St. Louis Cemetery #1
by Spanish royal decree on August 14, 1789, St. Louis Cemetery #1 is not
only the oldest cemetery that can be visited in New Orleans, it is also
said to be the most haunted.
By the late 18th century, the city's older cemetery --
St. Peter Cemetery (no longer in existence) had begun to fill up,
and the town development had reached the site’s boundaries. Recognizing
the need for the new burial place, city administrators made plans for a
new burial site which was far away from the center of population, due to
fears that contagion and disease would spread. A below sea level swampy
site on St. Louis Street was selected because high ground sites were much
Upon initial development, the cemetery was divided into
sections for Catholics, non-Catholics, and slaves.
Initial burials appear to have taken place in
a haphazard manner, leading to the current maze of tombs and aisles.
Though the cemetery spans just one square block, it is the resting place
of thousands. Currently, it holds over 700 tombs, the remains of
over 100,000 people, and is still the site of
several burials each year. It is listed on the National Register of
New Orleans has issues with high ground water nearly all the graves are in
above-ground vaults. Following the Spanish custom of using vaults, they
range from simple to very grand. Walls in the cemetery are made of
economical vaults stacked on top of one another, while other ornate crypts
built by wealthier families look much like tiny houses, complete with iron
Nicknamed "the Cities of the Dead" by the
famed author, Mark Twain, its age is prominently displayed in chipped and
crumbling tombs, broken shells and cobblestones that form the pathways,
and vandalism. However, its age and deterioration take nothing away from
its haunting beauty.
Due to the rise in vandalism, the cemetery was closed
to the public in March, 2015. However, visitors may still enter the burial
grounds with authorized tour guides and companies.
Considered one of
the most haunted cemeteries in all of the United States, reports of
paranormal activity have been occurring for more than 200 years.
One of the most famous ghosts of the Cities of the Dead
is that of
Marie Laveau, better known as The Voodoo Queen
of New Orleans. Born as a free Creole woman of color on September 10,
1881, she was the illegitimate daughter of a
free man of color and a Creole mother. Historians believe that Marie’s
mother and grandmother were also voodoo practitioners. As an adult
she practiced fortune telling, the occult,
Voodoo, Voudoun, and worked with herbal remedies, while incorporating her
Catholic religion, African religion and culture.
Word of her successes soon spread throughout the area and before long she
was renowned in New Orleans as the Voodoo Queen. She lived until the age
of 86 when she died on June 15, 1881. Interestingly, there were a number
of people who claimed to have seen her in the days after she died.
More than 130 years later, people are still saying that
they have seen her. Her misty ghost has been seen walking along the
pathways of the cemetery wearing her trademark red and white turban and
brilliantly colored clothes. Many report that
she simply vanishes if they try to follow her. Some say that she mumbles
an original New Orleans Santeria Voodoo curse as she walks along. At times
the curse is so loud that people have heard it outside the burial ground.
Others have reported seeing her ghost emerging from inside her tomb. On
many occasions she appears to be in a foul mood as she storms along the
She has also been spotted in a number of other
locations throughout the French Quarter, most often walking down the
street she once lived on. For some non-believers
who scoff at her, or her beliefs or religion, they have reported being
pinched or shoved down to the ground.
Other reports include
feelings of being touched, becoming
unexplainably ill, and hearing voices emanating from inside the her tomb.