By ROBERTA SOTONOFF
Special to the Journal & Topics Newspapers
Everyone loves New Orleans. Maybe it's the music, funky people, jambalaya, beignets or Creole cooking. The French Quarter is a favorite haunt for visitors ‹ those who are living and those who are not. You'd think the ghosts would freak out the tourists, but actually haunted tours are so popular, the eternal residents have become an attraction.
Many New Orleans residents, including the Quarter's many psychics, tarot, palm and stone readers, are convinced that poltergeists exist. Ghost expert Larry Montz, Ph.D., who heads the International Society of Paranormal Research, believes they are there. He was recently in New Orleans to research the otherworldly.
"Ghosts in New Orleans date from 1799 to 1991. Many who stay, died suddenly, have issues (revenge) or are so comfortable here, they refuse to move on," says Montz.
"Some things that happen here we can't explain," said Joost De Kruitt (pictured above), assistant manager of Le Café, concerning supposed hauntings at Hotel Monteleone.
Maybe that's why some hotel employees never leave their jobs even after they are no longer among the living. Montz speaks of a former maid at the Omni Royal Orleans that still hangs out on the second floor. He stayed in Room 227, and at times water turned on and off and the phone rang when no one was there.
"For years, employees and guests of Hotel Monteleone have enjoyed friendly interaction with our spirits. Some detail benign mischief like opening doors and moving soap," says Director of Sales and Marketing, Andrea Thornton.
At the hotel Le Cafê, one eternally satisfied doorman still does his thing at night.
"At first we thought it was the AC, but it is not. There is no AC at night. Some things that happen here we can't explain," says Joost De Kruitt, assistant manager of Le Cafê.
According to Montz, 12 "entities" haunt the Hotel Monteleone. Sightings have been on the roof, the seventh (Iberville section) and 14th floors (which is really the 13th floor). The spirits even have names. One of them, John Wagner, went south off the roof when his business deals did the same.
When Chicagoans Lisa Marie Katala and her friend stayed at the Monteleone last year, Katala said their bed shook so much they couldn't sleep.
"We felt the presence of a female‹corseted, with a big hat‹and there was music, like a waltz. They even followed us back home," Katala said.
She reported that even though they were not together, both she and her friend kept hearing the same music at the same time, but after a day it went away.
Ghostly guests roam through many French Quarter hotels. At certain times, the shrieks of the four boys can be heard in the Andrew Jackson Hotel. They died there.
The second floor on the left side of the Hotel Provencial is also a hangout for the screeching spirits. The site was once used as a place to bring the wounded and dying after a battle. Stories differ as to whether it was the 1815 Battle of Orleans or the Civil War.
"In 1992, a young girl staying at the hotel screamed. She said she saw a soldier with his arm blown off," says Leonce Collins, guide for Haunted French Quarter Walk.
Restaurants are also favorite hangouts for mortals and spirits. Many of these were once grand homes.
"I don't really believe in ghosts, but there is someone very mischievous around here. Things fly off the bar and no one is there," says Susan Hihar, a reservationist at Muriel's at 801 Chartres.
Muriel's' most prominent apparition is former owner Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan. This was the site of his dream home until 1814, when he lost it in a poker game. He went home and committed suicide on the second floor in what is now The Sêance Lounge. In the last five years, he has been spotted there about 50 times. He is easy to recognize. He is the one who looks like a tall, sparkling, cylindrical luminescence.
Psychics also believe troubled spirits frequent Muriel's Carriageway, an area that once housed slaves. Every night, a table with a candle, bread and water is set for Antoine or whomever.
O'Flaherty's Irish Channel Pub, 508 Toulouse St., is also purported to be frequented by ghouls. Around 1817, it was the site of a mênage-a-trois, which included former owner, Joseph Bapentier, his wife, Mary Wheaton, and one of her staff, Angelique. Legend has it that Bapentier made a pass at Angelique. They argued and he pushed her out the window, threw her into the well in the courtyard and then killed himself. It is said that on the 2d and 3rd floors, lights flicker and doors open and close. Mary Wheaton appears on the side of the building opposite the pub on Friday nights.
One of the most repeated, ghostly sagas is that of Armand and Julie. They were involved in a quadroon relationship (a free woman of color, at least 1/4th African American, and a Creole man). This was common in the 18th century, only she wanted to wed her Creole lover‹a no no. To get her off his back, Armand told her that if she spent the night on the roof nude, he would marry her. She took him at his word, went up there and froze to death. At The Bottom of the Cup Tearoom, (now Simon of Orleans at 327 Chartres) people have reported that Julie's back has been seen turning a corner, they have felt something brush past them, or if her name was mentioned, something would move.
There are so many haunted sites like these, and you'd think a cemetery would be one of them. Not so, says Montz. He believes spirits can move so they don't hang around tombs. But still, the New Orleans' cemeteries are a tourist destination. One of the reasons is that the unique, above-ground mausoleums and tombs are recycled. After the bodies decompose, caskets are recovered, and bones are removed.
"We bag it and tag it," says guide, Pat Dupry.
The bag of bones is in the bottom of the tomb to make room for another family member. It works and is economical even though it sounds strange and gruesome.
Rev. Zombie's Voodoo Shop is another place where one might expect to get spooked out. Not so. Though they do have a statue with nails driven through it and an altar with candles and incense, pin-sticking voodoo dolls are not for sale.
A Tarot card reader sets up shop along the streets of New Orleans.
"We sell nothing negative in this store," says Travis, a Rev. Zombie salesperson who prefers not to reveal his last name.
Dressed totally in black with an ultra-pierced face, he is exactly the kind of guy you'd expect to find in this kind of place. Travis tells me the most popular items are Ghana Ashanti Tribe fertility dolls and New Orleans voodoo dolls that come in different sizes and colors which are supposed to bring you things like money, courage, fertility and peace.
Believe these stories or not, strange things can happen in New Orleans.
IF YOU GO
The city offers several haunted history tours. The excursions are mostly in the evening and begin at various sites. Some guides dress in long black capes and I even saw one in a red satin robe. Call Leonce Collins, our guide on the Haunted French Quarter Walk, at 504-947-2120, email:TourNewOrleans@yahoo.com, website: "http://www.tour
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