New Orleans Cemetery Tour (photo and history tour)

Visiting a cemetery isn’t something I typically seek out for fun, not even on Halloween. Which explains why I had yet to visit a New Orleans cemetery until our recent trek back to the Big Easy. It wasn’t so much “fun” or a Halloween scare I was seeking out but rather a history lesson on one of my favorite cities in the Union. Ever since I first visited New Orleans – more than a decade ago – I’ve been mesmerized by the cemeteries. The art they hold. The history. The process of burying above ground. The one goal I had to achieve on this trip was going on a New Orleans cemetery tour. Luckily, The Husband agreed to go with his scaredy-cat wife.

New Orleans cemetery tour

New Orleans Cemetery Tour

There are countless New Orleans cemetery tour companies advertising online. I found it somewhat difficult to narrow it down to plain old cemetery tours since many group them together into city tours and/or plantation tours. While a city tour of New Orleans is great, I’ve done it and really had no interest in doing it again, thus I just wanted what I wanted – a New Orleans cemetery tour.

A good one we found was through Haunted History Tours. Their New Orleans cemetery tour runs at 10am and 1:15pm. (Tip: If it’s a warm day, go to the morning tour.) Tours meet outside the Reverend Zombies House of Vodoo about 15 minutes before the scheduled time. It’s located across the street from Pat O’Briens on Saint Peters St. The price is $25 per person and the tour runs two hours. Plan to bring cash. Depending on where you’re staying you may be able to get a discounted rate; check with the concierge.

New Orleans haunted cemetery tour
The Haunted History Tours website says reservations are required, we did not make a reservation but we were also visiting in a slower time of year and it was a Friday. If you’re planning to go on a weekend and/or during peak season I highly suggest making a reservation.

Our tour included the St. Louis Cemetery Number One, but that’s not where we started. To fully understand and appreciate the cemetery one needs to understand a bit of its origin and how it came to be. In other words, one must have a BRIEF understanding of New Orleans history. Thus, the tour begins on Saint Peters St. with a short walk through the French Quarter to St. Louis Cemetery Number One, stopping along the way to see where buildings stood that were home to people such as the man who is said to have caused the 1788 fire in New Orleans. It was this fire that resulted in the St. Louis Cemetery Number One being built.

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The St. Louis Cemetery Number One is the oldest, most famous New Orleans cemetery and replaced the city’s older St. Peter Cemetery (no longer in existence) as the main burial ground when the city was redesigned after the fire in 1788.

The cemetery spans just one square block but is the resting place of many thousands. In fact, there are more people in New Orleans dead – buried here – than there are alive. How can that be? Think “natural cremation” as our guide educated us. Essentially, a body is placed in the family tomb 1-3 days after the person has passed. The HOT New Orleans summers and tomb cause the body to decompose into ash, aka “natural cremation”.

cematery
Rows of smaller and larger tombs fill the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Notice the brick and concrete openings to the tombs. Bodies are placed in a wooden box (still to this day), a Sexton closes the tomb, mason then bricks/plasters it closed. They are not reopened for one year and a day. On that day after, the wooden box is emptied and the ashes are swept into the back of the tomb or into the bottom of a family/large tomb.

 

 

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
A midsized family tomb at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Care of all tombs are the responsibility of the family who owns them.

 

Care of all tombs are the responsibility of the family who owns them, even if the family is no longer “around”. They are deemed as private property by the Catholic Church, who owns the cemetery. Many of the tombs were crumbling and falling into disrepair. It’s a pretty sad sight, actually. Our guide did tell us there are some conservation groups that will occasionally step in and help if family members cannot be reached to tend to their property. Tombs can still be purchased today for around $15k. However, they must include perpetual care to ensure they do not fall into disrepair. It was my understanding that families could also purchase perpetual care for existing tombs.

 

protesent side
A Protestant section lies in the north-west section of St. Louis Cemetery Number One

 

To be buried at the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. you have to be Catholic. I thought it was interesting though that there is a Protestant section of the cemetery that lies in the north-west section; the majority are not vaulted. It’s covered in beautiful, little yellow flowers.

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Renowned Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau was buried in the Glapion family crypt. Her grave is the second most visited grave site in the United States. The first is Elvis.

 

Renowned Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau was buried in the Glapion family crypt. Her grave is the second most visited grave site in the United States. The first is Elvis (I visited both during the month of September, not on purpose but kinda strange all the same). Wondering how a Voodoo priestess was allowed to be buried here? Apparently she was also a devote Catholic who went to Mass every day. This is according to our tour guide, Charles, who also practices Voodoo. He enlightened us on how Voodoo and Catholicism are similar and “really compliment and support each other”.  I don’t know enough about Voodoo but regardless of his pitch, Voodoo still kinda makes me uneasy (as I say a few Hail Mary’s).

Marie Laveau is known to help those whose path are crossed. Those who are tangled into things they can’t get out of. People come from all over the world to pray to her for help and guidance. When the guide told our group this, many said little prayers and touched the tomb…

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Marie Laveau’s tomb

 

Marie4
Exposed brick at the final resting place of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. The three X’s placed on the Voodoo grave sites are left by visitors. Their meaning in true Voodoo practice is nothing -according to our guide who practices Voodoo. A little online research told me people believe they represent warding off evil spirits and/or you will be immortalized and you will be rich.

 

Marie2
Offerings at the Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau tomb included lipstick, combs (she was a hairdresser) and traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras beads.

 

 

DrJohn
Dr John, a Voodoo priest is also buried at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The “offerings” people left for him were fun and very New Orleans – dice, cards and cigarettes.

From Old to New at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

NickeCage
Nicholas Cage has the newest tomb built at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. A little different in terms of the architecture at the cemetery. No one has been buried here yet.

 

oldest grave
One of the original grave sites at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It wasn’t as effective as the tombs now used.

 

 

Italia
There were several “group” tombs at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. This one being specifically for the Italian Immigrant Organization. I was told it was likely there were 25,000 people buried in this particular tomb.

 

angel
Everyone needs a sweet angel to pray and protect you…

 

sinking
Many of the walls have sunk at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. The bottom row are a bit lower than they once were.

 

Looks like a small entrance? Well, it is. Many of the walls have sunk at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 due to the ground water. The bottom rows are a bit lower than they once were. I’m not sure if they can still be used but would assume so.

 

MrSmith2
Family tombs are the responsibility of the family to care for. And so, Mr. Smith has chosen to decorate his family’s tomb with bright, ornate and welcoming colors.

Family tombs are the responsibility of the family to care for. And so, Mr. Smith has chosen to decorate his family’s tomb with bright, ornate and welcoming colors. He’s quite the welcoming committee at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. His family’s site is near the entrance and he’s there everyday to tend to it and welcome visitors. You can find him there walking through the maze of rows at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 checking on all the tombs and providing a few history lessons for visitors.

MrSmith
‘Keep on livin till u cant help it no more’ – Mr. Author Raymond Smith

And this completes New Orleans cemetery tour at St. Louis Cemetery Number One.

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And this completes our tour of St. Louis Cemetery Number One.

 

 

New Orleans cemetery tour guide
The very knowledgeable and entertaining tour guide – Charles, Charlie, Charles Duffy III, Duffy or Duff. Make sure to check out Haunted History Tours, and ask for him.

 

Have you ever visited St. Louis Cemetery Number One or done a New Orleans Cemetery Tour?

 

Make sure to stick around for our Travel Tuesday Link-up! This month I’m co-hosting Travel Tuesday Link-up with Kerrie @ Family Food and Travel and Gingermommy at Tales of a Ranting Ginger.

WHAT CAN YOU LINK UP?

1. Vacations and/or Travel Tips
2. Trips to the park, ski hill, zoo, museum etc.
3. Review of a hotel or travel destination
4. Review/post about a travel related gadget/gear/clothing etc.
5. Posts about dream destinations or the places you would like to travel.

travel tuesday

What do you need to do?

Follow the host: Kerrie @ Family Food and Travel and Co-Host Gingermommy at Tales of a Ranting Ginger and this week’s Guest Host, Elaine from Carpe Travel

Once you have posted your link, hop on over to other blogs and see what your fellow bloggers have written about.

Your blog posts will be pinned to our Travel Tuesday Board on Pinterest – hope you’ll follow along.

Mark your calendars – the next Travel Tuesday is Tuesday November 5, 2013 *now the 1st Tuesday of the Month!



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