'X' Marks the Tomb

Some call it the "City of Mystery" -- here's why

By: R. Scott Macintosh

Marie Laveau’s tomb in St. Louis Cemetery #1 is marked with Xs, lined with coins, and adorned with flowers, candles and Mardi Gras beads.

The faithful leave their offerings or knock three times on the front of the tomb in the hopes that the spirit of the city’s most famous voodoo priestess will look upon them favorably, even though no one is entirely sure if Laveau is really buried in the old tomb.

New Orleans is a city that deals with the sacred and the profane on a daily basis. It has more than its share of saints, sinners, ghosts, vampires, cemeteries and voodoo priests and priestesses.

Take Julie, the Octoroon Mistress, for example, who is said to haunt the gables of a Royal Street town house on those cold winter nights. Supposedly, the ghost also haunts the Bottom of the Cup Tea Room, a fortune-teller’s store below.

Given the supernatural history of the city, perhaps it’s not surprising then that some locals proclaim it one of America’s most haunted places.

To get a well-rounded experience of New Orleans’ supernatural side there are a number of tours and museums that specialize in its otherworldly appeal.

Get Your Gris-Gris

It is estimated that about 15 percent of the city still practices voodoo as a religion. The New Orleans Voodoo Museum gives a history from the days of the slave trade, along with interesting artifacts and a giant python.

John Martin is the museum’s in-house voodoo priest, who is available to make customized “gris-gris” pouches filled with magic herbs to meet special needs and solve personal problems.

The museum’s collection also contains a number of items that belonged to Marie Laveau, including her “wishing stump,” which was believed to bestow blessings on those who touched it.

Walk ’n’ Learn

There are several companies that specialize in history tours. Historic New Orleans Walking Tours, Inc. has a good reputation and has a general history tour of the French Quarter, a Garden District and cemetery tour, a cemetery and voodoo history tour and a haunted French Quarter walking tour.

For Anne Rice enthusiasts, Haunted History Tours offers a vampire tour, which leaves every evening at 8:30 from the front of St. Louis Cathedral. The tour stops at locales that have found their way into the author’s books.

Need a Friendly Ghost?

While visitors to New Orleans will never find themselves wanting for odd characters, some of the strangest can be found on supernatural tours of the city, which feature tour guides in gothic attire.

Chaz of the New Orleans Ghost Tour, a self-proclaimed vampire expert, is said to have made more than 45 people faint on his tour.

Proceed with caution.

" Bottom of the Cup Tea Room, 732 Royal St., 504-524-1997.

" New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, 724 Dumaine St., 504-523-7685.

" Historic New Orleans Walking Tours, 504-947-2120, www.tourneworleans.com, 20 percent commission.

" Haunted History Tours, 523 Dumaine St., 504-861-2727, 15 percent commission or more.

" New Orleans Ghost Tour, 625 St. Philip St. 504-524-0708, $8 commission on $18 ticket.