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  • Writer's pictureJ. R. Erickson

The Spooky Side of New Orleans

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I took a trip to NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana). We intended to take our toddler with us, but my mother-in-law thought we’d have more fun as a couple, and we never did take a honeymoon so we turned it into our ‘better late than never’ honeymoon as well. We drove the seventeen-ish hours from Northern Michigan – typical for us because my husband is quite tall, and flying is uncomfortable – not to mention we both prefer the road-trip experience. When we arrived in NOLA, it was cloudy and nearly 85 degrees, a heavenly respite after months of bitter negative-degree days in Michigan.

We checked into a shogun Air BnB in Bywater, a little community a couple of miles from the French Quarter. Our first evening, we walked two blocks to a brewery called Parleaux Beer Lab – essentially a large warehouse (it looked like a reclaimed mechanic’s shop) including a courtyard out back with a scattering of wire-reels for tables. The craft beer was delicious – we both tried Ducci – an Italian pilsner that was light and refreshing. After our drinks, we meandered a few more blocks to Bacchanal – an amazing wine and food bar tucked obscurely into a city block. This place kicked off four days of eating some of the best food I’ve had in my life!

I’m tempted to wax poetic on our many and varied meals during the trip from roasted butternut squash risotto at Bacchanal to blackened chicken at Oceana Grill – not forgetting the Café au lait and  beignets  at Cafe Du Monde. It was truly a culinary adventure, but for this post, I’d like to talk a bit more about the spooky side of New Orleans.

During our final evening in the city, we took a tour with Witches Brew, our guide was Christoph – an animated talker who put life into each of the stories. We met in the French Quarter, and meandered down side streets, listening as our guide wove an intriguing and creepy history that seems to permeate the city. He spoke of the cities origin as a dumping place of sorts for prisoners. The images below were taken during our tour and include the stories told about them.

The house above once belonged to a woman named Delphine LaLaurie. She occupied the house with her husband, and was esteemed in the New Orleans social scene until the evening of April 10, 1834, when rescuers responding to a fire at her residence found a slave chained to the oven. The slave apparently started the fire in order to alarm the authorities and escape the torture of LaLaurie. The rescuers were then told of an attic containing more slaves. According to our guide, they found bound slaves, as well as the mutilated bodies of tortured slaves. Delphine was reportedly outraged at the intrusion, but when the citizens of New Orleans learned of the cruelty they descended upon the LaLaurie home, and Delphine and her family fled the country.

The history of this house was especially intriguing. – think Vampire. Our guide referred to it as the Home of Vampire Jack. The story included a man named Jacques Saint Germain who occupied the home in the early 1900s. The man was described as quite mysterious, hosting lavish parties, but never eating any of the decadent food he served to his guests. Instead, he could always be seen with a glass of red wine.

One night, the police were called when a woman leapt from Germain’s second story balcony. Hysterical, she claimed that the man had bitten her neck and she fled in terror. The police arrived, and Germain insisted there was a reasonable explanation, and he would give it it the following day. However, the next day, Germain never appeared at the police station, and when authorities visited his house, they found it abandoned and largely empty. Though one cupboard was filled with corked bottles of wine. When they opened the wine, they found not a rare vintage, but human blood mixed with absinthe to keep the blood from congealing.

What makes the story even more intriguing is that Jacques claimed to be related to a man named Comte de St. Germain. Comte was a mysterious, seemingly ageless, figure who appeared in stories that spanned centuries. He was a sophisticated man who spoke many languages, told stories as if he’d lived for hundreds of years, and was also an alchemist. According to our guide, Comte claimed to have found the elixir of life. When Jacques disappeared quite suddenly, many speculated that he was, in fact, Comte de St. Germain and that, perhaps, his elixir of life was the mixture of human blood he consumed to remain eternally young.

There were more stories and more adventures during our journey, but I’ll leave it there for now. I hope you’ve had a lovely February. And just a reminder – Calling Back the Dead releases next week!

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