The Crescent Evening

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The tour begins a little after 8p.m. in a little nook café’ off the corner of a major street in the French Quarters district, right next to a festively lit tree within a stone’s throw of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar. This is the best opportunity if any to take the first pics of the evening. The lighting and atmosphere is superb, with passing tourists and voices of locals in the nearby haunted pub. As she steps onto the scene, her hair is pinned in a half updo and she is dressed in all black. She is introduced as the one and only Bloody Mary,-our tour guide- the Voodoo Queen of the land, and her lineage is divulged to the listeners in the small group of ten.

Then the photo book of her past quests of ghost hunting is passed around for all to see. In the pictures there is proof of orbs and plasma that feed the minds of supernatural fanatics worldwide. After the ritual of introductions are finished, another one transpires as the Queen herself enchants the group with prayers of protection from her ancestors and those she pulls on to give her the power of her religion. She holds a sack of pebbles in her hands, and chants in a monotone and distant voice as her eyes roll back in her head. Mary foxtrots around the group, pressing the sacred stones toward each member as she rehearses the ancient sounds that her ancestors have taught her. After she is finished, she encourages everyone to take a pebble in hand and turn around, sealing the circle of protection.  She guarantees no personal experience but encourages the newly baptized ‘fam’ to take as many pictures along the tour path in hopes of a nice souvenir, but makes sure to perform another ritual at the famous New Orleans St. Louis Cathedral gates, with pebbles to ensure that no lost soul encountered would attach to one of the members of the tour. During the two hour walk along the cobblestoned streets we also stop at by the haunted parlor at the restaurant Muriel’s enroute to the former homes of Madame LaLaurie and the mulatto Octoroon Mistress named Julie. These houses are the main focal point, and a bit of the Creole history surrounding these two is explained.

The first up is the tale from the mid 1800’s of the scorned lover on Royal Street.  The home is a massive structure, but blends perfectly with the other homes nearby. Light is pooled above head toward a balcony, drawing the eye upwards to the dancing particles in the sky. Here, it is believed that a free black woman named Julie haunts her old home after she is left out in the cold due to heart ache. When alive, she had a French gentleman lover who refused to marry her due to social taboos, and to prove her love for him he asked her to meet her on top of the home naked, and she indeed went out unclothed and remained there until her man came for her. Unfortunately it began to snow and his card game lasted a little too long, but she chose to sit it out, and froze to death. Upon finding his beloved frozen the next day, the man went into deep mourning and within a mere month later he had also met his demise.

This is the place in the tour where Mary swears that Julie has made personal appearances to those in her groups on over a dozen occasions. The moment is stretched out even further as those under her spell gaze up at the balcony of the house on display, flood lights in the background are steadily focused, in hopes that this too would be one of those times. Alas it isn’t, and the small entourage moves on to the next scene.

The house of the socialite Madame LaLaurie is not bathed in light as the former, and has many dark corners that trick the eye surrounding it. Maybe this is for the full effect of the dark happenings that went along with the tale, or maybe it is just a creepy area. Either way the ambience is created. Mary starts the tale off by discussing the sadistic behavior of the physician Mr. and Mrs. of the home. Multi limb experiments were allegedly performed on slaves which resulted in three legged men and distorted torsos. The most appalling of the stories surrounding LaLaurie is of the little slave girl that was pushed over the edge of the upstairs balcony and fell to her death by her master due to jealous rage, after she was reprimanded for abusing prior slaves and having them taken from her custody. After many other multiple allegations of slave abuse which eventually led her to lose full custody of all, Madame LaLaurie set her home on fire and fled to Europe. The slave girl is still said to haunt the balconies of the portion of the home that still exists.

The tour finally ends at the Gallitan docks, now shadowed in darkness, where it is believed that vampires still inhabit. It is a mild completion to a pretty invigorating walking tour. There is nothing else to do from here but to find our way back to the main streets and finish the night off with a walk back to the hotel. All in all a good investment for a unique horror lesson of the Nouvelle Orleans, where one can pick up the trivial fact that this is the only place in the world where Middle French language is still the norm.

What a tourist should  take away from this affair is a deep connection to history that may not be felt in other parts of the nation. It is such a melting pot of the fantastic real, which can normally be seen in other countries such as Cuba and other Latin destinations, that some stories can be hard to digest, such as the LaLaurie tale, but, it is not totally unbelievable. Where else in the U.S can you go and be submerged into a subculture that seeps with centuries old structures and society. Like I stated above, you can hear French from the 1800’s spoken where in France today, it is a lost etiquette. A great preservation subject for those who enjoy a bit of history to boot, mixed with old world charm and aesthetics.

 

Tamuriel Dillard

 

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