Saturday 14 October 2017

#OctoberFrights: Cemeteries and the Ghost of Marie Laveau

Welcome to Day Five of the October Frights Blog Hop!

I have a most delightful treat for you today, with a guest post from author Loren Roads who takes us to New Orleans with a tour of Saint Louis Cemetery #1 and its most famous resident, Marie Laveau. You can also check out her book, 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, featured at the end of the post. Enjoy!

Marie Laveau’s Ghost by Loren Rhoads

Like the cathedral in Jackson Square, New Orleans’ oldest surviving graveyard is named for Louis IX, the 13th-century king of France. He crusaded to the Holy Land twice and was canonized in 1297.

Despite its historic importance, Saint Louis Cemetery #1 is only a shadow of its former self. The Varney family pyramid, now near the cemetery’s Basin Street gate, once stood at the geographic center of the graveyard. Built around 1810, the pyramid is one of the oldest tombs to survive.

Some of the most unusual aspects of Saint Louis #1 are the so-called oven vaults that line its perimeter. The niches in these tombs can be reused after a year and a day. The extreme heat and humidity in New Orleans reduces a corpse placed in one of these vaults to bones within the span of a year, after which time a second coffin can be pushed inside. The back of the vault opens into a chamber called a caveau, where the bones of everyone buried in that vault reside, jumbled together. In the city’s earliest days, there was no division between black and white in its graveyards or its caveaus. Segregation began only after America made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

The most famous resident of Saint Louis #1 is Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen. Marie was a free woman of color born in New Orleans around 1801. In August 1819, she married Jacques Parris in a Roman Catholic ceremony. When he died seven years later, she began a relationship with Christophe Glapion that lasted the rest of her life. Together, Marie and Christophe had 15 children. Marie died on June 15, 1881.

Before her death, Marie worked as a hairdresser in New Orleans. She is credited with drawing the parallels between the Catholic saints and Voodoo loas and combining Voodoo with Catholicism. It’s said that Marie appears in the cemetery in the form of a large black crow or as a phantom hellhound. She grants wishes, sometimes, when it suits her.

Many believe Marie returns to life on Saint John’s Eve, which is celebrated on June 23. In the 1930s, a vagrant decided to spend the night in Saint Louis #1. He scaled a tomb and slept fitfully on its roof for several hours before being awakened by the sound of drums and chanting. As he wandered the labyrinthine cemetery, looking for the way out, he turned a corner to find ectoplasmic bodies writhing before a statuesque nude woman wrapped in a giant snake. Marie, in all her splendor, had come back to lead the dance.

Another evening, three young men who had been partying in the French Quarter dared each other to break into the cemetery and drive an iron spike into Marie Laveau’s tomb. Finally, after $30 had been held up as a reward, one man agreed. He jumped the wall and disappeared into the maze of tombs.

Half an hour passed. An hour. The men left behind began to sober up. They cursed their friend, whom they expected had fallen asleep somewhere inside the graveyard. When dawn came and the gates finally opened, they rushed into the cemetery, ready to rouse their comrade.

Instead, they found his corpse collapsed beside Marie Laveau’s tomb.

The dead man had hammered his iron spike into the tomb — through the tail of his coat. When he rose to collect his winnings, something unseen held him to the grave. He died in a panic.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 is one of the 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoads. She is also the author of Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel and writes about graveyards for the Horror Writers Association. She blogs about cemeteries as vacation destinations at

199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoads

A hauntingly beautiful travel guide to the world's most visited cemeteries, told through spectacular photography and their unique histories and residents.

More than 3.5 million tourists flock to Paris's Père Lachaise cemetery each year. They are lured there, and to many cemeteries around the world, by a combination of natural beauty, ornate tombstones and crypts, notable residents, vivid history, and even wildlife. Many also visit Mount Koya cemetery in Japan, where 10,000 lanterns illuminate the forest setting, or graveside in Oaxaca, Mexico to witness Day of the Dead fiestas. Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery has gorgeous night tours of the Southern Gothic tombstones under moss-covered trees that is one of the most popular draws of the city.

199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die features these unforgettable cemeteries, along with 196 more, seen in more than 300 photographs. In this bucket list of travel musts, author Loren Rhoads, who hosts the popular Cemetery Travel blog, details the history and features that make each destination unique. Throughout will be profiles of famous people buried there, striking memorials by noted artists, and unusual elements, such as the hand carved wood grave markers in the Merry Cemetery in Romania.

You can find 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die at:

That's it for day five, be back tomorrow for the final day and my dark poetry corner. And don't forget to enter our giveaway and check out the other hop participants.


CA Verstraete said...

Love old cemeteries. Fascinating stuff! Hopping by!

A. F. Stewart said...

I love cemeteries too. Her book is now on my wish list.

HiddenWorldsBooks said...

I love this! I've always seen cemeteries as beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for letting me stop by your blog, Anita!

A. F. Stewart said...

I agree Melanie, and Loren you are always welcome on the blog.

John Linwood Grant said...

Good stuff - great looking book. I got here eventually!

A. F. Stewart said...

Thanks for stopping by, John.

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