Ghost tours include visits to New Orleans’ unique cemeteries. // © 2012 Cheré Coen
New Orleans author Robert Florence has witnessed Halloween festivities in many cities around the world, but he still thinks his hometown does Halloween the best.
“New Orleans is a great Halloween city,” he said. “What we do everyday is conducive to Halloween. The spiritual world is perennial here.”
Florence operates Historic New Orleans Tours, which offers a cemetery/voodoo tour, a ghost tour of the French Quarter and a Garden District tour that includes vampire author Anne Rice’s house and a stroll through the circa-1833 Lafayette Cemetery directly across from Commander’s Palace. He also offers a French Quarter history tour and a Scandalous Cocktail Tour through the city’s legendary bars, discussing true crime stories, the Kennedy assassination and authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote.
Both his cemetery/voodoo and ghost tours explain the city’s history, an intricate marriage of French and Spanish colonists spiced with Italian, Irish, German and Acadian immigrants, among others. For instance, when taking visitors through St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, tour guides offer up a history of the voodoo religion, New Orleans burial practices and a visit to voodoo priestess Marie Laveau’s tomb. The Haunted Tour focuses on ghost stories of the Vieux Carre but includes unsolved crimes, people’s recanting of paranormal experiences and more. Florence’s tour guides don’t weigh in on whether the ghosts are real or not, but give a historical backdrop, then tell the tales.
“It ends up being a good history lesson as well,” Florence said.
History is also the focus of Haunted History Tours, which uses information gleaned from people’s diaries, police case studies, the city archives and paranormal investigators for their haunted ghost tour of the French Quarter, said manager Kalila Smith. The tour pauses at bars purported to be haunted as well, allowing guests to take a cocktail break (if they desire) in a haunted location. Their Garden District daytime walking tour touches on haunted houses of the American sector, plus a tour of Lafayette Cemetery.
For their cemetery-voodoo tour within St. Louis No. 1, Haunted History Tours also includes the history of the voodoo religion in New Orleans, hoping to “dispel the Hollywood myth,” Smith said. “It’s more of an academic look at the religion,” she stated.
For vampire aficionados, Haunted History Tours’ vampire excursion combines real evidence and fictional accounts of vampires, deriving information from police records, as well as the many vampire-related books, movies and television shows created in the last few years.
Both Historic New Orleans Tours and Haunted History Tours will coordinate private and group tours with discounts.