New Orleans has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to ghost stories and hauntings. Here in the city we sometimes treat them casually, because we take these things for granted. However, different seasons or times of the year bring to mind certain stories, some of which are widely renowned, and some of which are whispered more discreetly. We decided to start a series re-telling some of our favorites, and hinting where you might run into a ghost or two when you visit the city. Today we begin with St. Louis Cathedral.
Friar Antonio de Sedella came to New Orleans around 1774 with the Spanish Inquisition in Louisiana. Never an enthusiastic inquisitor, over the course of a few years, Father Sedella became the beloved Pere Antoine, the pastor of the (then) St. Louis Church. He baptized Marie Laveau, performed her wedding ceremony, and together with her did much for the imprisoned, as well as the slave population, in New Orleans. They worked tirelessly to free women of color and their children. The church burned in the great fire of 1788, and a new church was completed in 1794, designated this time as a cathedral. Pere Antoine was pastor until his death in 1829, and was particularly loved among the poor. Many stories abound about him and his life--but what has he been doing lately? All signs point to the fact that he still loves the city that loved him so much.
Pere Antoine's Alley:
Many people report having seen Pere Antoine walking slowly down the small alley named for him alongside his St. Louis Cathedral. He is mostly drawn to the early mornings when the French Quarter is quieter, but has also been discovered disappearing into the mist of a winter afternoon. In these sightings, he usually doesn't appear to notice anyone because he is almost always reading his breviary, or book of prayers. People who have seen him like this experience a feeling of comfort, no matter what they have been doing the night before! Sometimes though, he's a little more active. One woman we know was taking a short cut through the alley on a rainy afternoon, on her way to lunch. Tottering on high heels, she tripped straight into the arms of a black-robed man with a sharp nose and a stern expression. After righting herself with the aid of her rescuer, she brushed off her skirt and looked up to see--nobody. The helping hand was invisible, but she heard a disembodied voice whisper a short phrase in French. It scared us, but our friend was unruffled, and even though she doesn't know what the good father said, she reported experiencing a sense of peace.
Pere Antoine's Christmas:
At Midnight Mass at St. Louis Cathedral,some worshippers have told of seeing Pere Antoine walking near left side of the main altar, holding a candle. He is distinguishable partly because his Capuchin robe contrasts with the more celebratory garments of the Archbishop and other priests, and partly because he seems to fade away as he approaches. Perhaps he prefers the Latin Mass, as he knew it.
Pere Dagobert was a Capuchin monk who became pastor of St. Louis Church in 1745. Also a champion of the poor and disenfranchised, Pere Dagobert was an immensely charismatic personality. When, in 1764, the French found out that New Orleans had been ceded to Spain, there was instant fear and rebellion. Six ringleaders of the revolt, prominent friends of the monk, were executed by a firing squad and left unburied by order of the Spanish governor.
Pere Dagobert would not allow this outrage, and somehow, under the watchful eyes of the Spanish garrison, recovered the bodies, notified the families, and performed a burial Mass in the church. The bodies were buried with a Catholic ceremony in St. Louis Cemetery Number 1, after a funeral procession during a rainstorm.
The haunting by Pere Dagobert is particularly beautiful. Also seen in the Cathedral, he is best known for his heavenly voice singing hymns along the streets from the Cathedral to the cemetery. His "Kyrie" rings out especially mournful on a rainy night.
More Ghost Stories
Had enough? Need more? Here are some other hauntings in New Orleans, lesser known, but still as interesting.