Why go to a haunted house with plastic decorations and actors to get you into the Halloween spirit, when you could visit one of New Orleans’ many cemeteries and graveyards? In New Orleans, these cemeteries aren’t your usual sight and have a hauntingly beautiful uniqueness to them that makes visiting them the perfect autumn tradition. Wander through graveyards that were built as far back as the late 1700s with above-ground tombs and Gothic-chapels.
St. Louis Cemetery No.1
Don’t get confused between St. Louis Cemetery No.1, St. Louis Cemetery No.2, and St. Louis Cemetery No.3, as each of these were built in different parts of the city about 30 years apart. The St. Louis Cemetery No.1 was built in 1789 and is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. Currently, the only way to tour this cemetery is through a tour group to prevent vandalism and regulate visitors to give a more unique experience. One of the most popular sites in the cemetery is the resting place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Traditional lore brings thousands of people each year to draw X marks on her tomb. Legend says that if you want Laveau to grant a wish, you must draw an X on the tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, and yell out your wish. If your wish is granted you must return to circle your X and leave an offering.
Charity Hospital & Katrina Memorial Cemetery
The Charity Hospital Cemetery doesn’t resemble the other cemeteries of the area, and the significance is often overlooked. Instead of rows of above-ground tombs or even traditional gravestones, the deceased were buried in mass graves with no individual markings. Most of the deceased were unclaimed victims of yellow fever or influenza. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit the south, over 1,100 people died in the hurricane disaster, most of which were identified and buried in private graves. Still, many were unidentified and those are buried in the Katrina Memorial Cemetery. Since then, a memorial has stood for the victims of the storm while the unknown victims are buried in above-ground mausoleums.
Cypress Grove Cemetery
Pulling up to the Cypress Grove Cemetery feels like you are about to enter something sacred. The entrance is flanked by two large marble pylons and inside you will find marble, granite, and cast iron tombs that are each stunningly unique in design. This cemetery was built to honor firefighters and their families and houses heroes from volunteer firemen to mayors and war heroes. Each tomb was crafted by the most prominent architects and craftsmen to reflect New Orleans’ most important citizens.
Don’t let the name fool you, this cemetery isn’t in Metairie, Louisiana, but instead inside the New Orleans city limits. The Metairie Cemetery hosts the largest collection of marble tombs as well as some of the most interesting shapes and artistic expressions in the city. Some notable tombs include a pseudo-Egyptian pyramid with a pharaoh and sphinx, a grass-covered tomb with a horseman, and a gazebo with an angelic harp player.
While some cemeteries require a tour to visit, many of them are free to walk around at your leisure. With that being said, a tour guide greatly improves your experience as the most interesting parts about these gravesites are the stories of the people buried there and how the tombs reflect their lives. Sign up for any of these tours and you’ll leave an expert.
Many of these graveyards are spooky enough in the daytime, but if you want to visit the most haunted cemeteries in the city after the sun goes down, then sign up for the Dead of Night Ghosts and Cemetery Tour from Haunted History Tours. You’ll skip some of the more famous cemeteries and instead head to the ones that are downright creepy in nature, with paranormal activities nightly.
These cemeteries have stood through hundreds of hurricanes, world wars, and generations of families. Save Our Cemeteries is a preservation community that works to simply save the cemeteries. They raise funds to repair the graveyards, clean the tombs, and preserve these pieces of history. By taking a tour through this group, not only do you contribute to the preservation of these pieces of history, but you get a highly knowledgeable and passionate tour guide to lead you through these cemeteries.
If you want to immerse yourself in the Voodoo magic of New Orleans, then sign up for a cemetery tour from the Voodoo Bone Lady. You’ll learn about the rich Voodoo history of the city as well as stop by one of the city’s first mortuaries and be a part of a unique group voodoo ritual at Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb. This tour is one of the most colorful and entertaining options you can take in the city, and the Voodoo Bone Lady has the most fascinating stories about New Orleans’ secretive history.
Take part in one of the most sacred traditions in New Orleans and tour some of these historic cemeteries. There is nothing better to get you into the Halloween spirit than to visit these hauntingly beautiful sites dotted all around the city.
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