as engagements or weddings, and regularly scheduled masquerade balls, as well.

The Salle d’Orleans was the pride of the city. Joining the ballroom with the adjacent theater allowed dances to drift from one room to the other as the orchestra played and filled the halls with music. Nights at the ballroom were said to be the most impressive galas held on American soil.

Some of the greatest events in the city’s history were held at the Salle D’Orleans. Perhaps the most famous was a night held in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat and military officer who served alongside George Washington during the American Revolution. Lafayette visited New Orleans in 1825, and a party was held in his honor in the ballroom with more than 800 of the city’s most prominent citizens in attendance.

In 1828, a fire burned the Louisiana Capitol Building and forced the State Legislature to find an alternate site to conduct business. The ballroom provided them assembly space, allowing state officials a place to meet until a new capitol could be built.

This was not the last time the ballroom was used as a political meeting space. From 1852 to 1881, the First District Court was in session at the Salle d’Orleans. While housing the criminal court of Orleans Parish, numerous cases were heard during the day while dancing and music echoed off the walls at night.

It was during a slightly earlier era that Mardi Gras began to be celebrated at the Salle d’Orleans. The development of Carnival began when the city was first founded, but it wasn’t until 1838 that the first parade occurred in the French Quarter.

Masqueraders celebrated on foot, in carriages, and on horseback, throwing trinkets to the crowd. In 1857, the first Mardi Gras – as we know it – began when mule-drawn floats built by the Mystick Krewe of Comus introduced the torch-lit processions and thematic parades that we think of today.

Generally, the grand finale of the iconic Mardi Gras parades ended with a ball at the Salle d’Orleans. At this masked galas, mock royalty was presented and honored, while attendees danced and drank the night away.

However, Mardi Gras parties were not the best-known of the grand balls to be held at the Salle D’Orleans. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the ballroom became better known for what were called the “Quadroon Balls.”

New Orleans has always been a wild mixture of cultures and races. Three centuries of the kind of chaos created by this society gumbo makes the city what it is today. Almost since the beginning, African American culture has been a more powerful driving force in New Orleans than in perhaps any other American city. The first Africans to come to Louisiana came as slaves in 1719. Over the next decade, at least 7,000 more followed in their wake.

But not all the Africans living in New Orleans were slaves. There were many free blacks who were either former slaves or free black immigrants from the Caribbean. In city records a designation for their status as a “Free Person of Color” had to follow their name – in case they might be mistaken for white. As racist as this was, New Orleans offered free blacks more rights than any other American city, allowing them to own property and to seek justice in the courts.

There was another aspect of free black life in New Orleans that remains one of the most controversial and mysterious customs in the city’s history – the Quadroon Balls.

In those days, having any African blood could affect your place in society. Men and women of separate races were prohibited from marriage, but this, of course, did not stop the races from mixing. Shades of skin may have varied, but it had to be kept track of. In other words, the less African American blood you had the better, which made quadroon women (one-quarter African American) or octoroon (one-eighth) the least offensive of the race. But even so, Creole society did not consider them worthy of marriage.

The Quadroon Balls were held at the Salle d’Orleans and during these extravagant events, mixed race daughters were presented by their mothers as potential mistresses to masked white men. The wealthy sons of business and plantation owners sometimes supported quadroon mistresses and families in addition to their “legitimate” white families. Many have assumed these young women to be no better than prostitutes, but this was not the case. The girls were raised to be proper young women and were as well-educated as the times allowed. They were free women and known for their beauty.

After being presented at a ball, the young woman left with a suitable “protector,” usually young a Creole gentleman with money, who would then support her in fitting style. The women would own property in a small house in the upper quarter and often these arrangements would last for many years, or perhaps for life. Most of them became renowned for their successful businesses and rooming houses and were usually well-regarded by their neighbors. The upbringing of children from these alliances was prearranged. Most education was taught abroad, usually in France, as there were no schools available for mixed race children in New Orleans at the time.

The Creole called these “left-handed marriages,” but they were never technically legal. It was a poorly-kept secret in the city for decades, even though many of the arrangements lasted a lifetime.

The Quadroon Balls lasted until the late 1870s, although since they officially did not exist, little record remains as to what exactly occurred during them. Regardless, they were a principal diversion for white men in those days and many would gather at the Salle d’Orleans to drink, talk, and hopefully make the acquaintance of one of the beautiful young women that he met.

The Quadroon Balls lasted until 1881, when the Salle d’Orleans went up for sale. It was purchased by a man named Thomas Lafon but not for himself. It was a gift for a group of women who had been working diligently nearby for years. They incorporated the ballroom into an orphanage for the convent that had been founded at the site.

And the next chapter in the future hotel’s history was written.

In a way, the Sisters of the Holy Family order was created thanks to the notorious Quadroon Balls that were held at the place where they convent would eventually stand. Henriette DeLille was the daughter of a free woman of color and a wealthy Creole man whose relationship had been arranged through one of the balls. Henriette grew up in a world of literature, music, and dancing, raised to someday be escorted by her mother to also become a Quadroon mistress.

But that was not what Henriette wanted from her life. She was drawn to religion. She was raised as a Catholic and had been influenced by Sister Marthe Fontier (FON-TEE-AY), who opened New Orleans’ first school for girls of color. Rebelling against her mother’s wishes, Henriette began working with slaves and the poor of the city, while teaching in the local Catholic school when she was just 14. She became an outspoken opponent of the Quadroon Balls and the “left-handed marriages” they created, believing they represented a violation of the sanctity of Catholic marriage.

By 1836, Henriette had formed a small, unofficial congregation of nuns – seven Creole women who called themselves the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That same year, Henriette’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown. The court declared her incompetent and all her assets went to Henriette. This allowed her to purchase a small home that became their first convent. In 1842, they became the Sisters of the Holy Family.

Nuns had shaped much of the social landscape of New Orleans. They were not passive, complacent women who stayed in the background of the Church. The Sisters of the Holy Family, like other orders in the city at the time, were outspoken and protested for women’s rights and equality. They became the first order of Creole nuns in America and most of them were African American. They gathered to pray each Sunday at the St. Louis Cathedral, after spending each week feeding the poor, teaching neglected children, and instructing the city’s people of color.

During the Civil War, the city was captured by the Union and the Sisters of the Holy Family established a hospital for sick and wounded soldiers where a portion of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel now stands.

Then, in 1862, Sister Henriette died from tuberculosis, cutting short her life of service and charity. She was buried at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, but the good works that she began did not end with her death.

In 1881, the Salle D’Orleans was turned into a convent, school, and orphanage. Where once the halls had echoed with music, for the next 83 years only whispers, the sound of an occasional novena, and the laughter of children would be heard. The nuns felt that the purchase of the building was a fitting one – they had wiped out what Henriette felt was a part of the city’s sordid past and replaced it with a place of virtue.

By the 1960s, the convent had outgrown the location in the French Quarter. Pressed by a need for larger facilities for its 1,300 students, they sold the building to a group of investors. One of their first steps was to preserve and restore the Salle d’Orleans. The ballroom had become an integral part of the hotel that replaced the convent that stood at the site. When it opened, the Bourbon Orleans became one of the finest hotels in the French Quarter.

The old walls of the school came down and the ballroom was restored to its former glory. Where there was once a patio for the students, there is now the blue-green waters of a saltwater pool. Surrounding the courtyard are 218 guest rooms, some with balconies that overlook Bourbon Street’s infamous nightlife.

And contained within those walls are the spirits of children, soldiers, nuns, and guests from the location’s history who simply refuse to depart.

Perhaps the most unnerving haunted section of the hotel is the grand ballroom, the former Salle d’Orleans. The ballroom and meeting rooms that surround it boast scores of spirited encounters with the other side. The tales that are told by doormen, bellhops, and staff members make for a chilling laundry list of weird happenings.

During the restoration, John Davis’s luxurious gambling room was turned into restrooms. One evening, during a wedding reception, a member of the bridal party went into the men’s room and was terrified when a sad-looking man in early nineteenth century clothing appeared from nowhere and walked right through him.

During another wedding, a man in a soldier’s uniform was spotted mingling with the guests. Assuming an eccentric reenactor had crashed the festivities, one of the groomsmen walked over to ask him to leave and the man simply vanished.

Staff members report that they have often heard the voices and laughter of children coming from the closed, locked ballroom. Knowing that no one is there, they open the door anyway, only to find the area deserted. Other employees say they have frequently heard footsteps walking and running across the ballroom floor, even when no one is present. Perhaps the sounds of the children from the era of the school are still present in the old building.

The rest of the hotel also has more than its share of ghosts.

The ghost of a young woman reportedly resides in the Gabrielle Room of the hotel. She is often seen gazing down into the pool area. Children are often heard crying in the halls or in unoccupied rooms. Guests frequently complain about the television sets in their room turning on and off or the channel changing on its own. Bathroom sinks and showers mysteriously turn on in the middle of the night. Lights turn on and off, unassisted by living hands. One guest was reportedly awakened by a lady in white who suddenly appeared and sat down on the edge of the bed. When the startled guest sat up, the phantom looked at her, smiled, and then vanished.

One hotel spirit, which seems to favor women, has been nicknamed “Raul.” Legend has it that he was killed in a sword fight – likely over a lady – on this site in the distant past. He is frequently seen, appearing next to unsuspecting women with a wide smile on his face. As the lady turns to look at him, his smile turns to laughter – and then he slowly fades away. Staff members say that this ghost’s antics unnerve some women, but most find him amusing.

On the top floor of the hotel is a room that staff members have dubbed “the nun’s room.” It earned its moniker because of the large number of guests who have encountered what seems to be one of the Sisters of the Holy Family in this dormered room. She is never frightening or threatening in any way. She usually appears in the bedroom mirror and then vanishes. She has also been known to move things around and tap on the walls.

I stayed in this room about 10 years ago and while I never saw the nun, the light in the bathroom had a terrible habit of turning on and off by itself. On one of the nights when I was staying in the room, I woke up in the early morning hours to see that the bathroom light had somehow been switched on. I knew that I hadn’t done it when I’d gone to bed. It wasn’t some kind of electrical malfunction either. When I got up to turn it off, I saw that the light switch had been manually flipped to the “on” position – by someone with unseen hands.

Guests aren’t the only ones who encounter the resident spirits. A staff member who was setting up for a private reception on the sixth floor reported that glasses on a table rearranged themselves while she was working on other things. She believed that the ghosts of children were responsible because she heard the disembodied laughter of a small child just moments before the glasses moved.

A chef that was working alone in the second-floor kitchen one afternoon, getting ready for a special event, accidentally knocked two pans off a preparation table. Irritated at his own clumsiness, the chef cursed loudly. Seconds later, all the lights in the kitchen went out and he was slapped across the face. When the lights mysteriously came back on, he was startled when he saw his face in the mirror and saw the vivid red mark of a hand on his face. Knowing that he had been in the kitchen alone, the frightened man turned in his resignation.

I’m going to blame that one on one of the nuns.

The Bourbon Orleans Hotel is not the only building in the French Quarter that has been plagued by connections to Creole Society and the “left-handed marriages” that occurred at the old ballroom.

Located at 734 Royal Street is another place that is home to an enduring New Orleans legend – the story of the Octoroon Mistress. The stories say that she is a beautiful spirit who only appears here on the darkest nights in December. It is a time of year when even the warmth of New Orleans is tempered by cold winds, icy rains, and sometimes even freezing temperatures.

They say that she appears on the rooftop of this building, completely naked and unprotected from the cold. As the wind slices around the eaves, the lovely phantom huddles in misery with her arms wrapped about her as if they can somehow shield her from the elements. The stories say that she remains there throughout the night, only to vanish as dawn begins to color the sky. This mournful spirit repeats those actions over and over again, but only on the coldest nights of the year.

In life, her name was Julie and she was the mistress of a wealthy Creole man who kept her in an apartment above Royal Street. He had met Julie at one of the balls at the Salle D’Orleans and arranged for the young woman to be his mistress. She was then allowed to enjoy all the fine things that the arrangement allowed her.

Julie’s life was simple, and she never had to work or worry. Her days and nights were filled with expensive food, fine clothing, glittering jewelry, and more. She was content in such things, until she made the mistake of falling in love with the man who gave her such a lavish lifestyle. Such an emotion would not seem so terrible in a different time and place but because of the situation, a more permanent arrangement than what she already enjoyed could never take place.

When Julie would explain to her protector that she loved him, he would always reply that he loved her, as well. He did everything that he could to try and make her happy. He gave her gifts and new dresses and made sure that she had enough money so that she would never want for anything. The only thing that he was unable to give her, though, was to make her his wife. Of course, this was this one thing that Julie wanted more than anything else. She begged and pleaded with him, sometimes angry and sometimes sad, but each time, his answer remained “no.” In those days, any amount of African blood could make a woman unacceptable in white society – even an eighth of a person’s lineage, as it was in Julie’s case.  The young man’s wealth and privilege depended on the generosity of his family. No matter how much he loved Julie, he could not shame the family by marrying a black woman.

Julie’s anger turned to despair and soon, her lover was not so eager to come to the Royal Street apartment. His fine gifts, and even his love for her, did not seem to be enough and so finally, he agreed to her demands – but only if she would do something for him that he never dreamed she would actually commit to doing.

He told her that he would marry her, but only if she would prove her love for him. He told her that she would have to take off all her clothes and stay on the roof until morning.

He told her, “I know that it is cold, but if you love me enough, your love will keep you warm. If you will not do this, then our marriage can never be, and we will go on in just the way that we are.”

He said this to Julie with the belief that she would never do such a reckless and stupid thing. It was the middle of December and New Orleans was suffering a cold spell. Rain and sleet were pelting the windows even as he spoke. He was sure that Julie would laugh at his demands and see the ridiculousness of them being married. Then, he believed, their life could get back to normal.

To his surprise, Julie agreed to do what he asked, although he was sure that she would never go through with it.

Nothing more was said about it that evening and no mention of marriage was made. The young couple remained safe and warm in each other’s arms, content in front of the fire that warmed the apartment. Outside, darkness had fallen on the city and cold rain and icy winds battered the house.

Later in the evening, there was a knock at the door and the young man admitted a friend who had planned to come by and play chess with him. Together, they sat down in the parlor and began drinking and laughing over a chessboard. Soon, all talk of weddings, and perhaps even Julie herself, was briefly forgotten.

But Julie did not forget.

As midnight approached, she removed all her clothing and slowly climbed the steps to the roof. As she reached the outer door, she began to shiver uncontrollably. Icy tendrils of air slipped in around the door frame and chilled her flesh. She bit her lip and pushed on, intent on paying the price that her lover demanded. She pushed open the door and walked out into the cold and frightening blackness.

What happened next we can only imagine. The young gentleman remained with his friend until nearly dawn. Bleary-eyed, he made his way back up the stairs to climb into bed for a few blessed moments of sleep next to Julie’s warm body.

The stories say that he was stunned when he found the bed empty and her clothing on the floor. The room was silent and deserted. He cried out and ran for the attic stairs. He had never imagined she would actually go through with the ridiculous suggestion. As he made his way out onto the roof, he discovered the crumpled body of his lover -- cold, frozen and lifeless.

And every December, Julie still walks that lonely rooftop. Her naked body bends to the force of the freezing wind and as dawn approaches; she falls limply to the roof and then vanishes into the ether.

And the occupants of the building, which now houses the “Bottom of the Cup Tea Room,” maintain that strange things do not only occur on the rooftop. For many years, previous tenants claimed that, when the rest of the house was quiet and deserted, footsteps were heard in the chamber that once belonged to Julie. They also stated that a young man playing chess would often materialize in the one of the rooms.

It was said this was Julie’s lover, paying an eternal price for his role in her death.

Today, Julie apparently tries to make her presence known in various parts of the building. Staff members at the Tea Room claim to have heard tapping sounds that they cannot identify, along with a ghostly perfume that comes and goes without explanation. They have also seen her spectral reflection in a fishpond in the building’s back courtyard and once spotted her apparition rounding a corner.

They believe that Julie has never left this place. And they also believe that it is not only her death that ties her to her former home. She perished on the roof of the house but inside, she lived out the most wonderful years of her life with the man she loved.

Perhaps, they say, her spirit is simply not ready to leave.

And there is one more story of a Creole lady in New Orleans that is not as widely known as that of Julie, but it certainly involves a more sinister spirit.

Located just beyond the French Quarter, in the Marigny (MAR-I-NEE) District, is a house that has been the scene of both ghostly apparitions and terror. It is a two-and-a-half story structure on Royal Street and while it may not be as famous as the LaLaurie Mansion, it has certainly been nearly as haunted.

The story begins in the early 1900s when the house was owned by a great Creole lady that legends say was named Madame Mineurecanal. (MIN-YOUR-CANAL). She was a quiet woman, barely known to her neighbors, let alone to the people of New Orleans. In fact, it’s likely that she be forgotten today if she had not taken her own life in the attic of the Royal Street house.

Late one night, for reasons that we will never know, she climbed three flights of narrow stairs to the attic and fashioned a noose from an old length of rope. She climbed onto a chair and, with trembling hands, tied the rope to a rafter and then placed the noose around her neck. 

She was just about to step off the chair to her death when she heard the sound of soft whimpering. She looked down and saw her faithful dog, cowering in fear beneath the chair. His small white body trembled, as if he had some idea of what his master planned to do. She suddenly realized that she could not leave the animal to fend for himself after her death. She took off the noose and stepped down to pick up the small dog. She held him for a moment and then she placed her hands about his throat and began to squeeze. The dog struggled for a few moments and then went limp. Now, she hoped, her beloved pet could accompany her to the other side.

She carefully placed the dog onto the floor and then climbed once more onto the wooden chair. With the noose around her neck, she violently kicked the chair away.

Within a few minutes, she was dead – but those who have continued to encounter her say that she has never left this house.

Rumors spread that the house was haunted. No one can say if these stories were told because of real ghostly encounters or because of the way that the woman who once owned it had ended her life.

There were spooky stories told – usually about tenants who refused to stay in the house for long – but the first real documentation of a haunting came shortly after World War II when the house was sold very cheaply to a family named Ruez. Because of a housing shortage after the war, there were several families living in the house, including Mr. and Mr. Ruez, their son and his wife, their grandchildren, Ramon and Teresa, and Mr. Ruez’s two brothers and their families.

In the late 1970s, Ramon and Teresa Ruez spoke for the first time about the haunting in the house – and the angry spirit of Madame Mineurecanal. (MIN-YOUR-CANAL)

The first person to see the ghost was Mrs. Ruez. She used to sleep in a bedroom on the second balcony landing. One night, she was in her room reading and heard one of her sister-in-law’s babies crying. The infant had been put to bed in a crib, a short distance down the hallway. A few minutes passed and the baby continued to cry, so she got up and came to the end of the stairway. She saw a lady with dark hair bending over the crib. Mrs. Ruez thought that it was the baby’s mother and couldn’t understand why she didn’t pick up the child. She called out to her, but the woman ignored her. Finally, after calling out again, she stomped her foot and shouted “Rita!” -- the name of the woman she believed was in front of her. At that, the baby’s mother got out of her bed in the other room and came to the doorway where Mrs. Ruez stood. In seconds, the mysterious woman by the crib turned and vanished into the wall near the closet.

The second sighting of the ghost was by Ramon and Teresa’s mother. She was in the house alone one day, pregnant with her second child, and went up the second floor to call her husband and see what time he would be coming home from work. At that time, the only telephone in the house was located by the second-floor stairway that led up to the attic. While she was dialing the number, she heard what sounded like the patter of a little dog’s feet coming down the steps from the attic. She looked up and saw a little white terrier on the stairs. He was followed closely by a dark-haired woman in a long white dress.

She had never seen this woman before and had no idea what she was doing in her home.

She was so frightened that she dropped the phone. She took hold of a religious medal that she wore around her neck and began praying. She turned and ran down the stairs, too frightened to look back. She was in her seventh month of pregnancy when she saw the ghostly woman and a few days afterward, she gave birth to a stillborn baby. Ramon and Teresa always believed that the sighting of the ghost and the death of the baby were connected.

After this terrible incident, everyone in the family began to report strange sounds coming from the attic. Sometimes, after midnight, they would hear moaning and the sound of a woman crying in the darkness.

On one occasion, one of the brothers, Santos, was coming home from work late one night and he saw the ghostly lady coming down the staircase from the attic. She walked out to the end of the balcony and then disappeared. On another night, as he was climbing the stairs to his bedroom, he actually had to move aside to let the woman pass him on the steps. He claimed that he could feel an icy-cold wave of air coming from her. He was so scared that he ran to his bedroom and locked the door to protect his wife and children.

Ramon always remembered that when he and his sister would get into trouble, they would be punished by being forced to sit alone on a couch in the second-floor hallway. Nearby was the staircase that led up to the attic. He recalled that often when they sat there, they would see a woman they didn't know walking down the stairs. He described her as being very Creole-looking and wearing a white dress. He also said that a little white dog always accompanied her.

Teresa probably saw the woman more than anyone else and started calling her "Mini Canal". She had no idea where the name came from, although her mother asked her repeatedly. She was only four or five years old at the time and no one would have any idea until much later about the tragic history of the house. The story of the suicide would come from an elderly neighbor who had lived on the block for years. She remembered the incident from when she herself was a small child.

Soon, everyone began calling the ghost “Mini Canal”, including their cousin, Alfrien, who made the mistake of making fun of the spirit. He walked around the house one day singing "Mini-Canal" over and over again, thoroughly enjoying himself as he did so. Later that night, after going to bed, the boy began screaming in his room. When the lights were turned on, his parents saw that he had a bright red handprint on his face – as though he had been slapped.

The haunting continued to the point that everyone in the house either saw, or was affected by, the ghost. One night, Ramon’s father was lying in bed and he looked up and saw a woman with long, dark hair on the sofa. He assumed that it was his wife. He was about to say something to her when he felt something moving in the bed beside him. He turned over and saw that it was his wife, sleeping. When he looked back at the sofa, there was no one there.

Eventually, the sightings and encounters with the ghost weren’t just unnerving, they were linked to tragedy. Louis, one of the brothers, saw the ghost and died soon after in a car accident. Robert, another Ruez brother, began to develop emotional problems after his first encounter with the ghost. He became very shaken and troubled whenever she was seen. One day, he even tried to commit suicide by cutting open his wrists. On another occasion, he was stopped from jumping over the second-floor balcony to the landing below. He didn’t seem to remember why he was trying to take his life, only just that he had become terribly depressed without reason.

Teresa also remembered a day when she found her youngest brother hanging by one hand on the outside of the balcony railing. He was only a baby at the time, and no one could figure out how he could have possibly gotten there. Another time, when he was only eight months old, he was discovered nearly strangled under strange circumstances. Apparently, he had fallen from his highchair and was hanging from it by his neck. As he was freed, Teresa suddenly began screaming that “Mini Canal” had tried to hurt the baby. Her grandmother was so angry over the repeated incidents in the house that she picked up the highchair and broke it into pieces.

The Ruez family tried to have the house blessed but it did not go. Madame Mineuerecanal (MIN-YOUR-CANAL) refused to leave. Eventually, the rest of the family also left. Teresa said that her mother simply became too frightened to stay there.

The house that once belonged to Madame Mineurecanal (MIN-YOUR-CANAL) is still located at 2606 Royal Street. A few years ago, a young attorney from Santa Fe named Phil Hantel heard about the place and moved in. The stucco house was a little run down at the time and he assumed this is why the asking price was so reasonable. He wouldn’t hear about the strange goings-on until after he moved in.

Not long after getting settled, he began to hear of an old woman that once lived in the house. The Creole lady had strangled her dog and then committed suicide in the attic, he was told, and her ghost has never left the place.

But Phil soon came to believe that the ghost no longer haunted the house. The Creole Lady had apparently been banished long before he moved in. The previous owner of the house had been a Native Indian and rituals were performed in the house to ward off the spirits of the dead.

Phil told me in an interview that, “They burned juniper branches and other stuff to dispel any evil spirits. I’ve heard that she’s trapped in the chimney. They performed that service and then capped the chimney.”

Is this house still haunted? According to Phil Hantel it isn’t, but one has to wonder what might happen if that chimney was ever opened up. His neighbors across the street told him to never uncap it – and he has stated several times that he never intends to do so.

Thanks for tuning into the American Hauntings Podcast – the show where we discuss history, hauntings, legends, lore, and the dark side of American history. We are now deep into Season 4 of the podcast, “Haunted New Orleans.”

I’m your co-host Cody Beck and with me is my co-host – author, historian, crime buff, and the founder of American Hauntings, Troy Taylor.

This episode of the American Hauntings podcast was written by Troy Taylor and it was produced and edited by me -- Cody Beck.

In each bi-weekly episode, we try to combine history, folklore, legend, imagination and the truth to reveal more about America’s most haunted places, strange tales, and unexplained events. You can find the show on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you find your favorite shows and at AMERICAN HAUNTINGS PODCAST.COM,    where we have show notes, more info about the episodes, and links to more from American Hauntings.

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