The St. Louis Cemetery Complex in New Orleans is one of the most legendary and mysterious cemeteries in the United States. It is composed of three separate cemeteries, all built in the same style and at roughly the same time, and with their elevation above sea level, burial was not possible underground. The largest and most well-known cemetery is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which dates back to 1789 and became the main burial ground for the city, following the great fire of 1788 which devastated the city.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, has white headstones and mausoleums arranged in neat rows, with weeping willows and magnolia trees dotting the landscape. The walls are high and imposing, and the atmosphere is solemn yet eerily beautiful.
The St. Louis Cemetery is sprawling and labyrinthine, with tombs of various shapes and sizes stacked atop each other in neat rows. The massive monuments, often adorned with statues of saints, angels and other figures, stand tall amidst the gray stones and sparse vegetation. The air is still and heavy with age, and the silence is punctuated by the occasional caw of an unseen bird.
The St. Louis Cemetery is an eerie sight, with its high walls of iron and stone surrounding it on all sides. The tombs are stacked one atop the other, some with ornate carvings and architecture while others are stark and simple. The cemetery is filled with trees, statues, and gardens that make it a unique setting in the city.
It is remarkable that all three blocks of the cemetery complex have survived the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding almost unscathed. This has meant that many of the legends and stories associated with the cemetery, some of which date back centuries, are still in place and are still heard and seen by those who dare to visit the cemetery.
One of the most famous and enduring legends is that of the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, who was born to a white planter and a free Creole woman in 1794 in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Marie is known to have married Jacques Paris in 1819 and when he died the following year under unclear circumstances, she is said to have started to practice voodoo and become a powerful figure in the city and across the state, with her influence spreading quickly.
Marie died in 1881 and was laid to rest in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It is said that her restless spirit still haunts the cemetery, and visitors have seen her ghost, dressed in her white and red turban, aggressively approaching visitors and hurling curses in different languages. Others have reported seeing a giant boa constrictor said to have been her pet in life, and many believe that if you leave voodoo paraphernalia and symbols, dolls, candles and small gifts by her grave, that the spirit of the priestess will grant you a wish.
In addition to Marie Laveau, the cemetery is also said to be the home of the ghost of a young sailor named Henry Vignes. Henry, who lived in a boarding house before a long sea voyage, had asked the owner of the boarding house to bury his body next to his family’s grave if he were to die, and gave him a paper to prove he owned the plot. But when Henry’s dead body was brought back to the city, it is said that the old woman had sold the plot and he was instead buried in a cheap and simple grave far from his family. Witnesses have reported seeing his ghost wandering the cemetery, asking passers-by if they know the location of the Vignes crypt.
Another well-known ghost in the cemetery is Alphonse, an elderly gentleman who is said to join visitors for a night walk and later ask for help to find his way home. He is said to remove fresh flowers from the graves of others and place them in his own resting place, and is particularly afraid of an ornate tomb called ‘Pinead’. Finally, there is the ghost of a dog which is said to have been the keeper of Cemetery No. 1, who was later buried himself in Cemetery No. 2. He is said to roam the cemetery howling and barking in anguish, missing his absent owner.
The St. Louis Cemetery Complex has become renowned for its paranormal activity, and is one of the most iconic and well-known locations associated with the supernatural in the United States and beyond. Its legends and stories have survived the test of time, and it attracts thousands of visitors every year who come to experience the strange and inexplicable activities which are said to occur in the cemetery.