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New Orleans and the Lure of the Paranormal

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Every season of every year, tourists flood New Orleans for one reason or another: the amazing food, the history, the scenic views, the party atmosphere. This town has a lot going for it.

But a select group of people make New Orleans their ultimate destination with one specific goal in mind: to find a ghost.

New Orleans has long been called the most haunted city in the U.S. With a cursory look at our history, it’s no wonder why: from the bizarre stories of the city’s discovery and early settlements, to fables that include pirates and vampires, to the city’s long struggle with Yellow Fever, it’s clear that behind the wrought iron railings and floral balconies is a dark history.

Those with a passing curiosity will go on a ghost tour during their visit, take a few pictures, perhaps reserve a table at Muriel’s to see if the fabled specter joins them for Sunday brunch. The more ambitious have devoted a good part of their lives to uncovering evidence of the paranormal. But as a natural skeptic, I wanted to know: what is the draw that brings so many people on the hunt for ghosts?

So I found a seasoned, paranormal professional to give me the answer: David Hoag, a long-time ghost aficionado who has been tracking down floating orbs and disembodied voices for years now. He had all the specialized equipment that, he explained, one needs if one hopes to catch a glimpse into “the other side”: lasers, scanners, cameras. We were ready.

David set everything up while I wandered tentatively around the space we were investigating, a building in the French Quarter that used to be a bank (and still has gaping faces sculpted into the walls that supposedly “watched over” the bank’s safe. Creepy.)

I wasn’t sure we would find anything. In fact, truth be told, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t. But I couldn’t help but get caught up in David’s enthusiasm. Naturally boisterous and chatty, he fell silent as he tested each of his beloved instruments. Before hitting Record, he told me about some of the stranger experiences he’d had while wandering around haunted houses and trekking about the city looking for invisible guests. (More on that in a later post).

He caught the attention of a young boy, maybe 10 years old, quietly watching us set up. He stood by shyly as we talked to his mother, who said they were on their way to take the New Orleans Legendary Ghost Tour. When I asked the boy if he thought we’d find anything, his face lit up: “I dunno, but maybe!”

David turned on his recorder, requested that any invisible visitors make their presence known, and then we waited. A steady stream of static filtered through the device, which David pointed out were normal radio frequencies – until one stood out with inexplicable clarity.

For an instant, a high pitched, female-sounding voice came through. A single utterance, then back to static. We waited for several minutes, listening to the fuzzy clicks of the airwaves before turning off the device. After taking a few more photos, the investigation was complete. Later, David would take on the tedious task of analyzing all the noises and photos he’d collected, looking for anything unusual.

It was interesting watching the investigation unfold, even as a somewhat skeptical spectator. But what inspires all the ghost hunters out there to keep searching, keep setting up all the equipment and sitting silently in the dark, when most investigations produce little or no evidence of the paranormal? David responded happily, “You just never know what you’ll find!”

I hadn’t quite identified with David’s insistent drive to explore the unknown and the invisible, but now I had my answer. “Maybe” is reason enough to give me goosebumps when I hear a noise in an empty house. It’s enough to draw countless tourists from all over the world to embark on a ghost tour. And, as David will tell you, “Maybe” is reason enough for an adult with a thriving (and entirely unrelated) career to step away from work, and chores, and bills, to sit alone in an old building and listen to static.

If you’re curious, book a tour. New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours offers a Ghost Tour that takes you through the Quarter, making stops at all the most iconic homes, landmarks, and restaurants that have been the source of reported hauntings. Our guides tell eerie stories from the city’s history, and let you decide for yourself what’s fact or fiction. Or what’s “Maybe.”

Book a Ghost Tour

We’ll reveal the findings of the investigation in a later post. To see a live stream of our next investigation, follow New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours on Facebook and Instagram (@nolawalkingtours).

Until then, keep up with David’s adventures: follow @ghostiehoagie on Instagram and drop him a line.

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Photo Courtesy: Historic New Orleans Collection

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