Thursday, May 31, 2012

 Ten Haunted Spots in New Orleans:

From T.R. Heinan, author of L'immortalité:  Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen

  One of the great things about reading (or writing) historical fiction like L'immortalité  is being able to actually visit many of the locations mentioned in the story.  New Orleans, Louisiana has been called the most haunted city in America, so this list is hardly comprehensive but here are 10 of my favorite haunted spots in the Crescent City:
1.       The Lalaurie Mansion , 1140 Royal Street
 The former home of Delphine Lalaurie is known in New Orleans simply as the haunted house.  Stories of hauntings began almost immediately after the house caught fire on April 10, 1834.  The property is privately owned, so it's unlikely that you will get inside, but reports of full body apparitions on the gallery, ghost photos in the windows and the sounds of chains and screams have all been reported.  I captured some interesting orbs the first time I photographed the mansion and was told that Thursday nights are best for photographers seeking  orbs. The best way to see the mansion is to take one of the many walking tours available in the French Quarter.

2.       The Cornstalk Hotel, 915 Royal Street
 Also on Royal Street, not far from the Lalaurie Mansion, is the former home of Judge Francois X. Martin.  Judge Martin lived there before the well-known cornstalk fence was constructed. He went blind during the ten years that he resided with his servant at this address. Guy Bertrand, one of the characters in L'immortalité meditates on Judge Martin's blindness before encountering the ghosts of two slaves at the Lalaurie Mansion.  Some visitors to the hotel claim that the old judge still stumbles around the place, knocking things over late at night. It is also said that Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write Uncle Tom's Cabin while visiting this house.

3.       Pirates Alley
  Located between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, Pirates Alley is home to my protagonist, Philippe Bertrand.  If, at night, you hear an angelic spirit voice singing the Kyrie in Pirates Alley and nobody seems to be around, you may have encountered the ghost of Pere Dagobert who served as pastor of the church beginning in 1745.  Reports of his spirit      singing the Kyrie here are  probably the oldest ghost story in New Orleans.

4.       St. Louis Cemetery #1
    Recently named the most haunted cemetery in America in an on-line poll, it is here that my     story begins with the line, "New Orleans was coming alive".  This is where you will find the  tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (and a couple of other tombs often mistaken for hers).  Please do not mark the tomb with an X.  It is illegal and considered vandalism.

5.       Congo Square
  Adjacent to and part of Louis Armstrong Park, Congo Square sits on land that was once      considered sacred by the Houmas Indians.  Later it was the site used by a "whites only" circus.  Its musical renown traces to the Sunday dance gatherings of free people of color and black slaves in the 19th century.  It was here that Marie Laveau danced with her snake,  Zombie, and here that she transformed the nature of voodoo in New Orleans.  There are some who say that the ghost of composer and pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk haunts the       area outside the gate to Congo Square. As a boy he often visited Congo Square during the very years that my story takes place.

6.       1020 St. Ann Street
 Not far from Congo Square is the spot where Marie Laveau's house used to stand.  He rhome is long gone, but a plaque on the cottage at 1020-1022 St. Ann Street marks the location.  According to the plaque, the Voodoo Queen began living there in 1839.  I believe this is incorrect.  Martha Ward, in her carefully researched book, Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau, states as "historic fact" that Marie Laveau moved to this address in 1832.  For at least 80 years now, there have been reports of Marie Laveau sightings in the vicinity of this house.  One tour guide I met even claims she showed up on one of his tours.

7.       Pat O'Brien's, 718 St Peter
    I launch my story with a tourist spilling a Hurricane drink.  We can assume that he bought a go- cup at Pat O'Brien's, home of the original world famous Hurricane. During my many visits to at O'Brien's over the past thirty years I have heard numerous reports of cold spots and strange sounds in the piano bar and a spirit that moves items about in the courtyard. Supposedly there is also a ghost that haunts the Ladies Room.  (Sorry, no first-hand knowledge about that one.)

8.       May Baily's at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel, 415 Dauphine Street
       Philippe Bertrand, the protagonist in my story is a bibliophile who always wears white suites. I created him that way before I discovered that a male ghost who wears white supposedly likes to knock books off the shelves of the little library in May Baily's.  During my visit in January this year, there was much discussion amongst the patrons about a full-body  apparition that they said took place on the doorsteps of the bar a week earlier.  It can't be  Philippe; he's fictional, but perhaps  it's the ghost of John James Audubon who painted many of his bird pictures in what is now the hotel meeting room.  A couple of the rooms at the Dauphine Orleans are also said to be haunted by a black man named George, ladies of the evening, and civil war soldiers.

9.       Café Du Monde, 1039 Decatur Street.
     In my book, everything goes haywire for Philippe Bertrand after he refuses a beignet but     accepts an invitation for coffee at the Lalaurie Mansion.  For a safer and more satisfying way to enjoy beignets and coffee, Café du Monde is the place. Nothing says NOLA history better than Café Du Monde where they've been serving delicious coffee and beignets since 1862.  Legend has it that a ghost sometimes waits on tables. It must be a phantom who likes  chicory in its coffee and powdered sugar on its shirt.

10.   Brennan's, 417 Royal Street
      Philippe Bertrand's drink of choice was Brandy Milk Punch, which was quite popular in his time.  You can still enjoy this 19th century favorite at Brennan's, as well as their famous  creation, Bananas Foster.  Reserve in advance for Breakfast at Brennan's to celebrate any  special occasion.  I plan to
go there to celebrate the publication of L'immortalité.  In the Red       Room of  Brennan's there have been reports of strange sounds, footsteps, flickering lights and sightings of  a  ghostly figure.  It could be the ghost of a boy who once lived at this address (and who later killed  imself at the Cornstalk Hotel) or might have something to do with a murder-suicide that is  said to have happened here back when Abe Lincoln was president.

 Walking Tours

Probably the best way to visit the first four places on this list is to talk one or more of the many great walking tours available in New Orleans. Some of the best are offered by Strange True Tours 504-258-0760 and French Quarter Phantoms 504-666-8300.

      Don't Make Marie Laveau Angry

Please keep in mind that most of these haunted places are private property.  Don't trespass, litter or create disturbances, and please respect places of national heritage and sacred spaces.  Remember that spirits and spirits don't mix.  Enjoy, but don't spoil things for others.

 No consideration was offered or accepted for inclusion on this list.  There are many, many other great places to visit in New Orleans and this unsolicited list merely reflects the personal opinion of the author.

For more about my book visit:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Book Description

  By turns comedic and macabre, L'Imortalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen is an irreverent horror story drenched in the excess of its nineteenth century southern Louisiana landscape. It is based on the real life events of New Orleans' Lalaurie Mansion, involving an elite society woman and the barbaric treatment of her slaves. This novelization begins in the city's St. Louis Cathedral where lay sacristan Philippe Bertrand has become a recluse after the loss of his mother and wife. When a mysterious force upends his life and leads him to the shadowy mansion of Delphine Lalaurie, he meets Elise, a slave girl who has been brutalized by Delphine.

  After the mansion matriarch demands that the mysterious Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau give her eternal fame, everything goes haywire. A child slave dies under questionable circumstances, spurring Elise to escape the mansion. Philippe and his extended family head to the swampy bayou where they hide Elise at Marie Laveau's cabin and secretly teach her to read and write.

  When Marie reveals a new spin on the meaning of zombies, the once reluctant sacristan is determined to find out what really goes on at the Lalaurie Mansion. To his horror, he will discover that Delphine and her physician husband carry out repugnant medical experiments on their slaves, even as they put on a refined social façade during their well-attended society balls. Their monstrous private world may be exposed when a slave cook sets herself on fire, along with the mansion. Philippe must break the chains of his own conflicted spirituality as well as those that bind the slaves in the attic if he is to rescue the Lalaurie's victims.

  As the novel reaches its stunning climax, Philippe will come to understand the different paths humans take in search of immortality.  A comedic meditation on what humans do to persist beyond their mortal lives, L'Immortalité is an inventive horror story that vividly brings to life the torrid landscape of old New Orleans.