The Ghosts of St. Louis Cemetery
The oldest intact grave site in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery #1 opened in 1789. Since then it has grown and now has more than seven hundred tombs and has become the final resting place for more than one hundred thousand of the formerly living. However, if the rumors are true, not all the dead residing there is resting in peace.
Rumors of ghosts in St. Louis Cemetery have been circulating for more than two hundred years. These rumors are likely fueled by the haunting appearance of the grave site. The labyrinthine layout of the above-ground tombs, intimidating enough on their own, creates a sense of isolation from the living world combined with the eerily accurate sensation of being surrounded by death. It is no wonder that visitors to the cemetery imagine themselves accompanied by visitors from the great beyond. Discerning the former identities of the spirits can prove difficult, if not impossible, given the high occupancy level of the cemetery. Most sightings go unidentified. However, there are a few ghostly regulars who have appeared often enough to be named.
One of these regulars is a young boy by the name of Alphonse. While his backstory is unknown, what he wants is clear. He is most often seen stopping visitors to introduce himself and ask them to help him get home. However, queries as to the location of his home cause him to begin crying and run away or disappear. He has also been known to take flowers from other graves to place on his own. He seems to be connected in some way to the Pineda family as he has a habit of appearing whenever someone approaches the Pineda family tomb and warning the visitor to stay away.
Another wandering spirit of St. Louis Cemetery is that of Henry Vignes. As a 19th century sailor, he was a wanderer in life as well, though he was a frequent resident of a boarding house in New Orleans. According to the stories, he was concerned about losing his important documents, so he entrusted them to the owner of the boarding house before sailing away on one of his many journeys. Among those papers was the deed to Henry’s family tomb. He returned from his journey to find that the owner had sold his family tomb and pocketed the money. He died before the issue could be rectified and was buried in an unmarked grave in the pauper field. It is said that his spirit now roams the cemetery, often approaching visitors in corporeal form and asking for directions to the Vignes tomb. They also say he attends funerals and asks if there is enough room in the tomb for him.
The most famous ghost haunting St. Louis Cemetery #1 is Marie Laveau, often referred to as the Voodoo Queen. In life, she was known for being a voodoo practitioner whose clients came to her for legal and romantic advice as well as herbal remedies. She was famous for her alleged supernatural abilities even before her death, so it should come as no surprise that her spirit has been sighted throughout the French Quarter, as well as inside the cemetery. Witnesses claim to have seen her walking through tombs. Others claim that her spirit becomes violent by scratching, pinching, or shoving them. Many believe that if they mark her tomb with three X’s, she will grant them a wish or a favor.
As is the case with other allegedly haunted locations, there is no concrete evidence of the existence of lingering spirits in St. Louis Cemetery #1, much less spirits who grant wishes. However, this has not stopped people from trying their luck. This idea has unfortunately resulted in multiple incidents of vandalism. This led the Archdiocese of New Orleans to restrict access to the cemetery in 2015. Visiting the cemetery now requires being with a licensed tour.