In our final stop in this macabre exploration of haunted burial grounds, we come to the Big Easy, New Orleans, Louisiana. Located in this most southern of American cities, we find St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. A peculiar necropolis purportedly haunted by 3 ghosts, and one of those specters is a powerful sorceress who gained the reputation for being the queen of Voodoo.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, SLC1 as the locals call it, is on Basin Street on the outskirts of the French Quarter. It was established in 1789. A year before, in 1788, a raging fire nearly burned the city to the ground and the cemetery was moved away from the city to protect the dead who were at rest.
Upon exploring the cemetery, visitors will notice that unlike other cemeteries, the graves are above ground. Strange as it may seem, this does serve a practical purpose. New Orleans is below sea level and flooding has been a constant problem over its long history. In the event of a hurricane, corpses could be potentially unearthed and washed away. Nothing could possibly be worse than seeing the body of a loved one floating through the Quarter after a heavy rain.
Another strange feature of this historic cemetery is that it closes promptly at 3 PM. The early closing time was put into place due to the thieves and murderers lurking in the shadows of the tombs. Over the years several innocent visitors and mourners found themselves on the business end of a thief’s blade. The struggle resulted in quite a few violent deaths.
No one could ever possibly deny that SLC1 is a quiet place far removed from the busy streets of New Orleans and the jazz clubs of the French Quarter. However, this peaceful necropolis has gained a darker reputation. A haunted reputation. Three ghosts call this cemetery home and they are not shy in making their presences known.
Two centuries ago, in early 19th century New Orleans, Marie Laveau was considered to be the reigning queen of Voodoo. Laveau was frequently consulted by the rich and powerful for either luck or vengeance. This made Marie Laveau several powerful enemies. They accused her of black magic and consorting with diabolical forces. These rumors may have worked in Marie Laveau’s favor as no one in their right mind would ever challenge the high priestess of the unknown.
In reality, Marie Laveau, was a kind-hearted woman who spent much of her time helping others in need. Several local doctors and hospitals hired her to whip up folk remedies for the sick and dying. Nevertheless, Laveau was also hot tempered and quick to anger. If you did find yourself on her bad side, well, not even god himself could save you from her wrath.
When Marie finally passed from the world of the living, her daughter took up the mantle of Voodoo queen. Marie was interred in SLC1 in an unmarked tomb. Perhaps this is why the hot-tempered woman haunts the cemetery long after her death.
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Curiosity seekers who find her tomb have reported chilling encounters with the ghost of Marie Laveau. Her apparition has been spotted standing outside of her tomb angrily yelling curse words to the heavens. One story tells of a man who learned the hard way not to mess with her tomb. While vandalizing it, Marie Laveau appeared and gave the man a vicious slap across his face. Terrified by the encounter, the man ran off. Since then, visitors to her tomb leave offerings as a sign of respect.
A second ghost encountered in the cemetery is a man named Henry Vignes. In life, Vignes was a sailor and according to everyone who knew him, Vignes was not very smart. A perfect example of his dimwittedness was leaving the deed to his tomb with his landlady before going off to sea. Upon hearing of Vignes dying at sea, the landlady sold his tomb and pocketed the money and as you might imagine, this did not sit well with Henry Vignes.
An apparition believed to be Henry Vignes is seen wandering in the cemetery searching for his lost tomb. He has also been known to pester mourners, asking them if there is any room in their loved one’s tomb for him. When they answer “no,” he angrily stomps off and fades away.
Lastly, our third ghost is a said little specter called Alphonse. No one really knows who he was in life, nor do they know why his life was cut short at such a tender age. Alphonse is known to clutch the hands of women in an icy grasp as they roam the cemetery. He is also known to steal flowers and trinkets from other graves adorn his own.
Probably the oddest thing about Alphonse is his fear of the Pinead family tomb. Alphonse appears with a worried look on his face and pleads with people to stay away from the Pinead tomb. He then vanishes from sight leaving in his wake a feeling of fear and dread.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is one of the great historic cemeteries in the United States. If you visit please be respectful, no one wants to incur the Voodoo queen’s wrath and be cursed for life.
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