As Mardi Gras peaks its head around the corner, we invite you to take a closer look at the amazing city of New Orleans. There’s always music on the streets and a party just waiting to happen, but we want to show you the strange, and weird, side of the Crescent City that lurks in the shadows. Come with us, and check out 9 places that’ll open your eyes to the bizarre Big Easy!
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
While you can probably learn everything you need to know about Voodoo and its long history in New Orleans from the web, where else would you also be able to buy gris-gris (an amulet to protect against evil spirits), candles, or even a love potion? The museum is a tiny, spooky space that consists of about two rooms and a long corridor, whose walls are decked with items like Voodoo dolls, skulls, and altars to famous priests and priestesses. Don’t forget to leave an offering for good fortune at the altar of New Orleans’ most famous, and most powerful, Voodoo practitioners – Marie Laveau.
St. Louis Cemetary #1
“What’s so wild about a cemetery?” you may ask. Dating back to 1789, the Saint Louis Cemetery is almost a work of art. The more than 600 ornate tombs above ground create a haunting maze. It’s the oldest cemetery still standing in New Orleans and is the final resting place for some of its most prominent figures (including Marie Laveau, Homer Plessy, as well as the very first mayor of New Orleans). Another notable tomb to visit: Actor Nicholas Cage’s 9-foot-tall pyramid-style tomb, in which he hopes to rest in peace one day…but currently only holds the decaying remains of his acting career.
UCM Museum: Abita Mystery House
Located just outside New Orleans, you can access this rather odd and quirky collection of art, gadgets, gizmos, and knick-knacks for just $3. If your interest is piqued, you’ll have the wonderful opportunity to marvel at the pieces on display along its walls, including the peculiarly nostalgic arcade machines (which you can actually play — remember to bring some quarters) and old Nokia phones, and afterwards you can say hello to the strange work of art that is “Darrell” – a half-alligator, half-dog hybrid sculpture.
Right on Royal Street in the French Quarter, you’ll find this stately looking building that is a fine example of typical New Orleans architecture. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving, as the building has a grisly past. When a fire broke out in the building in 1834, arriving firemen discovered the bodies of several slaves who had been tied up, tortured, and mutilated – by Madame LaLaurie, the owner of the mansion. The building is a regular stop on ghost tours and is rumored to be haunted.
The Museum of Death
If you want to taste the Big Easy with a pinch of gore, then you’ve found the perfect place. This morbid museum showcases graphic details of famous American murders involving figures like O.J. Simpson and Charles Manson, as well as disturbing artifacts like letters written by serial killers, actual paintings by John Wayne Gacy, and even Dr. Kervokian’s suicide machine. There’s also morgue scene photos, coffins, skulls, old mortician devices, and much more that’ll make you feel like clinging on to dear life for the foreseeable future.
Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House
Remember those old bars in movies where protagonists are offered a new adventure/quest in return for some reward? It was here that famous pirate Jean Lafitte and General (later President) Andrew Jackson struck a deal: Lafitte and his men would be pardoned of any crimes in return for helping the US Navy fight the British Navy during the War of 1812. Lafitte and his crew victoriously upheld their end of their bargain at the Battle of New Orleans. The Old Absinthe House affixed the pirate’s name to perhaps boost its popularity, but it’s still a bar that carries a lot of history and definitely worth a visit to down a couple of Absinthe House Frappes with the spirits of departed buccaneers.
The Eiffel Tower of New Orleans
Ever been to The Eiffel Tower in Paris? No problem – New Orleans can give you just a small part of it. When the restaurant that was atop the real Eiffel Tower was dismantled in 1981 because it was deemed too heavy for the whole structure, it was bought by two entrepreneurs to be set up in New Orleans as a restaurant called Restaurant de La Tour Eiffel. While the restaurant closed just a few years after opening, numerous other businesses also tried to use the space, only for all of them to eventually fold. Today, you can check out the structure, which now serves as an event space and museum.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
By now you would have figured that Jean Lafitte is a pretty famous guy in New Orleans…and also that the city is pretty spooky. To visit a place that combines these two characteristics, you can pay a visit to the prominent privateer’s bar, which probably served as a front to cover up his illegal activities (which some say included slave trading). Argued to be the oldest continuously running bar in the US, it’s also famous for being America’s most haunted. Rumor has it that patrons sometimes see a man seated in a corner smoking a pipe, and while he vanishes quickly, the pungent smell of his tobacco still lingers.
House of Broel
This old Victorian-style mansion on St. Charles Avenue is a popular venue for parties and weddings. What we find really interesting is the owner’s “Dollhouse Museum” located on the second floor, which is home to a variety of very ornate dolls and highly detailed miniature houses that even have mini-furnishings carved out to the T. What else is weird? There’s an exhibit on the second floor that’s dedicated to the frog farming business, with numerous vintage frog leg cans and a variety of other frog-related artifacts — now that’s something to check out before you croak.
Have a strange, weird, or outlandish site in New Orleans we should know about? Let us know in the comments below.