Thursday, February 28, 2019

Ep. 292 - Aradale Asylum in Australia

Moment in Oddity - Moonshiners Used Cow Shoes to Hide Footprints

Moonshining had been going on in America from the time of the Revolutionary War. During Prohibition, the effort to bootleg moonshine stepped up. Most moonshine operations took place in remote wooded areas where they were easier to conceal. This didn't keep law enforcement from finding the illegal distilleries and when they did, the operators would usually take off running. It is easy to track a human with their shoe prints. Moonshiners devised an unusual way to camouflage their tracks: they made cow shoes. These were basically a strip of metal that had a wooden block on the back and the front that had been carved to look like the hoof of a cow. This contraption was then strapped on to a real shoe. Thus when a moonshiner ran away, he left behind hoof prints. The police didn't know if they were following a cow or a human. These cow shoes were worn all the time because they also didn't want authorities to see shoe prints in the woods where humans shouldn't be and suspect that an operation was going on. Once the newspapers reported about the cow shoes, they became less effective. But the idea that moonshiners devised these cow shoes and that they really did work, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Photo of an American President

In the month of February, on the 14th, in 1849, the first photograph of a United States President was taken by photographer Mathew Brady. That president was James Polk. Brady was one of the earliest photographers in America and is considered the father of photojournalism. He photographed 18 of the 19 presidents from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley and this included many photos of Abraham Lincoln. He photographed other famous people like Daniel Webster and Edgar Allan Poe as well. He became best known during the Civil War when he took many battlefield photographs and made use of a mobile studio and darkroom while in the field. He hired many assistants and many of ther photos attributed to him were taken by these men. A lack of documentation has made it hard for historians to know whom to attribute photos to and when and where pictures were taken. A war-weary America lost interest in the Civil War photos by the end of the conflict and Brady eventually lost all his money because he had self-funded much of his Civil War work and died in debt. It's sad to think that someone who gave us so much photographic history of this early time, including photos of President Lincoln that would be used to create the $5 bill and Lincoln Penny, would die penniless in a charity hospital.

Aradale Asylum in Australia

Gold brought people to Ararat, but what it would be known for is its asylums. The Aradale Asylum would be home for the mentally ill for over a century and would feature conditions and treatments similar to other asylums around the world, most of which were not good. This misunderstanding and mistreatment of the mentally ill lends itself to the negative energy that sometimes feeds paranormal activity. The fact that the criminally insane were kept in J Ward only heightens that energy. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of the Aradale Asylum!

Ararat is a city in south-west Victoria, Australia, about 120 miles west of Melbourne. It's named for Mount Ararat, the mountain that the Biblical Noah's Ark is said to have landed upon. The Tjapwurong Indigenous Australian people were here first. Thomas Mitchell was the first to survey the area in 1836 and Horatio Wills passed through in 1841 and wrote in a diary about his group resting like the Ark near a hill, which he named Mt. Ararat. A post office was established in 1856 and then gold was discovered the following year and Ararat became a boomtown. The town continued to grow until the turn of the 20th century. It was proclaimed as a city on May 24, 1950. The town remains small to this day and there is a complex that remains as a reminder to something else that Ararat came to be known for more than just the gold rush. This was a place for the mentally ill. The Aradale Mental Hospital opened in 1865 and the Ararat County Gaol that later became J Ward, a lunatic asylum for the criminally insane, was opened in 1887. They not only harbor a troubling history, but the spirits from the past are said to have remained.

The asylum in Ararat was designed by G. W. Vivian and J.J. Clark in the Victorian Italianate style with an E-plan barracks format. This was modeled after an asylum in Colney Hatch, England. The design incorporated linking bridges and an arcade on an arched gateway with towers and unique detailing of the central block. There were wings on each end that were two-storied and split by gender. The ward wings were surrounded by courtyards lined with iron columned verandas. Another unique feature of asylums like Ararat were Ha-Ha Walls. These walls were meant to give the illusion that no one was imprisoned while the reality of the construction was that they were meant to prevent escape. This was accomplished by using a trench. One side of the wall was vertical and faced with stone or bricks and the other side was sloped and turfed. The material used for the buildings was oversized bricks made from cement that was stuccoed and the roofs were slate. The builders were O'Grady, Glynn and O'Callaghan and inmate labor was not used as was the case with many other asylums. The asylum initially was known as Ararat Asylum before it became Aradale. I'm going to call it Aradale as that is what it is known as today.

Like most other asylums we have covered, Aradale was a city unto itself. This included gardens, vineyards, an orchard, piggery and other livestock. There were 63 buildings in the complex with 500 employees. There was a billiard room, a school, a large multi-purpose hall, library and 2,100 feet of verandahs for patients to get air. A landscape architect named Hugh Linaker had laid out the grounds of Alexandra Park, so he was chosen to layout the grounds for Aradale in 1913, most of which has not survived to today.

The most infamous ward at the asylum was J Ward. J Ward was originally the Ararat County Gaol, which had been built from 1859 to 1861 and was made from bluestone. The prison maxed out at around 40 prisoners and executions were conducted.The first execution was on August 15, 1870 and this was for Andrew Vere who was hanged for the murder of Amos Cheale. The second execution was on September 25, 1883, when Robert Francis Burns was hanged for the murder of Michael Quinlivan. The third and final execution was on June 6, 1884 and Henry Morgan was hanged for the murder of Margaret Nolan. By 1887, this area of Australia needed some place for the criminally insane and so it was converted to a maximum security psychiatric ward for the criminally insane.

After the facility was decommissioned in the early 1990s, patients were transferred to community living and to other facilities and eventually the last remaining ward, the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre was closed in December of 1993. After the official closing, it still was used to house female prisoners during the building renovation of Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. The women left in 2001. Then the Victorian Government provided $7.4 million to Melbourne Polytechnic, so they would set up a campus. As part of this campus, 30 hectares of vineyard and 10 hectares of olive grove were planted in 2002. A winery and olive press was later added and this has become a world-class wine and hospitality training facility. J Ward is today a museum where tours are offered and visitors can see artifacts and photos. Prisoners had done artwork on the outside walls and this can still be seen today.

This is all nice about the buildings, but what of the people? As we know, mental illness was treated quite differently than today, not only method wise, but also socially. These places where they were housed were called lunatic asylums because people were labeled as lunatics and also as idiots and imbeciles. Luna was Latin for the moon and people believed that the moon made some people go mad, so the definition was people affected with periodic insanity dependent on the changes of the moon or moon-struck, which is Lunaticus in Latin. Thus we get lunatic, which is today considered derogatory toward someone with mental illness. Treatment was harsh in some cases and there are those who claim that 13,000 people passed away in its 130 years of operation. It took only two signatures to get you committed, but eight to get you released. The common treatments here included electro-shock therapy, lobotomies, imprisonment in mechanical contraptions and other inhumane treatment. The gardens had fountains which were meant to give a feeling of peace, but how peaceful could one really feel when doctors documented you as an imbecile and strapped you in a strait-jacket.

J Ward's former pastor was Gordon Moyes and he wrote in the 1960s, "On my first day in Ararat I was given a massive iron key to open the thick, heavy, iron and wood doors to the maximum security division to enable me to visit cell to cell the psychotic prisoners… J Ward was built last century of heavy blocks of blue granite with high walls topped with rolls of barbed wire. Every gate and window was barred with steel bars one and a half inches thick. The prisoners were considered the most dangerous in the country and the people in the community looked up to the top of the hill where the psychiatric prison stood like a great castle, fearful of the night when the sirens might go announcing a mass escape when they would all be murdered in their beds. There was no love for those prisoners in Ararat. The prisoners I met as I went from cell to cell or stopped and talked to in the exercise yard were a strange mixture. They were the insane murderers of Victoria marked “Never to be released” or “To Be Held At The Governor’s Pleasure”. There was a man who constantly barked like a dog, and another man who would ask you frequently if you had ever sawn a man up into small pieces with a wood saw as he had. Let's look at some of the prisoners that once called the facility home.

Mark "Chopper" Read died of cancer at the age of 58 in 2013. He had been a figure in the Melbourne underworld and committed various crimes ranging from armed robbery to kidnapping to murder. He had been doing time in Pentridge Prison in 1978 when he arranged for a fellow inmate to cut off both his ears and this is where they say his nickname "Chopper" comes from. This got him transferred to J Ward, but he only stayed there for a few months before being transferred back to Pentridge. Chopper wrote of his time at J Ward, "A terrible place. There was a shit bucket in the middle of the room. People slept on the concrete floor. Meal times were like the feeding of animals. Some people couldn’t have their straightjackets removed, they were that mad. So people still wearing their straightjackets would just dunk their heads into the bowls of food.”

Charles Fossard was a French immigrant who spent the longest time in the facility of any other patient. He was brought to J Ward in 1903 when he was only 21 after he killed a man and was judged insane. He remained there until he died at age 92 in 1974.

Bill Wallace was the oldest inmate ever at J Ward. He was suspected of murdering a man in 1926. And the reason he killed the guy is because he wouldn't stop smoking in a cafe when Wallace asked him to, so he waited outside and shot the guy. There were no witnesses, but a police officer heard the shot and ran to the scene. Two doctors declared Wallace unfit to plead when he wouldn't talk. Wallace was 43 years-old when he entered J Ward and he was there until he died in 1989 at the age of 107. You probably are asking why they would keep somebody there until that age. People petitioned for him to be released when he reached 100, but Wallace didn't want to leave. This was his home. His chess set that the prison had given him on his 100th birthday is on display in the museum.

Garry David, also known as Garry Webb, was an Australian criminal who had a variety of personality disorders. His mother was an alcoholic and his father was abusive, a pedophile and a criminal who spent most of his time locked up. This caused David to grow up in a number of orphanages and his life of crime began at the age of 11. He was eventually diagnosed with antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. The definition of insane has a picture of him next to it. He not only enjoyed hurting others, he was especially abusive to himself, mutilating his ears, nipples and genitals. He would swallow razor blades, hammer nails into his feet and drink corrosive chemicals. In 1982, he attempted to rob a pizza joint and ended up sentenced to 14 years in prison for the attempted murder of three people, one of whom was an officer. While in jail he wrote graphic fantasies of massacres, assassinations and other disturbing scenarios. In January 1990, David was declared mentally ill, but the Mental Health Act of 1986 gave David the right to appeal and he was later found to not be insane. The government of Victoria was not about to let David out into society, so they passed the Community Protection Act of 1990. He was kept locked up and committed suicide in 1993 by swallowing razorblades. He had spent 33 years of his 38 years in institutions.

The Age wrote on June 20, 1993, "On a wall at J Ward, the Dicken-ilan former prison for the criminally Insane at Ararat, is a painting rendered in angry slashes of black and white. A bearded and long-haired figure, gaunt and furious, more than two metres tall and dressed In colonial convict garb, lunges through a wall of blackness. He has burst his chains and In his right fist he wields what looks like a straight rator. Behind him are glimpses of sky and trees that seem to ask whether tbe figure is escaping to or from freedom. It is an ominous and disturbing work that seems to say much about the man who created It: Victoria's most notorious prisoner, Garry David."

Garry WebbGarry Webb Tue, Dec 18, 1990 – Page 1 · The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) ·
Username morbid curiosity wrote in 2009 on the Australian website, "My husband was grabbed on the leg is J-wards old bluestone cell block in Garry David Webb's old cell. The next day he had 5 bruises in that same spot where he was grabbed, one thumb and 4 fingers. Fascinating place." David didn't die here, but is some essence of his spirit here? People also claim to have heard a voice shout, "Get out!"

One of the criminally insane here was George Leondieu. He ended up in J Ward in the 1950s after murdering a man who made a homosexual pass at him. George truly was mentally ill and had both delusions and paranoia. Since I mentioned the homosexual thing, I should point out that people could be locked up here all the way into the 1950s for being gay.

J Ward wasn't just a facility for men. Women and children were here too and there is even a "Family Cell" that can be seen on the tour. Lorna Banfield and Roberta A. Daly meticulously searched through old newspaper archives to get to the heart of the stories of women who spent time here. I wanted to share some of their stories. From previous episodes featuring old gaols and specifically those sent to the penal colonies in Australia, a number of people were sent away for very petty crimes or things we might not even really consider crimes today.

Ellen Belser and her children were charged and convicted after breaking into a store and stealing. The official charge was vagrancy and in 1863 they were sent to the Ararat Gaol to serve a two month sentence. The newspaper reported, "The unfortunate woman is paralysed and unable to do anything for the support of herself or family. We understand an effort is being made to get the woman and children into a Melbourne Benevolent Home." The court finally decided to send her to a Melbourne Home. Ellen Jenkins was jailed simply for having no visible means of support. She was sentenced to three months and with no one to care for her children, the two were sent with her. After she got out, she was sent back to jail for drunkeness. This time at least, her kids were sent off to an Industrial School. Janet Mary Ann Pett was charged with drunkeness and sent off to the Ararat Gaol for a few days, which was not unusual for her. She had been here before. This time would last for 8 days in 1863. Two glasses of colonial ale got to Helen Jane Vaughan and as a Sergeant Dillon testified he heard her "utter one of the most disgusting tirades of obscenity it was ever his lot to listen to." She was sentenced to a month at the gaol. Unfortunately, she would later murder her husband in a drunken fight and she was back at the gaol.

These were just a few examples of what women were jailed for and the fact that their children joined them, except for that last one with murder. But more troubling were women like an inmate only known as McLeod. Physicians described her as a "wretched creature, painfully vacant and idiotic" and that there was no hope for her. She was said to eat dirt and suffer from hallucinations and this deemed her a dangerous lunatic. The second Governor was John Gray and his wife Christina was put in charge of the women. The gaol would have only four governors in its 26 years and most of the punishment was hard labor for both men and women. When the gaol became J Ward, women were still imprisoned here with the men. These women were at least accused of real crimes of abuse and murder. One of these women was Mrs. Davis, who was the daughter of Henry Morgan, one of the inmates executed here.

With stories of executions and around 13,000 people dying at the asylum, it is no wonder that this location is considered to be so haunted. The mortality rate was four to five inmates a week. If a contagious disease like TB broke out, that rate skyrocketed. Peter Dunn was a caretaker. He said that typhoid ripped through at one time after patients from the upper levels would throw their feces into the downspouts and water running down from rain. Add in that daily life was a mix of the mundane and the horrific and this place was somewhere no one wanted to go. The Victorian asylums were declared the worst in the British Empire. Add in that an executing gaol was once here and that the criminally insane were kept here and these dark corridors clearly lend themselves to ghost stories. The typical stories of cold spots are told here, but then there are also the claims of feeling cold hands reaching out and touching as if a spirit is asking for help in much the same way this person probably did in life. Disembodied screams are heard throughout the asylum.

I mentioned earlier that there were four governors of the gaol. The final one was a man named George Fiddimont. I couldn't find much on him, but apparently he was giving a group a tour of the gaol in 1886 and as he neared the bottom of a flight of stairs, he suffered a widow-maker. This was near the Old Underground Kitchen and to this day, visitors and guides hear footsteps up and down those stairs when no one is on the stairs. A young spirit boy named Stuart is also encountered here. A former cook occasionally joins him. No one is sure if Stuart had been a patient or a worker.

Peter Dunn claims to have had no experiences when he worked there. He said people would tell him about having strange sensations, but he thinks they just make for good stories. But is there something unexplained going on here? It's enough that at least one tour guide who was a skeptic is now a true believer. He has seen things, felt things and even smelled things that he could not explain. Another guide describes the building as very dark and he claims that on a good night, he'll get around forty screams from visitors. One group of paranormal investigators had been to Aradale eight times to investigate. On the last visit, one of the members fell to the ground flailing around and yelling, "You bastard get off me." When they pulled his shirt down, they found a bite mark on the back of his neck. They took him to an area with better light and looked again and the bite mark was gone. Weird!

The covered bridge leading into the Men's Ward was high enough that people could jump for a final escape from their life in Aradale. Women get a lot of attention in the Men's Ward. Nurse Kerry was a mean nurse and for some reason her spirit has stayed on here at Aradale. Visitors claim to see her full-bodied apparition giving them an icy stare. Shadow figures are seen darting around corners and passing the Superintendent's Office might leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. A former superintendent killed himself with poison in the form of Prussic Acid. This is hydrogen cyanide. The ghost of an older patient named Old Margaret is said to have returned to the building where she spent most of her life after she died. She is said to be one of the saddest ghosts in the building.

One of the crazier stories to come out of J Ward is the story of an inmate who was murdered and dismembered in the Governor's bathroom. It is for this reason that people believe a demonic force has taken up residence in the bathroom. The feeling inside is oppressive and visitors claim the evil is palpable.

Ghost tours are offered, some of which are several hours and offer investigation as part of the package.With a place that claims to have had more deaths than nearly all other buildings on the continent of Australia, it is no wonder that this asylum is claimed as one of the most haunted places in the world. Is the Aradale Asylum haunted? That is for you to decide!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ep. 291 - Jackson Square in New Orleans

Moment in Oddity - Times Beach, Missouri
Suggested by: Jim Featherstone

Times Beach was a town founded in 1925 near St Louis, Missouri. I say "was" because this town was abandoned in 1983. Before the residents had to flee for their lives, Times Beach had a population of 2000.It's origin story is rather unique as its founding and growth were tied to a promotion by the St Louis Star-Times newspaper. The purchase of a lot in this town included a six month subscription to the newspaper. The wealthy of Missouri used this as a summer residence area, hence the beach part of the name. Eventually through the years, the town became home for the lower-middle class, but it was a popular destination along Route 66. The roads in the town were mostly dirt and created a bunch of dust, so in 1971 Russell Bliss was hired to oil the streets. But he sprayed more than just oil on those streets. Northeastern Pharmaceutical and Chemical Company, Inc had asked a company called IPC to discard toxic waste for them and they hired Bliss to do that. Hmmm, he must have thought. Where could I put this toxic waste? His answer was to mix it with the oil he was spraying on the roads. That toxic waste contained high levels of dioxin. Eventually the scandal was uncovered and the government sued in 1980. Some people left and a flood in December 1982 caused an evacuation of the town. The people were told to not come back because of the dioxin, but one elderly couple refused to leave. The town stood as an eerie abandoned ghost town for years and was demolished in 1992. A full clean-up followed and that toxic abandoned town is now a state park that celebrates the famous Route 66 and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Alan Shepard Golfs on the Moon

In the month of February, on the 6th, in 1971, Alan Shepard hits golf balls on the moon. Shepard had become the first man in space in 1961 and this was his return trip aboard Apollo 14, which had launched on January 31st. This mission followed the nearly-catastrophic Apollo 13 mission. The Apollo 14 was the third mission to land on the moon. Shepard had to rig himself a golf club using a head he had brought with him and attaching it to a sample collector handle that resembled a fancy butteerfly net used for collecting rocks. Shepard told viewers, "Houston, while you're looking that up, you might recognize what I have in my hand is the handle for the contingency sample return; it just so happens to have a genuine six iron on the bottom of it. In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that's familiar to millions of Americans. I'll drop it down. Unfortunately, the suit is so stiff, I can't do this with two hands, but I'm going to try a little sand trap shot here." It was hard swinging in the spacesuits, but Shepard managed to connect and send the golf balls flying because of the Moon’s lower gravitational force. The balls flew at least 200 yards. The Apollo 14 astronauts did get back to their task of exploring the lunar surface and they collected 100 pounds of rocks before returning home February 9. A fun fact about that rock collecting is that Earth's oldest rock was found on the surface of the moon. The astronauts at the time didn't know that, but recent research found this to be the case and the theory is that the rock ended up on the moon after an impact billions of years ago launched it all the way to the moon.

Jackson Square in New Orleans

Jackson Square is a magnet for visitors to New Orleans. Centuries of history are represented in the square and this history includes shipping, trade, artists colony, pirates, war and executions. The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral is a popular subject for photographers and Cafe du Monde is a must stop for some world famous beignets. New Orleans is considered one of the most haunted cities in the world, so it should come as no surprise that this iconic area of this historic city is home to many ghosts stories. Join me as I explore the history and hauntings of Jackson Square!

This is another location that I have personally visited. Jackson Square itself is a park with a prominent statue of Andrew Jackson at its center, thus the name. It is one of the only areas in the French Quarter that has grass, but this is not much consolation for dog owners looking for a spot for their dogs to relieve themselves as dogs are not allowed in the park because it is home to a cluster of stray cats. The square is on the Mississippi River, on Decatur Street, between the Jax Brewery Shopping Mall and the French Market, and bordered by key buildings like the St. Louis Cathedral,   Café Du Monde, Muriels, the Cabildo and leading off into Pirates' Alley. Jackson Square was not always known by that name. Long before Andrew Jackson became a war hero during the Battle of New Orleans, this area was called Place d’Armes.

When Louis H. Pilie, a landscape architect from France, designed the layout of New Orleans in 1721, he centered it with this one-block common open market area that originally overlooked the Mississippi River's port across Decatur Street. This location made it perfect for shipping and commerce and it was also used as a military parade ground by both the French and Spanish depending on which country had control of the colonial administration. The square became even more of a central hub with the addition of the St. Louis Church, that would become St. Louis Cathedral after it was rebuilt following the Great New Orleans fire of 1788, and the Governor's Mansion known as the Cabildo. So the seat of government and a church were here. And the Place d'Armes would become the scene of the Louisiana Purchase. The territory land deal was signed in 1803 at the Cabildo and gave the United States 827,000 square miles of land stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The Cabildo would later become city hall and be used for court cases.

Since Place d'Armes was a public meeting area, it makes sense that public executions would be hosted here. These were conducted throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The German Coast Uprising was the largest slave revolt in America and took place in 1811. Following that, three slaves were hanged at the square and the heads of several of the rebels were put up on the city's gates. The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 and was a huge American victory over the British with Brevet Major General Andrew Jackson leading the American forces. A woman named Micaela Almonester Pontalba was a baroness who was the wealthiest woman in New Orleans and she would lobby for and finance a redesign of Place d'Armes after the Battle of New Orleans into what it is today with an iron fence, gardens, benches and walkways and a new name in honor of Andrew Jackson.

Rabbit Hole: Now that I've mentioned Baroness Pontalba, let me take you down the rabbit hole to talk about her for a few minutes. Her father had become very wealthy working with real estate in New Orleans. When her father died, her mother married her off to a prominent cousin who gave her the baroness title. His family was only interested in her money and got her to sign papers giving her husband control of all her financial dealings. She eventually wanted to divorce and as she fought for separation in 1834, her father-in-law became enraged. He shot her point blank with a pair of dueling pistols at the family chateau in Paris. He hit her four times in the chest and she lost some fingers on a hand, but she survived. Her father-in-law killed himself that evening with one of the dueling pistols. She eventually did get her separation and a New Orleans civil law judge ordered the restitution of her property and she got her money back. She went on to build the Pontalba Buildings on Jackson Square and died in 1874 at the age of seventy-eight.

The area around the square has changed over the years. The streets were closed to traffic to allow for pedestrian traffic and paved with slate flagstone. An open-air artist colony now thrives here with artists using the iron fence to display pictures. Musicians play in the streets and horse-drawn carriages launch from here for tours of the city. The Spanish Colonial Cabildo is now a museum housing unique artifacts, historical documents and revolving displays. The Presbytere is on the opposite side of the cathedral and was designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo. It was originally called Casa Curial or “Ecclesiastical House” and used as housing for the Capuchin monks, but went on to be used for commercial purposes until 1834. The building became a courthouse at that time and eventually in 1911 became a museum, which it is today. Most of the other buildings have apartments on upper floors and shops and restaurants on the street level. The St. Louis Cathedral still serves as a church.

Clearly, these buildings have seen much history and much tragedy. New Orleans oozes with paranormal energy and Jackson Square seems to be a hub for it with many of its flanking buildings claiming to house spirits. Let's take a walk around and see what we find!

Muriel’s Restaurant – One of the best restaurants in town sits at 801 Chartes Street, on the corner of Jackson Square. Food offerings include Louisiana specialties like Jambalaya, Gumbo and other southern fare. The building was refurbished to its former mid-1800s glory and opened in March of 2001 as Muriel's. The history of this property reaches back to 1718. A young French Canadian named Claude Trepagnier moved to New Orleans and was awarded the lot where this building stands. He built himself a cottage, which soon became worth a lot of money when Jackson Square was laid out as the hub of the city. Because of its proximity to the port, there is a possibility that the cottage was eventually used for housing slaves before they were auctioned. Around 1745, the Royal Treasurer of the French Louisiana Colonies named Jean Baptiste Destrehan, bought the property. He tore down the cottage and built himself a mansion. His son inherited the home in 1765, but eventually he lost the home when the family money ran out and it was sold at auction.

Pierre Phillipe de Marigny purchased the residence in 1776 and used it as a home in the city when he visited from one of his plantations that is today known as Fauberg Marigny. On March 21, 1788, the Great New Orleans Fire broke out. The blaze burned 856 of the 1,100 structures in the French Quarter, which included the buildings around Jackson Square and part of de Marigny’s mansion was burnt. The Spanish quickly rebuilt opting for bricks over wood. *Fun Fact: The French had used cypress to build everything because it was the only wood termites didn't eat there.* Marigny sold the damaged home to Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan who returned the mansion to its original grandeur. Unfortunately, Jourdan was a gambling man and in 1814 he wagered his beloved home in a poker game and lost it. The loss was too much for him to bear and before moving out of the home, he hanged himself on the second floor.

Julien Poydras, the President of the Louisiana State Senate and a Director of the Louisiana Bank, moved into the house in 1823, but died a year later. His family stayed on in the mansion until 1881 and sold to Theodore Leveau. The Civil War had hit the Poydras families interests hard as was the case for many plantation owners and much of the wealth had shifted from the French Quarter to the American Sector in the Garden District and Uptown. Leveau kept the house for a decade and sold to Peter Lipari who was an orange baron of sorts. He refurbished the building to its present look. It then housed a series of commercial businesses, most of which were saloons. Frank Taormina bought the building in 1916 and ran it as a pasta factory and grocery store and a restaurant called The Spaghetti Factory until 1974. From 1974 to 2000, it was a Chart House Restaurant and then it became Muriel's Jackson Square.

During all of this time, the spirit of Jourdan stayed with the building and Muriel's has embraced their spirit even setting up a Seance Lounge in the area where Jourdan hanged himself. Employees claim that his specter does not make appearances, but instead is seen as a glimmer of sparkly light wandering around the lounge. He spends most of his time in the Seance Lounges on the second floor. Employees and patrons have witnessed objects moving on their own in the restaurant and whichever ghost is hanging out in the Courtyard Bar, it is pretty mischievous and likes to throw glasses from behind the bar at a brick wall 12 feet across from the bar. I say "whichever ghost" because there are those that believe multiple ghosts haunt the building. And some previous owners did die in the house. Paranormal investigations have been conducted over the years  and disembodied voices have been heard and shadowy figures have been seen. In the Seance Lounge, distinct knocks on the brick wall have been heard as a type of communication. EVP of a female was captured as well. Muriel's not only makes it known that they have a ghost, they always keep a table reserved for Mr. Jourdan and  set it with bread and wine.

Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carré – Le Petit Théâtre Du Vieux Carré is located at 616 St. Peter Street just off Jackson Square. The theater has called this home since 1922. It doesn't look like a typical theater, but it fits in with the style of New Orleans with wrought iron around its second floor balcony, black shutters and red brick. Le Petit was founded as an amateur theater group in 1916. As it grew in popularity, it was able to purchase the lot on the corner of St. Peter and Chartres Streets. The original building on this lot was built by Don Josef de Orue y Garbea, who was the head accountant of the Spanish Royal Finance Office and Army. Much of the structure was destroyed in the great fire. Three small buildings replaced the destroyed part. The theater removed them and incorporated the rest of the 1790s colonial building on the corner, which kept it with a Spanish Colonial style. Through its nearly century of production, the theater has been known as one of the leading little theaters in the nation. Facing financial trouble, the theater sold to New Orleans restauranteur Dickie Brennan and he opened a Creole Restaurant in part of the space and retired the theater's debt and it continues to put on productions to this day.

As is the case with nearly every theater, this one claims to have a spirit or two running around. There are claims that an actress named Caroline who worked in the theater in the 1930s is here in spirit. She apparently took a tumble over the railing to her death in the courtyard below. She was wearing a white wedding gown as her costume and so she is seen as a Lady in White. There is another ghost nicknamed "The Captain" who enjoys watching productions from his balcony seat. I'm not sure how he ended up here, but investigators claim he was sweet on an actress at the theater.

I really enjoyed the Haunted History Tours in New Orleans and this is the first one I recommend to people when they ask. It is one of the originals and was founded by Kalila Smith. He wrote, "New Orleans Ghosts, Voodoo and Vampires, Journey into Darkness" and in it he talks about a visit to the theater.He actually had his wedding there. He is sensitive and he felt as though there were several entities in the building and EMF readings were very high. Psychics who visited the building told Smith that although there is sometimes the smell of burning flesh in the theater, none of the spirits seem to belong to fire victims. The spirits mainly seem to belong to actors who have returned.

Faulkner House Books – Faulkner House Books is located at 624 Pirate’s Alley, just off Jackson Square, behind the Cabildo and opposite St. Louis Cathedral’s rear garden. The bookstore is owned by attorney Joseph J. DeSalvo Jr. and named for William Faulkner, the American author and Nobel prize laureate. When he wrote his first novel, he was staying in this house in 1925. The house was built in 1840 by the widow of Jean Baptiste LeBranche. The site had previously been home to the French Colonial Prison. It is Faulkner's spirit that is said to haunt the building. People claim to have seen his full-bodied apparition at a desk and the smell of his pipe has been detected.

Pere Antoine’s Alley – Antonio de Sedella was a Capuchin friar known to his flock as Pere Antoine. He was a controversial figure who was strong in his Catholic beliefs. He would help anyone in need whether they were poor, prisoners or slaves. In 1805, he was suspended over a dispute with the vicar-general of Louisiana, but he was so beloved by the people that they elected Pere Antoine their parish priest. The vicar-general's hands were tied and he remained the priest until his death in 1829 at age 81. St. Anthony's Garden behind St. Louis Cathedral was named after his namesake saint and was dedicated in Antoine's memory and St. Anthony's Alley was renamed Pere Antoine Alley for the priest. And it is in this alley where his restless spirit is said to still roam. Visitors to the alley claim to see Pere Antoine’s ghost in the early morning hours, clad in Capuchin black and sandals. Others have seen his full-bodied apparition in St. Louis Cathedral.

Haunted New Orleans Tour's website reported: "One recent account tells of a local woman who was rushing through Pere Antoine’s Alley on a rainy afternoon. Tottering on high heels, she tripped on one of the uneven alley flagstones and fell straight into the arms of a black-robed man with a white beard and surprised expression. He said nothing as he helped her gain her balance; when the woman turned to thank him, the man was gone. The woman further claimed that a sense of overwhelming peace came over her that afternoon and she fully believes she encountered not a ghost, but a saint."

St. Louis Cathedral – St. Louis Cathedral is a beautiful and stunning piece of architecture. This is not the original structure. This is actually the third version of the cathedral, which was originally called St. Louis Church and was named in honor of the French King Louis IX, the Saint King. It later became the cathedral and today is actually anointed as a basilica, but is sill referred to as a cathedral. The first structure here was a simple wooden structure built in 1718. The next church was built from brick and stood 1727 until 1788 when it burned in the Great Fire. The Spanish rebuilt much of what is seen today. Pope Pius declared it a cathedral in 1793. A central bell tower was added in 1819. This was designed by architect Ben Henry Latrobe, who also designed the White House. A renovation was started in 1850 because a larger cathedral was needed. The central tower collapsed, causing the whole cathedral to be redone, loosing much of the original Spanish architecture. However, the new design was solid and beautiful, creating a house of worship that has endured over 150 years!

St. Anthony’s Garden is located behind the Cathedral and its original purpose was as a burial ground. The bones were re-interred in St. Louis Cemetery #1 on Basin Street. Or at least, that is the story. And although this was meant to be a beautiful, peaceful garden, it eventually hosted illegal, deadly duels. After the Civil War, the site became just a garden. Both the garden and the cathdral are said to be haunted. Pere Dagobert hangs out here as well. His apparition has been seen walking with his head lowered down the aisles after worship. The ghost of Madame LaLaurie has been seen in the Cathedral and people believe she is here because she used to worship here in the early 1800s . That's strange since she didn't die here. 

The Cabildo - As stated earlier, The Cabildo was once the seat of government and the name translates as Council. It not only was the scene of the signing of the Lousiana Purchase, but the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson was decided in 1896 that rules that blacks were equal, but separate. The 1762 Treaty of Fountainebleau passed Louisiana from the French to the Spanish and this made the French angry since the trade had been an act of War during the French and Indian War. The French rebelled and the Spanish sent General Don Alejandro “Bloody” O’Reilly to put an end to it. He brought 2,000 troops with him in 1769 and killed the first Frenchman he came across. O'Reilly told the leaders of the uprising that he would like them to join him for a meal at the Cabildo and that he would work with them to settle the dispute. Instead, he handcuffed all the men and led them to the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and Frenchmen Street where he executed them all. And speaking of executions, the Cabildo hosted executions in its inner courtyard. Today, the Cabildo is part of the Louisiana State Museum, housing hundreds of early colonization and 19th-century artifacts including a bronze death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Staff at the museum claim to have had strange experiences, particularly when working in the off hours. They have reported being touched or tapped on their shoulders and finding no one behind them when they turn around. Strange sounds and shadows have also been reported. There are still jail cells in the rear of the Cabildo and this is where most of the activity takes place. Visitors have reported seeing the spirit of a British soldier, who was hanged here because he had been a spy during the Battle of New Orleans. His spirit is seen wandering throughout the building.

An anonymous person wrote on the Haunted Nation website: "My ghost encounter there was actually in the front of the building on the second floor in the long foyer that runs the entire length of the building. I was walking through towards the room with Napoleon's death mask and felt a tug on my left shoulder. I assumed it was my daughter and slapped at the hand on my shoulder. Again my shoulder was tugged hard and I slapped again and said "Stop it!". And turned to confront my daughter. There was no one in the entire front foyer. I was totally alone. Something made me speak out "I know you are there, and it's OK." I then hurried off to find my family. I could not speak about it until we left the building. I felt followed for some time in the museum. I was a non-believer until that happened."

Pirate's Alley - Pirate's Alley is situated between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo. Early in the day, the alley is quiet and seems to honor the posted signs that read: "Quiet: Church Zone." At night, the old lampposts light the way and the alley is filled with noise pouring out from the Pirate’s Alley Cafe and Absinthe House. This street was first laid out in the late 18th century and was called Rue Orleans and was always meant to be an alleyway. It was originally unpaved, but cobblestones were added in 1830. So why is it called Pirate's Alley? Legend claims that the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte worked out of this alley. It was in this alley that they say Lafitte made a deal with Andrew Jackson, that if he helped get Lafitte's brother Pierre released he would aid General Jackson in the fight against the British during the Battle of New Orleans. But the idea that a pirate would operate out of an alley next to the church is pretty improbable.

But then why do people claim to see the apparition of Jean Lafitte in the alley? Is it him or is it another pirate by the name of Reginald Hicks? Heicks had been kidnapped as a boy by pirates and he grew up in their ways. He traveled with Lafitte to New Orleans and fell in love with a girl there named Marie Angel Beauchamp, a beautiful French Creole girl. She got pregnant and Hicks insisted that they get married. The only minister they knew was a German man doing time in the Old Parish Prison. They begged the prison guard to let the minister marry them and it was done by the iron gate along Pirate’s Alley. Hicks was later killed in the war and it is said that his spirit returned to the place of his marriage. People have claimed to hear wedding bells early in the morning and the sounds of ghostly laughter in the alley. Ghostly male singing is heard in the alley as well and some believe it is Father Pere Dagobert visiting this alley too.

Jackson Square is a must see for the visitor to New Orleans. Besides the beauty of the park, the architecture here is fabulous and full of history. And apparently, possibly full of ghosts. Are Jackson Square and its surrounding buildings haunted? That is for you to decide!