September 30, 2021
There’s no question that the French Quarter is haunted. However, what is interesting to ponder is the paranormal state of the port city’s heart and soul; is it a spiritually sacred space to be revered or, is it a site more injurious to the soul?
The French Quarter was designed in a military-style grid of 70 squares and founded in 1718 as the first colony in the territory. The ensuing three centuries have born witness to pervasive natural and man-made events that incessantly manipulated how life is lived in one of the world’s most famous microcosms of society. Many of these events along with the unknown components that concern those of a more scientifically-minded paranormal bent, have amassed a supernatural sphere of existence unrivaled to other worldwide locales touting most haunted as a descriptor.
To contemplate the paranormal nature of the Vieux Carré as ethereal (unearthly, light and airy) versus wicked (sinful and nefarious), one could take into consideration different circumstances and perspectives.
Pestilence presented years of suffering and significant numbers of deaths in the French Quarter until science and modern medicine turned the tables in our collective favor during the still- early portion of the 20th century. And with centuries of pestilence attacks in the form of small pox, yellow fever and other infectious disease outbreaks, the death toll always rose fast and widespread. How many of the tens of thousands of victims died but stayed earthbound in their earthly Vieux Carré homes? How many remained earthbound but later left for their afterlife destination; whatever that destination may be? Would the entities of these victims be angry for dying with the belief that they shuffled off their mortal coils far too soon? And if so, as portrayed in horror films, would they intentionally wreak havoc on the living, today? Would these entities add weight on the paranormal activities and observation scale to the side of wicked?
Uncontrolled weather and water has cut many a life short in New Orleans. Hurricanes Betsy, Camille and of course, Katrina are just a few of the past annual weather threats that have manifested into wide-scale, deadly tragedies. Would any of those who had unfortunately lost their battle to survive the fury of each natural force majeure, do what they could to torture the survivors if they remained earthbound in their beloved French Quarter?
What about Trial by Fire? Whether the accused was burned at the stake or forced to carry something burning for a set distance in order to allow a jury to determine innocence or guilt by how clean the accused would heal, this particularly heinous practice has a medieval period origin. It may be theorized that the great French Quarter Fires of 1788 and 1794 are examples of Trial by Fire for French Quarter society as a whole since the way of life was widely disrupted. These man-induced catastrophes proved to be gateways to a metamorphosis of architectural design in the Vieux Carré. However, does the highly intense and negative energy from the widespread fire destruction and the people who suffered such great losses, still exist in the unseen atmosphere of the French Quarter? And if so, does it impact negatively the emotions and actions of current-day residents and visitors?
Of course, death has taken many a soul without the help of pestilence, natural disasters or man-made calamities. And that simple uncontested truth begs further contemplation. Are earthbound entities more evil if their bodies died by malicious means like murder? On the flip side, are earthbound entities good spirits if they had enjoyed a pleasant life and died peacefully in their sleep?
All of these questions postured thus far, weren’t even a glimmer of a thought in my mind when back in 1995, I partnered with Larry Montz; a New Orleans-born, rebellious field parapsychologist who wanted to take traditional parapsychological studies of Psi abilities out of the lab and apply them unconventionally in the field. This aspiration led to the creation of GHOST EXPEDITIONS which provided the first-of-its-kind parapsychological field workshop worldwide; uniquely crafted for experiential participation by the general public. By connecting the dots of documented pop culture without distorted re-writes of history, GHOST EXPEDITIONS led to the formation of literally thousands of ghost investigation groups, millions of paranormal investigators and countless ghost exploration events in every major metropolitan area and just about every dirt road; including a plethora of NOLA ghost tours.
My initial goal in my partnership with Larry was to make the parapsychologist and his projects internationally famous and honestly, I liked participating in this fringe research field for the thrills. Turns out, those thrills were plentiful. Starting as a GHOST EXPEDITIONS researcher, I had the amazing opportunity to be inside these haunted French Quarter properties every day to the tune of over 3,000 hours before moving to Hollywood. I witnessed interactions between GE participants and ghosts and quickly began logging my own, varied paranormal experiences.
Although I authored ISPR INVESTIGATES THE GHOSTS OF NEW ORLEANS (2000) and the 80+ property, city-wide OFFICIAL PARANORMAL GUIDE APP (2010), both based on Larry’s documented investigations and research, I’ll share a few of my own French Quarter paranormal experiences, not published elsewhere. This should give you some time to think about your own answers to the questions posed, before I share mine.
During the 2008 remodeling of an Orleans Street property, I experienced continuous visits from a tall (compared to me), thin, African-American entity with a broad smile. He exuded his own distinct odor which is what usually alerted me to his presence. I wasn’t afraid of him but rather unnerved by the intensity of his frequent fascination with me. Months later, I shared a descriptor of the entity and his activities with my landlord Earl Bernhardt, the creator of the French Quarter’s famous Hand Grenade cocktail and then-owner of multiple establishments. Earl listened while maintaining raised eyebrows and then chuckled when he shared that I caught the attention of Fred Staten, known in New Orleans for many years as Chicken Man. Chicken Man was a Voodoo Priest famous for biting off the heads of live chickens during Voodoo ceremonies. Earl shared that he had allowed Fred to stay inside the property in question, more than once. What he didn’t tell me was that he had Chicken Man bless more than one of his businesses and that he had paid for the Chicken Man’s Jazz Funeral and burial after Staten died in 1998. I’d like to note that Earl, a fellow Jimmy Buffet Parrot Head, was honored with his own funerary second line after he passed away in 2019 at age 80.
During a 1996 private, afternoon GHOST EXPEDITION for a group of physicians, I was speaking to my party on an upper floor of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum building. I shared information from Larry’s investigations and subsequent identity reveal of French-born pharmacist entity, Dr. Dupas, who died in 1867 of syphilis complications and after performing horrifying experiments on female slaves since 1857. I could feel the negative ghost in the room and when I mentioned his disturbing presence, he rushed me and according the group, I lost all color in my face and passed out in the arms of a doctor who moved quickly enough to catch me before I hit the floor.
Larry Montz had the trust of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel when the General Manager brought the parapsychologist in for a professional investigation; years before it was cool to be known as haunted. Larry then convinced the GM to allow him to go public with his findings, guaranteeing the hotel would net vast profitability by a haunted reputation. Larry was correct then and still correct today. After my 1997 move to L.A., I placed winners in a haunted NOLA B&B and I chose to stay at the Bourbon Orleans while fulfilling the week-long GHOST EXPEDITIONS Secret Square Prize I had created for HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. Each night, I was awakened multiple times as unseen hands loudly disturbed my personal belongings. The annoying activities would cease after each ‘PLEASE STOP’ request I vocalized; but only temporarily. Did I keep the lights on all night? Of course not! I used the TV.
Now, to address the questions posed. Truthfully, the answers to each would depend upon the intuitive feelings and scholarly and/or religious teachings of each individual. I have never felt sufficiently motivated to thrust my own opinions upon anyone else. But I will say this: the Vieux Carré has intriguingly concentrated paranormal activities because of more than three centuries of intense living and death in an extremely dense area. In addition, this has created layers of energy that doesn’t necessitate being a psychic to feel the weight and sensation shifts of the French Quarter – both from earthbound entities and residual energies.
In conclusion, your realistic opportunity to answer these questions is to seek out and explore the Other Side experiences of the French Quarter, yourself. Amis, laissez les bons moments rouler avec les fantômes du quartier français !
The photo above was shot on film with a 33MM camera by Larry Montz, in 1995. It was one in a series on the roll of early morning photographs taken of the HAUNTINGS TODAY office and back courtyard; intended for use in various promotional collateral.
Although the office and courtyard were actively haunted with thousands having experiences during GHOST EXPEDITIONS, it would be years before the ghost image was noticed.
The haunted status of the French Quarter's BOURBON ORLEANS HOTEL, confirmed by ISPR investigations and publicized by ISPR / GE PR, positively exploded worldwide through daily and nightly GHOST EXPEDITIONS, articles and television features and through preferred lodging status with GHOST EXPEDITIONS prizes for game shows like WHEEL OF FORTUNE and HOLLYWOOD SQUARES.
Larry Montz during a 2008 interview and GHOST EXPEDITIONS groups in 2009. In previous years, the NOLA Voodoo Priest known as Chicken Man had slept in the back room of the same property and continued to visit long after he died.
Larry Montz in his early days of parapsychological exploration inside a New Orleans CITY OF THE DEAD - 1970s