Several years ago while on vacation in New Orleans, I dined at Muriel’s Jackson Square, where they always keep a table reserved and set with bread and wine for their resident ghost. It may be a bit of a gimmick, but the property has a history of hauntings, which the bartender was happy to entertain, sharing accounts of late night flying glasses and sparkling apparitions as they mixed Sazerac cocktails for the waiting dinner crowd.
That’s the kind of city New Orleans is. Rather than run in the other direction, they welcome spiritual visitors, sometimes even inviting them in. Known for its storied past, voodoo culture and jazz funerals that parade through the streets in celebration of the departed, The Big Easy easily lends itself to tales of those who perhaps were just not ready to leave the party.
Unsurprisingly, there are a number of allegedly haunted hotels in New Orleans. The following five establishments are not only AAA Diamond Rated, acclaimed places to stay, but they may be hosting a few guests who never fully “checked out.” While some visitors may seek these places out because they are haunted, others may simply appreciate the fair warning.
We talked to a couple of the hotels and Ghost City Tours – a company that specializes in walking tours in the French Quarter for those pursuing the paranormal, to learn more about their haunted histories. Ghost City Tours does not visit all of the following hotels on their tours, but their guides are well-versed in all of the city’s spooky legends.
The most haunted hotels in New Orleans
Set back in a residential area in the heart of the French Quarter, just minutes from Jackson Square, the historic Hotel Provincial serves as a quiet retreat from the nearby attractions of downtown New Orleans. Carefully restored, architecturally impressive buildings house comfortable guestrooms with modern amenities, while lush secluded courtyards exude old world Southern charm and elegance. For breakfast and dinner, the onsite restaurant, Angeline, is open every day serving Northern Mediterranean cuisine with Southern flair. For a drink, the Ice House Bar is adjacent to the lobby.
Before it was the residence of Hotel Provincial, 1024 Chartres Street had many former lives. Located on land that was first developed in the early 18th century, it’s been a retail store, a hair salon, the most popular ice market in the city (hence the name of the bar), a private residence and – most relevant to its alleged hauntings – a military hospital. According to media director Maria Pinheiro of Ghost City Tours, it is rumored to have been a hospital during the Civil War, where many wounded Confederate soldiers died.
The current buildings are not the same as those that existed hundreds of years ago. Like many structures in New Orleans in the 18th and 19th centuries, the original buildings were lost to fires, once in 1874 and again in 1878. It’s the land itself that is said to be haunted and despite the hotel’s many comforts, a good night’s sleep is not always guaranteed.
On many occasions guests have reported being jolted awake by the painful cries of soldiers in the middle of the night. And in Building 500 – supposedly the most haunted – bloodstains on the crisp white bedding are said to appear, only to quickly disappear soon after they are noticed.
“One poor guest had the unfortunate fate to ride in the elevator to her floor, onto reel back in fright when the elevator door popped open,” said Pinheiro. “There, before her eyes, was a grisly scene from a darker time, where a poor soldier was undergoing surgery.”
Paranormal investigations have been conducted at the hotel, one of which revealed an EVP (electronic voice phenomena) where a voice could be heard saying, “Tell Diane I have to go.”
Another historic New Orleans site that’s been around since the late 1800s, Hotel Monteleone has served its signature luxury and Southern hospitality to an impressive list of past patrons, most notably literary guests such as Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote, who considered it their digs of choice when in the Crescent City. The hotel offers 570 elegantly decorated vintage-style rooms and modern amenities including a spa, heated rooftop pool and fitness center.
Situated on the western edge of the French Quarter, just one block from Bourbon Street and a few feet from Canal Street, it’s known as the place of the NOLA hotspot, The Carousel Bar and Lounge, which looks and revolves like a merry-go-round and features a regular schedule of live music and craft cocktails. Also on the property is Criollo restaurant, serving contemporary Louisiana cuisine.
According to the Hotel Monteleone website, guests and staff have been experiencing paranormal activity for generations. There have been some pretty creepy stories to come out of the hotel, like one of a restaurant door that inexplicably opens and closes almost every evening, even though it is locked.
In March 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research spent several days at the hotel and made contact with more than a dozen entities. One character that’s often seen is a friendly toddler named Maurice Begere who died in the hotel. After his passing, his distraught parents would return to the Monteleone with the hopes that he might visit them and to this day guests report seeing him near the room where he died.
This charming downtown boutique hotel is near top attractions like the French Quarter, Garden District and Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but it’s away from the hustle and bustle. So after you’ve partied on Bourbon Street you can come back to relax in a quiet lobby decorated in old world opulence with antique furniture, paintings and crystal chandeliers, and a room that follows suit, with modern amenities, of course. Accommodations include themed suites, like the European Palace suite, featuring one of only two marble tubs in existence that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Other perks at Le Pavillon are the rooftop swimming pool, French restaurant The Crystal Room and the casual Le Gallery Lounge. Plus, every night at 10pm they put out a spread of PB&J sandwiches for a bedtime snack (with the addition of hot chocolate in the winter) that’s available to both guests and visitors. You may be in need of a nighttime comfort, as things can get very spooky around here.
Founded in 1907, first as the New Denechaud Hotel, then the DeSoto Hotel, it became Le Pavillon in the 1970s. But before it was ever a hotel, it was the site of the grand German Theatre, which burned down in a fire in 1887. Theaters are said to be hot spots for ghostly activity and this one is no exception.
Le Pavillon is undoubtedly one of the most haunted hotels in New Orleans. The hotel says that guests frequently report odd occurrences like their shower heads mysteriously turning on in the middle of the night and sheets being pulled to the bottom of their beds. And unlike other said-to-be haunted hotels, they fully support the ghost theories. Staff has even attested to the lifelike appearance of their otherworldly residents, like the spirit named Anna who is often sighted in the lobby.
“Some say that the reason why Le Pavillon Hotel is so very haunted is because it sits on a portal to The Other Side,” said Pinheiro. “There’s no other reason, paranormal investigators have said, that a hotel can count nearly a hundred different entities within its walls.”
One of the scariest stories is of a man who was awakened by the feeling of weight settling on the edge of his bed. When he opened his eyes, a female figure looking as real as ever shifted towards him and slid her hand through his hair, whispering, “I’ll never let you go.” He snatched up his stuff and ran out the door, alerting the front desk on his way out that he was never coming back (who could blame him!?).
As told by Pinheiro, the hotel’s director of sales Beth Lytle has had many run-ins with ghosts; particularly with one she nicknamed “George.” One late night, Lytle booked herself a room and “when she woke up, it was only to find that every dresser drawer in the room has been yanked open, her belongings all over the floor.” A few weeks later while staying in the same room she warned George that she wasn’t in the mood for his antics, and the next morning only a single drawer had been opened.
Adjacent to St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square and just half a block away from the excitement of Bourbon Street, this European-style property boasts an outdoor saltwater pool and balcony suites that overlook the French Quarter. At their Bourbon Street bar, Bourbon “O,” managed by top mixologist Miss Charming, guests are greeted with a complimentary cocktail and live entertainment three nights a week. Their restaurant Roux on Orleans Creole restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner.
The Bourbon Orleans Hotel is another one of the most haunted hotels in New Orleans and has an extravagant history to back it up. “These two have had sightings by guests for hundreds of years,” said Marc Becker of the New Orleans Hotel Collection, of the Bourbon Orleans and its sister property Hotel Dauphine (more on that below).
The hotel rests on the site of what was once the Orleans Theatre in the early 19th century, which was one of the first venues that helped to spread French Opera through the United States. When the theater was lost to a fire, it was reincarnated into the Orleans Ballroom and hosted many lavish affairs.
One of the hotel’s most infamous ghost sightings is of a lone dancer in the current ballroom, perhaps lingering behind from that era. Pinheiro describes her as “spinning around the room, her hands lifted as though perched on a long-gone dancer’s shoulders.
After it was a ballroom, the space was converted into a convent, which may explain the mysterious cries and ghost sightings reported from Room 664, where guests have reported waking in the middle of the night to see the figure of a woman sheathed in a black habit standing in the corner of the room.
The Bourbon Orleans is sometimes a stop on Ghost City Tour’s Killer & Thrillers West Tour and is almost always a stop on their Haunted Pub Crawl.
Also under the umbrella of the New Orleans Hotel Collection, the Dauphine Orleans is a historic French Quarter boutique with buildings that date back to the early 19th century, like the Audubon breakfast room where John James Audubon painted his Birds of America Series (and where complimentary continental breakfast is served daily). It is also home of the bar, May Baily’s Place, where guests are welcomed with a beverage, and perhaps a friendly haunting.
In the late 19th century, May Baily’s operated as a bordello in the neighborhood known as “Storyville,” aka the Red-Light District of New Orleans. Of the four ghostly characters that hang out at the hotel, all of which have been researched and documented by the hotel through sightings, paranormal research and old letters, several can be traced back to this period in time.
May Baily was known for entertaining callers with fine wine, food and music, and according to ghost hunters who have visited, there’s one working girl that may still be mixing cocktails behind the bar. The presence of a courtesan has been recognized by the inexplicable rearrangement of liquor bottles along the back bar and by a faint shadow that’s been seen behind a photo of May Baily. She prefers the company of men and is believed to make their drinks stronger and tastier.
Another well-known spirit is the hotel’s resident ghost bride, said to be May’s younger sister, Millie. Employed – however, unwillingly – in the family business, Millie accepted the proposal of a young soldier who would visit her often. The story goes that she spent hours hand-sewing and perfecting the details of her Irish lace wedding gown, only to learn on the way to the altar that her husband-to-be had been killed in a gambling dispute. Forever grief-stricken she took to wearing her wedding dress around the brothel and is sometimes still seen on the rear balcony of May Baily’s Place all dressed in white.
During the day, the hotel’s courtyard and saltwater pool are great places to relax, but at night you may come across a few extra visitors. Because it was the largest Confederate city and its principal port, forlorn souls of Civil War soldiers are common in the streets of New Orleans, and one high-ranking general has been known to nervously pace the Dauphine’s courtyard. A pleasant apparition of a little girl known as Jewel has also been spotted dancing around the pool.
Ghost and Spirits Vacation Packages are offered at both the Bourbon Orleans and Dauphine Hotel and include a haunted tour for two as well as other signature NOLA perks like two Hurricane cocktails with souvenir glasses at Pat O’Brien’s and beignets and coffee for two at Café du Monde.
For more information on Ghost City Tours, visit www.GhostCityTours.com.