Called the Cities of the Dead, folks come from all over the world to marvel at our burial sites. Being below sea level with a water table extraordinarily high, we have to place our loved ones above ground. With grave sites dating back to the 1700’s and continuing in tradition to modern times, the true crypt enthusiast will find plenty to investigate. This extensive list can occupy one’s entire trip once you get lost in the maze of mausoleums that both awe with architecture and spellbind with the air of mystery. Perhaps the only city I know where spirits will actually hang out graveside; New Orleans puts death on display.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 – Considered the most haunted cemetery in the country, St. Louis Cemetery was established in 1789 in what was then known as the “back of town” area of the French Quarter. It was undeveloped and served as the best area to discard of the many who had succumbed to the high mortality rate of life in the early days of New Orleans. About one square city block in size, it is home to hundreds of thousands of remains, as tradition calls for crypts to be reused each year. I have spent considerable time there and am always awed by the paranormal energy that can be felt. Thought to be the home of the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, many visitors leave gifts for her in hope of magical aid assisting them from the grave. I personally feel that it is her daughter and namesake, also a great voodoo priestess, whose presence is most evident.
St. Roch Cemetery – One of the strangest features of this neatly kept collection of crypts is the result of numerous pilgrimages from the faithful hoping to receive healing from the patron St. Roch. Centrally located is the Chapel built by Father Thevis in thanks for deliverance from one of the frequent yellow fever epidemics. Those whose prayers have been answered are known to place mementos of their healing in the chapel, such as old leg braces or replicas of body parts.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 - Built in 1833, by the early 1850s it was filled to capacity after a widespread outbreak of yellow fever killed tens of thousands city wide. Nestled in the lovely Garden District, you will notice the shift in light and temperature that is typically associated with paranormal phenomena. People often report seeing shadows moving and the physical sensations of spirit activity.
Holt Cemetery – This is one of New Orleans pauper’s cemeteries and the only one that is in-ground burial. Many families of these departed hadn’t the money to provide the typical above ground mausoleums and crypts so they did the best with what they had. The most striking qualities of this location are the homemade tombs stones and personal decorations that adorn each gravesite. The paranormal energy is palpable as you can truly feel many of the sad stories that fill this spot of earth.
Odd Fellows Rest – Established by a secret benevolent society called “The Independent Order of Oddfellows” in 1847, the burials here began with a parade led by two circus bandwagons and a funeral cart with a huge sarcophagus. The members of this organization rounded up a number of their deceased brotherhood and, displacing their remains, brought them and reburied them in a groundbreaking ceremony. Rusty and rickety, this cemetery fits its name well and guarantees an odd feeling. Photographers can catch a lot of orbs.
Metairie Lakelawn Cemetery – Previously the site of a race course, Metairie Lakelawn cemetery is home to some of the grandest mausoleums in the world. When New Orleans was one of the countries richest cities, the nouveau riche spared no expense in creating their eternal homes. They commissioned great architects and stone cutters and the results are breathtaking. It is rumored that when Author Anne Rice’s husband passed, she had a million dollar mausoleum erected here. I believe that the beauty and magnificence of the architecture is what keeps many a spirit lingering.