Monday, September 16, 2013

A French Quarter Ghost Story

The French Quarter of New Orleans has been called “the most haunted place in America.” Trust me, it is. Growing up there, I often heard neighbors complaining about their noisy ethereal guests. I, too, had strange experiences: doors slamming, lights switches going on and off, cups flying out of cabinets, the usual stuff. But probably the creepiest occurred one fall day when I was alone in the Creole Cottage my father rented for his business. Left to answer the phones while his secretary was at lunch, I was sitting in the front part of the cottage where the french windows allowed in the bright sunshine. I had been doing homework when this strange swishing sound began in the room behind me. It was as if fabric of some sort was rubbing together. Now, in the office where I was there were cats; four of them. What kind of business has cats in the office, well, this is New Orleans and nothing is the norm. Anyway, the cats were sprawled about on different desks and as the swishing noise drew near, I saw every cat’s head pop up from where they were resting. As the sound entered the office I was in, all the cats turned in unison to the room entrance. At this point I was feeling a little uncomfortable. But as the noise grew louder, all the cats suddenly sat up and began to follow something with their eyes moving across the room toward me. The room instantly grew very cold and a slight breeze brushed across the side of my face. At this point, all four cats were staring directly at me. The hair on the back of my neck rose, and I was frozen to my chair. If that was not enough, then the giggling started; a soft tinkling kind of noise that was definitely female and sounded as if it was right next to my ear. The swooshing noise began again and I watched terrified as the cats began to follow something out of the room with their eyes. When the noise stopped a few seconds later, the cats all stretched, repositioned themselves on their respective desks, and went right back to sleep. At this point, I jumped up from my chair and ran to the front door. I stood on the doorstep with the door open so I could hear the phone ringing, but stayed outside, comforted by the hum of life from the French Quarter around me.

      When I told my father about the incident, he laughed and said, “You just met Annabelle. She died in the cottage of yellow fever in the epidemic of 1853 just a few months short of her wedding to some plantation owner.”

    I then inquired how he knew this.

    “A neighbor told me. In the Quarter, the neighbors always know about all your ghosts.”

     The experiences I had in that cottage became the impetus for my book, The Ghosts of Rue Dumaine. It is my homage to Annabelle and all the other ghosts I encountered there.

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