Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Orleans Haunted History Tour

Hello again! So, it's been a while since I've been paranormally inspired to write here. Sorry about that. I'll try to delve into the world of the strange and scary more often for you.

The other night I dragged my husband to the French Quarter for an evening of dinner and a little Haunted History. We went to the voodoo shop across from Pat O'Brien's to meet up with the tour guide. The Tarot reader was there. They kept telling us this while we were waiting for the tour to start. On the one hand, I want to get a reading just out of curiosity. On the other hand, I don't want to know that I'm about to die on the tour (which I did a little inside). Maybe I'll just do it so I can blog about it later.

Our tour guide, Stephanie, was interesting and very enthusiastic. Now, keep in mind, while I am a believer in ghosts and hauntings, etc., I go into each experience as a skeptic. I don't want to be duped into having an experience just because I'm excited. So, we stopped at various places in the French Quarter and hear the history of the place that led to the reported paranormal activity in that area. The first stop she explained how a massive fire started when some guy was worshipping at his alter at home in the 1700's. He was apparently so engrossed in prayer that he didn't realize at first that the wind blew his curtains around and the candles set the curtains and everything else on freaking fire. He ran to the St. Louis Cathedral to ring the bells. Well, the bells had been covered in burlap so that they wouldn't disturb people during the night as they blew around with the wind. Bottom line...just about everything burned and 1800 people were killed.


There was also the story of Julie. Julie was a woman of mixed race. As was the custom in those days, Julie was the mistress of a prominent white man. They were madly in love. However, he would not marry her. While it was widely accepted to be in a relationship with persons of mixed race, marrying them was still socially forbidden. Had this man married Julie, he would have lost his business, his friends, his standing in the community...everything. But, Julie begged and pleaded and nagged him. Finally, one night he told her "If you stay on the roof naked all night and prove your love for me, I will marry you." Of course, he thought he was being clever enough to think up something so ridiculous that she would never do. Ha! Men should know that many women will literally do ANYTHING for that damn wedding ring. Julie went upstairs while her lover entertained some friends and business clients. That night was particularly cold. Yes, it does occasionally get THAT cold in New Orleans. Around dawn, Julie's lover went upstairs looking for her. When he saw that their bed had not been slept in, he remembered the challenge he gave her. Surely she would realize how utterly ridiculous that was, right? She wouldn't actually do it? Well, her lover went up to the roof. Sure enough, he found Julie's cold naked dead body by the chimney. Her lover died not long after. Julie still haunts the house and the roof. Every year on Christmas eve the police station gets calls of a woman on the roof there. Her lover haunts there, too, but he's not as "lively" as Julie's ghost. Just goes to show what lengths irrational people will go for love.

One of the other stops we made was at the LaLaurie house. Many people are afraid to even walk on the same side of the street as the LaLaurie house because of its history. I won't go into the history of the LaLaurie house since it's in a previous post. However, the current owner of the LaLaurie house is Nicolas Cage. While he has owned it for years and has been inside the house, he has never spent one night inside that house. It is currently up for sale.

We also saw the outside of the house used as the home of Lestat and Louis in the movie Interview with a Vampire. The street that it is on was piled with bodies during the Yellow Fever epidemic in New Orleans in the 1800's. What a mental picture that was.

There were many stops on the tour and there are truly too many stories to cover in one tour. I will be taking other tours in the future and will update you.

On a side note, if you are on a tour and there is a loud mouth know-it-all in your group, it's best to gang up on him and dispose of the body early on so that the rest of you can enjoy yourselves.

All in all, the Haunted History tour was interesting. Still, I expected more. I'd actually like to go inside these allegedly haunted places and not just stand outside of them and hear about them.

I look forward to posting about future tours.

For now, go in fear.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Truly Evil are Never Obviously Evil

Madame Delphine LaLaurie is one of New Orleans most wicked things to ever come this way, and the woman does deserve the infamy. Born somewhere around 1775, Marie Delphine Macarty was part of New Orleans social elite from birth. Married and widowed twice before she became the wife of Dr. Louis LaLaurie, she took up residence at the beautiful 1140 Royal Street mansion that would become her undoing.

Madame Lalaurie was known for her lavish parties and invitations to any of her soiree's were deeply coveted. Rumors of her brutality toward her slaves started making their rounds, but most people chose to ignore them. One incident, it is impossible to know which, became impossible to ignore and the LaLaurie's were fined $500.00 and their slaves were taken for them and auctioned away. Delphine, not to be outdone, paid her family members to purchase them and got every single one back.

One of the more well know rumors is that madame LaLaurie's neighbors witnessed her chasing a young servant girl through the yard. The child, no more than 11 by most accounts, fled to the house and up the stairs, throwing herself from the roof rather than being caught by Madame LaLaurie. Her body was buried in a shallow grave in the yard of the mansion.

The night of infamy is believed to have happened in April of 1834, though the exact date and whether or not there was a party going on is disputed by many. On this afternoon a fire broke out at the LaLaurie mansion. While neighbors rushed to aid in retrieving valuables from the home, questions started to circulate about the whereabouts of the LaLaurie's slaves. Whether it was firemen or locals who found the slaves is up for debate, but what is constant is the story about what was found. Slaves shackled to walls, limbs broken and reset at odd angles, a bucket of gore including genitalia and entrails, slaves with their stomachs cut open and sewn back shut with their entrails on outside. The monstrous nature of the abuse was something New Orleans had never seen in any social circle, but certainly not high society.

Madame LaLaurie dashed from the scene in her horse drawn carriage and was never seen again in New Orleans. Where she went , no one knows for sure. Some say she moved on to the other side of the lake to continue her experiments on humans in a more solitary manner, and some say she went on to Paris where she is rumored to have died in 1842. What is certain is that Madame LaLaurie will never be forgotten in New Orleans, and that her home at 1140 Royal Street will never be the same again.

Over the next few weeks I will be attempting to visit the LaLaurie mansion, now an upscale apartment building, and speak to current residents about whether or not they have any strange stories to tell about things that go bump in the night almost 175 years later. I hope to bring you photos and interviews. Wish me luck.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Paraplex

I had hoped that I would have an amazing story to tell you. I admit I had high hopes for the Paraplex. I should know better than to build things up in my mind in such a way that nothing will ever meet my expectations...(if you read this sweetheart, I don't mean, of course, are perfect in every way).

Okay. The husband and I headed to the Paraplex around 6pm on Friday. It was still daylight. The "paranormal researchers" working at the Paraplex assured us that night or day wouldn't make a difference in our experience. We didn't ask, but they offered that tidbit. We paid $48. I think I would have felt better if they held a gun to us and just took the money. Admission is $24 per person. Now, to their credit, the admission is for all day. You could wander around the Paraplex and leave and come back later if you chose.

According the the brochure the Paraplex is in a building that is over 130 years old and was actually a mortuary for more than 80 years. I suppose this is meant to help with the creepy factor. The property is monitored 24/7 by cameras (night vision, color, and thermal) with devices to listen for and record EVPs. So, it has the potential to be creepy and awesome.

We started in the Haunted art room. There were a lot of pictures of paranormal researchers from the days of old along with a short bio on them. Anne Rice's doll collection. There were some allegedly haunted personal possessions in glass cases. Next to each item was a computer display that told the story behind the haunted item. You couldn't touch anything.

The Psychic Secrets Unveiled room unveiled no additional secrets than what any average person with an interest in the paranormal wouldn't have already known.

The Vampire room housed numerous vampire hunting tools and hunting kits used a hundred or more years ago. In a small corner of the room there were also werewolf hunting tools.

The Ghost Images Electronic Voice Phenomena is one touch screen computer. There are a number of EVP recordings to listen to. I guess with the suspension of disbelief and a bottle of rum, one could actually wet his pants (most likely laughing at the absurdity of it). I get more jazzed listening to the EVPs on Paranormal State. I'm not saying that these are not actual recorded phenomena. I just wanted to be so much more impressed than I was...but, as several people have told me I'm dead inside, I suppose it takes much more than that.

Next we ventured up to the 2nd floor. I almost soiled myself as one of the Hollywood creature props was just to the side of the staircase on the 2nd floor with his arm practically reaching out over the entrance. Creepy looking. We went into the Tarot/Psychometry area. I took the Zener Cards "test" on the touch screen computer. It was actually frustrating because technology and I simply cannot coexist peacefully. It took several tries and my cursing the stupid machine to hell before I got it to do anything...stupid touch screen...maybe I am just too cold for it register anything from me. I only made it part of the way through the test before I was too frustrated to go on. In the Psychometry area there are several items in glass cases. You are meant to slip your fingers into the small openings and touch each item and try to guess its history.

Moving on to the Ouija area...there was a video that explained some of the history and superstitions about the Ouija boards. There was a small table with a Ouija board set up for guests to use. The husband and I started to do it, but we both felt like morons because we had nothing to ask. Then I just sat there for a moment and tried to will the thing to move all by itself. It didn't. Stupid unreliable ghosts (did I mention that the building is a registered haunted place? There are several ghosts that have been recorded on the property. I didn't see any myself. No surprise there.)

Daily movies on paranormal phenomena are shown in the Red Theatre. They were only showing snippets of paranormal news while we were there.

From there we ventured down to the basement. This was what I was waiting for...the Fear Experiment. The scariest part for me was exactly what I thought it would be...going down the basement steps. Something about that creeps me out. It's probably because in the movies nothing good ever comes from heading down the basement steps. That theory pretty much held true here. You herd your group (in our case 2 people) in a corner and watch a short video explaining fear. My biggest fear was disappointment. Then you are directed by the man on the video to head into the hallway behind you. The little twisting, dark, cramped hallway you walk through is a small part of The Mortuary. The Paraplex occupies the same space as the Halloween haunted house called The Mortuary. So, all the same props are used. I told you I was with my husband. Well, the brave soul that he his...he made me go first. Something about the darkness and black lights making him blind. Yeah, whatever. So, I took his hand and dragged him with me so he wouldn't fall...or run away. There was a very short moment of caution when the hallway seemed to narrow because of the props used...I'm a bit claustrophobic. But it was very brief. Mostly, I was pissed. I was disappointed. I was debating going back upstairs and asking the researchers if that was the mild version of the Fear Experiment. Surely there must be something more down one of those hallways that was closed off. But, I headed back upstairs and told them we wanted to do the Seance Experience.

Back up to the 2nd floor. We went into the seance room. They told us that they were going to simulate a seance because ghosts can't always be reliable. The "researcher" left the room and started the seance "experience." Once again we were directed to watch a video. Same guy from the Fear Experiment did the video for the Seance Experience. I won't ruin it for those that still intend to go, but it was everything I expected it to be.

We left after that. I debated going back after dark, but I really didn't think it would make much of a difference.

Don't get me wrong. If a person walks into the place afraid and is easily scared...Halloween haunted houses frighten you, a scary movie keeps you awake for'll love this place. I just don't scare easily.

I think the Paraplex has potential. There should be more to see. There should be more to do. The technology should be friendlier for people like me (those that have a hate-hate relationship with it). I know it is meant to be more informative than frightening, but to make money and keep people interested, there really needs to be more. More things to see. More WOW factor. Something. It just seemed to lack something. I probably wouldn't be as harsh if it didn't cost me almost $50 just to get in the door. I really had high hopes.

I am still going to try the Paraplex Annex in the French Quarter. I'll update you on that when I get down there.

For now...go in fear.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Nut in a Nutshell

I'm Francesca Lilybottom, not my real name of course, a nickname given to me by Mimi that has stuck. Call me Frankie. I'm 33, married, have a son, and am a paranormal fanatic. I have always been drawn to the unusual and strange, and while outwardly I appear normal, I am actually unusual and strange myself. Mimi and I get along so well because we are both warped and twisted, we get each other's humor, and we are the only one's we can stand to be around without starting to get that I-Swear-I-Will-Stab-You feeling.

Mimi has current paranormal experiences to tell you about, I have past experiences and obsessions with certain legends that I will share with you. I will also attempt to visit the sites of my obsessions and document the experiences for you.

Okay, my fascination with the paranormal began when I was fairly young. My first concrete experience was shortly after my great-grandfather died. He was bed ridden for the last few years of his life, and in an effort to make things easier for him my grandmother had given him a bell to ring when he needed something. It was a bell that made me think of the one my teacher would ring when recess was over. Gold with a black handle, and the shrill ringing would give you a headache if you were standing to close to it when he rang it.

On the day of my great-grandfather's funeral we had gone back to my grandmother's house to have the post burial gathering. Being young, I was very sad he was gone, but I wasn't interested in sitting inside while everyone cried, I hated seeing my mom cry. I grabbed a Dixie cup of Tab (oy! that stuff tasted awful) and went out on the porch. As I sat in the swinging chair, the church bells from the church my grandfather helped to build started to toll. I remember smiling when I though of him as the bells rang through the neighborhood and when the bells stopped, I whispered "I love you PawPaw." I immediately heard his bell ringing, and I was surprised. I went inside and went down to his bedroom, his bell was still on his nightstand next to the hospital bed. "Pawpaw?" I asked out loud, and I could hear the bell ring again. I was looking at the bell itself, it had not moved, but I clearly heard it. I knew he was letting me know he was still with us, and that he loved me too. I never told anyone about it, not because I thought it wasn't real, but because I was afraid to make anyone cry when they thought about him.

My second brush with the strange and unusual was a few years later when I was a freshman in high school. I had been having the same dream over and over again for almost 2 weeks, a house on fire with a family trapped inside. In my dream the family got out just as the roof collapsed. It always made me wake up feeling anxious and relieved at the same time.

I was riding the bus home one day from school when I looked up from my book as the bus stopped at a red light, I saw the house I had been dreaming about, it was whole and unburned. I was so shocked that I saw the house I had been dreaming of, I missed my stop and ended up walking 12 extra blocks to get home. I had the same dream again that weekend. The following Monday, on my home from school, I was looking for the house, I couldn't remember where it was. I finally saw it, still intact. I stopped having the dream for a while, when I told my friends about how weird it was, they all laughed at me.

A month or two later, I was on my home from school again chattering with my friends and generally oblivious to the world outside our bus. The bus jerked to the side and my purse flew out of my lap, as I was trying to pick my junk up off the floor before it rolled all over the bus floor, I heard a siren. I looked up as the fire truck flew past us, the bus had pulled over so the fire truck could pass by. I got this sick and excited feeling I knew that truck was going to my dream house.

Sure enough, when the bus got about 3 red lights down the highway, you could see the firetruck lights flashing, there were 4 fire trucks, an ambulance, and 3 cop cars at the house I had been dreaming about. I repeat AT.THE.HOUSE.I.DREAMED.ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!! I was freaked out and thrilled at the same time, I had seen this coming, hadn't I? The more I thought about it, the more scared and sick to my stomach I started to feel. Should I have done something? Should I have warned someone?

The only way to cope with how I was feeling was to ignore the situation all together. I only had one friend who believed me anyway so it wasn't like I could ask for advice from anyone. I stopped having the dream shortly after the fire. The family who owned the house was out of the home when it burned down, but 3 firefighters were able to only just escape as the second story ceiling collapsed.

Since that time, I have occasionally dreamt about things that have happened after I dreamt them. It is always a bit disconcerting, but I have learned to be pleased when the good things happen, and not to freak out when the bad things happen. I have also learned to accept that I am usually unable to suss out the dreams fast enough to stop anything bad happening, and that most times they are meant to happen so stopping them isn't what I'm meant to do anyway. I have never had a dream of anyone dying (KNOCKING ON WOOD), if I did I would be compelled to do something to try to help. The bad dreams aren't easy to stop, but they are easier to work through then they used to be.

So that's me, a nut in a nutshell! Tell me about you. Have you had any brushes with the supernatural? Do you have prophetic dreams? If you could choose to would you?

Enter Stranger But Take Heed...

Hello and welcome to Something Wicked This Way Comes. I'm glad you could join us. I'm Francesca (Frankie) and my co-author is Mimi. We come to you from New Orleans, LA. We both have an unhealthy interest in the paranormal, and love things that go bump in the night. So we have decided to share with you personal accounts and general information about the hauntings and other weirdness that go on here in Louisiana.

Mimi and I work full time in the real world, nothing supernatural or strange about our occupations. If you passed us on the street, you would never know that we are closet ghost junkies. Our personal libraries include an eclectic mixture of literature. You would find The Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe's works, Harry Potter, and our newest obsession, the Twilight series.

I will do a separate blog post, as will Mimi, to tell you more about us and personal experiences with the paranormal. We welcome comments and questions, if there is a particular haunted location you are curious about let us know, we will put it on our field trip list. We ask that you refrain from using the comments to attack other individuals who leave comments here simply because you do not agree with them. I also want to get out up front that no one who blogs here at SWTWC worships the devil or sacrifices animals by the light of the full moon, we are, however, uninterested in being swiped at with the religious stick, so keep your disapproving self-righteousness to yourself. If you do not like the occult or the supernatural you have clearly come to the wrong place.