Discover the spooky side of New Orleans

Multicultural, three centuries old, the setting for multiple wars and home to smugglers and pirates — it’s no wonder New Orleans is famous for a past dotted with unsolved mysteries, inexplicable magic and many, many ghosts. While in town for ONA’s annual conference, you have more than a few options to experience the area with swamp tours, walking tours and fun places to gather in groups. But if you’re also interested in exploring our host city’s darker history and flirtation with the supernatural, here are five ways to do so.

Note: If you prefer a guided tour, ONA is offering walking tours through partnerships with local companies, including a ghost tour in the French Quarter.

Haunted tours

See also: ghost tours, voodoo tours and vampire tours. These guided walks will take you around the French Quarter to visit places known for spooky occurrences and the presence of spirits. You’ll stop outside the Andrew Jackson Hotel, haunted by the ghosts of orphaned children, and the LaLaurie Mansion, the former home of a lady serial killer and torturer. Tours take place throughout the day and evening and there are a number of operators to choose from. Two companies to check out are Haunted History Tours and French Quarter Phantoms.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

This former apothecary built in the early 1800s was where the first licensed pharmacist in the United States practiced his craft. The mythology is that he also conducted more gruesome experiments on human subjects. On display are the tools of his trade, such as bloodletting devices, potion bottles and surgical instruments. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is $5.

Above-ground cemeteries 

New Orleans’ elevation below sea level makes for some interesting little problems when it comes to dealing with the high water table — such as where to bury the bodies. The city is famous for its hauntingly beautiful centuries-old crypts built above ground; the oldest are in the St. Louis Cemeteries, close to the French Quarter. Celebrated voodoo priestess Marie Laveau has a grave marker in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1; for preservation reasons you’ll need to join a tour group to enter. For the other cemeteries, you can visit like you would any other. 

Anne Rice

If you’re already familiar with St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, it might be courtesy of author Anne Rice, one of the city’s most famous figures. Although she doesn’t live in New Orleans anymore, she still inspires hundreds of fans to visit settings from “The Vampire Chronicles” and her other books. Check out the 700 to 900 blocks of Royal Street, where scenes from the “Interview with the Vampire” movie were filmed, and the historic Gallier House, which served as Rice’s model home for Lestat and Louis.

Muriel’s Ghost

Muriel’s Restaurant in Jackson Square is said to be one of the most haunted places in the French Quarter. The ghost of the former owner supposedly never left; he even has a table reserved for him for dinner every night. He’s also been seen in the Seance Lounges on the restaurant’s second floor; they’re a callback to the days when the building was home to a bordello. Besides the renowned Creole menu, the restaurant has a balcony facing Jackson Square that’s great for people-watching with a classic Sazerac or French 75 cocktail.

Diya Chacko is an Audience Engagement Editor for the Los Angeles Times. A New Orleans native, Diya graduated with a dual master’s degree from Columbia University’s Earth and Environmental Science Journalism program in 2010. She tends to geek out over dogs, horror movies and journalists learning to code.