The next Bayou Hauntings book plays out in New Orleans, a city with a long and spooky past. The story plays out in a French Quarter building built long ago that has been the site of countless horrors through the centuries. The inspiration for this tale comes from a real building whom many locals consider the most haunted structure in a town filled with mysterious things. It’s a place you can visit for yourself, and I encourage you to do so!
The three-story structure at 508 Toulouse Street is one of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter. It has been many things since it was built in the early 1800s. It has housed retail stores, lodging for the owners and their servants, a pub called O’Flaherty’s that locals loved and Hurricane Katrina took away, and today it’s the home of the New Orleans Creole Cookery.
As French Quarter buildings usually do, this one has a courtyard in the rear, surrounded by other edifices, some with wrought-iron balconies and boarded-up windows. One of those balustrades is supposedly the place where the ghostly activities began.
According to legend, an unfaithful husband who owned the property kept his mistress in one of the building’s small attic hideaways. The girl made life more and more difficult for her paramour, demanding he leave his wife and marry her. At last she went too far – she threatened to tell the wife everything. In a rage, he choked her and threw her over the balcony to the courtyard below, where she died of a broken neck. He promptly tossed her body into a sewer hole in the courtyard, covered it with dirt and that was the end of that. For awhile, that is.
It turns out a young slave witnessed the whole thing. When the murderer found out, he went to the third floor and hung himself from that same balcony. The ghosts of this doomed couple make regular appearances, as you might expect, but there are others too.
There was a terrible outbreak of yellow fever in the mid-1800s that killed over seven thousand residents of New Orleans. The building on Toulouse Street became a quarantine facility, a place for doomed victims to await their inevitable deaths. Several chose to end their horrific pain by jumping out of the third-floor windows, but bars were put in place to stop that, and those bars can still be seen today from the courtyard.
The sewer hole where a body was stuffed was turned into a beautiful fountain, and when I visited O’Flaherty’s Tavern several times in the 1980s and 1990s, it and the fateful balcony were still there. In those days, employees of the pub were quick with a ghost story for any patron who asked, and sightings were so frequent that it was impossible to discount them as falsehoods.
The pub never reopened after Katrina blew through in 2005, and the building sat vacant for years until the current tenant, New Orleans Creole Cookery, remodeled it extensively, sadly including removing the courtyard fountain and the balcony.
Regardless, I recommend a visit if you’re in the area. It’s still one of the most haunted sites in town, and you’ll get my take on a mysterious structure in the French Quarter in the next episode of The Bayou Hauntings!
If you want to learn more, here are some very good resources. The first one piqued my interest enough to spark the next book!
Sources: Caskey, James. The Haunted History of New Orleans: Ghosts of the French Quarter. Subtext Publishing, Savannah GA, 2013.