NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans is a city with a rich and dark history. Many believe that the city is among the most haunted in the United States. Locals say there is a reason behind the reported haunting.
"We've had a great concentration of death in a relatively small period of time in a relatively small area," said Sydney Smith, a guide with Haunted History Tours. "They say violent death a strong emotion. It contributes to hauntings and paranormal activity - and we've had no shortage of that here."
Legends of grisly murders, plundering pirates, voodoo spirits and restless wanderers run rampant across the city. Here are a few of the reported hauntings and the legends behind them.
1. LaLaurie Mansion
Many have heard the tale of Madame LaLaurie and her torture chamber on Royal Street.
Born in New Orleans, the prominent Delphine LaLaurie was married three times over the course of her life.
The origin of the ghostly tale begins in 1832 when Dr. Louis LaLaurie and Delphine moved to a Creole mansion in the French Quarter. Known for their wealth and prominence, the house was attended to by dozens of slaves.
Following a fire in the mansion's kitchen, the horrors of the home were revealed. Legend has it that behind a barred door in the attic was a torture chamber for those enslaved. Many stories detail the cruelty involved; men and women chained to the walls, children shut inside cages and body parts strewn across the floor.
LaLaurie later fled to Paris, believed to be run from town by an outraged mob.
Tales of lingering are said to haunt the grounds. Others say the ghost of Delphine LaLaurie herself haunts the mansion.
2. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Established by the Spanish in 1789, many of the city's early occupants and infamous personalities are interred here, including Marie Laveau. It has also been named the 'Most Haunted Cemetery in the United States.'
Pirates, aristocrats, politicians, killers, artists and the Queen of Voodoo are interred on the grounds. With over so many dead interred, it's no wonder the cemetery has heard its fair share of ghost stories.
Phantom figures and yellow fever victims reportedly stalk the rows of crypts. However, the most famous spirit believed to roam the grounds is that of Marie Laveau, New Orleans' Queen of Voodoo. Some believe that Laveau materializes annually of St. John's Eve (June 23) to lead the voodoo faithful in worship.
3. The Myrtles Mansion
Although not in New Orleans, the Myrtles Plantation is just a short day trip from the city.
The antebellum plantation sits in St. Francisville, Louisiana. It has been touted as one of "America's Most Haunted Homes." The home was built in 1796. Since it was erected, it has been the home to many prominent figures.
It's said to be haunted by over a dozen spirits and ghosts. Some claim the home has seen ten murders on the grounds. However, historical records show just one. In the 1800s, William Winter was shot and killed on the porch of the home. His killer is unknown.
Aside from Winter, numerous other figures reportedly haunt the grounds. The home is said to be built on an Indian burial ground. Other say it's haunted the ghosts of prior slaves and young children.
Two particularly frightening stories stem from photographs showing alleged spirits and ghosts.
According to the plantation's website, a young slave girl (known as Chloe) was photographed on the grounds of the plantation. Another photo depicts what appears to be a young, antebellum girl staring out of a window behind two visitors (photos in slideshow above).
4. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
A small tavern located on the corner of Bourbon and St. Philip, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings in New Orleans.
Built sometime between 1722 and 1732, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar is reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States.
From 1772 and 1791, the property was believed to have been used by Jean and Pierre Lafitte. It was used as a New Orleans base for their Barataria smuggling operations, according to legend.
A French-American pirate and privateer, Jean Lafitte plundered the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some stories claim the buccaneer's treasure is buried in the building's bricks. A fireplace grate in the downstairs of the bar is rumored to be the resting place of some of the plunder. Some say a pair of ghostly red eyes can be seen staring from the grate.
Other legends say the ghost of a pirate guarding the treasure haunts the bar. Some also say the spirit of Jean Lafitte roams the tavern.
5. Hotel Monteleone
Built in 1886, the Beaux Arts-style Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter is known for its rotating Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge.
It's also known as one of the premier haunted hotels in New Orleans.
The hotel reportedly has a restaurant door that opens and closes every night, even though it is locked. Elevators stop on wrong floors, leading visitors down eerily chilly halls.
Legend states that a former employee, a man named William "Red" Wildemere, died inside the hotel of natural causes. Visitors reports seeing him inside.
A toddler spirit name 'Maurice' is also said to roam the halls. He allegedly died in the hotel and his distraught parents returned frequently in hopes he might visit them.